The Truth about Co-Parenting
When Marriage Doesn’t Go As Planned
It took me years to admit what I knew deep down inside. This relationship as I knew it, was over.
But, our son.
I could not get past the fact that our son would now be forced to move between two homes. That he would not be eating dinner with both his parents or tucked in by mom and dad. He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t ask for his parents to get divorced.
So we didn’t.
Instead I came up with a hair-brained scheme to split our house up. Our home was not big, but the 1500 square feet was dispersed over several levels and for a moment I believed that we could make it work by dividing the house. He would have his levels, I would have mine, and the kitchen would be common space. Our son would have free reign of the house.
Writing this almost seems humorous now and I struggle to see how I ever thought that would work. But it does convey the desperateness I felt.
To no surprise, that barely lasted a month.
The realization that we were now going to be in two separate households was crushing but I knew this was not the type of relationship I wanted to model for our son.
Divorce has become so common its almost as though we expect it from the start. In fact, the odds are against us from the moment we say “I do”, with over 50% of marriages now ending in divorce. This number continues to increase as people re-marry.
When we divorced, I vowed it would be different.
While suffering from a colossal perceived failure, we split households and established a new norm.
During the first few months there were times it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I struggled to let go and allow his dad to set his new normal with our son. Without knowing how to articulate this to anyone, I chose to be silent and put on a brave face for all those around me. Shelley the Strong.
There were times it felt like our son was living in two completely separate worlds. Yet, as hard as I tried to bridge these two worlds, I believed I was completely failing. Failing our son.
It has been five years since we split up and a lifetime of learnings.
I feel so much compassion for myself 5 years ago. Desperately trying to keep things together and make things right, while attempting to control things I had no business controlling. My intentions were good, but the level of frustration I experienced on a daily basis, was stifling.
Compassion for his dad. This has been so incredibly difficult for me. I grappled to understand the choices he made that directly impacted our son. In particular, when it came to his health. But I have learned that we all come with our own experiences and background and this can significantly affect how we make decisions. If I look at his behaviour through this lens, I see that he too, wants the best for our son.
This has required me to pause, to not react or assume and ask to clarify. It’s required many discuss around how different things were impacting our son.
Stay True to Myself…
This has been one of my biggest lessons. Despite feeling as though my words were often falling on deaf ears, I stayed consistent with my message.
Our parenting styles were and in many ways still are, quite different. But over the years I stayed true to who I was and never acquiesced.
There were many tears. Both, myself and our son.
There were many times that it felt like a line had been drawn, with myself on one side and the two of them on the other.
My house was deemed “not fun”. The place where homework was done and screen time was extremely limited. Where healthy food and sleep was prioritized. Where questions like these ensued:
“Why can’t I have 3 bowls of corn flakes for breakfast and not oatmeal?”
“Why can’t I stay up until 10pm? Why is sleep so important to you?”
“Why do I always have to eat vegetables?”
“Why do I have to practice Spanish?”
I have always been clear that my job as his mom was not to be his best friend.
He knew my priority was to love him, keep him safe and help guide him. I would often explain my own struggles with parenting and in making tough, unpopular decisions. Explaining my why for decisions being made and allowing space for him to discuss and express his thoughts and feelings. Sometimes this meant being flexible.
I have cried myself to sleep more nights than I can count. I have questioned my ability as a mother. I have doubted myself.
But this last year has proved to me that it is working.
Our son has begun to not only understand, but articulate, his appreciation for the choices made, even around discipline. He has become an advocate for healthy living in his class. He has thanked me for listening to him, really listening to him, and I have thanked him for teaching me more than I ever could, him.
And more recently, mommy’s house has been labeled “fun”.