For us, the main reason for living apart and maintaining our own households is a difference in parenting styles and working on ourselves and our own households before combining them. The alternative, of course, would be to just jump right into it and pray that everything works out for the best.
From the very beginning of our relationship, it has been clear that Gabe and I disagree on A LOT of issues regarding parenting and how a household should be run. He is a lot more detailed than I am on some things. He bases a lot of what he focuses on on what he believes others’ perceptions of him will be. His focuses differ greatly from mine. He will run around bleaching toilets and cleaning kids rooms before someone arrives (his house smells wonderful, by the way), yet he will not notice whether his kids have said hello to his guests or being unkind to the children guests. I have known this man to change his bedspread in fear that people may notice that he always has the same one on his bed every time they visit. I, on the other hand, will graze over my house quickly, pick it up so it’s neat (not necessarily bleached), threaten to ground the kids until their room is clean (enough) and give them a ten minute talk about how they are to greet everyone, be polite and include the children who are visiting. He focuses more on being presentable and making sure everyone knows that dad has his stuff together, I focus more on guests feeling comfortable and having a good time. If only it was easy enough to combine these qualities into one household.
We have two different experiences and two separate points of views. I have been a single mom for about ten years. I have had to force the boys to be independent when need be to a certain extent and to improvise. Sometimes, there was no other choice and it has forced me to not count on perfection. They need to make their own cereal, they need to get themselves dressed, they need to entertain themselves as well. Over the years, I have not had the time luxury to do all of the little things for them that they can do themselves and I’m most definitely not their personal clown who has something to entertain them with every time they are bored. They understand these things and they are still happy and well adjusted. The best part is, when I do have the time to do something special or out of the ordinary for them, they appreciate it and they know that they are loved. Yet still, I have lots of room for improvement, I do try to focus more on smaller things and being a bit more detailed, it just makes life easier sometimes. He, on the other hand is a widowed father. His wife did all of the parenting when she was alive and he was the provider and the ‘hero’. People don’t change overnight. Understandably, to try to somehow compensate for the kids’ loss, he overcompensated with them by trying to become the perfect dad and caregiver. To add to this, he is a people pleaser, he loves to make people happy and he loves being a hero to his kids. The kids, again understandably, have become accustomed to being catered to and not being accountable for their own responsibilities and behavior. He focused so much on the short term (cleaning the kids’ rooms for them, keeping them happy by not giving them consequences when they were rude or downright mean to him) that now, in the long term, he is slowly trying to undo these things and well, it’s hard.
Over the years, we have gone back and forth with each other about ways that we feel the other should change and also things that we would like to change about ourselves in order to become better partners and parents. I am so grateful that we have been able to do this in separate homes rather than in a shared household where we would be making unnecessary and unfair comparisons out of frustration and anger. We have been able to implement the changes with our own kids and households on our own, without the other parent having to be blamed or labeled the bad guy responsible for these changes in order to make life together not just bearable, but happy eventually. It’s an ongoing process and I do believe that one day, we will get there.