The Reality of Co-parenting
By far the absolute worst part of being separated or divorced is having to share (co-parent) your children. That is also the reason why I believe, many couples decide to stay together, rather than go through that painful process.
Watching your entire world drive off, while you stand and wave like a penguin from the Madagascar movie, with a big smile on your face, trying to hold back the tears till they’re out of sight. Urgh! There is nothing more hurtful and fearful than not being able to be with your children.
I’m not designed to co-parent
As a mother they’ve been a part of you since the start of their very existence. You’ve felt them grow, before anyone else had even laid eyes on them. You were the first to hold them in your arms; look in their eyes and in that moment promised to keep them safe from this cruel world, whatever it takes.
Now you knowingly, (not-so-willingly) send them off every other weekend where you’re not in control of their environment. Where you won’t be able to keep them safe; chase away their fears; tuck them in or make sure they’re warm; fed; happy… A mother was just not designed for that. Co-parenting is not part of our genetic make-up.
Regardless of what you’re doing to distract yourself from going completely insane during their time away, you’re constantly praying about your every concern. The worst scenarios pop into your mind and you sometimes just have to make a quick call to check in. You hear them in every sound, see them in every image and more often than not, find yourself looking for them because you’re so used to their presence surrounding you.
Packing their “home” in a suitcase
The struggle starts when you begin packing their bags for their weekend stay with dad. What will they need? It’s hot outside, so a few shorts and tees should be fine. But what if it gets cold? A sweater should do, or rather a set of winter clothes, just in case. He might need his favourite pjs, ooh and he loves those shoes. What about his favourite stuffed toy, his pillow? I’m sure his dad has pillows…but this one is special. You end up packing a bag your toddler can go travel the world with…for 2 days. Just in case.
Their excitement is my heartbreak
You try to squeeze in as many hugs and kisses, while watching the clock, wishing it would stop, just for a minute, an hour, a lifetime? Then you hear the horn. He’s at the gate. Your heart sinks into your shoes. The kids are excited! Why wouldn’t they be? Why does it hurt to see them overjoyed to be going to their dads’? Is it perhaps, because it means leaving me behind?
Why does it have to be either or?
Why can’t it just be the way it’s supposed to be, with a mother, a father and their children in one house?
You shake the thought out of your head. That is a battle already fought. Now smile and toughen up and make the most of the few seconds you have left! Last hugs and kisses and there they are, buckling up. They grow up so fast. Now I get to miss out on 2 days of that.
We’re all friendly, no hard feelings…apart from the fact that I hate giving you my children for the weekend. Although I know he’s an excellent father, perfectly capable of taking care of his own children, I find myself giving him instructions like he’s some clueless teenager, babysitting for the first time. There is just something about leaving your children in the care of another, (even their father) that just feels all, but normal to a mother. He rolls his eyes at me, with reason. They’ll be fine, I know. I hope I will. Here we go again…Madagascar penguin, just smile and wave. Smile, wave and swallow your tears. And then they’re gone…
Myths others tell you about co-parenting:
- “It will get easier.” – It will not.
Every time you see his car pull in, you’ll get a knot in your stomach and it doesn’t disappear till you’re holding them in your arms again. That’s just the way it is.
- “Enjoy your time off, get some rest.”
If I wanted time away from my children I will arrange someone to take care of them for a few hours, but when it gets dark, I want them in my house, in their beds, where I can watch them sleep.
- “Use this time to do something you never get to, with them around.”
They’re thinking: Go out with friends; go shopping; go for a spa day…
In reality you end up: Cleaning your kids’ rooms, organising their closets, lying on their beds holding their favourite teddies and watching cartoons.
Once you’ve grown that little human there is just no going back from that, no switch to flip from Mommy-mode to Kids-Free.
So how does a mother survive this co-parenting thing? Weekends or longer without their children? I honestly have no idea yet.