Several weeks ago Cortonio and I published, “Single Parents: Is it Better to Have Children outside of Marriage?” where for the first time, we collaborated giving our respective takes on the topic. There were some great comments left by several of our readers who decided to weigh in with their thoughts. One reader in particular ‘Aly’ left a comment that stuck out for me and is also the motivation behind today’s post. Here is an excerpt of what she had to say:
“Instead of trying to convince people with a bunch of scary statistics that marriage is the best option for a happy, well-adjusted child, it’s time to shift the conversation and take a more progressive approach to relationships and parenting. We should be discussing how couples can be better co-parents, whether or not they’re married or even in a relationship.”
You heard the lady. Lets get it crackin’.
So your relationship is over or perhaps it wasn’t much of one to begin with. Whatever it was or however you care to define it, that relationship produced a child. So where do you go from here? Well, the obvious answer is to continue being parents to your child(ren). Seems simple enough. Piece of cake. Yet, it never really is.
Although your romantic relationship may have been laid to rest, rest you shall not have. The death of ‘love’ signals the simultaneous birth and presence of a new type of relationship. One that plays by a different set of rules. One that requires getting used to. Her name is co-parenting; and she can be a thing of beauty or a beast depending on the couple involved. For the sake of the children, we want beauty to be her name.
The difference between parenting & co-parenting
“Lets be quite honest, when the relationship is good, you’re simply parents. Its only when sh*t gets is f*cked up that you become ‘co-parents’”. –Mr. SoBo
Like every story, there are two sides to being a parent: The actual act of Parenting and then there is Co-parenting. Each of which carry a unique set of challenges respectively. Confusing? Lemme explain.
Side A, Parenting: The relationship between a parent and their child. Understanding that everything you do/don’t do, say/don’t say and every decision you make/don’t make will all play a pivotal role in shaping this little person’s personality and who they ultimately become.
Side B, Co-Parenting: The relationship between parents as they ‘share’ in the responsibility of raising a child together. Basically, it is how well the two of you work together to accomplish side A. What makes co-parenting challenging is that it is often directly tied to the personal relationship you have with each other. This is where things tend to get sticky.
The challenges and solutions to co-parenting
Many allow their personal relationships with one another to interfere with their ability to work together for the betterment of their child. The truth is, there will be disagreements. You will at times be upset with one another. Hell, you may not even get along at all. Whatever the case, properly segregating what occurs in your personal relationship from the responsibility of raising mini me, will foster a better home climate for him/her. After all, there is no good reason why a child’s livelihood should be 100% contingent upon the type of relationship mom and dad have with one another.
So how does one adjust to this relationship change especially when you may no longer be on the greatest of terms? You separate your relationship from your responsibility.
“Segregate your relationship from your responsibility”
Whether you are married, cohabiting with, dating or no longer involved romantically with the person who supplied the other half of your child’s DNA, what matters the most is the quality of life you maintain for your child throughout your relationship’s ups and downs.
“Like it or not, as co-parents, you are partners for life. Not just for 18 years but for LIFE, so long as your child (young or old) draws breath and squats sh*t. Deal with it. Go team co-parents!” – Mr. SoBo
The thing is, liking one another isn’t a prerequisite for great co-parenting. It helps, but isn’t a necessity. Why? Because it aint about you. However, the recipe for great co-parenting lies in communication and even greater co-operation. <–That sounds T-shirt worthy to me. Co-parenting is a partnership. It’s teamwork not friendship. Look at Kobe and Shaq (and they have the championship rings to prove it). Who would have thought cooperation was essential to working together successfully. Ingenious concept right?
Speaking of ingenious concepts, put your petty and what you consider ‘significant’ grievances aside. Okay, okay, so in your defense, it is likely that while romantically involved, you were betrayed in some way; your feelings were hurt; maybe the person accidentally jerk seasoned your pet parrot and ate it in front of you with a side of rice and peas. Whatever the unforgivable offense, you have to ask yourself to what benefit does it serve to hold onto such baggage? How does keeping that bitterness alive benefit you, your co-parenting relationship, and more importantly, your child? Let that sh*t go. If not for your own sanity, for the sake of your relationship with the other parent that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and your child’s emotional well-being because once again…it aint about you.
