Doug Zeigler is an atheist, but his ex is a Christian. How can they figure out the best way to co-parent the kids they share?
I’m an atheist. I’m not militant about it, and I don’t campaign against what other people believe. My wife is not a Christian either, but believes in spirituality and opens her mind to a variety of beliefs and uses what feels right to her. To us, belief and faith are a personal choice. Who are we to tell you that what you follow and guides you is wrong? As long as what works for you don’t cause harm to others, then we are of the opinion that you should follow that set of ideals.
I try to apply the same approach to our kids. My wife and I tell them that they can explore and ask questions about everything, including faith. We encourage them to think objectively and inquisitively, and if they are struggling with something to ask us. With religion being such a big part of so many people’s lives, we want them to be free to check out any and all beliefs that intrigue them.
The same can’t be said for our exes. One is a fundamental Christian and the other is Catholic. Our sons even attend a parochial school. This has caused some challenging moments. There has been custody time cut short due to church-related functions, and even decisions made without consulting us on educational matters for the kids simply because the person of faith felt that they had the right to do so because of their beliefs. Instead of rational discussion and compromise, too often things are done and said based solely on religious preference.
Here’s the thing: we’re not enemies with our exes. Despite our differences in that arena, we really want the same things for our kids. We want them to happy, healthy, smart, energetic, respectful, hard working and have good manners. Naturally, there are other things we want for them like success and to find love, but at the core, isn’t that what we want for all our children? It’s up to us as their mothers and fathers to help them grow into the adults we hope they’ll become.
Problems arise when religious ideals create the appearance of us as enemies only because we don’t believe the same as they do. It creates an air of hostility which really doesn’t help anyone, least of all our children. We do try very hard to be understanding and accommodating, but it can be difficult to keep an even keel when one side believes it has a divine right to supersede our methods for raising kids. Certainly there will be disagreements on details of parenting; time with kids; money. But we should be able to calmly and rationally work together. We need to realize that we are advocates for our children’s futures, not diametrically opposed combatants vying to destroy the other side and working to mentally poison our kids against each other. We want to accentuate our commonality.
The optimist in me believes we can work together. The pessimist in me worries that we can’t. No matter what your belief, we universally want the same for them with very little variance. So why not work together to help secure that outcome for them?
Have you dealt with co-parenting through religious differences?
What other major issues do you find hard to reconcile when co-parenting with an ex?
Photo: Flickr/Patrick Denker