You want to be the best parent you can be to your child, and so does your ex. That is great. However, you need to ensure that you compete against yourself, not them.
Competitiveness can be a healthy attribute. For example, a group of athletes going to the Olympics who are “just happy to be here” will not win medals. Yet competitiveness between parents only ends up harming the kids and the parents.
Every school has a super mom. The one who is always turned out impeccably to drop the kids off at school when you threw a top over your pajamas. The one who always has a tray of homebaked delicacies to bring to an event that puts your store-bought contribution to shame. Yet, doing those things takes time. The more time you spend competing, the less time you have to play or talk with your kids.
Competing against your ex puts your kids in the middle
What is even more harmful is if you try to compete with your ex. Here are a few examples:
- Buying gifts: If your spouse bought your 5-year-old a toddler tablet that still works fine, do you need to buy them an iPad Pro just because you can?
- Taking trips: Last weekend, your spouse took the kids to the local pizza joint. That does not mean you need to book a table at a Michelin starred restaurant.
Several studies have looked into the adverse effects of competitive co-parenting. One found children who experienced it were more likely to suffer from ADHD or ODD. Another study found it increased the chance children dealt with their internal issues externally through aggression, bullying, violent outbursts and so forth.
It is not only the kids that suffer when you get competitive with your co-parent. You do too. Trying to outdo one another is exhausting as well as financially draining. If you can co-operate rather than compete on parenting matters, starting with custody arrangements, it will benefit you all.