There are likely many lessons to be gleaned from the recent memoir of Steve Jobs’ daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs. Some of them are abstract, facing up to one’s past, remembering pain and working through it. Most of them are unique to Lisa’s relationship with her genius, yet famously abrasive father.
Others are less ephemeral, however. These are ones that we can apply to our own lives if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation: the impact of a divorce or the end of a relationship on the parent-child dynamic, especially during a transition to shared custody.
Seeing a lesson in the everyday
A recent New York Times book review points out how Mr. Jobs was sometimes shockingly blunt in his criticisms of his daughter. One well-remembered incident mentioned specifically in the book was of him telling her she “smelled like a toilet.” Ms. Brennan-Jobs envisions that moment with somewhat of a dreamy air, and she appreciated, in hindsight at least, his honesty with her.
Most of us might not necessarily appreciate that level of forthrightness from a parent or other loved one. Even if we stink, societal and relationship dictates could leave us shocked at anything so bold and blunt. At the same time, the behavior of her father was recognizable, and in a way, comfortingly familiar.
If shared custody – and shared lives – are the ultimate goal, then remembering what it’s like to be a family is key. For most children of divorce, there is a natural fear that they will “lose” one or both parents as a result of a separation or divorce. Demonstrating that you will continue to be available to your child as regularly as you were before the separation by keeping commitments and adhering to schedules as much as possible helps the children to feel that their family is still there, albeit changed, and has definitely not ended.
Another important aspect is to remain aware that there is a difference between your desires as to how you would ideally like to participate in parenting, and the child’s need to get what they feel they need from both parents. Children need to feel safe in their relationship with both parents. This means avoiding conflict with the other parent.
Focusing on the relationships moving forward, both with your children and their other parent, will help you begin this new phase of your life from a position of strength and positivity, and will let you hopefully carry that momentum on into the future as well.