THE UPS & DOWN OF CO-PARENTING AFTER A BREAK-UP

EMOTIONAL, LOVE & MARRIAGE, MOTHERHOOD, MUST READ, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, USEFUL, WORK & MONEY

The author of this list wishes to remain anonymous because her and her partner are freshly divorced. And as family, they are still learning to navigate a new chapter where in which the children spilt their time equally between two homes:

  • I started blogging after the birth of my second child, wanting to document the honest side of ‘two under two’ and aiming to use the experience to ease the burden of sleeplessness and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy- I enjoyed sharing my experiences with others and loved the community-feel of the blogging world, particularly when it came to supporting other frazzled mums!-

  • However, as it became clear that my relationship was breaking down, I felt less comfortable sharing our family life to the same degree and deleted all traces of what I had written and shared- I follow several other parents who have been through breakups and love the humorous honesty they share with their readers, allowing other single parents to feel in good company.

  • But until my relationship is fully dissolved, I’ve decided not to write openly- No two breakups are ever the same, but I hope that someone will read this and share a small, collective sigh with me.

  • Breaking up and learning to coparent- We had been together for 8 years and married for 7 before our relationship ended.

  • To me, the end seemed quite sudden, but I had been in the throes of (late diagnosed) PND from untreated PNA, so my mind was not working rationally.

  • In reality, our relationship had been struggling for a good few years.

  • The breakup was not initiated by me, and for a long time I believed it was the wrong move and was being forced into a situation that was not the right option.

  • However, with a few years of hindsight, I had to admit that things hadn’t been right for a while and we were, in fact, happier and better parents apart.

  • I can’t explain how painful it can be to put that into words – ‘we do this job better alone’ – but I’ve had to accept that sometimes (and more often then people like to admit) it’s true.

  • The initial months were extremely hard going – bitchy comments, accusations, dramatic actions, threats of legal action, unreasonable discussions about money.

  • We’ve all had breakups pre-kids, and probably recall those hazy days of spending hours crying and watching sad movies, joining gyms to hone our ‘revenge bodies’ etc, but when you are parenting on your own for the first time, there simply isn’t the opportunity to do this.

  • Everyone tells you ‘it’s all about the children’ which absolutely is the priority, but you still need to actively mourn the loss of your partnership and future you once planned with them.

  • My ex suggested the word ‘coparenting’ and researched the effects of equal time with both parents following a separation.

  • Our children were only 3 and 2, so we felt very strongly that, if possible, they spent equal time with us.

  • After the initial shock of the breakup, my overriding feelings were of guilt and fear.

  • Guilt of throwing our kids into an atypical upbringing that could affect them negatively in the future.

  • Fear that we were doing the wrong thing and wondering what the consequences would be.

  • It took a long time to accept that we were probably doing more harm than good struggling though a relationship that had broken down (even if no one else knew).

  • I felt a great deal of resentment of having to ‘lose’ time with them over a breakup that I didn’t feel was just. I didn’t choose to only spend half the week with my own children, why was I being punished in such a way?

  • But for us, it was never an option for them to ‘live’ with one parent and see the other less frequently.

  • We were parenting equally from the get-go and I had to dig deep in order to maintain my happy face, even when my heart from hurting

  • The challenges of coparenting:

  • I will never forgot the hurt of losing friends and former-family members over the breakup. I am a staunch believer in friendships and invest a lot of time into these relationships. I never imagined how many would ‘drop’ me so quickly once our relationship failed to be picture-perfect.

  • Couples seemed afraid to spend time with me, in case they somehow ‘caught’ vibes from my breakup- School mums ignored me and stopped inviting me to join in social events.

  • From the moment my ex left the house and moved into his own property, my in laws have never spoken to me. I found this incredibly hurtful and unfair, considering the years I had invested in our relationships.

  • After the initial difficulties of finding, funding and kitting out a second (and equally comfortable) home, we had to introduce the idea to the children. It was surprisingly easier than we anticipated.

  • They were told they were getting another home and therefore bedroom, and were off to Ikea to choose new lamps and bedding.

