My experience co-parenting is something I have wanted to write about for awhile; but honestly whenever I went to write about it, it either ended in tears or frustration. Because it is so darn hard to talk about.
I am a mom of three. My oldest is seven, and although I love her full-time I have to share her some of the time with her father (a.k.a. co-parenting). Can I just be honest for a minute? I hate it. I often get angry, I feel cheated, and I feel guilty that she has to bounce back and forth between two different homes, two different family dynamics, and two different worlds.
Co-parenting with someone you are no longer in a relationship with is no easy task. However, when you have a child together you are bonded for life. And so no matter how badly you dislike that person, you communicate and work together to make sure that your child is the top priority.
For awhile it was just my daughter and me, but I have since gotten married. I have had two more children, and 85 percent of the time my heart and house is full with the five of us and it feels so right. But 15 percent of the time she is not with us. We have experiences that my daughter misses out on and we watch the adventures she has with her other family from afar. We have to celebrate holidays and birthdays without her every other year, we have to manage sports schedules, vacations, and sleepovers based on the joint custody schedule…..and I struggle.
On the Bright Side
I do know that I am extremely blessed to have a beautiful, healthy child. That’s what gets me through the days when my daughter is not with me. I try to reset my perspective on co-parenting. Many people have gone through much worse, like having a child with a serious medical condition or the unfathomable, losing a child. And the days when I just want to scream, I try to remember that my problems (although big and tough to me) are minor in the bigger picture.
When my daughter struggles with the back and forth and the time away, I always remind her that she is so lucky to have so many people that love her, look out for her, and want the very best for her every single day.
It Takes a Village
I was a single mom for over two years before I met my now husband. I remember the struggle. Wondering how I was going to pay the bills, keep a roof over our heads, and be able to give my daughter the life she deserved. How did I get through it? I worked harder than I had ever worked before. But, at the end of the day, I never had to do it alone.
I truly believe the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. I have had so many people that showed up and helped when they didn’t have to. My daughter and I were also lucky because we had such an amazing support system of family and friends. Without all of that I don’t know where we would have ended up.
It’s OK to Not Feel OK
Seven years of joint custody and co-parenting, and I don’t have anything that makes the time when kids are away any easier. I have watched so many others struggle with similar situations. It is just a difficult circumstance and in times like that, being a mom is hard.
Being a mom with a full time heart and a part time schedule is tough. It’s not how it was supposed to be, we aren’t made to spend nine months creating humans that we have to give away part of the time. It’s okay to not be okay with it, it’s okay for it to not feel fair.
But it’s not okay to let your child know that you feel that way about co-parenting. You have to be the cheerleader when they are sad about the transition (even though you want to cry). You smile and wave excitedly as they pull out of the driveway for the long weekend. But if you are like me, the second they are out of sight you let yourself fall apart, you ugly cry, and you get mad for a moment. But then you pull yourself together.
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle of some kind, so be gentle. Being a mom is hard and sharing your kids is hard. We all have our burdens that we bear and this is why we need each other. You never know everything the mom next door is going through. Something that seems small to you may seem insurmountable to her. Be kind, be supportive, and REMEMBER we are in this tribe together, and we don’t get through it alone!
Rest easy sweet mama, whatever hardship you are going through right now…it’s not the end, it’s just a chapter in your book.