Book Review: Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci

Feb 05, 2017 Category: Review Tags: review, parenting

Ricci’s enduringly popular book delivers helpful advice about adjusting to your new situation of two homes and constructive models to guide coparenting. While the title is proactive and, perhaps, healing, Mom’s House, Dad’s House is most helpful in explaining ways to avoid common post-separation issues and steer toward a positive working relationship.

I discovered Mom's House, Dad's House twenty years ago when I began working with families going through divorce. Ignorant of the complexities of divorce, I was eager to learn what experts were offering. I also wanted to find resources for my clients (although I admit we therapists tend to be a little zealous and idealistic in regards to how much reading assignments our clients want). It remains one of the top three books I recommend to my clients (the other two being: Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson and Mind Over Mood, Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Greenberger and Padesky). I generally try to keep a copy or two in my office to hand out. When I don’t have one and suggest that a client buy a copy, I’ve always offered to buy it from them if they don’t find it useful. In twenty years, even though hundreds of my clients have bought the book, I’ve bought back exactly one copy.

My biggest complaint about divorce books: They tend to be best suited to separated parents who are in the lower twenty-five percent of the conflict scale.

I found this book when I was focused on trying to figure out how to actually help separated parents be more civil and collaborative rather than hostile and ineffective. I thought that Ricci’s book would be most satisfying to those parents who are on the lower end of conflict. However, even though it is aimed at those at the low to moderate levels of conflict, this doesn’t mean it’s useless. The sections of the book regarding adjusting to your changing relationship and negotiating parenting agreements are very valuable to all parents regardless of how on top of your conflict you are. She provides some short sets of questions to evaluate the quality of your interactions and tips for how to improve them. But, conflict during and after separation is complex and challenging. Over the years, I didn’t find satisfying resources to address the more complex parts of separated coparenting for those with higher levels of conflict. There didn’t seem to be a book that actually would explain in practical terms how parents could lower their hostility which is why I ended up writing The Coparenting Manifesto.

Mom’s House, Dad’s House offers a clear explanation of the difference between a business relationship, friendship, and intimacy.

This is the number one reason I recommend you get this book. Ricci explains in very accessible language how to make changes in how you relate to your child’s other parent so that you reduce the interference of unhealthy emotions, establish appropriate boundaries, and adopt a policy of being civil. Most people can understand that one can do business with someone they don’t like or aren’t particularly emotionally close with. She discusses several aspects of adopting a business relationship. One of the features of her model that I promote most often is giving receipts. She points out that in business people get receipts after transactions.

After any parenting agreement, parents should each send an e-mail to the other simply stating what was discussed and what the mutual agreement is.

Sending a follow-up e-mail after discussing an agreement is an effective way to lower your level of conflict. This is because a good amount of the time you and your other parent will make agreements that aren’t actually clear. You think you’re on the same page but you aren’t. You run the risk of confronting this disconnect in an awkward moment when you might not be prepared to cope well with additional, urgent negotiations. For example, if you and your other parent think you’re in agreement with how to split payments for Little League but you’re not, you may not discover this until you’re both standing at the table where the check needs to be written. You’re there in front of your child and your community and you suddenly have a conflict.

Much of this type of conflict can be avoided by following Ricci’s advice. After you have your discussion, you send each other an e-mail which states how you view the agreement. Perhaps one of you sends a message that says, Today we discussed Little League fees and my understanding is that you’ll pay next time and I’ll pay the time after that. You get a message from your other parent which says, Today we discussed Little League fees and my understanding is that we’ll split the fee fifty-fifty each time a payment is due. At that point, you are not on the same page. The answer is to have another conversation about it as soon as it’s feasible. Do that when you’re not on the spot and being blindsided by a conflict you didn’t even know existed. This way parents can take responsibility for their agreements. Miscommunication feeds into the view that conflict is because your ex is evil, stupid, and crazy. It may just be another instance of miscommunication. It happens even between people who are having good intentions. You’ve probably encountered that before

I do recommend that you get this book. It will not solve all of your complications. I encourage you to listen to my podcast, take my video course, or get coaching to address the more complex aspects of your coparenting. But, Mom’s House, Dad’s House offers rich insight and helpful advice to steer your coparenting relationship in a positive direction.









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