In a few days, it will be my son’s father’s birthday.
Yesterday, my 3-year-old boy and I went out and bought a card, some balloons, and a bottle of his dad’s favorite whiskey for the big occasion. On the big day, I will gather up my son and the gifts, go to his dad’s house, and the three of us will spend maybe an hour opening everything and celebrating.
My ex and I have been split up for over a year, now. For more than 365 days we haven’t kissed, held hands, gone on a date, been intimate, or done any of the things you do when you are in a relationship.
Here are the things we have done since the break-up. We text each other multiple times a week, planning schedules, sending pictures of our son, or telling each other funny things he did or said. We celebrated the holidays together.
We pick up the slack with childcare if one of us is sick or has an emergency or wants to go on vacation. We call each other’s families from time to time to catch up. We take our son to festivals and parties and events together. In other words, we still have each other’s back, even though we are no longer together. And we do that for three really important reasons.
Firstly, we are raising a child together who had no part in the demise of our relationship and thus, shouldn’t be punished for it. Secondly, regardless of the fact that we couldn’t make it work as a couple doesn’t mean we don’t still care about each other as people. Just because a relationship is bad doesn’t necessarily mean the people in it are bad. Thirdly – and this is by far the biggest reason – IT’S…JUST…EASIER.
I am aghast at how many divorced couples spend their time, energy, and resources to make each other’s lives (and, consequently, the lives of their children) a living hell. Thousands of hours, tears, and dollars wasted that can never be salvaged, all in the name of reclaiming something they feel indebted to.
Look, I get it. There are some truly awful people out there who are cheaters, abusers, liars, and manipulators. I get that not every couple can be amicable, even long after the divorce has been finalized. I get that many exes out there feel wronged the normal response to feeling slated is anger and blame. I get that I’m pretty lucky in that I still actually LIKE my ex and he never did anything really outlandish to make me hate him.
But here’s the thing – even if he was a terrible partner, he’s still an amazing dad and that alone should be reason enough for me to co-parent with kindness and respect. My feelings about my ex should have no bearing on his relationship with my son and that should be the case with virtually any divorced family. When both parties can let go of their anger, heal themselves, focus on their own happiness and health, and move on – everyone wins. You are happier, your ex is happier, and that results in a happier child that feels loved and supported, and isn’t that what parenting is all about?
People always refer to me as a single mom and it never resonates or sits well with me. I don’t feel like a single mom, even though I technically am. My ex and I are still a team, even if it’s a redefined kind of team. As a result, I don’t feel like I’m doing this whole parenting thing on my own. Plus, it sets a good example for my child on how to respect and be kind to people.
I acknowledge that I lucked out – well, as much as one can in an unsalvageable relationship. It takes maturity and the ability to let go of anger and pain to co-parent in a healthy manner. But I promise you, it’s totally worth it.