When I started my journey in co-parenting, I did what any “thirty something” year old would do... I scoured the internet for advice. Turns out that it wasn’t so easy. I found plenty of official looking sites talking about how they can help if I needed mediation of some sort, but what I was looking for, was other people who had been in my shoes. Tips for talking with my kids, my ex, our friends and family. Examples of how other real people were making it work being in two separate households but still both being there for their kids. Examples of things they had been through and the steps they took along the way. Real life scenarios.
When our marriage ended we both agreed on one thing- we would change the face of co-parenting. Our parents and friends couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that we weren’t going to take part in the screaming matches and total division that usually surrounds divorce. As the other adults in our lives prepared to take sides, we took off the armor.
It wasn’t easy. Like any other divorce, there was hurt and sometimes anger for what we had lost, but we made the decision to focus on what we were gaining. We started with the big things like, custody schedules, holidays and after school activities. Agreeing that we didn’t have to have all the answers right away, and keeping an open mind as things change, was a big key in not getting overwhelmed. We took our time. I understand that not every separation has this luxury, that my story is very different from so many others, but I know that we can’t be alone. I also believe that no matter how your divorce story began, it’s never to late to change the upcoming chapters.
I come from a divorced family, so we used my experiences as a jumping off point. I shared what I didn’t like about the arrangement my family made for me. I had a pretty standard custody agreement. My dad had full custody and I saw my mom every other weekend and holidays. As a result, it was hard to form a relationship with my mom and I ended up dreading holidays. I hated being shuffled around, having separate birthdays and always feeling like I had to choose one parent over the other. So the solution was simple- as long as it kept working for us and the kids, we would celebrate the big things together.
When we started talking about a custody schedule, the emotions really came through. I had been a stay at home mom since the beginning. I could count on my fingers and toes the times I had been away from my kids in 10 years. Not being there was going to be the hardest thing I had ever done. The way I got through this was knowing I wasn’t alone, that J was also going to be missing the kids while they were with me. We ended up agreeing to a weekly rotation, switching on Sundays. After several months we switched to Fridays and it’s been that way ever since. We also keep a pretty open door policy. If one of us has extra free time and would like to spend it with one or all of the kids, we try to accommodate that. Same goes for babysitters. The other parent is always the first call. This is something we didn’t do in the beginning while we were more focused on Your Week/My Week. However giving each other the option first to get that extra time with the kids when they would have been with a sitter otherwise has really worked out and made it clear that neither of us is trying to keep the kids from one another.
In the year since we’ve started this new chapter, we have made thousands of decisions big and small. We don’t always get it right, we don’t always see eye to eye but we’re trying. Not everyone agrees that we are doing the right thing, sometimes we wonder if we made a right or wrong choice with a decision we made. We’re not perfect, life is messy but together, we’re going to change the face of co-parenting.