coparenting

The Greatest Lesson In Co-Parenting

There is no secret to co parenting. Some people may have a great relationship with their ex, and make it look easy. Others may never get along and the kid’s suffer. I am somewhere in between. I’ve been separated from my ex since April 2010. The catalyst may have been his 8 month affair with a coworker, but the separation triggered a year and a half of hospitalizations for mental illnesses that remain untreated to this day.

A disease like bipolar makes a person, and their life extremely inconsistent. Day-to-day, month-to-month, I never know what he’s going to do. After our separation, he was a danger to himself and the children, so he missed nearly 2 years of their life. After medication, time and a steady relationship with the women he’s now married to, he began to become their father again.

Now, he claims to be in a good place. He’s married to a women with 3 kids. When his kids come to visit they sleep on a pull out sofa in a living room they converted into a media/guest room. They fall asleep to pictures of their dad’s memorabilia, mainly special edition horror DVD’s, and sit on their electronics all weekend until their dad takes them to the mall and buys them something.

It could be worse that’s for sure, but for 24 days a year, that’s their life. They sit far away from friends and social life. Far away from their bedrooms decorated by and for them. Far away from their home with 2 loving parents who help with homework, volunteer at their school, pack nutritious lunches, make them go to bed at a reasonable hour and tuck them in every night with cuddles and love, and maybe even a booty shake out the door.

I can’t protect them when they aren’t with me. That is the hardest part about co parenting. Especially when you are co parenting with someone with mental illness.

Give them confidence when they question his love

The only thing I can do is to try to make them strong and happy the 340 days a year they are with me. When they are exposed to one of his episodes, I do damage control. I say things like,

Your dad loves you, he just shows you love in a different way that we do.
Your dad doesn’t always make the best choices, but he always loves you.
Your dad doesn’t get to see you a lot so he probably doesn’t know ______.

Encourage them to share their feelings

My girls aren’t actually themselves when they talk to their dad.  With me, they have no problem expressing themselves, but with him, they act the way they think he wants them to act.  I encourage them to share their feelings because I can’t always fight their battles. Depending on his mood, I’m either a controlling bitch or great mom who they girls are lucky to have. Of course, what he thinks of me doesn’t matter, because to my girls, I’m the one who makes them feel safe and loved.

Remember it’s not about you

I have spent the last 7 years protecting our children from his inconsistent, selfish behavior. I have shown them happiness when everything was literally falling apart around us. Some days are hard, and I wish he would fall completely out of their lives for good, but then I remember, it’s not about me.

I can only hope that after my daughter’s experiences with their dad, they will not feel unworthy of his love, or rejected and damaged. Instead, I hope they will learn the true lesson of unconditional love.

10 thoughts on “The Greatest Lesson In Co-Parenting

  1. Melissa says:

    This is a great post. Unfortunately I don’t co-parent with my oldest daughter’s biological father because he wants nothing to do with her. My fiancée has been her daddy since she was a year old. I love how you no matter what you make sure your kids feel loved. It takes such a open hearted person to make them see the best even in a not so great situtation.

  2. Bobbi says:

    I applaud your outlook and you have a great point…it’s about making sure that child doesn’t feel negative effects or rejected. It’s good your girls have you as that constant cornerstone in their lives.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Wow, I can really relate to this. My ex lives about 5 states away, and my son goes to visit him every summer. It’s been fascinating to see how my son perceives his dad. While he loves his dad dearly, he doesn’t really see him as a father. I was surprised that he was able to pick out his dad’s behavioural traits at an early age. As long as you continue to build a strong foundation for your girls, they will be fine.

  4. katriza says:

    I love that you added the last part about how it’s not about you. I think sometimes its hard to forget our hurts and it drags on to other parts of our lives. I think this is really important to remember

  5. Natasha says:

    It’s definitely all about the children. No matter how we may feel about the ex’s, it’s important that the kids know and feel that they are loved. It sounds like you have done an awesome job in doing that. Although I know that it is challenging.

  6. Chelsea says:

    I think communicating is everything. If you can’t communicate, you won’t be able to respect one another throughout the journey. I am sorry you had to endure such hurt at some point in your life. Affairs are not easy. Great post.

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