Technically co-parenting means: An arrangement in a divorce or separation by which parents share legal and physical custody of a child or children. – from The Free Dictionary
That’s the short answer.
Long answer, Co-parenting comprises all the activities related to communicating, negotiating, and making decisions regarding your children with your child’s other parent. There is no right way to co-parent. Each parenting team must find their middle ground. – The Co-parenting Resources
I’m not a co-parenting expert, and it’s new territory for me. Mr. X was divorced with two children before he came into my life, so in short, he has been co-parenting with his ex-wife for years.
Co-parenting Is Not A Walk In The Park
My marriage didn’t end very well at first. There was a lot of drama, a lot of anger, a lot of pain, and resentment. For personal reasons, I shamelessly cut all ties with Mr. X – thinking I was protecting Lil’ A. It lasted for almost eight months.
Then one night, after a bedtime apology to Lil’ A, I had an epiphany that what I thought was ‘protecting’ was hurting this innocent little boy. I alienated his father. The person he loves. My ‘protecting’ blanket ended up hurting my son. Parental alienation is real, people. It can be dangerous to your child.
So against my family’s objections, I opened a communication line with Mr. X.
“He’s still so young. He will forget about his Daddy anyway…” said one of my relatives when they found out I had re-opened the door to let Mr. X be in our son’s life again.
If I should follow my pain, my anger, then ys, I would rather disappear far, far away, but would that be fair for Lil A? No! It would mean I would rob him of his right to have a relationship with his father. It wouldn’t be fair. It might ruin him in the future.
So I sucked it all up and used my brain instead of my broken heart or ego.
It is so culturally common in Indonesia to see fathers walk away entirely from their wives and children and become deadbeat fathers. The stigma of blaming the women doesn’t help either. Also, the non-existence of Child Support law – well, maybe somewhere some laws regulate these things, but it is never enforceable – ‘allows’ these fathers to escape from their duties.
It took a while for my family to accept and finally understand that it is crucial for Lil’ A to see his father and spend bonding with him, which is understandable after the hell they saw me in. They, too, were hurt, and I understand. But by standing my ground and saying, “No matter what happened with me and his father, Mr. X is still the father.” they finally accepted it.
The divorce happened between Mr. X and me. There can be ex-husbands and ex-wives, but there are no ex-children!
It’s so hard at first, let me admit to that, but it is doable!
Co-Parenting Doesn’t Mean Your Ex Is Trying To Win You Back
It might be true in some cases, but the whole concept still seems so far-fetched for most Indonesians.
I get frustrated reading some emails about exes contacting their ex-spouses. Most of the advice these women got was, “He’s trying to win you back.” Or “He’s just lonely. Ignore him.”
Again, maybe it’s true…but there’s a chance it might be wrong. Perhaps the ex was just trying to re-open the once-shut-down communication line.
It could be a perfect chance to discuss the children, and it may open the door to co-parenting.
I’m approaching and treating co-parenting as a business venture with Mr. X. We may not be friends yet, but we’re in this together for the boy. He and I managed to maintain civil communications in front of our son and behind him. We communicate about school, etc. Talking bad about the ex is also a big no-no in front of Lil’ A, and I banned my family from playing detective whenever he got home from spending a weekend with Daddy. It would be unfair to put your child as a spy.
Please, never criticize your ex in front of your children, regardless of your ex-spouses’ sins… in your child’s eyes, they are still the father/mother.
Keeping the emotions in check is critical. There will be times when the ex-says things that make your blood pressure hit the roof, and you just want to yell at them. It is normal. Take a deep breath and leave the situation until you can cool off. It takes maturity from both parties to make co-parenting work.
Remember, you are not doing this for your ex’s sake. You are doing this for your child who still needs the presence and relationships with their father/mother.
The Gift of Co-Parenting
Seeing your children’s faces light up when they talk about the great times they had with their other parent – your ex(s) husband/partner… is priceless.
Yes, at first, it stings, but by separating your emotions/feelings and seeing the happiness on your child’s face, you will know you are doing the right thing.
It will take a while for the little one to understand that now they have two homes. One with Mommy and one with Daddy. It took Lil’ A several months before he finally grasped the concept.
Divorce is hard enough for our young ones, but practicing healthy co-parenting will help them see that relationships and marriage may end. It would empower them to recognize that their parents will always be there for them no matter what.
Are you willing to give your child(ren) the gift of co-parenting?