The moment you become a parent, you become inundated with unsolicited advice. It's nothing new and, honestly, it't not necessarily the worst thing in the world. I have learned a lot about parenting from well-meaning friends and family members, even if (at times) I didn't want to hear it. When it came to parenting with a partner, however, the advice I received wasn't necessarily helpful and there were pieces of co-parenting advice I'm so glad I ignored, instead of blindly accepted and applied to a relationship that really and truly is unique to my partner and myself.
That's not to say that every co-parenting tip was a waste. My mother, for example, was and continues to be a great source of co-parenting advice, in that she is quick to tell me what not to do. She was married to an abusive partner for over twenty years, so she gives me a unique and more honest, realistic perspective to parenting without worrying about what is socially expected of parents (and especially mothers). I know that when she gives me advice, it's hard-earned, well-intentioned and void of any social or gender stereotypes. I can't say that for so much of the other co-parenting advice I've received in my two years as a mother. Everyone has their idea of what kind of environment a child should be raised in and, sadly, it usually involves (even in the year 2016) a married, heteronormative couple. Sigh.
Thankfully, I have been able to sift through what's helpful, what's harmful and what's just a waste of time, to find a co-parenting situation and relationship that benefits not only my son and my parenting partner, but myself. I'm happy with how our family is "put together," and how we have created a loving and stable environment on our town terms, that works best for us. So, with that in mind, here's some co-parenting advice I'm glad I ignored:
"It's Easier If You're Married"
My partner and I aren't married, and we weren't married when we found out I was pregnant. Our relationship status quickly became a topic of discussion, however, and many people (friends and very well-meaning family members) told us that we needed to get married.
"A marriage will solidify your relationship."
"A marriage will give you more stability."
"A marriage will just make everything easier for you and your future child."
Yeah, I'm really, really glad I didn't listen.
My partner and I knew that we didn't need to get married in order to have a child, create a healthy and stable environment, or become great parents. We've done just fine as unmarried co-parents, and our son is healthy and happy and thriving. Marriage doesn't protect children from unstable homes. Trust me. I grew up in an abusive and toxic household, and my parents were married for over twenty years. Marriage doesn't solidify relationship because, well, divorce is a thing. You don't need to be married to be a good parent or co-parent, so any relationship advice you may or may not be getting as a result co-parenting with someone else can just, you know, (for the most part) be ignored.
"Don't Go To Bed Angry"
I get that this relationship/co-parenting advice is given with the best intentions, but it's not necessarily that helpful. Sometimes arguments aren't going to be resolved in a single evening. Sometimes one partner needs space, and for rightful, valid reasons. No one should be forcing anyone else to have a conversation, just because you want to ease tensions and end a potentially uncomfortable situation. That's not how co-parenting relationships (or really any relationship) works.
So, when my parenting partner is at the end of his proverbial rope, I don't keep pushing him. I give him space and time because I know that conversation, and my parenting partner, isn't going anywhere. We can pick up where we left off another day, when we've both settled down and have had time to find neutral again.
"Every Relationship Should Be An Even 50/50 Split"
When any relationship (romantic or otherwise) is discussed at length, it's normally romanticized to be something of an even split. Every person in the relationship — be it a friendship, a lover or a co-partner — does an equal share of the work and puts forth just as much effort as the other person (or people) in the relationship.
That's not how real life works, though.
There are moments in my co-parenting relationship when I simply require more from my partner. When I was pregnant, I needed more and he was able to give more than fifty percent because he wasn't growing another human being, going through scary complications, wasn't nauseous, constipated and dealing with a slew of other pregnancy side effects. After our son was born, my partner did more of the housework and cooking, because I simply couldn't. I needed more than his fifty percent, because I was recovering from labor and delivery, breastfeeding on demand and dealing with an unwavering amount of relentless hormones. Of course, there have been moments when everything shifts, and my partner requires more than fifty percent from me (like when he's sick, needs to focus on school work, etc.) and I handle more of the responsibility.
Relationship are never 50/50, but a wide range of ever-changing fractions that depend on what's going on with each individual, and within the relationship itself. Parenthood, is proof positive of that.
"Always Find A Compromise"
Sometimes, there isn't a place for compromise, and that's OK. There are moments, for example, when the person who gives birth is the only person who can make a specific decision. Choosing to breastfeed, for example, is not a decision that needs to be a "compromise." When it comes to a woman's body, the woman and the woman only should be the only person to decide what happens to it and what she does with it. Same goes for how the mom-to-be will give birth — whether or not she wants an epidural or to birth at home — and who she has in the labor and delivery room with her. Those decisions don't need a compromise, because those decisions are really only the mother's to make.
"Set The Tone By Taking On The Majority Of The Responsibility"
Thankfully, the idea that the woman or "mom" is the primary care provider, and all other parents or care givers are secondary, is dying. Sadly, however, it's dying far too slowly.
A few friends and family members were quick to point out that if I wanted my co-parent to do something, I should do it first and "set the tone." I should "lead by example" and do things by myself, and eventually he will "get the hint." Absolutely not. My parenting partner is a grown-ass man, who knows right from wrong and is just as capable of being a caring, loving, nurturing and supportive parent, as a I am. I don't need to baby him, coddle him, or "teach him" how to be a responsible adult, nor do I need to show him how to care for his son. We are both capable, and we are both learning together.
"Always Avoid An Argument"
I don't think people really "like" to fight. I don't think people in relationships — romantic or otherwise — like to get into confrontations with one another. It's not fun. However, sometimes it's necessary.
You shouldn't be afraid to confront your co-parent if something is going on. You shouldn't keep your thoughts, feelings and emotions bottled up inside, just because you want to avoid any confrontation. I know that our son benefits from not only seeing us get along, but seeing us argue and debate and handle disagreements in a respectful, kind and thoughtful manner. So, my parenting partner and I don't stray away from arguments when we know we need to have one.
"Your Relationship Needs To Benefit Your Kid"
OK, yes your co-parenting relationship should benefit your kid. After all, the relationship you have with your parenting partner or co-parent is one of the first relationships your kid will ever see, notice or experience.
However, your kid shouldn't be the only benefactor. Your co-parenting relationship should benefit you, too. Your needs and wants don't cease to exist, just because you're a parent. So make sure that your co-parenting relationship is benefiting you and your co-parent, too. Your kid matters, but so do you.