This week I want to take a deep dive into co-parenting. Mainly because it’s a topic that many people in my age bracket deal with. Most importantly, it’s a topic that extremely affects children and ultimately the adults they’ll become. There’s nothing that pains me more than parents who let personal disagreements or differences get in the way of raising their children. Speaking from experience, I know how difficult broken relationships involving children can be. But it’s important to be mindful that the moment you had children, you took on the responsibility that comes along with having them. Co-parenting is important to gain an understanding around if you have children or are dating someone with children. Hopefully me speaking about how I’m navigating through co-parenting helps some of you who may be having challenges around it. Also, feel free to comment with your experiences or perspectives. The purpose of this post is cheerleading how important it is to work together as parents, so the more viewpoints shared the better.
I reference my experiences, not because I have it all figured out, but because it’s the best and truest example I have in explaining my point of view. I can wholeheartedly say a true blessing transitioning from one child to two children has been my son’s father and I’s co-parenting.
When my sons dad and I split, I had no idea how we’d co-parent Chase. Neither of us had been saints in our situation and there were a lot of open wounds that needed healing. I wasn’t in denial about that, it’s probably what terrified me the most, how to move forward as they healed. However, two things I did know was we loved our son very much and the last thing we wanted to do was add additional stress on him. I realized he’d already have to deal with the stress of the separation itself, so as I moved forward I kept that in mind.
With no real concept of how co-parenting worked, acting off emotion was something I knew I couldn’t do. Keeping a level head is something I’ve always been good at. A trait I saw a lot in mom growing up. My mother was a single mom for the vast majority of my upbringing. So in addition to keeping a level head, what I also had was a strong example of what a mother is supposed to be. Throughout my life I watched her take on raising 5 very different children, and no matter what she had to sacrifice, she did. I never remember hearing her complain but very vividly do I remember her unwavering support, no matter what I was going through.
Thanks to my mom, I knew sacrifice and support, two very instrumental values that heavily impacted the way way I view co-parenting, well parenting in general. I decided to make a list of major things I had to sacrifice as we moved forward as co-parents.
I wouldn’t introduce my son into a new relationship, unless I was confidant it was serious
I wouldn’t let his dad and I’s personal issues come between what was best as far as raising him
Legal action of any kind was an absolute last resort.
Patience, patience, and patience (which is historically NOT my strong suit)
Something I want to point out, that was intentionally left off my list, is communication. I understood this was something that would get better over time. I had a very low expectation for smooth communication, setting that bar low was the best thing I did starting out. But I had extremely high faith in us being able to communicate seamlessly over time.
Here’s the why associated with those 4 sacrifices:
Chase was 3 years old when we split. Allowing his father to have an uninterrupted position as the male parental figure in his life was important to me. It wasn’t a case of his father not wanting to be around, so out of respect for him, keeping Chase out of my personal relationships was the right thing to do. Additionally, I don’t think it’s necessary for children to be introduced into every relationship. Does that make moving forward or dating a little more challenging, yes. It wasn’t something I kept secret, but it was something I asked for respect and understanding on for the sake of my child. Ultimately, any man I'd even entertain dating, would have to feel secure in me having a good relationship with my son's father.
I wasn’t able to control emotions on his father's side, but I did require our emotions to be set aside when it came to what was best for Chase. We had disagreements all the time and we didn’t and still don’t always have the same opinions when it comes to how to parent different situations. But the lines of communication are always open. Neither of us ever disregarded the bigger picture. We may be angry with each other, but we follow through on coming to resolutions of things that need immediate attention. It’s a lot of give and take. It’s important to understand, committing not to let personal feelings interfere with raising your child, things won’t always go your way. It’s continuous give and take, we’re human, and it’s natural to be irrational from time to time or to want things to operate your way. With that being said, standing firmly in things that are important to you is critical. Both parents have to understand and value what things are important to the both of you. That is why communication is vital in co-parenting. When a child resides in two different households, making sure expectations and routines are similar makes things much easier for the child. In order to achieve that, personal agendas need not apply. Clear communication minimizes conflict, which also minimizes the amount of time explaining to Chase why there are differences.
Now let’s talk legal action. As I mentioned, there was no concern or doubt in my mind that Chase would be taken care of, by the both of us. Where I’m totally for having to take legal action if a parent is unwilling to provide for their child. I am totally against taking unwarranted legal action. Our reality is that we’re both good parents, so there is absolutely no reason we should need legal involvement. This too relies heavily on communication. If you both want what’s best for your child, why involve the court system. Just talk through your disagreements and keep in mind the other parent and their circumstances. At times you may have to carry more or less of the load, don’t just head to court, that’s life. As parents you’re lifetime partners whether you like it or not, so it’s worth it to care about the person who’s caring for your child. You should aim to be good friends, your child will remember and be shaped by watching your interactions as parents.
Sweet and dear lord patience, I don’t do patience well. But the saying is true, kids change you. I didn’t really have a whole lot of patience before becoming a mom, which now having more patience has been transformative in my life. This was probably my biggest struggle in co-parenting. Times when I would get frustrated I had to find understanding, I didn’t really have a choice did I? In the back of my mind I just reminded myself over time both he and I would change and grow and sometimes that takes a while. I just stayed the course, I really wanted us back then, to get to the place we are today. And look at God, we made it.
Fast forwarding to the present, Chase’s father and I are a team. We speak everyday, we’re actively involved in his education, we care about what’s happening in the lives of each other, we’re supportive of Chase’s activities, and we often have family dates with just the three of us to give Chase confidence that he’s loved by both of us. We’re overall in just about the perfect place you can be as co-parents. Did that happen overnight, no. But it has occurred as a result of intention, not by chance or luck. But because we diligently worked at it until it began to happen naturally.
Relationships don’t always work out, but when children are involved, the relationship is lifelong. So when a new chapter begins, you’ll have to learn and navigate through just like with everything else in life. To be honest, co-parenting is necessary even when two parents are together. It’s all a balance, as parents we should look back to our own childhoods, be what we didn’t have, incorporate the things we loved, and raise our children to be better. Instill values so our grandchildren and their children carry that forward. So no matter what comes their way, they’ll have the best possible support system to carry them through.
I’m the mother of two beautiful children by two men, I’m not ashamed of that. I’m a believer in co-parenting, an example that it works and works well. I’m a full time mother to both of my children and I feel that way because of how successful we’ve been at co-parenting.