There is no sugar-coating this, co-parenting can be messy and it is hard. Co-parenting with an ex is probably one of the biggest sacrifices you will make as a parent and the truest act of love because you do not do it for yourself, you do it for the tiny humans that follow you around calling you mom/dad. It doesn’t matter how you came to be in the situation you are in, or if you even like the person you have to co-parent with, what does matter is that you take a deep breath, look at your kids and know that a strong co-parenting relationship is an absolute must. It’s time to do it, and do it well!
I am going to say this next part with great sensitivity and in the most non-judgmental tone possible via text, co-parenting is a necessity because your children did not choose the separation, they are simply living a reality that was chosen for them. I can say this with great empathy because this is my girls reality as well. I am in this very chapter in my life and it is a tough pill to swallow. The silver lining to what may seem like a “failure” on our parts (totally not by the way so don’t be hard on yourself!) is that the quicker we, the adults, realize that co-parenting our children is NOT about us, the better and quicker we can begin to work together and continue to give our kids the mommy/daddy dynamic they know and love. It takes serious will power to co-parent because before, your concern was your family living inside this exclusive bubble with a centered agenda. But now, your schedule and life revolve around someone else and their family’s’ schedule and life! My brain sometimes feels like it is on overdrive trying to keep up with what is going on with everyone, but you know what? I am happy to do it… maybe my exhaustion makes me grumpy about it sometimes, but overall it doesn’t bother me because I know the end result is a kid who has two families who stand behind her as one! Totally worth it!
I realize that more often than not families are broken and the parental relationships are filled to the brim with the emotional baggage from the romantic side which can sink any chance of a good co-parenting dynamic. It’s hard ya’ll, no argument there. Generally speaking, who wants to look at their ex every other weekend or week when they are trying to deal with emotional closure? Not any sane person I have ever met. But you have to. You have to draw the line between personal and parental because it DOES make a difference and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. When your personal feelings bleed into your parental judgment, it causes anguish in the child’s life whether you mean to or not. We are all guilty of it at one point or another…. we are human! Again, once a romantic relationship is over and it involves children, it is no longer about you. You have to dig deep down, sometimes deep deep deep down and find that inner-warrior to fight every natural emotional instinct and build a wall between a painful, broken heart and a good, sound, co-parenting mind. (I’m no expert by any means, but I have been through this a time or two so I can definitely relate!)
I can proudly say that my oldest daughter’s dad and I have successfully co-parented her for 8 years now. Things haven’t always been perfect. But for the most part, we really have had a great parental relationship. She has never felt torn between the two of us, she’s always had the both of us at every event as well as the both extended families! We really do have a unique dynamic because we choose to be friends as well. I’m not saying this works for everyone because I know there are always the cases where it just can’t, but if two people can agree to center the child in their worlds, why not? He has his new family dynamic and I have mine, but we still continue to parent our daughter together. He just recently got married to a woman who adores our daughter and treats her as her own. I’m not complaining! I know my daughter is safe, loved, well taken care of and happy. Co-parenting is all about the kiddo and my kiddo seems pretty darn happy! Because things have worked out so well for us over the past 8 years, I have a few basic, and somewhat obvious tips that can help start you off:
Communication – Yep, the good ole “C” word. Maybe this was lacking in your personal, romantic relationship…but guess what I’m about to say? That doesn’t matter anymore. It is ALL about the kiddos. You need to do your absolute best to communicate about your child. Be open about events, schedules, whats going on with your child’s health, etc. Do everything you can to keep the other parent in the loop, not only is it just the right thing to do, but it shows your child that you are inclusive of the other parent! (Check out OurFamilyWizardApp here, a great tool for co-parenting and its court approved!)
Support – If I could wear a sandwich board with this written on it every single day, I totally would. Be supportive of your child’s relationship with the other parent. Regardless of your feelings towards them, your kiddo needs both of you for proper growth! Trust me, there are days where the girls’ dads and I don’t like each other, but we deal with it on our own time because the kids are not pieces in a game. Do not interfere, do not trash talk, do not keep them from mom/dad. You are not “winning” by doing these things, you would be hurting a very innocent child. Most people know this, but it never hurts to have a refresher!
Routine – This is my favorite. Routine Routine Routine! We all know how much a routine helps in everyday life, but man does it make a difference when you have to work your life around a completely different family too! Knowing ahead of time when and where drop offs and pickups will happen and what holidays belong to whom saves so much time and conversation! Establishing a consistent routine helps the kids transition from home to home a lot easier as well. Obviously, there will be kinks and schedule changes that will come, but having the groundwork pretty much already laid out makes a world of difference for everyone involved!
I know co-parenting can seem like a never-ending battle that is set to drain you, but I am such an optimist when it comes to this topic. It can , absolutely be hard, no one said this was for the weak! I’ve heard the horror stories and it is not always rainbows and butterflies, I also know that it doesn’t always have to be a fight. It just takes two willing people who realize that a sweet, tiny human truly is the center of the universe and doesn’t deserve any less than the best from their parents. If both can agree on that, then in my opinion, that is the simple start to the beginning of a successful co-parenting relationship!
Good luck on your co-parenting journey!