Co-parenting should be about what is best for the child, not the parents.
*DISCLAIMER – I am not an expert on this matter, I just know what worked for me.
When my ex and I separated, it was hard. On all of us. I had to be away from Owen for a period of days. This is so mentally exhausting being away from your baby. He was just over a year old and it seemed impossible. I will go over a few things that kept me sane while trying to figure out how to co-parent with your ex.
- MAKE A SCHEDULE, BUT BE FLEXIBLE: This is the most important point in making co-parenting work, in my opinion and it worked best for me personally. Of course there is going to be a lot of factors that go into this, whether or not that the other parent is responsible enough to split the time, work schedules and just life in general. With both of us being in the Air Force we both know that schedules change, often. My work schedule seemed to have changed monthly, while his was Monday – Friday making it easy to keep his schedule consistent. While we were both in Alaska, we would make our weekly schedule on what days we would have Owen, every Sunday. And for the most part we did really well with keeping up with it with only a few minor changes.
- COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE: Communication is so important and if you’re not actually communicating with your other half, there’s a huge chance it’ll end your relationship. And even though we are divorced, we still have to communicate often for Owen’s sake. Communication is key – but so is the way you deliver the message. I got a call once from the Child Development Center (CDC), Owen’s Daycare, saying that he had a really bad diaper rash and asked what had happened because Owen was in pain and was very uncomfortable. He had been with his dad for the past two days and when I had him last he was fine, so I had no idea what happened. I texted his dad and asked what happened – trying to keep my cool, but slightly annoyed that I was only hearing about this from the CDC. He had said he was changing his diaper every time he pooped, but he had pooped a lot the last few days and it was starting to irritate his bum, but when he dropped him off that morning it wasn’t as bad as the CDC made it sound. This is communicating. Me not blowing up and his dad explaining what happened. SIMPLE. If you don’t communicate, it will make the whole situation so much worse.
- DO NOT HOLD GRUDGES OR POINT FINGERS: Depending on why you aren’t together anymore, this may apply to you. For me it was not bringing our bad stuff to this new chapter of our lives. We were both figuring out how to co-parent and we both needed to realize that bringing up negative comments or moments we previously had, only made matters worse. We needed to focus on Owen and what was best for him. Everything else shouldn’t matter.
- PUT YOUR CHILD FIRST WITHOUT PUTTING YOURSELF ON THE BACK BURNER: I strongly believe that your child should come first. They should come before parties and selfish things. But you need to take care of yourself as well. If you are having a rough week at work, and your child is acting like a child (you know, because they are children) and not allowing you to get school work done, but it’s your week to have them, reach out to the other parent and COMMUNICATE whats going on and BE FLEXIBLE with the schedule. You can’t let yourself run on empty and try to do everything yourself. Doing that will only hinder your ability to be a parent. I know for me when I am having a terrible week and when my patience is thin, it is hard to be the best mom that I can be. It is okay to reach out and rely on the other parent (as long as they are reliable and not going to be a danger to your child of course).
- NEVER TALK BAD ABOUT THE OTHER PARENT IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILD: This was part of our divorce agreement and parenting plan. Whatever your personal feelings are about the other parent, it shouldn’t be brought up in front of your child. Children are so sensitive especially when it comes to changing their environment, speaking badly of a person that they look up to, especially their parent who they love like they also love you, can make it even more confusing. I get it. Sometimes it can be hard to hold back your tongue (been there) but your child should have their own opinion of the other parent. Not a negative view because all you do is talk bad about the other parent.
- SPENDING TIME TOGETHER AS A “FAMILY”: This one hit me hard recently. Up until about 3 months ago Owen’s dad and I lived in the same town, so we didn’t have to go more than a couple days apart. But the Air Force had other plans for us; to separate us by 1,300. After the first month and a half of being away from him and spending a day with Owen and his dad, Owen was so happy to have Mama and Dada together at the same time. Birthdays, holidays, or even just a random lunch could mean so much to your child. Accepting your “new family” and doing it for the joy of your child. Accepting the other people in your child’s life is just as important. This goes back to my last point. Its the little things that children thrive on. Seeing all the important people in their lives getting along, I promise, will mean the world to them.
If you have any personal experiences or tips on co-parenting – leave a comment below to help others.