Everyone uses social media to filter their lives. We lay on the positivity and create aspiration… And, while society and web content seem to be heading more toward realism (mummy blogs offering a moment of sanity between Pinterest perfected family life) there is one topic that comes up time and time again, and always seems sugar coated: co-parenting.
Breaking up is hard to do
H isn’t my husbands daughter. I know the heartache that comes with realising you can no longer make it work with your child’s father. The shame and guilt you feel….knowing your child will live with your decisions forever, but time and time again, I hear relationships have failed and the term ‘co-parent’ is discussed. The next best thing, the shield…. phew they’re co-parenting, their kid won’t end up in therapy.
It’s really not that easy
Perhaps it’s the guilt that stops many discussing what happens after parents break up? The very idea that our actions are anything less than a perfect textbook example of nurturing child psychology, is maybe a step too far into realism….I’ve yet to read a blog post or article where a parent admits to messiness or point scoring…..and so I’ve decided to write one.
Research suggests that lack of communication is a key factor in any relationship break down, and I can’t honestly believe, that a couple who struggled with this in marriage, are suddenly going to be able to develop the tools needed to do this effectively once apart.
Another thing we hear, is that opposing ideas on parenting contribute. So does anyone really believe it’s possible, that a newly separated couple, full of hurt, are going to sudenly start to agree on how best to raise their little ones? lets get real here!
After all, if we had these tools anyway, why couldn’t we make it work in the first place?
In an ideal world, we would co-parent from the start….but for anyone beating themselves up, I want you to know it’s not easy and it’s ok to struggle.
For co-parenting to work you’re required also to respect each other…. but what if you don’t respect your ex? Oh I know it’s not something you should admit, but it’s also not something you can just switch off or change…no matter how much you know you should! It’s a reality for many couples and it has jack shit to do with how much either of you love your child… you’re not failing at putting your child’s needs first, you’re just human… and I promise you it will get better.
When I was 17, I went to an international youth conference ‘Young People Chang the World ‘, We were with hundreds of other teenagers from all over the globe, sharing ideas and inspiration….. I’ll never forget the realisation, that while we were all there for the same reason: to create a bright, united future, each and every person had a different idea of how this could be achieved. I remember sitting in the great hall and crying….. an insight into adulthood: the unobtainability of world peace…parental break-ups are very much like this.
So what can you do?
Here’s ONE thing I’ve learnt, not some step by step journey, just a single nugget of wisdom…
Drop the control
My ex and I could barely agree on what to cook for dinner when we were together, let alone how best to raise our daughter….so instead of fighting about every point of parenting now we are apart, I’ve learnt to accepted that, just like when children have different expectations and rules at school, so too will they adjust to each home. You can not change other people! And at times it sucks! And is heartbreaking!
So… If your child is not at risk of harm then you’ve got to let things slide……and then slide some more.
Of course it bothers me and, in the early days, I would get so angry and frustrated……feeling like his way would ‘ruin’ her… trying to reason or explain…..but she is his child too and it’s that simple!!!
She is half of him and half me and that’s what happens when you have a baby with someone….. this alone was enough to stop me mud slinging and undermining. I relinquished control and felt that guilt lift…. fighting will affect a child’s personality way more than what time she goes to bed or what food she eats.
Once I learnt this one lesson, everything got easier. I was able to begin to respect the good things he did: the fact he is never late to pick her up, that he always remembers to buy my boys a Christmas gift so they don’t feel left out….
I can’t talk for him, I don’t know if he has grown to respect me also…. I don’t know because we weren’t on this journey together…. there is no co about it….. there is him and I and this beautiful happy child who loves us both.