We were married for 7 years before having our first son. Our second son was born 2 years later. We will call the boys’ dad Randy because that is his actual name. (I’ve always wanted to write that.) Randy and I have been divorced for 22 years. He is one of my closest friends. We just weren’t meant to live in the same house as a romantic pair.
When we got divorced, the initial months were incredibly scary. We both wanted the best for our boys, but fear came out as anger. Allowing our families, friends, and even coworkers to have input made everything worse. Goals became cluttered with “what ifs” that didn’t come to fruition.
This article is about how we got through that spider web of fear and found our way to creating a neutral and cooperative parenting style.
I interviewed Randy for this article. I’ve known him for over 35 years, yet some of his answers surprised me.
What was the hardest part of co-parenting?
The hardest part of co-parenting was that the children were so young, and I was struggling with the divorce, finances, and my own feelings at the time. Even though I was in my 30s, I feel that I was immature and self-centered, and it was difficult to lose the person that was a very important part of my life.
Co-parenting communication was a giant wall that was hard to get around. There was too much input from outside sources. Though they meant well, outsiders with opinions affected the flow of finding our new way forward.
We both wanted the best for the kids, and due to outside influences, a fear factor kept discussions tense instead of productive. Ironically, Randy has gotten along with the 2 husbands I’ve had since then, which says a lot about his personality. We both have a “live and let live” mindset.
This breaks down to:
- Realize that children can adapt.
- Don’t be a Disney Parent, spoiling them when they are on your time.
- Communicate effectively and keep a regular schedule.
- Set clear boundaries and go to court if you must have a mediator.
What advice would you give to others to avoid the hardship of co-parenting?
One of the most important things to remember is that your former spouse is their parent. Children are going to have strong feelings for both of their parents. It’s painful and confusing for a child to hear one of their parents putting down the other. We made sure to never say anything negative in front of the kids, no matter what we might be feeling.
Staying in touch helps to ease each parent’s concerns when it’s not their time to have the children. Randy and I were pretty good at sharing moments of joy and topics of concern, so the transition to each home was smoother. If we had things to discuss, it was in private.
We both were respectful when speaking of the other parent when the kids were around. I can’t stress that enough: do not have your child in the middle (as a go-between) or make them feel they must choose sides. Words matter and children hear everything.
This breaks down to:
- Share positive moments via text or photos when the children are on your time.
- Disagree in private and speak well of the other parent in front of the kids. Don’t play tug of war with your child’s heart.
- Don’t attempt to sabotage your child’s relationship with the other parent.
What do you recall about working out a cohesive system as ex-partners who share children?
Parents should try to find a way to be amicable with each other and make things as good for the kids as possible. I decided that I wanted the kids to feel like they had a home, not 2 houses.
I stepped back a bit, and their mom and her husband ended up doing most of the parenting. I’m not sure if I should have done that, but at the time I wanted them to feel like they had security in 1 home, and it seemed like the thing to do.
My second husband and I were both working full time and didn’t see the need to take finances away from Randy, who was self-employed. We had paperwork drawn up to cancel his child support payments. He still gave money, but it was not a mandated amount. Our lawyer said he’d never drawn up that type of agreement before.
This opened another door to trust, appreciation, and respect for each other. My third husband is of the same mindset and has stated he is in awe of how Randy and I co-parent, especially since this type of arrangement could never be reached between himself and his ex-wife.
This breaks down to:
- Communication is key to understanding.
- You chose to make a child with another human, so own that responsibility like an adult.
- You are connected to the other person for life, not just 18 years.
My full-time job is as an assistant and records coordinator of a police department. The calls we receive from some parents who haven’t found a common ground to co-parent are quite sad. Some former couples refuse to drop the kids off or will speak ill of their former partner (or even worse).
Entering into a divorce agreement that makes certain the children are well cared for, kept to a proper schedule, and not forced to take sides is the healthiest and most mature path 2 humans can choose. Be the bigger person if necessary. The time our children are young is as fleeting as a rainbow after a storm.