I've recently stumbled upon a number of extremely positive articles related to the subject of co-parenting with the ex and their new (or not so new) spouse. Articles in which the author welcomes the new "other" woman into the family, thanks them for the role they play in their child's life or sings the praises of an ex's role in raising their children.
Now, don't get me wrong -- these positive outlooks are inspiring and make me want to congratulate these writers for their unselfish and seemingly flawless co-parenting relationships. Yet, I also can't help but wonder how words can sometimes make a situation seem so easy, when it's really not.
I've been divorced for over four years. My son was only 18 months old when my ex and I separated and does not remember a time in which his father and I were together. My ex and I are both remarried and have other children with our spouses. To say the least, we have moved on.
I recognize the important role that my ex and his wife play in my son's life. In no way do I intend to downplay or belittle that role. But the role they play in my son's life and the role they play in my life are very, very different. Perhaps for some people, the co-parenting thing is much easier, only full of appreciation, respect, selfless acts of kindness and rainbows. While I am a full believer in positive thinking, I am also a believer in keeping it real. I would be lying if I said I have never once thought, "It would be so much easier if I didn't have to co-parent with this person." For me, co-parenting is just not always sunshine and roses.
What it is, however, is a learning process. It's a frustration. It's a constant battle between what's best for your child and our human nature to want what's best for ourselves. It's a balancing act. It's learning when to give in because someone else may just be looking for a fight. It's learning when to stand up for what you know is best, regardless of the fight.
It's being the "bigger" person.
It's not wanting to continue a relationship with this person whom you are no longer married to. It's realizing that you have to suck it up and get over it. It's learning how to brush off sarcastic and rude comments. It's learning how to find the compliments, even when they are hidden among the sarcastic and rude comments.
It's learning how to give the compliments.
It's initiating a hello for the fiftieth time. It's not having the strength to initiate a hello on the fifty-first time. It's making mistakes and then trying to fix them. It's making mistakes and trying to learn from them. It's making the same mistakes again, but still trying to learn from them. It's looking at your son and seeing a beautiful, sweet, bright, funny, and happy child, despite those mistakes. It's realizing that even if you were still together, you would still make many mistakes.
It's feeling like there are too many cooks in the kitchen. It's wishing someone knew how to make a damn meal.
It's feeling like you will never see eye to eye. It's feeling overwhelmed that you've got to figure this out for the next forever many years. It's complete and utter annoyance and sometimes even anger. It's still communicating, even when you are completely and utterly annoyed and angry. It's recognizing that while it would be great to never be completely and utterly annoyed and angry, those are human emotions and this is a human relationship.
It's calling the other parent to tell them the amazing thing your child's teacher said about him, just to bask in the glory together for a few seconds.
It's feeling like you can always do it better yourself. It's recognizing that is impossible.
It's biting your tongue when you hear your son's stepmother echo your own reminder for your son to say "thank you." It's feeling bad that it bothered you, because it was probably just her instinct (because isn't it yours?!). It's learning to let it go, even when it still bothers you. It's thinking you've got this co-parenting thing all figured out. It's thinking you are possibly the worst co-parents in the entire world. It's looking at other family situations and realizing yours is really not all that bad. It's laughing at a situation because otherwise you would cry.
It's completely losing your sh*t and then regretting it. It's rolling your eyes when the other person completely loses their sh*t.
It's going through all of this while putting on a happy face for your child. It's recognizing that you both love your child more than what can be put into words.
To all of you co-parents out there, especially the new ones -- these struggles are real. Don't feel bad because your co-parenting relationship isn't one in which you are best friends with your ex or their spouse. And if that is the situation -- well, good for you. My point is, there is not one right way to do this, and it is possible to work as a team, even when you are not friends. Don't let someone else's experience be the measurement of success for your own personal story.
Carry on, co-parents of the world. Carry on.