If I thought parenting with my ex was hard when we were married, it was only because I had no idea how hard it would be to co-parent with him after we got divorced. Co-parenting is hard AF. Co-parenting with a narcissist is an exercise in patience and perseverance. However, there are so many co-parenting moments that prove you're a badass mom.
I didn't always feel like a badass, though. The times my kids' bio dad didn't show up or call, and made my babies cry tears of disappointment and ask me to explain why (as if I knew how his mind worked), and the moments when he egged me on or pushed my most sensitive buttons? Yeah, they were nothing short of heartbreaking and difficult. Co-parenting is not for the faint of heart.
What it has taught me over time is that I am capable of putting my kids first and that I don't have to do anything else. It's pretty amazing to remember that you are no longer married to this person who is making your life difficult, and to learn that you are capable of managing conflict and navigating the bumps in the road that happen when you are forced to compromise and co-parent with someone you don't love (or even like). Badass. Seriously, badass.
Life will seem unfair at times, but I promise that you will learn some serious coping skills and, if you are lucky, find some confidence in yourself and your parenting and the ability to ignore their bullsh*t. I try to be a grey rock, showing no emotion and not giving them ammunition. Even if you aren't that lucky, though, co-parenting will teach you to pick your battles (aim for long-term wins), stand up for yourself and your kids, and set boundaries.
There have been times when co-parenting hasn't worked. I have learned to work things out behind the scenes and not let conflict impact my kids more than it has to. They deserve all the drama-free days, and they don't need to know that their parents can't get along for their sake.
It's so hard to remind myself that it doesn't matter what my ex thinks of me, does, or says anymore, as long as it doesn't impact my kids' safety, health, or happiness. All of their little digs about my new husband and family can flow right off my back like I am a badass stone in a river.
There are so many times when I am tempted to lie to my kids about why their bio dad isn't capable of being their dad, and while I haven't told them the gory details, I do try to be honest. I tell them things like, "I don't know why your dad cancelled his visit, but it doesn't change how he feels about you." Just the facts.
I never thought this would happen, but one night my daughter didn't want to go to bed and said those very words. It took some serious badassery to not take those harsh words personally and to realize that, a) of course she likes him better, she only sees him once in a while and he takes her out for lunch and to the museum, and b) someday, they'll realize what love really is and all of the ways I have given parenting them my all.
I have serious anxiety about talking on the phone. It's so weird. I can testify in front of Congress and appear on the news with no nervousness, but calling people (especially my ex) on the phone makes me want to puke. Facing your fears head-on is so badass.
There have been times I have had to call, text, email, invoice and even sue my ex to get him to be a source of support and stability for our kids. It's frightening, but I have learned to have confidence and to fight for what my kids deserve, which is pretty damn badass.
No one likes to admit when they are wrong, especially to their ex, but sometimes even the most badass co-parents run late or forget a meet-up time or find themselves making a decision out of spite instead of what's best for the kids. Being honest is totally badass.
These are some of the hardest moments. When your ex doesn't show and you have to change your plans for the weekend and cheer up your devastated kids. Many dance parties, trips to Grandma and Grandpa's House, movie nights, and epic snuggle-fests have been born out of these disappointments.
Becoming a single parent made me a way better mom. I was accountable only to myself and worked hard to give my kids the life they deserved. Now that I am re-married, we work equally hard to give our kids the stability, consistency, and attention that wasn't possible in my previous marriage. Learning to be a better parent, especially by having to co-parent with your ex is so totally badass.