15 Sep Inside a family mediator’s mind – Session 3
Alex has not even been sitting for a few sitting that he already says : “I cannot stand receiving any more text messages. Mary constantly textes me”.
Asking her questions, Mary admits inquiring with Alex of Julia’s daily situation. For example, she asked him which snack he has served her, requested that a picture proving that she took a nap be sent to her, etc.
Alex, who did not deem it necessary to answer her, simply replied (repeatedly) that “everything was ok”. This has however lead to unrestrained exchanges between them. They hasten to show me those messages on their cellphone.
Mediator: You are no longer in a conjugal relationship. You must to learn to communicate differently – with boundaries and in compliance with your new role as separate parents. What do think of text messages as your communication mode ?
Both parents nod theirs heads in agreement.
Mediator: I suggest that you start by limiting your topics. What would be your most important ones for you ?
Mary said that Alex “does not have his priorities straight”. She explains that she had to urgently rush to the medical clinic last week because Julia had fever and would not stop screaming. She specifies that she tried calling Alex, but that his cell phone was closed.
Alex replies “Well, there you have it! By continuously texting me, I end up missing the important information.”
At the same time as the father, I learn that Julia is suffering from an ear infection and has to take antibiotics. According to the doctor’s instructions, she should not be going back to the daycare before the fever has stopped.
Alex asks Mary : “When do you expect her to be able to go back to daycare ?”
Mary replies : “I don’t know if this weeks would be a good idea. I would also like to have her with me this weekend – this way, she could rest”.
Alex : “This is out of the question” She can rest at home with me!”
Mary : “But I am the one who has always administered her the antibiotics…!”
Alex : “You really think I’m incompetent… You’ll know that I’m perfectly capable of giving my daughter her medicine”.
Mary : “I’m serious Alex. This is very important”.
Mediator: What are you worried about Mary ?
Mary tells me that “he has never been concerned about Julia’s health in the past. Her medication, her crying at night, vaccinations, follow-up appointments – that was all me. I do not see why it would be different today.
Alex : “Actually, it is different now. I know that I have not always been available before, but if there’s one thing I’m sure of right now – it’s that I want to take care of my daughter.”
Mediator : We want to make sure that Julia’s dose are administered according to the doctor’s recommendation. What do you suggestion as a way of making it is done properly?
Alex : “It must be written on the bottle ?”
Mary : “Yes and no – but I have a notebook where I note the Julia’s temperature along with the hours.
Mediator: Is there any other information about Julia that could be written into this notebook ?
Each parent suggests their ideas. Mary proposes “the date of Julia’s return to daycare” while Alex says he would like to “have more information about the cleanliness routine – tips and ideas.”
Mary adds “bedtimes and meals too”.
Alex is opposed to this last suggestion : “No. I don’t want it to start again. There should be limitations to her interferences in my life !”.
Mediator: How about trying to use this booklet for subjects like antibiotics administration, return date to the daycare and information about Julia’s cleanliness ? It seems enough for a first trial, right ? This notebook could become your parental notebook. And how about limiting your text messages to emergencies and Julia’s essential needs ?
Finally, I suggest to the parents that they find a way of exchanging Julia’s health insurance card. They decide that Mary will stick an envelope inside the parental notebook. In case of emergency, the parent having Julia’s custody will be able to go to the appropriate medical service without having to look for the card.
Mediator: For next week, I invite you to bring me last year’s tax returns as well as your last three pay stubs. This will allows us to determine the child support parameters for Julia.
What we need to understand :
Following a separation, some adjustments are required. Parents must learn a new way of communicating together – this time, as separate parents, not as spouses. Each one must respect the others’ limits – while still agreeing on Julia’s basic needs (health, education, religion, etc.). The mediator can propose communication guidelines which can facilitate discussions on these – sometimes – fastidious subjects.