Co-Parenting: How to Live Your Best Life

woman stands on mountain over field under cloudy sky at sunrise

Raise your hand if due to experience or witnessing, co-parenting has left a BAD taste in your mouth.

What if I told you that you could actually enjoy co-parenting?

I have been co-parenting for nearly 8 years now and I am here to tell you co-parenting can work.  You can communicate with the parent of your child(ren), you can go on family dates, you can think about that person without cringing and falling apart inside. You could even vacation with them!

Before I get into the how, I feel like I should share the answer of why this 26 year old has been co-parenting for almost 8 years (not always successfully).

Close your eyes (without actually closing your eyes, because then you can’t read) and imagine the summer of 2009.  Two young 16 year olds, best friends since freshman year, about to start their junior year.  Hanging out every day, going to the beach together, seeing movies. Sun up to sun down these two (us) were together! So finally we decide “oh hey, we should probably date! but we are going to take it REALLY slow”.

(small insight) As a 16 year old girl, I had been in the church since the womb. Never did I miss church.  This was the same girl that found her validation from boys and what they thought of her. I approached sex like you approach having eaten a chocolate bar on a diet.  “oh its fine, I can just ask for forgiveness afterward. I can just do it again and again and again. As long as I asked for forgiveness we are all good. (end insight)

So we agreed to take it slow in July, by October I was pregnant! slowly but surely our relationship became unbearably toxic. We were terrible for each other – this was not one sided.

I gave birth to my lifesaver, my purpose, my reason to fight exactly two weeks after I turned 18.  About 5 months later, my dad called me (I was living with my boyfriend at the time) and he said “Stac, there is an AMAZING skit at church you MUST see!” I was like ” Yeah thats great and all, but I don’t have a way to get there.  I don’t have a car and Nick won’t take me” so my dad made a half hour trip both ways to get me to that church to see that skit!

I missed every. last. second. of it.  BUT no thing can stand against the power and will of King Jesus and he decided that on that cold, brittle day, a week before Christmas; this broken, timid, doubtful, fearful girl was coming home.  SO I get there and Amazing grace starts playing. This is a song I have heard 10,000 times over, never was I phased by it.  However on this day, my last day as a commoner, I was wrecked. On my face. Weeping.  All of my brokenness and false mindsets flooding out of me.  That day, I became a princess, an heir to the throne – daughter to the king and creator of the universe!

A month later Nick and I broke up.  Our missions were different, our goals were different  our entire lives had become separate. One thing, and one thing only connected us — our baby girl.

Following our breakup I was a hot mess to say the least.  My confidence depleted, my self-worth was in the negatives and my ambitions had been reduced to just staying alive – making it through this season.  On the other hand Nick was a terrified 18 year old boy who didn’t know what was up from down. This made co-parenting a complete nightmare.  Utterly miserable, I was gutted every day. Where were our lives were headed? How would we ever make it through this? I was stuck with this boy for the rest of my life in one way or another.

A few years ago I found journal from that season that said “Dad, I cannot handle Nick and his family, I need you to either eliminate them from my life, or make me fall in love with them because I. Cant. Do. This.”

I. FELL. IN. LOVE.

Slowly, yet surely hearts began to change.  I made it to the point where I looked forward to seeing nick and his family! They were my second family and they are to this day.  I will tell anyone that asks – – these people ‘get me’ on a level I don’t think anybody else does.

I decided not to date until I met my husband; I prayed over and over again when I was interested in a man, if he was not my husband the Lord would guard my heart and immediately eliminate all feelings I had for them.  

JESUS. ANSWERS. PRAYERS. 

Over and over again Jesus showed up as provider.  Provider and protector of my heart.  Provider of my needs.  He provided me with invaluable relationships that were able to encourage me and keep me pressing on.  He provided for my physical needs outrageously to the point where I only had to go to school and be a mom | COME ON| .

Now that you have a small glimpse of where we came from. Lets get a glimpse of where we are at.

 

Today: Our daughter has not two but FOUR parents who absolutely love and cherish her!! She has her mom and dad who have been obsessed with her from day one. She has a bonus-mom that has been around since she was 10 months old (the girl is my soul sister! one of my favorite humans in the world).  And she has a  bonus-dad that is madly in love with her and able to connect with her on a level that I don’t think any of us are.  If there are soulmates he is mine.  I found a journal from 2011 where I prayed very specifically for everything that this man is.  Jesus. answers. prayers.

