Q: About a year ago I was offered a job in another state. Prior to that I had equal custody of my kids and saw them three or four times a week. My ex's new husband was great, and we were pretty friendly — we both coached the kids' Little League games — but once I left he completely took over. Now no one tells me when the games are, no one tells me when there are school conferences or when the kids go to the doctor. When I lived there, I talked to the teachers and doctors all the time. It's very frustrating. Now I'm always fighting with their mother and stepfather.
A: It seems you think it's your children's mother's responsibility to keep you apprised of what's going on with the kids, but proximity to the children is not the determiner to gaining information. From what you've told me, it was your decision to move. You didn't have to, and I'm wondering if you took into consideration how moving might affect your relationships with not only your children, but their mother and bonusdad. Granted, we all need jobs, but the decision to take this one did have consequences — you can't see your kids as often, and because of the distance you are more dependent on their mother to facilitate communication.
It's good to hear that parents work together for the sake of their kids, and the fact that you have a good relationship with the kids' bonusdad is commendable. But as frustrated as you seem now, nothing has really changed in your ability to contact schools, teachers, coaches or doctors' offices. Most of this information is likely online, particularly school and Little League information. Unless there's a change in schools, sports leagues or doctors, contacting and staying up on their progress is on you. If contacts change, Mom should let you know, but it's up to you to make the contacts. If something slips through the cracks, I don't believe you should blame it on the kids' mom or her husband. Truth is, he may not be taking over as much as he's acting just like he did when you were around all the time. You probably feel out of the loop and it's more obvious how much he interacts with the kids now that you aren't around. You could be feeling a combination of guilt and a little jealousy. Check yourself and make sure resentment or spite isn't getting in the way of keeping those lines of communication open.
Keeping communication open will allow you to coordinate efforts and use all the available technology. Mom might be open to FaceTime or Skype during the games. Blame her for not keeping you in the loop, and you may be on your own. At home, schedule regular Skype time so you can visit and help the kids with their homework remotely. Definitely go to see them as much as possible, and make sure you are always available for your regularly scheduled visitation time. Staying in good standing with Mom will ensure that those visits happen.
E-mail Jann Blackstone at firstname.lastname@example.org.