So I’ve been thinking alot lately about being a single mum and what it means to co-parent when separated. I’ve been watching a programme recently where the parents are so angry at eachother that they cannot even attempt a drop off without an argument ensuing. Watching it enrages me so I thought I would write about my own experience. I’ve seen both sides of the coin so I’m going to attempt to give a balanced view here, this blog isn’t to slate father’s or mother’s but give a little insight into both sides and the most important view. The child’s.
I’ve been apart from Ruby’s dad for 8 years now and despite a few fall outs I think we’ve done co-parenting pretty well. Why? How? Well the simple answer to that is because we both love our daughter more than ourselves. And because i guess we need peace more than we need to be right. We chose our battles wisley because going to war could risk us both losing the one thing we love the most. Our daughter.
I’m not going to lie. Co-parenting is tough. It’s draining and it conjures up all kinds of negative feelings; anger, denial, jealousy,spite. It requires you to hold your tongue, practice patience and compromise through gritted teeth more often than you’d like. It’s something you never asked for, after all families are not made with the intention to be broken. None the less it’s out of our control sometimes and that’s the hard part in all of this. Losing control. That’s the thing that turns us into stubborn people who can’t see the woods through the trees and realise what’s important. Our children.
Being separated and co-parenting has you negotiating left right and centre. You find yourself considering things you never thought you’d have to when the baby first came, like; “do we do a joint parents evening or have them separate?” , “Where will the children spend Christmas and birthdays?” “Who will pay for this after school club?”. I’m not going to say that after 8 years, myself and ruby’s dad don’t still argue over the little things because we do. We also get angry at eachother and probably make barbed comments to other people about how the other parents, and this will probably never change because frustration and opinion will always play a role. The thing we never do though is use our child as a weapon. We don’t play god. What’s the point? All it causes is upset and a child in the middle wondering why the two people that made her, now can’t even hold a civil conversation. Children don’t love in isolation, and they shouldn’t be made to pick a parent. Being a child means having fun and enjoying life knowing that you have love and warmth around you from all your people. Becoming an adult is hard work and you don’t realise until you grow up how much you miss the easyness of being a child, so why would you be selfish enough to thrust a child into adult responsibilities and problems because you can’t swallow your pride and co- parent successfully?
I see it alot, especially in my type of work. Parents are unable to separate the child from the former relationship. It happens on both sides and is more damaging then you can imagine. Your child is not what he/she did to you, your child is not at fault because he/she didn’t agree with something you wanted, your child is not to blame because they remind you of him/her and your child is not a pawn that should be used to manipulate and punish the other for your own agenda. How people can use the love for a child like that is shocking to me. Why would you even want to? Isn’t having a child the most precious thing in the world? So why would people want to hurt their child just to hurt the other parent? That’s putting your needs ahead of theirs. That’s selfish. Pure and simple.
However much ruby’s dad angers me and whatever horrible things I’d like to call him sometimes, I would never stop him from seeing his child. I’m the full time resident parent and I consider that a privilege, I don’t take it for granted and nor do I use it to get my own way. Just because her dad lives elsewhere and sees her part-time because of the circumstances we created, doesn’t mean that his love for her diminishes or that he stops wishing he could see his child everyday. He still loves her whole heartedly the same as I do and I would never punish him or her for things beyond anyone’s control.
Co-parenting is all about compromise. It might stick in your throat sometimes to admit defeat on some issues and you might tear your hair out on occasions when the other parent is being selfish, but compromising is key to raising happy and well adjusted children. Myself and Ruby’s dad have gotten it wrong on many occasions, who doesn’t make mistakes right? but parenting is a life long job and we continue to learn and grow. After 8 years we are finally at a point where things are quite easy actually. We have an agreement of days we both have contact and we stick to that each week, and we compromise, because life is dynamic and situations change. We can text or call eachother and say “hey, something’s come up today and Ruby can’t make it. Can we change the day/times?” And if we can we will. Simple. We don’t argue over the small details because what’s important is that Ruby has both parents. Does it matter if she doesn’t see him on his given day. No of course not. What matters is that she sees him regardless of the day/time or place. That she knows that whatever the circumstances she has two parents that love her and can put their own bullshit to the side to make sure she never has to doubt their love for her.
As parents we place high expectations on our children, what we forget is that children also place those expectations onto their parents. Being unreasonable or unwilling to co-parent a child who is from a broken family and who is already vulnerable is not meeting those expectations. Not even close….
One of my worst fears would be to have to explain to Ruby when she’s older why she didn’t have her dad around, and that’s why I have never put myself in the position where I would ever have to do it. I get that situations differ and if there is an unwilling parent or a dangerous one then that is out of our hands but I’m talking about when two people who both love their children can’t even have a civil conversation because they are too selfish to get over themselves leads to a child missing out on love then that’s when we need to re-evaluate what’s important. Do I want my child to grow up thinking that it’s normal to not be able to speak to their father? No. Do I want to continue to make things uncomfortable for them? No. Do I want them agonising over birthdays, christmas, weddings, births etc for the rest of their life because of our mistakes? No. I can’t imagine any parent would want that for their child. Co- parenting should be all about the child and nothing else. It takes communication, resilience and most of all unequivocal love for something other than yourself. When we chose to create a child we chose to put their heart ahead of our own. I’m no saint and I’ve made mistakes but one thing I am certain of is that I have given my daughter every opportunity of having a stable picture of a separated family. I might have to share her and I might have to swallow my pride when I don’t want to but I also know that I will NEVER have to explain to a broken adult why I was to selfish to try…
Co- parenting is hard enough so why add anymore pressure into the situation by being stubborn. It doesn’t matter who said what, who hurt who. What matters is that your child benefits from two parents and a family that loves them. Separation doesn’t make that love for your children stop. Ignorance and pride stand in the way of making a success of something that was once broken.
Let’s do better for our children.