A few months back I had some friends ask if I would write about the birds and the bees. It was uncomfortable for some but I did it. Now I’ve had a few friends ask that I write about co-parenting. It could be because I have a not so common co-parenting situation. It will be uncomfortable for some but I did it. I’ve been co-parenting with my ex-husband for 14 years and while we’ve had a few speed bumps along the way, we’ve had an oddly easy road. I honestly can’t remember the last time we had a disagreement and have no idea when the last time we actually verbally argued . I can say with certainty that it takes maturity on both sides to make it work and it has to be ALL about the child. I’d say when it comes to co-parenting ,on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, we’re a solid 11. I’ve learned a few lessons over these 14 years that I think are pretty vital to assure that co-parenting works. I’m aware that there are unique situations that might not fit into these 7 suggestions but I also know that the majority of co-parenting situations can be so much easier than we make them. This is simply what I think are vital qualities to a healthy child in a co-parenting situation.
1. Brush your teeth and don’t forget to scrub your tongue.
Rule number one is to keep your mouth clean and to never let nasty words about your co-parent leave your mouth and enter the ears of your child. Bad mouthing your child’s other parent is toxic to the child and you are essentially bad mouthing half of who they are. You’re also making yourself look mean and bitter while slowly grating away at who your child is. My ex and I have always made it a point to hug each other when we are in front of our daughter even if we wanted to wring each others necks. She has never heard a single negative thing out of either of our mouths about her other parents, never and that includes step parents. No matter how solid you think your relationship is with your child, no matter how right you think you are in your feelings towards your co-parent, if you bad mouth them your child will resent you for it at some point in their lives. It might not be tomorrow or even 5 years from now but I promise it will happen. Bad mouthing your child’s other parents falls in the category of Parent Alienation Syndrome and you don’t want to be that crazy parent do you?
2. Do this math problem everyday. 1+1= 1
Your child should have one family. Co-parents need to be strong enough to accept each other as family and not make the child feel like they are living two separate lives. A child should never have to pack an over night bag to go stay at their parents house. A child should have everything they need at both houses and shouldn’t feel like a guest or overnight visitor in either home. All extended family members are equally family members, even if you think your side of the family is better than theirs. Our daughter has 4 half sisters, a half-brother and a step sister but our family doesn’t use those words. In our one big family she has 5 sisters and a brother. Step parents are just as responsible and respected as bio parents. We do not have separate birthday parties and we all sit together if our child has an event we need to attend. We are her family, one family.
3. Do yoga every morning Stretch it out, you’re going to need to be flexible. My co-parent and I threw out custody papers a long time ago and decided to simply be adults about it all. We don’t believe in “my time” and “your time”. She’s our daughter, not a possession. In or eyes it doesn’t matter if she’s with me or him, as long as she’s with family. We do every other weekend but in the summers and holidays we kind of just do whatever. This year she spent Mother’s Day at his house, not because I didn’t want her with me but because she was staying that weekend with him and he wanted to cook dinner for his mom and have her there too. She was with family and that’s what matters. We simply share in the joy of raising her with out the stress of a schedule drawn out by lawyers who don’t really know our family dynamics. If you are all about sticking strictly to the papers then I hope you never have anything come up where you might need your co-parent to work with you bending them a little. You can’t have it both ways.
4.Wash your laundry everyday, empty the dirty laundry hamper. Let it go. Stop airing dirty laundry. If you’re still bringing up what your co-parent did wrong 2, 5, 10 years ago then you are carrying a weight that is crippling you and the healthy growth of your child. Let it go. And really, how clean is your closet? Be honest. There is no perfect parent so if you want to point out your co-parents flaws, you might want to get a mirror. Life is much better for all involved if you learn to encourage each other as parents instead of bash each other or try to win as the better parent. The parent who’s keeping score will always end up to be the loser.
5.Take off your tiara and pack it away It’s no longer about you. Your days of reining over your world are over. It’s now only about the child and what’s best for them. What is truly in the best interest of your child might not match what you feel is in your best interest. Sorry for your luck. If you are currently arranging things to ease your feelings then you’re doing it wrong. Your job is to nurture the relationship between your child and your co-parent without letting yourself get in the way. What!? Yes, they aren’t puppets, they’re people and trying to control their relationship is a hopeless battle. Instead try encouraging them to have their own unique relationship and not one you designed for them. If one of your parents bad mouthed your other parent or tried to control your relationship with them, break the cycle instead of continuing a toxic tradition.
6.Upgrade your cell phone plan Communicate with each other, respectfully. Talk about things, talk about everything. Talk to each other, not through your child. Don’t bottle issues up only to explode later or pull them out as a weapon when needed. Just communicate and work things out like adults. You are not always going to see eye to eye and that’s okay, it’s normal but it doesn’t have to be World War 3. This is when the yoga things comes in handy again. You’ll have to bend and compromise. You can’t always have your way. Have enough respect for yourself, your co-parent and most important your child to sit down and work out issues before they cause friction in your family. NEVER EVER EVER involve your child in adult situations, they are children and need to stay that way. They should not shoulder the burden of adult problems. Involving them in adult situations is extremely selfish and immature.
7. Take a daily trip. So remember that one time when you really really liked your co-parent, maybe even loved them. There had to be a time at some point when you thought enough of them to lay down with them if you know what if you know what I’m saying. Remember that daily. Gross right? Not really. Remembering why our child’s here in the first place can take away negative thoughts about your co-parent. I mean really, look at your child and remember that they wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for your co-parent. Try thanking them for it today.
I think my most rewarding moment as a co-parent was when I got a call from the school counselor when my daughter was in second grade. She told me that she had my daughter and another little girl in her office just chit chatting about different things. The other little girl said that her parents were getting a divorce and she was mad. My daughter chimed in and said “So what, my parents are divorced and they love each other”. The counselor was calling to tell me congrats on whatever it was that my ex and I were doing because our little girl was clueless that divorce can cause major issues. She was just completely confident that no matter what her mommy and daddy loved her and each other and that’s all that counts. That’s not to glorify divorce or say that we want our daughter to think divorce is easy or good. It says that we have done everything possible to not let our choice for divorce to negatively affect her. It was our choice, not our daughter’s.