This was never in the plan. But here you are. Parenting separately. How you got here doesn’t matter right now.
All that matters is to get this right.
Sharing custody means sharing a child. It means sharing a child’s life.
This can be messy.
This can be confusing.
This can be stressful.
This most definitely will be hard. But you are strong.
It is a unique situation, not uncommon. And there are ways you can make it easier for yourself and ultimately for your child.
Having gone through the mills of co-parenting separately for a number of years and having gone through the good, the bad and the ugly, I have learned a number of invaluable lessons.
They are lessons I didn’t ask for; lessons I didn’t think I needed, but lessons that I learned nonetheless.
I am rarely wise, but I want you to know this:
Put your child’s happiness above all.
Sometimes you got to let go of your principles. Sometimes you got to allow the rules to be bent. Sometimes plans will change. Sometimes what you want and what your child wants may not be the same. Sometimes what you need and what the child needs may not be the same. As long as the child is happy, nothing else matters. Put your ego back in its box. Focus on your child’s happiness.
This was the hardest lesson by far. Especially when you are dealing with a younger child who may not articulate their needs and desires, their opinions and wishes; who may not communicate as effectively and relay messages clearly. Your heart will break many times, but you have got to understand and accept that there are things you cannot control. That there are things you have no influence on. You control 50% of raising this child. Make it count. The other half is outside of your control. Accept it, learn to trust and let go.
Intervene when you must.
Your child’s happiness is what you yearn for the most. Your own happiness depends on it. Because love. If there are circumstances that need intervention, make sure that you do. Intervene! Don’t let the child be the messenger or the go-between. Don’t let them do the parenting for you. You are the relentless advocate for your child’s happiness, creating stability and giving consistency, even in a co-parenting scenario. Don’t let your child down by ignoring signs of unhappiness and discontentment.
Treat your situation with ordinariness.
You are neither the first nor the last person who will co-parent a child into adulthood but you need to smooth your own path. The odds are pretty good that this will be a happy, balanced, fully functioning adult. Yes, the child has two homes. Two addresses. Two bedrooms. Two sets of clothes. Two sets of toys. Don’t get upset if he chooses the other parents’ address as his home address when asked where he lives. If you treat it with ordinariness, then so will your child.
At the start when my son was gone, my heart would break into a thousand pieces every time. It gets easier as he gets older. This life is now second nature to both him and me. My heart is still heavy every time he goes away. When he comes home, I hug him tight, my heart a little lighter and so full I could burst. When he comes home, it is always a very special welcome whether he was gone a day or a week. And some days I try so hard to not cry.
Not because he is home, but because I feel I am missing out.
Because everytime he comes back it seems he has gotten a little taller, a little wiser, a little more beautiful.
Because I know I am not there for all of his successes, and fails, his laughs and tears.
I miss out on 50% of him. I know he will only be home until he is gone again. Sometimes a day, sometimes a few days. And I get sad because his life is two lives. I get sad and I feel guilty because when he is gone I carry on with my life.
I look at his face as he chatters away about all his escapades, about school, about his friends, his books, and I stop myself for a moment:
Who am I to cry sad tears? Am I really missing out? This isn’t about me.
I am looking at a happy child. A well-rounded, well-balanced, content child.
I can see with my eyes and feel with my heart that my son is happy.
He is loved very much by everyone around him. He moves effortlessly back and forth between his two homes, has family and love wherever he goes.
I know you’re hurting, but mend your heart, mama. This is his life, too. A happy child is what matters. And a happy child needs a happy mother.
You may only have access half of the time but your impact will reach much further than half way. Make it count.
Motherly love is omnipresent. He will feel it in his heart no matter where he is.