Co-parenting is like having a grenade in the corner of the room that the pin can fall out of at any moment.
That said, when it’s working well it can be the best of both worlds.
Quality time with your child(ren) and free time to use however you wish.
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We’re the first generation that is more likely than not to have divorced parents, and that’s not because our parents didn’t “ride it out”. It’s because we’re only two generations away from a woman not being able to have a bank account. Three to four from when women couldn’t buy a home or even work. It was only 153 years ago the first women were allowed to go to university!
As we’ve gained our rightful independence, we’ve also gained the freedom to leave relationships that aren’t serving us and I would encourage everyone to do so, even if there are children involved.
As a result, we’re the generation struggling most with the psychological trauma that comes from our parent’s unsuccessful attempts at co-parenting, and have first hand experience as to the negative effects it has on us, right up into adulthood.
The most common things we hear about relationship breakdowns are people using their children as a battleground and restricting access. It’s the easy thing to do. But, if you remove your ego from the situation and keep the child(ren)’s wellbeing at the forefront, you can enjoy a peaceful and easy life.
Over my dead body would I have a judge decide what’s best for me and my family. Of course some families will require intervention from the court and that’s fine. But a judge can tell the difference between a genuine disagreement and an abusive person trying to torture their ex by dragging them through the courts. And when the judge does make a decision, you’ll still need to communicate with your ex about the arrangements anyway, so I say swallow your pride and cut out the middle man. Obviously co-parenting isn’t possible in every situation, but where it is you should fight for it to work successfully.
I’ve been co-parenting for eight years, and it ebbs and flows. Sometimes we’re all vibing and other times it’s really tricky and stressful.
What I can tell you from experience is that it doesn’t have to be hard. It can work, and work well. And when it does, you’ll feel like the coolest most progressive parent on the planet. In 2019 we were all at Glastonbury and camped together (so our son wouldn’t wake up and go looking for the other parent without us knowing).
It was amazing! We all did our own thing and spent time with him separately, but we all had the most amazing Sunday afternoon together, watching the Bootleg Beatles and eating deep fried Creme Eggs in the sun (appreciate it sounds gross, but it was fun). And I’ve never felt as peaceful and fulfilled as I did that beautiful afternoon.
We don’t want our son to live in a mum v dad situation. So we’re not together, who cares?! We both love our son and want a stress free life. So we make it work.
Personally, a 50/50 time split works for us. We have set days and everyone knows where they are and when. However, we still have to be flexible to accommodate holidays, work and personal commitments.
I know people whose children feel like a three to four day split feels like moving around a lot, so they spend one week with one parent and the next with the other. Other people just have their children at weekends due to logistics or work. You need to figure out what works for you, which takes communication and inevitable compromise.
Speaking of communication, kids can be sneaky! If ever I’m not communicating well with my co-parent my son senses that and doesn’t hesitate to start stirring things up! Kids will naturally vent to you about the other parent and the absolute worst thing you can do it drink up every word they say as gospel and relay it to the other parent. My advice is never ever tell the other parent something your child has said. It’s a certified recipe for disaster!
One such tale was ‘when I go to sleep my dad climbs out the window and goes clubbing with his mates’. In actual fact, his dad had took the bin out and accidentally closed the door behind him. Locked out with a sleeping child inside, the poor guy was stressed out to the max and had to use a ladder to climb in through the window.
Sometimes he prefers one home to the other and will make it known that he doesn’t want to come home, ever! Again, the worst thing you can do is tell the other parent. I usually go with “but daddy’s so looking forward to seeing you and he’s got xyz planned. I know full well he’s saying the same thing there!
It’s extremely hard to manage a productive co-parenting relationship if you’re looking for an opportunity to score points against your ex partner. As with any relationship, it won’t work well if one or both of you are seeking to point score.
You’ll both meet other people and they’ll become a part of your child(ren)’s life. Personally, I’m extremely confident in the relationship I have with my son and assume that everyone who comes into his life also wants the best for him. But that’s not to say I haven’t felt uneasy and sometimes insecure about another woman taking my son to school, or on holiday. But you’ve just got to ride it out. As long as he’s had a good time, nothing else matters.
People will come and people will go. That’s ok. We’ve both lived with different partners and that adds another layer of spice to the mix. But dating me does not mean ‘taking on’ my son. He doesn’t need a step dad. He has a perfectly good dad who lives round the corner, and our son is no one’s concern but ours.
If you concentrate on making your own life so enjoyable and fulfilling, you’ll cherish your free time and won’t give a second thought to what anyone else is doing. When it’s my half of the week with my son, I make sure all my free time is for him. We do fun activities and enjoy each other’s company. I really value my son’s time and we have a ball together. But that other half of the week is mine and mine alone. I’ll be honest, I don’t give him a second thought.
You don’t have to be consistent together, but you both need to be consistent. Children thrive off routine but that doesn’t mean you both need to keep the same routine. We both have very different parenting styles and that’s ok. In fact its a good thing.
Our son is influenced by both of us equally and he adapts easily to each home every week. It’s important to trust that when your child is in the care of the other parent, they are making informed choices about what’s best for them with the information they have at the time. You can’t concern yourself with what’s happening in the other parent’s home. As long as your child is safe, happy and comes home as agreed, what the other parent does with them isn’t your concern.
You’ve got to have love and respect for your co-parent for it to work. I know I don’t want to be with my son’s dad, but I do need him to be happy and healthy for our son to thrive. There are of course times when I’ve been unhappy and co-parenting is always the perfect opportunity to pick a fight. It’s always available, if you want it. But I know deep down that it’s coming from a space of unhappiness within me, and there is nothing he can do to fix or change that.
Make space. It’s very easy as a women to assume responsibility for the lion’s share of childcare and I have at times had to dig my heels in and battle with feeling neglectful, in order to make space for my co-parent to carry more weight. If one parent takes on a new job and that means the other has to change their working hours to do the school run, it’s something you have to deal with just as you would if you were together.
My parent’s split up when I was a teenager and I remember feeling really guilty about spending time with (or missing) my dad. Your child(ren) is/are likely to have these same feelings and it’s important that they feel able to talk to you about it.
Your child(ren) will likely want to have photos of you all together or go on days out and I think if you can, you should. They love you both and should never feel torn. Life’s complicated enough.
Now I know this may seem like airy-fairy hippy nonsense, but I really do think more people could enjoy a peaceful life if they removed their ego from co-parenting. Raising children is hard. Splitting up is hard. Why make it harder for yourself by choosing animosity? No matter how much you believe that you ex-partner is causing you to feel anger or resentment. They’re simply not. Your own thoughts control your feelings.
Oh, and if you have a new partner who interferes with your co-parenting, does things that you know the other parent wouldn’t be comfortable with, or encourages you not to compromise with your co-parent when issues arise. You should dump that trash (wo)man! There are six billion people in this world and you think the love of your life can’t cope with you having free-flowing, non-violent communication with your ex? Whom you share a child with?! Come on!
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