After a divorce with children, many of us are left wondering “I thought I got divorced to escape this madness?”
With all the yelling, arguing, ranting and raving, manipulating, hating each other and yourself, constantly trying to “out parent” the other… Using children as pawns, or as personal therapists, threatening to take the child away if your ex doesn’t do what you want them to… Telling your child if her mom has another kid then she won’t love them as much or see them as much, keeping them away from their dad if he doesn’t pay child support…
The list of parenting atrocities goes on and on when it comes to life after divorce when children are involved. Getting along well enough to actually co-parent can seem impossible.
Why is it second nature to become so protective over your children being with you but so foreign to think of things in terms of what’s truly “best for the kids?”
Our Unhealthy Beginning
The truth is, when my ex-husband and I were first trying to parent our daughter after our divorce, co-parenting was the last thing on our minds.
[bctt tweet=”After our divorce, co-parenting was the last thing on our minds… ” username=”stepmommingblog”]
We were busy trying to establish new lives. Busy hating each other, and hating ourselves. Busy trying to iron out new routines, sign off on paperwork, figuring out how schedules were going to work, and trying to make a living as single parents. We were busy trying to “find ourselves.”
And because we were too “busy” to worry about making parenting together a priority – nothing was working.
We were filled with pain, hurt, and sadness; we were constantly misunderstanding each other.
I felt like he was trying to punish me for leaving with every move he made. He felt like I was deliberately trying to hurt him with things I did.
Our texts turned into novel-long rants every single time.
Calling each other on the phone always ended in tears.
Seeing each other filled us with rage, fear, or sadness. Sometimes all three. We had to act like robots in every hand off just to get through it.
My daughter would come over and relay messages about how sad Daddy was, and how she had to make him feel better. That we should be together again so he wasn’t sad anymore.
If she ever asked me why she couldn’t stay with me instead of Daddy, I would blame him. She would go to his house mad at him.
The truth is, no matter how good your intentions are when getting a divorce, things are always going to be messy. You’re going to misunderstand each other. You’ll have to deal with the painful aftermath in your own way. You’ll relearn how to live on your own, without having your ex there for you. You’re going to fight, and fight hard.
But it doesn’t have to be that way forever.
Realizing We Needed to Change
It took my ex-husband and I years – years – to realize that co-parenting and working together was even an option.
Before co-parenting, my ex and I would try to compromise on time. It rarely worked and when it did, it was only because one side was “getting the better deal.”
Before co-parenting, I took every text he sent me badly and turned every message into a fight.
Before co-parenting, time with my daughter was threatened when my second baby was about to be born. If he believed my time with my oldest was ever threatened by the birth of my second child, then he vowed he would take my days with her away.
We fought, we hired lawyers, we relayed messages through our daughter.
Our dynamic was by no means healthy, and our daughter was stuck in the middle of it.
We couldn’t get along long enough to have a meaningful conversation–let alone parent cohesively. Our relationship was toxic, fuming negativity. One that I couldn’t see changing anytime soon, let alone becoming healthy enough to think about “co-parenting.”
Our Journey to Co-Parenting Champions
But then something happened.
We realized – we didn’t want to fight anymore.
We wanted a better life for our daughter – and a relationship where we didn’t fight all the time.
My ex asked if we could work together, apart from our lawyers, at coming up with a new custody arrangement.
Our relationship started improving. We sat next to each other at softball games and dance recitals.
Conversations started becoming more positive, and less hurtful.
Compromises came easier, and benefited all of us.
Instead of parenting against each other, we were working together.
Was I afraid when that olive branch was offered?
Heck yeah I was!
I was afraid of being taken advantage of. Afraid of being ran over. And afraid of being tricked. But I gave it – and him – a chance. And I’m so glad I did.
Our texts turned into phone calls.
We revisited our custody arrangement and improved it.
His new wife and I started getting to know each other, and actually became… friends!
“You need to do this” became “Let’s talk about this.”
“What do I get out of it?” turned into “What’s best for K?”
And now, even though it’s only been about six months of co-parenting experience, I can honestly say our entire family is benefiting from the healthier relationship.
We’ve even been labeled as “Co-Parenting Champions.”
Not only are we getting along better, but our daughter is so much happier.
We communicate, spend time together, go out to dinner, take family photos together.
Kristen and I even became business partners. *gasp*
And we threw K her first joint birthday party this year!
Our new, healthier dynamic is not the first of its kind. Families have done it before, and you can too. Co-parenting can work for any family! If you care enough to try.
Become a Co-Parenting Champion
The Co-Parenting Challenge
In an effort to help other families get to this healthy co-parenting stage, I put together the Co-Parenting Challenge – a free, 5-day email series that will help educate and motivate you to build that strong, life-changing, co-parenting relationship.
Not only for the sake of your sanity, but also for the sake of your children.
To get past the hurt and focus on raising your kids in the best kind of environment – a supportive, positive, happy one.
When you sign up for the challenge, I’ll send you one email a day for 5 days. Each email will go over something different. By the end of the series, you’ll have learned all about:
- Our experience and problems we were facing after divorce.
- Where we’re at now as a family and how we got here.
- The biggest parenting mistakes you’re making and how to change things around.
- Tips and first steps you can take to start co-parenting correctly.
- Your most controversial questions answered – from custody to parenting with a narcissist.
And much more.
It’s time you take the first step in the right direction.
Are you ready to take on the Co-Parenting Challenge?
Click the button below to get started!
PS: Not sure co-parenting will work for your family? That’s perfectly fine! Try out parallel parenting instead.