Making co-parenting kid-friendly is NOT easy; much of what you plan will NOT go as planned and you might always be the one holding the basket — while your ex drops the ball and changes agreements to suit them. I do my best to keep myself to arrangements, my neurotic rule following best actually, yet there is always something to make this new reality tough and hard to navigate– can I say maddeningly stressful?
Take for example this stressful moment. Just a half an hour before I snapped this picture this room was clean. We worked together and it was tidy.
Yet, this is how they left their room just before they left to their dad, to church, fed, showered and dressed. There was no time left to tidy it up again… All because we ended up having to do a scavenger hunt for belts, shoes & pants their dad was supposed to return last week — but of course didn’t.
Co-parenting Kids; The Challenges
I don’t think anyone at church knows how these kids get prepared every Tuesday for some of them to play great surrogate parents… Or who always worries about everything, including the things they see weekly like their clean clothes, hair cuts, dinner or their bed time — For the record: I do.
Other people’s opinions are the least of your challenges though, I mean I think about it but it’s not where my biggest challenges come from, here are a few and 3 tips to navigate co-parenting better.
Your Old Relationship Problems Show Up During Co-parenting
The problems that led to the ending of the relationship and family unit, stay the problems you will face when co-parenting. So much so, that it often feels like a rerun of all the most frustrating fights you had, except now you really need to lobby for peaceful negotiations — if you’ve put your kids welfare ahead of everything.
I’ve needed others to mediate more than once in the last 2 years since we embarked on this journey. I’ve learned new skills, and have yet to make more progress on dealing with co-parenting conflicts.
Co-parenting Will Not Go Your Way
Things will change last minute, such is the nature of life. One time my kids got home late, on a school night — I was fuming because I messaged several reminders before hand. It’s been an issue every week night: they go see their dad, he brings them well past bed time. The morning after they are off their schedule and cranky — great!
This time though, in addition to him being late, his car broke down. These things are out your control. To co-parent a good level of flexibility is needed.
You Will Feel Alone Co-Parenting
Often times you will be the one holding the basket. You make agreements, and the other person doesn’t hold their end of the deal. They “forget” to update you on key details and tell you after the fact and your blood starts to boil every time, but most of all you feel SO alone working for your kids well-being. Bedtime, dinner and routines are important for kids well being, so are diet restrictions, screen-time restrictions etc. — It’s hard to understand why the other person doesn’t see it. Whenever they do the exact opposite it feels like they just don’t care. It can be lonely, texts are sent with reminders, new agreements, full on explanations with no reaction or follow through.
I’ve had days I’m alone doing an ugly cry regretting giving this guy 3 amazing kids. I also know that I will always have their best interests first, so I shake it off. There’s no way I would ever take my kids back, these precious humans give me purpose.
As for the room, I’m not tidying it up! HA! They have to when they return — which the did.
3 Tips to Navigate Co-parenting Better
Meanwhile, whatever is happening you still have co-parenting to deal with. So reconsider what agreements really work for you. I am gonna be honest here: sometimes I don’t use all my great new skills with that old dog (and by that I mean my ex-husband). I do, I fail, I get a weak answer, I lose it.
Excuses make me turn into the principality of darkness that I so try to drown every day with prayers and positive thoughts. I know this means that I have to reassess what I agree to, some things do not work for me or for the kids. I’ve found these 3 things helpful to navigate things more peacefully;
- Practice breathing & forgiveness: Now’s the time to practice those things you could not practice during your relationship that led to the ending of your marriage. I don’t think you need to knock yourself about losing it yesterday, Do it today, do it for YOU. When you breathe you experience less strain, when YOU forgive you keep your peace. When you have peace you can…
- Change your perspective: I have close friends who don’t understand when I do this, it’s because they are on my side and in many ways unconditionally support me — and want to see him pay for his attitude. I appreciate their love. But for you to not end up convicted of murder — or scarring your kids from seeing constant all out animosity between the people that spawned them — YOU have to change how YOU see the situation, and set different expectations. You have a choice to break the cycle of disappointment, so…
- Be the change you want to see: Obviously the person you co-parent with lacks certain skills, and you probably do too. Realize though, YOU can’t change them, YOU can’t teach them, but YOU can adjust how YOU navigate things so there’s better results later on for YOU. The saying be the change you want to see in the world isn’t fufu magic, it’s powerful.
What challenges have you faced co-parenting? And what has helped you navigate them better?
Share in the comments!