HOW DID WE GET TO THIS PLACE?

You may be thinking “Well, they’re special. This isn’t real, it can’t be! How could you actually LIKE your ex and his/her spouse” and I am here to tell you that that is the wrong mindset!!

Rule #1: IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU!!! at this point, your job in this situation is to make it about your child(ren).  Throw you feelings to the side. You have friends, family, mentors and maybe even a therapist you can vent about your hatred of these people with. At home, with your kids, and with your ex is not the time or place to talk about it.  DONT.

Rule #2:  JESUS ANSWERS PRAYERS!! You don’t want to walk into Hell every time a drop off or pick up happens? Yeah either do your kids.  PRAY FOR A HEART CHANGE! If you ask, you will receive.

Rule #3: FIND COMMON GROUND: The sooner the two of you are able to get on the same page, the sooner your kiddo(s) will be able to get into their new routine and get adapted. whether they are 2 months or 20 years there will need to be time set aside (and lots of grace on them) for the transition.

Rule #3: PICK YOUR BATTLES:  Don’t be a tyrant – nobody wants to deal with that! you won’t even want to deal with yourself.  If you choose to be a tyrant your anxiety will be so high you will need to bathe in Stress Away (Young Living essential oils) — and so will every other person in your life. don’t do it.

At the same time don’t be a pushover!! fight for what your needs are.  What your needs are.

Rule #4: ADAPTABILITY AND GO WITH THE FLOW ARE KEY COMPONENTS TO CO-PARENTING:  Your lives and your schedules are different.  If something needs to change on a whim let it be! If you weren’t planning on having your child(ren) and suddenly you do – do not freak out – they can’t throw off your groove. Wanna know why? Because if you and their other parent were still together you would have that precious baby 24/7 – that was the plan from the start.  So if you end up having them on a day that isn’t “yours” get over it.  Its called parenting. 

Rule #5: GO ON DATES TOGETHER:  once you get to a place where you don’t want to vomit being in the presence of your child(ren)s other parent(s) – – go on family dates! it will do wonders for your connection with them and it will make your child feel like the most loved kiddo on earth.  Those will be some of their most precious memories.   Spending time with them regularly will do wonders for graduations, weddings etc.  you won’t feel like hiding in a corner, feeling like the size of an ant – you will even desire to be around them!

Rule #6: If you are a bio parent give bonus parents extra, extra love, encouragement and grace! you could not pay me to be a bonus-mom.  These parents get all of the burdens of parenting and few of the benefits.

Include them on as many decisions that you can.  This is no longer a two person team – it has been promoted to a 3 – 4 person team – If you exclude them it will make them feel insecure and could give birth to bitterness and insecurity.  At the same time, some decisions are easier to make with just bio-parents and as long as you are inclusive and connecting with bonus parents there should be little to no turbulence with your decisions.

Rule #7: LOVE YOUR KIDS THROUGH TRANSITION DAYS: Every time your kiddo(s) come back from being at their other home, there will be major transition.  They can be moody, sarcastic, straight up mean, emotional etc.  Love them through it. They didn’t ask for this life.  At this point you likely have different parenting styles and to go back and fourth remembering what is where, as well as the trying to manage their emotions is exhausting. One of you may be super laid back and the other may be super strict.  That is an emotional rollercoaster to experience weekly.  Give abundant grace. 

Rule #8: LOVE YOURSELF: Doubt, self hatred, regret, bitterness, low self-esteem, etc.  are all tactics of the enemy to inhibit your parenting. This has the potential to ruin all of your relationships as well as impart these same emotions and feelings on your kids. Take care of yourself!!

You can’t operate out of emptiness you have to operate out of overflow. If you don’t, your children get sloppy seconds what what little false energy and love you may have had.  When you take care of yourself – you in turn take care of your most cherished and valuable gift on this earth – your calling – your purpose – your baby.

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Support people of parents: Do not talk badly about the other parent(s)!!! it is toxic and can invade the mind and the heart of your loved one.  Instead, let them vent, offer an overabundance of love and support. Listen to them! Parents have enough to battle without your help! It is not your job to share your opinion of the situation it is your job to listen, love and encourage.

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I am convinced if you follow these guidelines, with time, you will grow to be okay with and even love co-parenting!

love your kids, Love your crazy extended family and love yourself. 

people silhouette during sunset

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

 


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