Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

Did any of you watch Seinfeld back in the day? If you didn’t, you can – it’s now on Netflix. I watched Seinfeld, and there is one episode that resonates strongly with me. What I remember about the episode is that George was in conflict with his two personas: Independent George and Relationship George. Relationship George was killing fun-loving Independent George! 

I admit I have the same problem. Relationship Renée (“Relata”) is causing all sorts of issues for Independent Renée (“Indy”), and Indy does not get off so lightly in the blame department either. 

Indy seems to forget what Relata’s life is like the minute the kids walk out the door to spend time with their dad. 

Indy, feeling lonely, takes on work commitments, volunteer commitments and social commitments. All Indy can think is that she must fill the hours that the children are absent. Indy must be productive and not wallow in self-pity. 

Then the children seem to descend suddenly, and Indy becomes Relata. Suddenly, Relata finds herself having to make breakfast, lunch and dinner and ferry kids around to various activities while trying to finish Indy’s work. In addition, the children are constantly disrupting Relata’s paid work. How is Relata supposed to get anything done?! The children are no longer with Relata; the children are now living with grumpy and stressed-out Renée – “Frantica.” 

Frantica longs for the peaceful solitude of Indy’s life. “Seriously, what was Indy thinking, lonely? I’ll give you lonely,” Frantica thinks. Frantica would kill for some lonely time when she is in the thick of getting everything done. Frantica looks ahead at Indy’s calendar and cuts a swath through everything. “That ignorant Indy!” thinks Frantica. “I’ll teach her to overschedule and overcommit. She is not doing anything this weekend when the kids are with their dad. She will recharge, lay low, and prepare herself for the week when the kids are back.”

Then quicker than you can blink, Indy is back and staring at the weekend ahead that Frantica just planned. Indy recharges in a day, and then peaceful solitude turns to debilitating loneliness. Indy adds as many things as she can to stave off loneliness and starts to create rules for Relata. Relata must go to yoga during the week. Relata must do better at getting work done when the kids are in bed. “NO MORE NETFLIX Relata!” shouts Indy. 

Then Relata is back and trying to negotiate these rules that Indy setup. “Indy has not been using that brain of hers again.” She doesn’t know how exhausting it is to work all day, fight with the kids over bedtime routines, and now she wants me to write blog posts and better myself in the hours between 9 to 11 pm?” I cannot do it, thinks Relata. Relata gets depressed and wonders what the point is of all this work anyway. Seriously Relata says to herself. There must be a better way. 

As with everything, communication is critical. Much like the movie Mememto, Relata and Indy have started to leave notes for each other on their shared desk. 

These are the notes from Relata to Indy

  1. Before taking anything on, ask yourself if it fits your values and beliefs. 
  2. Why are you taking on this new project?
  3. Would you do this if you were short of time? Or are you just doing it to keep busy?

(yes, all the notes are a variation on a theme)

These are the notes from Indy to Relata

  1. I am sacrificing some of my weekend fun time to catch up on grunt work. Please make sure you try to let go when with the kids and have some fun time with them. 
  2. I am recharging and using this time so you do not turn into Frantica. Please remember that your time with the kids is brief, and the most important thing is to be present with them and take care of yourself. 
  3. Please also remember to look for a time when you can complete work when you are Relata. Schedule a reasonable amount of time for me to complete that work if you don’t, and don’t forget to schedule something fun for me, Indy. 

Then Indy adds more as she has more time to reflect than Relata: “I know it’s tough Relata, but remember, you eventually get to have some solitude, think of all the single parents out there that do not have a co-parent. Remember to be grateful.” 

Slowly, these messages between Indy and Relata are starting to get through.

The one standard message that they tell the other? “It’s going to take time to get this right, be kind to yourself in the meantime, and I will forgive your errors in judgement. After all, we learn best from our mistakes!”