“Let that sh*t go. It aint about you!”
That’s right, it aint about you. Notice a theme here? Selfishness. Your time with your child is not any more important than the other parent’s. As mentioned above, you may not have to like your child’s other half, but at the bare minimum respect him/her. So long as they are actively involved, they too have a voice that needs to be heard. Remember, it’s called co-parenting for a reason, not yo-parenting. <– More t-shirts anyone?
Continuing on this train of thought, co-parenting is not for one’s personal use of retaliation. Yes, another absurd notion to great co-parenting. I was surprised to learn this too. I mean everyone knows revenge makes every situation better. It has been widely documented that revenge reduces drama in your life, cures cancer of all types, baldness and eliminates world hunger. Given that so many adults revert to petty schoolyard tit for tat’isms when co-parenting, it’s hard to imagine it isn’t in fact a good thing.
Facetiousness aside, what may seem like a novel idea to disrupt the other parent’s involvement out of spite, simply isn’t worth it in a situation involving a child. Why? There is a strong likelihood of success, however, not in the manner envisioned. Sure you may experience a sense of satisfaction from making the other parent miserable, but you have introduced more volatility into the situation and your child will suffer the most in the end. Hardly seems like a worthwhile endeavor.
Speaking of vengeance, the family court system comes to mind. Three words: Overhaul that sh*t. It seems the entire system was built on the premise of revenge, which would actually explain quite a bit. Without going too deeply into the gender politics, there is no debating the fact that the family court system heavily favors mothers. Any attempt to suggest otherwise would not only be disingenuous, but a deliberate misrepresentation of our legal system.
“…family court system…Three words: Overhaul that sh*t”
We have in place an institution that unapologetically favors one sex/gender over the other while ignoring the actual needs of the child – which is equal uninterrupted participation from both parents. With such transparent inequality that wrongfully suggests one sex is of more value to a child’s development than the other, the system has been encouraging and legally enforcing dysfunction within our families, making it much more difficult to co-parent. Now for those out there thinking that this is a jab, you’re wrong. It’s a got damn haymaker of truth. A shoryuken of fantastical proportions. Ryu-aint-got sh*t on me. Take that, take that, take that, take that.
Once the judicial system is revamped with the purposes of facilitating and endorsing a more balanced parental arrangement when called upon, it will undoubtedly serve a greater purpose for the co-parents incapable of resolving matters on their own. Petition to your congressman.
So my people, if Kobe and Shaq can get it right on a basketball court despite their well-publicized disdain for one another, why can’t the rest of us do the same where it matters the most – at home with our children (but without the courts)? We understand so well the importance of cooperation and working together while in our workplaces dealing with colleagues and managers we could care less for. Yet when it comes to our own homes, we are quick to give one another the proverbial, “fcuk you”.
Perhaps if as parents we possessed a pressing sense of accountability to our children like we do with our jobs, co-parenting wouldn’t be as challenging. Perhaps if we took a new approach to parenting, viewing our children through the same lens we view our managers; understanding that although we are parents we in fact work for THEM (our children), we would perform our duties as required with nothing less than a ‘can do’ attitude and smile on our faces.
So grit your teeth co-parents, you’re a team now with only one goal. You don’t need to love each other, but you do need to work together for your child to have a fighting chance at winning in life. That is your reward. In the end, you are parents first, friends second, and enemies last. When in doubt, just remember, it’s Never. About. You.
So my good people, what are some other common and not so common sense advice you would give to couples experiencing difficulty co-parenting? What would you say to those folks who want to ensure their co-parenting runs smooth as possible? Comment below.
01/15/19 Post title updated. Original title, “It’s not About you! How Couples can be Better Parents After the Breakup”