Honestly, co-parenting with my ex-husband was hard enough when we were married. Once we got divorced, it became damn near impossible. I have tried my hardest to make co-parenting with him work, but face barriers at every turn — the biggest one being him. So, I have a few confessions of a co-parenting "failure" to share, because I haven't exactly been great at it.
It's not entirely my fault, though. When people say that a co-parenting couple should "get along" for their kids' sake, they seem to forget that there was a reason they got divorced in the first place. In my case, not being able to communicate with my ex-husband was one of them. After our separation, there were times when he'd disappear for months, only to swoop back in, as if parenting was something he could do part time. When I tried to reach out and communicate about things like unpaid child support or the kids' medical care, he doesn't seem to get my emails or texts, but heaven help me if I didn't respond to him as soon as he hit send on messages about things he wanted.
Then, when we do manage to connect, he always seems to try to push my buttons or openly insult me for the choices I've made since our divorce. I must confess that it's really hard not to take the bait, too. The thing is, I am happy now — far happier than I ever was when we were married — so I try not to let him get to me, for my kids' sake and for mine. My ex-husband has taught me that I don't have to do anything other than what's necessary to keep my kids healthy and happy. I remind myself that I am no longer married to him, and he can't hurt me anymore. But it's all easier said than done, which is why it's time I confess to my perceived failings. In the end, all we can do is be honest and do our best.
It's Hard AF
Co-parenting is not for the faint of heart. There are so many difficult moments to endure, like when your ex doesn't show and you have to change your plans for the weekend and cheer up your devastated kids. Or when you don't get child support and have to struggle to pay your bills. Or when when he takes your kids out to eat every time he actually takes them for an afternoon, so you're no longer the "fun parent." And then there are the moments when you disagree about the fundamental aspects of parenting, and there's no middle ground to be found. It sucks.
Being Friends With My Ex Is Not An Option
Nope. Sorry, but I don't have to be friends with someone who abused me. There's a reason we got a divorce, and I don't care if people think I'm somehow being selfish when I set healthy boundaries that keep my ex-husband at a physical, and emotional, distance. Being friends with my ex-husband isn't going to happen because it isn't a healthy option. I don't have to be friendly. I am a grey rock. I communicate enough to make things logistically possible, and that's enough.
I Try Really Hard To Make Things Work
Co-parenting civilly with someone I really dislike is easier said than done. I've honestly given up on having a friendly relationship with my ex-husband, but I work really hard to make sure that my kids can have a relationship with him, and to mitigate the damage caused by his mistakes or absence.
It Takes Two
Before anyone starts to blame me for our co-parenting failures, remember: it takes both of us to make our relationship work, and I can't make my ex-husband work at it. I am only responsible for my actions and my effort. I hold my children when they cry because he cancelled another visit, email him when he stops paying child support again, and pretty much have to have him in my life for another 13 years. Not that I am counting, or anything.
Abuse Can Continue After A Separation
For the longest time, my ex-husband continued to try to control me and hurt me through our kids. I've since learned that this is frighteningly common. According to Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, following divorce or separation, abusers often try to continue to control their former partners by undermining their relationship with their kids, withholding support, and badmouthing them to their kids and others. There's not a lot you can do to prevent this, other than try not to let it bother you and to continue to be a source of unwavering support for your kids. But damn, it's hard to not fight back.
I Can't Make My Ex A Better Parent
I couldn't make my ex-husband a better parent when we were together, so there's almost nothing I can do about his parenting ability now. I go back and forth between reminding him to take care of his kids and honestly wishing he'd fall off the face of the earth. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that.
I Limit Communication For My Own Sanity
I frequently have 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. According to Love Fraud, a website focused on helping people recognize and recover from sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists, one of the best ways to respond to a toxic person is to ignore them. This so-called gray rock method of communication involves not responding to attempts to push your buttons or overtly rude criticism, to the point that you become boring to the toxic person you have to deal with.
I've Made Peace With Failure
I've learned that there are things in life you can change and control, like how you act and how you respond to certain situations. There are also things you can't change, like ex-husbands and the things they say and do. I have made peace with being a co-parenting "failure" and have realized that it's often not me that's failing. As long as my kids come first, are healthy and happy, and know they can always count on me, I may have failed at co-parenting, but I have not failed at being a good mom.
And that's what's really important.
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