Q I've been married to my husband for five years. His 10-year-old son goes back and forth between homes equally. Mom couldn't find a math tutor, so I did. My husband and I thought we were on the same page with Mom until we were informed by my bonus-son that he doesn't do his tutoring homework when he's at Mom's. The tutor texts me with the child's assignment and I text Mom each week. Mom acts like she's on board, but in reality, she's not. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: There's a lot going on behind the scenes that no one will own up to, so we'll tell you why we think Mom's dragging her feet. First, you were the one who found the tutor when she couldn't find one. Although intellectually she may be grateful for help, emotionally, she resented it. Second, to reinforce your bonus-mom faux pas, the tutor communicates directly with you, which again reinforces her feeling that you have taken over her motherly duties. While you think you're helping, you're secretly offending her, and she probably feels similarly offended on a regular basis, so it appears she often doesn't cooperate.
A good way to improve communication between parents with a child who goes back and forth between homes is for each to find their own niche. For example, one of you can be in charge of doctor and dentist appointments, the other in charge of, say, homework. Openly discuss whose responsibility it is to do what and then let the other do their job.
The easiest thing to do at this point is to enlist the help of the tutor to construct a homework plan for each session and e-mail it to both of you.
Finally, as is often the case, it looks like Mom and Bonusmom are the primary caregivers, but Dad also needs to weigh in. Good ex-etiquette rule No. 4: Bioparents make the rules, bonusparents support them. That means you don't set precedent. All of you must help each other be better parents.