“Como!” Does anyone else hear Pitbull’s trademark adlib when your co-parent utters what he/she believes is sage advice or a playful poke at your love handles. Perhaps they just breathe ever so lively. “Como!” (hint: Como is Spanish for how or in this context, what or say what! — the Latin antithesis to Lil John’s “What?!”)
All jokes aside, co-parenting is & can be a unique experience. Everyone’s lead up to said experience is different. Maybe you are divorced and sharing custody. Maybe you’re an estranged boyfriend / girlfriend (girlfriend/girlfriend or boyfriend/boyfriend) duo whom got knocked up somewhere along lovers paradise, gave the relationship a good ol’ college try for the sake of the baby but realized perhaps it wasn’t the best situation for any parties involved so you made an agreement to stick by your little consolation prize no matter what (way better prize then a gift certificate or cheap perfume if you ask me).
Or maybe, just maybe you met on a dating site, went on a few dates (despite thinking contestant #1 was a complete square), hooked up once or twice and then realized one or the other was a complete pompous, dick. In which case, you moon walked right into the nearest, tallest, and plushest bush to curve said casanova (like that hilarious Homer meme from 2 years back, love that meme) only to have to contact home slice to confess you are with child, his child, on a bench in Union Square and totally keeping your squishy lima bean. To which they reply something to the effect of an adult figures wonky banter from a rerun Charlie Brown episode. You then move forward with the agenda to raise your child on your own and embark on a string of really awesome trips with your bestie/baby momma. You even fearlessly take on a project at work to fly to Peru for a big fancy economic trade show 6 1/2 months pregnant (that’s a story we’ll leave for another post). Then, said baby daddy comes to his senses and “fuck yeas!” a blazing agrees he wants to be a part of the lil bun’s life and give co-parenting a go. Ring a bell? No? OK, OK maybe that’s just my Judd Apatow movie of a scenario (but it all truly happened, just ask my bestie).
Listen, however you came to your co-parenting arrangement you likely love it, hate it or ebb and flow somewhere in between. First & foremost, let the record show I love my arrangement far more than I dislike it. My partner in nursery rhyme loves and adore his son deeply. He works extremely hard to ensure his son will have an extraordinary future as well as a dad he can be proud of. My son’s father is a tech superhero of sorts. With that said he’s not around as often as he’d like but when he is, he’s a tremendous help. Occasionally, he takes our son to stay with him on the weekends to do cool guy stuff & visit his side of the family. He plans play dates with his other dad friends. But for the most part he spends weekends at my place. Both arrangements allow my toddler the time to bond and emulate the number one man in his life. As for me, it gives me some time to myself. Whether it’s the space to run errands, make a doctors appointment, delve in to a new DIY project, study, or just tan in the yard with a margarita in my hand, he’s there to relieve me. Not to mention he makes all the meals (trained chef…..hello!) and picks up bath-time duty. I also have little to no complaints in regard to his parenting style, however rigid it can be at times.
Now here is where it gets tricky and the mind loves to get tricky. With all that feel good, positive praise how could it possibly be bad. It’s not! But your mind loves to place blame or resentment and no one is more guilty of that than I. There are times when his mere presence or his dirty cup pissed me off. My mind would wonder to the resentment of the financial burden that sometimes comes with being a single parent. It would remind me of the nights & days I spent alone through out my pregnancy. It would replay the words he said rescinding his rights to fatherhood. The mind loves to dwell on the bad as mean of survival. Your mind is not interested in your happiness it’s interested in protecting you. Your mind is interested in avoiding danger and hurt. Your mind is invested in the past and will do whatever it takes to fight or flight a perceived harmful situation. The craziest part was I wasn’t even mad at him I was mad at the loop hole I created for him to claim a stake in my life. On the tail of the that fate full day, leading to our conversation I was swimming in the enlightened kool-aid. I was living me truth and on high from all the life coaching seminars and boot camps I was partaking in. When he delivered the words declining his involvement I heard him, understood him, and without judgement told him if at any point he changed his mind, to drop me a line. A few weeks later; I found out the sex and felt I couldn’t live my life authentically without giving him the opportunity to know of his first born son was on the way. It was that news that turned on a switch for him, made it real, and lead him back into our lives. My heart was cool with the decision; but my mind in the background was quietly seething.
Fast forward, we attended doctor appointments together, I invited him over on weekends to spend time with the belly and meet my mom. We even visited the hospital and toured the ward together snickering at the pretentious vegan couples annoying the head nurse with their wild requests. We grabbed the occasional fancy meal and then argued in the car like the true sleep deprived, hormonal parents to be that we were (I was). We argued mostly about the babies name, where he’d live, where I’d live, custody arrangements, financial support. It usually ended with me saying something, anything my dark deep soul could conjure. And we’d drive home in silence. Who the fuck did he think he was? One moment he wanted no part & the next he’s telling me where I can live, and “No, she won’t be having a glass of wine”, ummm excuse me!?!?
Luckily we made it through unscathed and welcomed our new bundle of joy.
My son’s father spent as much time with us that he could and it was for the most part a lovely experience. Before we knew it he was off to his 12 week training intensive and the next time we saw him our newborn was 4 months old. The time he spent away was glorious and it was nice to let go of the resentment for a while and just focus on my little bundle. Not to mention I didn’t have to play house any longer. But the site of him when we touched down to visit him in Podunk, USA not to mention the long trip with an infant, alone, brought it all back. And this pattern happened the next few times we had a cycle of long separation followed by full baby daddy immersion.
The more I examined the situation and all it’s “short comings” the more I grew to appreciate it. At no point, were there any real conflicts, it was my mind playing a story of hurt, abandonment, and selfishness that just clearly did not exist. Did the man get on my nerves some times? Yes. Did he say stupid things, or make tasteless, insensitive jokes and comments? Yes. All which are likely compulsory because he was or is just as insecure about raising a child with a complete stranger as I am. But whatever stress, strain or trama I was “experiencing” was truly of my own design. I was so worried, or at least my subconsciously, about keeping my guard up that I lost sight of what the situation truly needed: Compassion!
Compassion when co-parenting or any type of parenting is key. And not only the compassion you have for your partner but for yourself. I had punished myself far too long for making the decision to keep our love child and turning both our worlds & possibly our unborn son’s, lives upside down. Having the compassion for yourself and allowing yourself to feel joy and fulfillment no matter what curve balls are thrown your way is fundamental.
No matter what you’re co-parenting scenario you have to be honest with yourself and your partner. And to be honest and love your co-parent you have to be honest to and love yourself first. You should never feel guilty or less than for needing or wanting a weekend to yourself. You should never feel uncomfortable withholding or turning down sexual advances for fear of upsetting them (believe me I’ve heard & felt it all). You should never feel ashamed to ask your co-parent for help (whether financially, physically, or just a shoulder to cry on). You are a team and a well oiled team needs authentic communication.
Scared he/she will sulk and skulk around in silence or bad talk you behind your back? Tough beans and frankly who cares?! Come from a sincere place, not a place of blame & express your expectations. More importantly listen to those of your partners as well. Truly listen. Because placing demands or stops without leaving the line of communication open is futile. You well then just be passing on your resentment pants. No one needs traveling resentment pants, no one. Just remember if they can be a source of arse pain & sheer bewilderment then they can also be a source of joy & clarity. If you’re going to blame them for all the frustration they’ve caused then you must also thank them for all they’ve inspired. Whether they inspired a new found sense of independence, patience or resourcefulness, extend that gratitude. If that’s too far of a stretch, then remind yourself they created with you the greatest inspiration of all, the love(s) of your life, your child(ren).