Daily Press (Sunday)

Is pregnancy the problem?

- Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “ExEtiquett­e for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.” drjannblac­kstone@ gmail.com

Dear Dr. Blackstone: My husband’s two kids go back and forth between their mother and our homes. At first she was very cooperativ­e. We were even sort of friends, but for some reason she has recently become short tempered, horrible actually, and I hesitate to compare notes like I should. I’m eight months pregnant and I don’t need the stress. What’s good ex-etiquette?

Dear Reader: Hmmm … hopefully you will once again trust me to read between the lines, but this is what I suspect is happening — and one of those psychologi­cal sticky points that few want to openly admit. That fact that you are having a child soon has changed the pecking order. You are now officially peers.

Many former partners have confided that no matter what went on between the exes, the one thing they had that set them apart from their ex’s current partner was that she was the mother of his children.

You being pregnant, she no longer holds that exclusive title and within that context she may be having trouble adjusting. You have to look at the history, but if her attitude changed about the time your pregnancy began to show, there’s your answer. And, the more the kids come home talking about how excited they are that they are going to have a new brother or sister, or that the new baby will be the ultimate bond between their family members, the more irked about the situation she may become.

If you put yourself in her shoes (Good ex-etiquette for parents rule #7) her children’s excitement about something so far removed from her can be disconcert­ing. Many parents have trouble realizing their children actually have a life at the other home. Their life is put on hold when the children leave and go to the other home, so obviously that’s how the children must feel. It’s not. Their life goes on. Add the kids constantly talking about a new sibling brings the problem home — literally. So she tends to get a little crabby when she has to interact with you.

Time will heal this — especially since you were once cordial, which points to the fact that she actively attempts to co-parent in the best interest of the kids. I encourage you to initiate a tactful conversati­on that discusses how she sees your child fitting in her children’s lives.

Her support and willingnes­s to include your child in her children’s activities will greatly contribute to an easy transition for everyone. And, another important considerat­ion — make sure she knows you respect her as the existing children’s mother and that her importance as their mother will not be diminished by the addition to your family. Sounds crazy? When the kids go back and forth, if there’s a big event at one house, the other house is affected. How you handle those big events determines how well adjusted the kids are. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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