When James and I had our daughter six years ago, we had no idea what we were doing as parents. Three years after she was born, our relationship hit a rough patch, and we decided to tackle this co-parenting thing the same way we did with parenting, by giving it everything we’ve got. When we figured out our relationship wasn’t going as planned, we both were adult enough to have a sit down and decide how we were going to make this work, because there was no way he was going to be a part-time dad and you mamma’s already know that Mamma Bear don’t play when it comes to her cub. We began by communicating to each other what our expectations were. We didn’t want a judge to tell us how to be parents, and we didn’t want to take some of the advice we received from friends and family members. We knew it would be hard but decided to do it differently from what everyone was used to seeing. We were going to rock this out and be the BEST we could be at it. My daughter’s father always says, “work hard and play even harder.” So, let’s just say we WORK hard at co-parenting, but we do not PLAY about our daughter!
The same way we had to learn how to become first time parents, we were back in the school of life, to learn how to become co-parents. Of course, we received a lot of unsolicited advice and feedback from those around us. There were some who thought one was a better caregiver at certain times, then there were the ones who boldly stated that our co-parenting relationship would be tested when either one of us began dating seriously. We didn’t pay attention to any of that, and it has gotten us so far.
I often hear people say, “I wish my relationship with my child’s father was as strong as yours.” Normally I smile and try to move to another subject, because I still can’t pinpoint how I got so lucky. Like what do you even say when someone makes that comment? If the conversation continues, I always encourage communication. It’s something that he and I thrive on. Even when we are frustrated with one another, we must communicate our feelings, so it doesn’t spill over into how we parent our child.
When it comes to sharing the duties of parenting 6-year-old Jordyn Shontee, it falls on Ashley and James. We try to be as flexible as possible with our work schedules (did I mention we work at the same place? That’s another story for another day)! Sometimes the schedules vary, so that one can work while the other takes care of her. We have weekly and sometimes daily conversations about her various extra-curricular activities. Whatever the topic is, it’s never Jordyn seeing both parents fighting over spending time with her and dragging one another. Respecting each other is our common goal to make sure our princess sees that she is loved by both parents equally.
I don’t ever question our decision to co-parent. Our child gets the best of both worlds! She has quality time with her mom and dad, at separate times, and it comes with a lot of perks. Whether that’s mommy doing drop offs to tumble class and daddy doing pick-ups, trips with both parents to cheer competitions across the state or annual birthday dinners with both of us at her side, she knows she’s loved. People often think that’s a bit much for two people that are not together. But when the common goal is the little person that is looking up to us, it’s all worth it!
I’m no expert, but here are 5 tips for a successful co-parenting relationship:
- Communication. (the hardest but most important) We often are too caught up in our emotions that we don’t communicate effectively. Being accessible is good to coordinate and express needs/wants for your children and yourselves.
- The children are the main focus. (It’s not about you!) They didn’t ask to be here! Set your differences aside. Ok, so that parent didn’t handle the situation as you would have liked. Regroup. Refocus. and Redirect back to the main priority at hand.
- Be respectful and remain positive. (Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs. 22:6) This is typically the hard part for some. But little girls should never see their father disrespecting their mother because that little
girl will one day turn to a woman who will think it’s ok, for a man to disrespect her. While on the other hand a son should never see his mother tear down his father. But, see his mother remain positive and respectful to prepare the young boy to become a man. Children can be vulnerable to negative feelings from their parents and have those same feelings latch on to them.
- Boundaries and Business. With co-parenting comes boundaries. it is very important that both parties respect each other’s boundaries. Respect each other’s house rules and space. But at the same time, keep each other updated when it comes to the child. It’s like a business relationship and you both are the CEO’s. You both handle different avenues of the child’s life but you both come together for the greater good. Which leads me into……
- Balance. This is a challenge…. It is important for your children to see a balance and healthy relationship. As parents you are your child’s first teachers. Now this may take some time, but it’s all for the greater good. Having those occasional lunch or dinner dates together shows your children there are no hard feelings between you two, and you both love him/her equally. It’s ok to have your alone time with your children but coming together shows the child maturity (and I know it’s easier for some than others). At the end of the day we are family, and family is LOVE! It is NECESSARY for your child to see both parents getting along and exhibiting the love they have for their greatest blessing.