On one of my many adventures in Washington, D.C., specifically to Busboys and Poets (their chicken chorizo pasta is usually my object of desire there), I met up with a really great guy friend of mine that I hadn’t seen for a while. Of course the reason for the meet up was to catch up and enjoy some chit chat after what had been a busy week for both of us. The expectation of light chit chat was completely unrealistic. My friend and I have a history of starting a conversation with the intention of keeping it short or light, but it always turns into either a two hour exchange, a dive into “deep” topics, or both. As you can imagine, we absolutely got into one of our deep conversations. Sidenote: I think I’ll start really documenting these conversations as “Conversations with My Guy Friend”.
Back to the matter at hand, we started talking about our personal accounts of being a co-parent. We talked about the evolution of our individual experiences and it made me think, “Damn, I’m pretty lucky. I have an excellent partner in parenting shenanigans. How did we even get to this place?”
My ex-husband and I had a pretty contentious relationship for a while as we approached the closing months of our marriage and as well as during the separation stage. Looking back, there was no reason for us to believe that we could get along. At one point, we did everything we could to not talk to each other. We’d hand the kids off to each other without a word for the most part. That all started to change when our oldest child told me that I was mean to his daddy and that his daddy was rude to me. My heart sank when I heard him say that in a matter of fact tone. Like it was supposed to be the norm. That’s when I looked at myself and realized that I had been handling his father all wrong. As a matter of fact, I shouldn’t have been trying to “handle” him period. He’s a grown man for goodness sake. When I thought I was being stern about him following through on his obligations (he had a habit of retreating when things got heavy) and keeping silent when I encountered him aside from business, I was actually behaving like a bitter ass scorned woman (I almost threw up in my mouth admitting that) and that was silly because I was clear on the fact that I was fine with the separation.
I knew I had to make some changes. The boys’ father had done his share of unnecessary shit, but I knew better about my behavior. The truth is, I was acting out the things that I couldn’t get resolved with him during our marriage. It was ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t innocent but I can only really speak to my role in the situation. Clarity of self is where I needed to live. When I stepped back and took a serious look, I knew I was fortunate and that point was driven home during an especially tough financial period in my life.
During that time, I was all about being the super mom and taking care of everything on my own, especially finances. I liked knowing that I could do what my mother had done; take care of all of her children’s needs and a lot of their wants through her own hard work. That set up for failure came to an end when I woke up one morning in a panic because I was worried about the bills. At that point I said, “I need to talk to the boys’ dad. He SHOULD be helping more.” I got prepared to have to go to war about it, but it ended up being the opposite. I called and he picked up with a dry tone that I just knew was the signal for resistance. After an exchange of hellos, I started to tell him everything that had been going on. I rambled through as quickly as possible and I waited for him to either say nothing (which was normal) or start asking me a million questions (which was irritating). He did neither. He immediately said, “Okay. Here’s what I have to help. Oh, and Simone, stop keeping this stuff from me.” I won’t lie, I looked at the phone and said what the fuck? Who is this guy? All I could say was thank you and make plans to speak face to face.
Because of that, he came over to talk about a plan to help and from there we started having the conversations we should have been having when we split up. We started exchanging stories about the way the boys would behave when they were with each of us individually and comparing notes and even laughing at the things that confused us both about their behavior. We were able to compile notes on how they acted with him as opposed when they were with me and it was clear that it served the kids to have me and their dad on the same page all the time. It was during those “talks” that we decided, together, that they would never be able to pull a divide and conquer on us and that we had to trust each other. It all suddenly sunk in, for both of us, that it wouldn’t kill us to be kinder to each other and accept that we were family. There would be no such thing as ditching each other, at least as long as we have kids together.
It made everything easier. Even the way we divorced. We literally walked into the courthouse and filed the divorce TOGETHER. Afterward, I gave him a ride home. About a month later, we went in front of a judge and the divorce was finalized in 20 minutes because we had already figured out how we would handle each other and the kids after everything was complete. We actually made the judge smile because she heard me say to him as we were walking out, “You want a ride, or you getting on the metro? You hesitating, so come on let’s go.”
Now I’m not saying that everything is easy breezy and that we don’t butt heads because that’s just not true. But what is true, is that we had to do better for our children and if that meant treating each other with respect and compassion and not making the process of dissolving the marriage ugly, then so be it.
That commitment to just trying to be considerate of the boys in a real way, made it easier for me to see the necessity of the boys being near their father. So much so, that I see the validity of them possibly living with him as they get older, because the truth is, I’m not their male role model and I don’t want to be. I want to stick to being their mother. Their first experience in how they should treat women, and how women who respect them should treat them. Their dad’s teaching them the lessons that compliment the ones that come from me. My co-parent and I have both made the necessary sacrifices to make sure that in the near future we each can set up our individual homes in a strategic way, so that the boys can have access to as much as possible. For instance, we would like to live in the same neighborhood so the children can all but walk back and forth to each home.
It might be an uncomfortable situation for new significant others to come into, but the way I see it is if he and I are actively working together, then there should be enough space to accommodate full personal lives for the both of us. If we’re truly co-parenting then we should both be able to live our individual lives with little to no issue. We’ve already mastered the “mind your business and I’ll mind mine” thing.
What it took for me to get to this place was a simple idea, but not one that’s easy to execute. The bottom line was that I had to start looking at my ex husband as a human being who deserved compassion and empathy. Just like me, he’d never been married, separated, and divorced and he didn’t have a handbook on what to do. We’d both grown up without fathers and it was always clear that he wanted to be present for his children AND he was hurt by the end of the family unit we’d both dreamed of. It was necessary for me to look at that fact very seriously. In all honesty, trying to be the perfect super mom almost killed me and when it came down to it I couldn’t expect him to be any better at parenting than me. I also had to divorce myself (pun intended) from the belief that being nice to him and wanting to be in a relationship again were mutually exclusive. I could simply be kind to him. I already knew how to be mean to him, so the alternative was better.
So I’ll close by saying that I like my baby daddy and not in the politically correct way, but in a real way. I want him to be happy because it makes for better boys who will eventually be better men for it. Plus, I need to be considerate of him so that I can attract my future boo thang into my life. Hey, I’m just being honest.
If you feel this, let me know. Share it with someone who might need it and comment on some of your experiences in parenting.