Tag Archives: focus on the kids

The Cadence of Co-Parenting; Staying Close Even After Divorce

WHOLE-mom-kid

There are not fewer things to coordinate when you become a single parent, in fact there are more. The things you once traded equitably, now fall 100% in your lap when it is your parenting time. This new cadence can be jarring, frustrating, and make for some upset campers on all sides, unless you plan ahead and go 100% Positive.

Here’s an example.

When you were married and one of your children woke up sick it could make for a challenging morning, as you juggled timing and sick-kid duty with your spouse. As a co-parent, when then this happens, things can get a little more tense. The goal is the same, get your child a chaperone for the day and a chauffeur to the doctor, if necessary, but the negotiations about who can “afford” to stay home, and who’s got the most important meeting, can foul up the good will.

The trick is to remind yourself, the drill is the same, the requirements are the same, but the cooperation with your ex-spouse needs to be even more careful.

In general, if the kids are with me and one of them is sick in the morning I figure out how to reset my “in-person” obligations so I can provide the care my child needs. I’m lucky to have a virtual-type job in digital marketing.

“Just checking to make sure you’ve got this” from the ex-wife have proven to be, as they were when we were married, a lifesaver.

When my co-parent wakes up with a sick kid, and no babysitter until school lets out, she occasionally has to rely on me. If I thought she was dumping the responsibility on me I might get mad. And I suppose, if it happened all the time, for some reason, I might also begin to suspect foul play. But when I know that she is cooperating as a parent, in the other areas of our kids lives, I extend that faith to these events as well.

By keeping the lines of communication open with my co-parent, I can defuse my own misperceptions and remain focused on the solution.

Our sick kid needs a parent, what can I do to help? It’s the same issue, with a different relationship and balance of trust. As co-parents, we rely on each other, we still talk about our kids, and we hope to continue growing our trust in this cooperative parenting after divorce.

The routines around school always seem to be the most challenging. Who’s taking who to the next cross-country meet? Will both parents be going? And asking questions like, “Are you okay with me signing our daughter up for volleyball?” are all part of the balance of parenting with another person, now no longer your primary partner. And I will admit, the occasional emails, “Just checking to make sure you’ve got this” from the ex-wife have proven to be, as they were when we were married, a lifesaver.

We are certain to hit a few bumps from time to time, but if we can focus on the kids and what the requirement is, we can save ourselves, our kids, and our former spouse a ton of heartache and frustration.

I still smile at her, “Just being a mom,” tag she throws in when she knows she’s sent three or four reminders. And I go above and beyond to let her know I really appreciate her efforts too. She was the more calendar-oriented partner, and when I can give her thanks for alerting me to a looming deadline, I do it.

It doesn’t take much to keep the goodwill flowing between you when you remember the needs of  your kids and leave any emotional content out of the negotiations. In a divorce recovery class, someone said, “Deal with your ex like you do the convenience store clerk. You go in, get what you need and take care of business. You don’t really need to know about the rest of their lives.”

When your kids come first you can find the flexibility to work with your co-parent at solving the complications that arise. And sharing that appreciation with your kids serves to let them know you still value their other parent, and you are working together with them to be the best mom and dad you can be, even in this different configuration.

It wasn’t always easy. And we are certain to hit a few bumps from time to time, but if we can focus on the kids and what the requirement is, we can save ourselves, our kids, and our former spouse a ton of heartache and frustration. This is my fourth year as a co-parent, and while I still have disagreements with the mother of my kids, I never resent her efforts nor take them for granted. And I try to give her support and appreciation as often as I can. Our happy and healthy kids are the result.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: beginner’s luck, susan sermoneta, creative commons usage

I Am Not the Problem, We Are

The family of origin - The Whole ParentThere are bumps along the road to single-parenting and our hopeful arrival at co-parenting cooperation. And what ripped our marriage apart is probably still the dysfunction that we deal with as separate parents, doing our best.

The thing to remember is this: the other parent is doing the very best they can.

It’s hard to swallow sometimes. When the discussions get difficult, it’s easier to blame the other person for the issue. But if it’s an issue it’s a joint issue.

A few of the rules have changed, but if we can return to the memory of that love that existed, and see how it is transformed into the love of our children, and “for” our children, we can do a better job at responding with compassion and empathy.

The hard fact is this: We are no longer married, but we are in a relationship forever. The things we used to fight over as a couple are still between us. And just because the loving relationship is gone, the love and anger at loss-of-love is not gone. So, this morning when I got another “you done me wrong” email from the mother of my children I chose a different path.

I offered information. I answered the questions that I could. I suggested an in-person chat, which she has rejected over the last six months of “parental” negotiations, and then I stopped. I stopped short of contradicting her accusations. I stopped myself from responding in-kind with my grievances. And I tried to imagine the woman that I fell in love with, as a friend, struggling with some parenting and financial issues.

We are triggered by our ex-mates. We could not have married them, and had children with them if the connection was not elemental and deep. That connection is still there. A few of the rules have changed, but if we can return to the memory of that love that existed, and see how it is transformed into the love of our children, and “for” our children, we can do a better job at responding with compassion and empathy.

Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slapstick had a memorable line that framed a good portion of my young adult life, after I acquired it. It is my mantra when dealing with family matters.

“A little less love, and a little more common decency please.”

I am sad sometimes that I no longer have a partner and cheerleader in navigating these difficult times. But that role/relationship ended several years before the marriage did. And now I have two fabulous kids and their mom.

Own your anger. Process it with someone else. You’re ex-lover, ex-partner, and the other half of your co-parenting relationship does not deserve it, and will not be served by your venting.

I don’t have to take on her issues, I don’t have to make her priorities my priorities, and occasionally I have to get mad and stand up for the NO that needs to be said. But I don’t ever have to say it in anger or personal frustration. That shit is mine. And I will do well to deal with it here. Outside of the relationship with my ex-wife.

Finally, in my self-recovery process I learned about how important it was to get the anger out. To write the anger letter. (This is a great gestalt for most relationship problems.) WRITE IT, BUT DON’T SEND IT.

Own your anger. Process it with someone else. You’re ex-lover, ex-partner, and the other half of your co-parenting relationship does not deserve it, and will not be served by your venting. Do vent. Find a healthy release for YOUR stuff. And then return to the love of your kids, and the memory of the love you once had for their other parent.

Always love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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