  • The initial excitement of a second home helped us all overcome the hump of the next step – getting into a ‘mummy day, daddy day’ routine.

  • I will never forget the first time I dropped them off at ‘daddy’s house’ and how alien the concept seemed to me. I blasted emotional music and cried the whole way home, before having to close their bedroom doors so I couldn’t see any of their belongings.

  •  We were very careful never to pack bags or move personal items – we now essentially run two homes with duplicates of many items, but it has meant there has never been a feeling of ‘packing up’. It’s just shoes on and jump in the car to see mummy for a few days etc.

  • Single parenting is EXHAUSTING on all levels. There is no one to pop to the shop for you when you realise at 10pm there is no milk for cereal in the morning. If you know any single parents, please just be kind and patient. I don’t want special treatment, but I accept all forms of praise!

  • Moving forwards- We share a Google calendar and add all events that affect the children to our ‘kids’ calendar.

  • – We have tried different ways of splitting the week – it’s amazing how an odd number of days causes such problems! – but after a few years have settled on set evenings with one parent and alternating weekends. During term, this means we ‘swap’ over at school pick up which has always felt quite natural.

  • -The people that seem to find our arrangements more difficult are other parents and family members. The children have always been the most tolerant and flexible!

  • I was surprised (and sometimes hurt) by how many people challenged the idea of coparenting compared to the more traditional model of living with one parent and visiting the other on weekends and criticised some of our decisions.

  • We have had some difficult moments – our daughter is aware that her family life is different to most of her friends, and doesn’t like to feel that she is unusual. We often get tears on ‘changeover’ days which are heartbreaking to see and bring back all of the feelings of guilt and fear.

  • We go through good and bad patches of communication between us. As someone who normally likes to imagine that ex-boyfriends fall off a cliff somewhere, it is often challenging to maintain a ‘working’ relationship with someone who shared your love and who you aimed to spend your future with. Emotions often run high and can cloud simple discussions.

  •  It is difficult to share decisions to be made regarding upbringing. I would suspect that in most households the share of decisions is taken by one parent and the other agrees. There is now no such hierarchy and it can be challenging and stressful to agree on simple actions. I know there will be many more of these to come!

  • It can be extremely painful to see your children attach to other adults when your partner decides to move on. Hearing my daughter (accidentally) call me by another woman’s name was like a dagger in the heart.

  • Over time I have accepted that it is positive that she feels secure in her love for me that she can discuss another adult openly without upsetting or offending me, but this was extremely difficult at first.

  • This not the experience of parenting that I would’ve chosen for us or our children, but it’s where we are and I have to accept the failure of our marriage and subsequent consequences.

  • I know a lot of parents struggle with unhappy relationships and carry on for ‘the sake of their children’ and I would never judge their own actions and choices.

  • No one chooses to only see their children for half the week.

  • No one chooses to alternate Christmas Day.

  • No one chooses to have 2 copies of school reports prepared and sent out.

  • Sometimes the right path is not the easiest or most socially acceptable.

  • The hardest times are often the most trivial – not having anyone to secretly organise Mother’s Day cards and gifts, not having anyone to sit next to at school events, being ignored by other mums when they discuss dinner parties with their other halves, seeing other people refer to ‘single parenting’ when they actually mean ‘solo’.

  • No one can tell you the perfect way to organise your childcare between two parents, separated or together. In the end, we are all just trying to be the best parents we can be, while maintaining a semblance of normality and security for everyone.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Liz March 15, 2019 at 7:33 am

    We have been co parenting since we split in 2010 and have gone though similar issues, my ex then went on to remarry and have another two children and I had a second (his daughter was born on our wedding anniversary!) Our daughter was born three months after. We have recently moved area and now live closer to each other which is great for our son who can split the week again, he is now 14 and doesn’t really remember mom.and dad together, I still have a good relationship with my ex and our daughters are in the same school and year we share puck ups and drop off we have play dates and have had sleep overs with all of the children. You don’t need to be the parent to co parent, the three younger children. All know the link between myself ex and wife and our son gets the best of both worlds. When I explain our situation to people they look at me like I’m mad. And yes it’s not the norm and it not the conventional way but it’s our way and it works

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