co-parenting

Let’s Not Be Like Future and Ciara

My daughter was 5 months old when my divorce from her father was finalized. I was a new mom, a new divorcee’ after merely a year of marriage, on top of all of my hurt and postpartum emotions, I was thrown into the wild and dramatic world of co-parenting with someone who didn’t want to be a co-parent to their third child with a third woman.

And did we go through it! From his refusal to see or keep our daughter at times, my daughter being used as a control mechanism, drama from me sending her to visit her father in brand new and nice clothes, only for him to never return the clothes and send her back in visibly old, worn hand-me-downs that came from who knows where- to my daughter being left with people I knew absolutely nothing of. It was stressful and an experience that left me yearning for something different.

And I know I’m not the only one.

There is a current trend of single-parent homes which has led to many people having to be co-parents. Due to broken relationships and/or marriages, and for some, by choice, co-parenting and blended families have become the norm within our society. But all too often co-parenting is coupled with negative emotions and blurred lines. So as not to go out as a “bitter baby mama” or vengeful ex-spouse and to keep your sanity in the process of having to deal with crazy, I have created a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to co-parenting.

Do

Create a parenting plan– set parameters and guidelines in court documentation. You have the ability to do this as a part of a divorce decree. If you are unmarried, I would strongly suggest you hire an attorney, secure legal services via pre-paid or through your job if available and throw some D’s on it! Put some documentation which outlines every single aspect of co-parenting: who pays what in child support, daycare, how much is paid towards doctor’s visits, extracurricular activities, medication, surgeries; which days out the month do they spend with each parent, who do they spend the holidays with; you can even get the morality clause which is where the other parent is not allowed to have someone of the opposite sex spend the night if they aren’t married. Now some parents are able to be mature and make decisions without a whole lot of drama, but if you can’t- establish some documentation and follow it.

Keep it about the child- Be civil and keep your dealings strictly about the child. Be willing to put your personal feelings to the side and do what’s in the best interest of the child, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

Accept the situation (and who you chose as the child’s father)- Sometimes, bitterness and anger take hold. I know many women (including myself at times) that have said: “I love my child, but with everything in me, I wish he/she had a different father.” At the end of the day, you have to put your big girl panties on. This is who you chose as your child’s father. You chose to sleep with him, lay down with him, so there’s no need to dwell on the past. Keep pressing towards the future and be the best person and mother you can be for your child.

Know and understand who you’re dealing with and be proactive- Accept the other parent for who they are- not who you want them to be and not for what you think they should do. Accept them, know who you’re dealing with and act accordingly. For example, if you know your child’s other parent is not going to return the nice clothes you sent them in, you have several options: purchase some inexpensive outfits from a kid’s store or Wal-Mart strictly for traveling back and forth to dad’s house; you can send them back in what the dad sent them on; or send them in play clothes. That’s just an example. Whatever you do, be solution oriented and try not to get stressed out about it.

Don’t

Be Petty- It’s stressful and draining to have a Ciara-Future-type co-parenting situation. Who has time for all that drama? Let the pettiness go.

Maintain a sexual relationship- Either be with him or let him go. Draw a line in the sand. Don’t keep giving up the goods only to be upset or dissatisfied later. Define your relationship. If yall are broken up, be broken up ALL THE WAY. Being in and out, on and off only brings confusion to the children.

Use the child to spite the other parent- This. Just no. It’s just wrong on so many levels, and not to mention, the person who gets hurt the most out of all of this is the child.

Meddle in the other parent’s business- his business isn’t your business is yours isn’t his. You can’t control what he does, or who he has around your child. The only thing you can do is set guidelines within the context of a co-parenting plan and go by that. Stop trying to worry about where they are going for the weekend, if they have a girlfriend, etc.

Get mad if and when the other parent moves on- If you’re broken up, eventually this will happen, just like you will eventually move on. And eventually, the child will meet the “new” person. Don’t get mad. There’s nothing to get mad about. In a sense, it’s part of life, especially if you are co-parenting.

At the end of the day, co-parenting is less about the feelings of the adults and all about the feelings and experiences of the little ones that we are entrusted with raising and molding into conscientious, responsible adults. Hopefully, the suggestions provided will bring more peace and less drama into your co-parenting situation.

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