Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Golden Rule in Co-Parenting

{Proud parents (and bonus parents) in our matching basketball jerseys}

I was open and wrote about my divorce years ago. Nobody who has children ever wants to put them through a divorce. I think it is likely that a lot of people stay in an unhappy marriage as to avoid divorce for children. I did not make that choice.

But, in choosing divorce, I had to also choose to co-parent. This scared me. It scared me only from what I knew of divorce and parenting from media and social media. The theory of divorce/co-parenting/single parenting has become a sort of universal tragic story. Divorces are portrayed as cantankerous, single mothers as helpless underdogs, divorced dads as absent, selfish jerks.

My life is none of this. None. We decided day one that the kids come first. This was how it was in marriage and how it was when we decided to be parents. Why would us divorcing change that method of operating? Why does it change anyone's thought process?

We split time with the kids nearly 50/50. Some weeks he may have some fun plans to take them to see their grandparents. Some weeks I may have a plan to take them to a special concert. We keep a general custody calendar and it changes if it needs to.

Nobody pays the other person child support. Where we each have them similar time, there is no need for money to switch hands. There are some needs we have to split or one person might have to foot the bill (he carries health insurance as I have none through my work). If they are at my house and they need new basketball sneakers before practice, I buy them. If they are at his house and realize they need a new bathing suit as they are going swimming, he buys it. It is not rocket science. It is not worth the anxiety of telling your kid, "Ask your father for that, it is his responsibility." I absolutely can not imagine even saying something like that out loud to my child.

Not to say we do not discuss finances. There are some big expenditures with kids. Thousands for braces, hundreds every year for various sports. These things need to be discussed... by him and I... not involving our children or even with them within a hundred mile earshot. Never.

I am not a fan of being called a single mother. I guess, by most standards, I am. But that term elicits such a negative connotation in my mind. Single mothers are seen as money-grubbing for constantly complaining how the father never pays his share. They are seen as highly over-worked, either by parenting children alone or by working multiple jobs to care for children. They are pitied. They are on welfare. They hate the fathers of their children... the stereotypes are endless.

I fall into none of the stereotypes. I make my own money and provide for my own children... half the time. I am no more overworked or overtired than any other parent living with their co-parent. I go to a sports practice or chorus concert or soccer game or field trip nearly 7 days per week... but so does their father. We both give the girls 100% (ok maybe 95%) whether it is "my day" or not. And it is crazy busy, overwhelming, insanely draining... for both parents.

There is no reason for anyone to pity me. I have an amazing life. I have brilliant talented daughters. I have a boyfriend who supports my children 100% and is also at their activities nearly 7 days per week. I also have a the support of a woman who loves my children unconditionally. My ex-husband's fiancee is an amazing woman who is kind and understanding and wonderful.

My ex and I had to use foresight to bring these amazing people into our lives and our children's lives. You can not form relationships with self-centered, self absorbed, jealous people when you know full well they will have to assimilate into an new family structure. The people you chose to bring into your life when you are a single parent have to be of the highest caliber. You owe that to your children. You owe that to yourself to not bring new drama into your life.

It is all a choice. You choose to provide for your children. You choose to spend time with your children. You choose to be kind and follow the golden rule with your co-parent. You choose to set a life example for your children. They lessons they are learning will be carried through their entire life. And when someone else goes low, you go high. There is never a time when degrading the other parent or making underhanded comments or using your children as a pawn is ok. It is never ok. Why do people think it is ok??? You go high. Your children will look back later in life and thank you for it.

Not to say it is all rainbows and butterflies. There is a reason we are divorced. Clearly we have issues and disagreements. But we discuss. We work through them. We do not involve the children. We (myself, their father, his fiancee, my boyfriend) try very hard to show a united front. If a decision is to be made, we get on a group text and figure it out.

Honestly, my life is easy. And, by what I see from others' drama, it is way easier my way than the alternative. It does not take super-human powers. It takes kindness, empathy and patience.

Do unto others....

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I applaud both you and your ex for putting your kids first and successfully co-parenting. With so many hurt feelings and emotions involved, it certainly can be difficult. I know very few people who are actually able to do it.