It may not be the most PC way to say it, but it’s true: Co-Parenting sucks – being stuck working together with someone you used to love is honestly the pits.
Images of a father and a stepfather both doting on a cute little girl in a princess dress for a photo shoot together crossed my newsfeed the other day and I rolled my eyes.
In this world of showing our most perfect selves on social media, this “One big happy family” feel that comes across in articles and pictures of blended families feels insincere to me. I think it does a huge disservice to families who are in the midst of a divorce. Yes, that may be hashtag life goals for some. But please know, that it doesn’t happen quickly or easily, and it isn’t always attainable. Does that mean you shouldn’t strive for it? Absolutely not!
However, I think showing yourself (and your former partner) some grace will go a long way when it comes to co-parenting. Don’t beat yourself up if it isn’t always smooth sailing!
My ex (affectionately known as the Wasband) and I have been divorced for about eight years. We have been successfully co-parenting for a little over a year. That means there were seven years of hurt feelings, miscommunication, tension and less than our best parenting.
I will FULLY admit that I was a big part of the problem. My feelings were hurt after the Wasband left for someone else. My pride was hurt. None of this was a life I signed up for; we moved to Oklahoma so that I could be a stay at home mom, and within two years, I became a single mom. It sucked. If you go back and read that again, you may notice, I was making it all about me. Strike one in the co-parenting game.
You see, whether or not you “signed up” for this co-parenting shindig, it’s not about you.
It’s about the kids. You are allowed to feel EVERYTHING you are feeling as you watch your family split up. But remember, the kids didn’t sign up for this either! It’s a tough pill to swallow, and I mean that as lovingly as possible. Get out of your own pain as much as you can when you are making decisions for your kids. Bear in mind that they are also feeling hurt, and torn. They love both parents. They want to spend time with both parents. They also end up feeling like part of their heart is somewhere else all the time. Making your kids feel like they shouldn’t love their other parent is a clear strike two!
It doesn’t matter if you have been co-parenting for six months or six years, there will still be times when you aren’t on the same page.
Or, right as you hit your groove, one of you may start dating or get re-married, throwing the whole delicate balance off! It’s a constantly evolving process, but you can each work on your own issues to help the whole parenting team. In our case, I had to let go of some control issues. He had to step up and prove that we could trust him to do what he said he would do. It took work from both of us!
Clear communication and clear expectations help a lot. My favorite piece of advice to give people who are just starting this journey is that you don’t have to respond to everything immediately. It’s easy to get caught up in firing off spiteful texts. Taking an hour, or even a day, to calm down can mean a world of difference to your peace of mind!
My final thought is that at the end of the day, co-parenting is a gift you give to your children. Enjoy the time you have with them; create special traditions for your new version of family when you are together, and try to be happy for the time they get with their other parent.
And it’s okay if you feel like this sucks. You aren’t alone.