This is a follow-up post to my 3 Truths About Co-Parenting. I, along with many others struggle when trying to find a balance with child-rearing and dealing with our exes so I wanted to share my 5 Rules for co-parenting. This is not an inclusive list and please understand that one size doesn’t fit all.
Co-parenting for lack of a better word is when two partners who had a child together are no longer together whether through break-up or divorce and they have to parent separately. Co-parenting assumes that both adults will parent jointly and thus create a harmonious situation for the child and/or children.
In all honesty, that rarely happens. The reality is that it takes two adults to move past the pain in their relationship. My best friend said to me “No matter how much the other person didn’t want to be married, you become the enemy because you ended it.” I thought that was crazy as hell, but listening to the things that my friend’s endure, I see there is truth in that.
The problem is that we, as adults, have to be willing to put aside our pain, anger and frustrations about our ex for the sake of our children. Again, this will take time. However, how long before you destroy each other and time won’t heal that wound and you continue to hate each other for your entire lifetime? It’s not healthy. It’s not healthy for the new partner who embarks on this situation.
The new girlfriend/boyfriend who may become the new wife/husband of your ex will be walking through a battlefield. They may not know, understand or care for the whole story. In reality, people only know what you tell them. But, you know that there are often 3 sides to every story…his, hers and the truth right? The truth is usually somewhere in the middle.
This acrimonious environment that adults find themselves in allows for you to breed contempt for each other and that hatred can and will boil over. Think of it like a boiling pot of your favorite sauce. You add too many ingredients (years of anger and memories from a failed relationship) into the pot and then heat it up on high. The heat is caused by the miscommunication or lack there of, lack of respect, lack of similar beliefs and values. What do you think is about to happen?
You’ll be surprised the number of things you thought were a given when you were married, but realized that you didn’t know the stranger who you are now forced to parent with. Things you took for granted…shared beliefs, values, morals, etc. You are often wondering what the hell happened? How could I have not seen that?
You have to stay strong and do what’s best for your child and/or children. Does that mean you lie down and be a whipping post? No. Does that mean that you have to do the things you did when you were married? No. But, it means that you need to step back and do at a minimum, these 5 things.
- Parent in the present. The past is gone. That relationship is over and dead. You aren’t reviving it or trying to get back together, so you should never say “You’ve always done… or You’ve always been this…” You can’t do it. You’re living in the past and you can’t parent in the present if you’re living in the past.
- Seek therapy. Parenting is hard as hell if you’re married. Add a divorce, anger, an affair, money issues, moving expenses, etc and you are bound to lose your cool with your ex. It happens. Normal as hell. But, you know what? Your anger over your ex leaving you or moving on will create problems when you try to co-parent. I believe in therapy for yourself and then learning how to co-parent with each other.
- No Child Left Behind. Don’t forget your parenting responsibilities in all your every day life. I get that you may now have to work or get two jobs to pay for child support, but you can’t neglect the important task of spending time with your children. They need you. You need them. Don’t neglect them if you start dating again. Don’t force your new partner down their throats either. Let them sort of lead the process.
- You have the right to say no. Don’t allow guilt to set you up for being a doormat to your ex’s whims or requests. You have the right to say no. If you can’t pick up your child from school for the 3rd time because you have plans…let them figure it out. You don’t have to provide them with information if you don’t want to. Now, I’m not talking about giving them the information and access to any on-line school accounts, but it is their responsibility to pay attention to the school calendar and not depend on you. You’re not married anymore.
- Boundaries are Beautiful. I realized that I didn’t have any boundaries when I shifted from married to separated and eventually divorced. The same things I did in marriage, I did in divorce. Copying him on emails to the teachers or following up with him about things I learned and that communication turned around and bit me in the butt. It backfired. I felt like that I was doing a lot and he was acting like I owed it to him to do it. I don’t have to do the things that I would have done as a wife. I have to set boundaries about what I will and won’t do and vice versa.
Parenting is hard as heck when you are married and more so when you are divorced. In the beginning you feel as though you don’t know the person you were once married too. It happens. It’s normal. It’s your new normal. You’ll struggle to find balance and let things evolve naturally. Some days it will work and other days it won’t. Does that mean that either parent is wrong? Nope. You just do the best you can and pray that your children will be okay.