My situation is different than yours. It’s different than anyones. My situation is unique. I got married at 23. We had a baby at 29. We were divorced by 31. Sounds typical, I know.
What makes my situation unique is that my ex and I can co-parent like nobody’s business. Dare I say, we parent better now than we did when we were together (Granted she was only 1 and some change when I moved out, so not much ‘parenting’ was involved yet. But I stand by it).
I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of my daughter growing up thinking her voice didn’t matter. At the time, I was accustomed to keeping thoughts and opinions to myself. I was often “wrong” so, in order to keep from being criticized or ridiculed, I kept quiet. To this day, I am still not vocally opinionated. I still don’t like rocking the boat. I still hate confrontation and heated discussions.
I will never be the type to relish or even see the point in having debates where no one wins and everyone ends up mad. By leaving my marriage, I took the first step in standing up for myself saying what I think, what I want, and how I’m treated matters. My feelings, beliefs, and opinions should be validated; maybe not always agreed on but at the very least respected.
By leaving I hoped to demonstrate to my daughter that respect is a must in all relationships worth having. Love, validation, and permission to be yourself without consequence are all necessities in a relationship. I didn’t have those things and I did something about it.
I was thrilled with the idea of being a mom but I knew my work-a-holic husband (he is a mechanic by trade and hobby. He basically lived in the garage. When he wasn’t in a garage, he was taking or teaching classes at the community college…on how to be better in the garage) would not steady his busy schedule to be home with us more. I was not thrilled with the idea of being a single mom while married. I’d be lying if I said getting a divorce in order to force him in a way to be an active dad didn’t cross my mind.
By leaving and with us agreeing to split custody 50/50 it forces both of us to have an equal part in parenting. Now, with her being 3, we both drop her off and pick her up from daycare the same number of days. We both share the role of reading stories and tucking her into bed. We both deal with the picky eater that is our toddler and we both surrender our remotes to Paw Patrol.
However, we also both get days off in between where we don’t have to surrender our remotes or fight bedtime and can take showers in peace. He still has time to piddle in the garage and I can read my books uninterrupted.
The Aftermath of Divorce and Co-Parenting
I didn’t exactly know what co-parenting would look like for us when I finally did say aloud I want a divorce. I knew he would be the best dad he could be for her so I wasn’t worried about the absent dad syndrome that plagues many divorces. What I was more worried about (and still worry about) is the difference in values and beliefs the two households have that she will grow up in.
He is someone who believes in pro-life, Creation, and religious salvation.
I do not.
I grew up in a religious environment but have since claimed Team Agnostic. Is there a god? I don’t know. I’ve never met one if one does exist. I am also not about to claim what for sure did happen in order for the Earth to appear and be what it is today. Was it Creation? Was it the Big Bang? I don’t know. I wasn’t there and I personally think it ridiculous for any one person to absolutely claim without a doubt that the Earth came to be in one particular way or another.
I am also pro-choice. It is not up to me nor is it any of my business (or the business of rich old white MEN in Washington DC) to decide what women do with their bodies; nor is it my position to judge those women. Pro-Choice versus Pro-Life is one of those topics where no one wins and everyone ends up angry. Those are the discussions, while albeit vital to have for our society to progress, I am just not willing to partake in any further than stating I am Team Pro-Choice. But it was this very topic that pushed me to stand up for my values and to start teaching my daughter to do the same.
How We Co-Parent
We had decided on a 50/50 split custody and currently have an ‘every other day’ schedule that works for us. We also have an open–door policy for each other and have each hosted dinners for the other household. We are able to attend family events and holidays together without incident. I am still very close to his extended family as he is with mine.
We also have a standing birthday dinner date with our daughter that both he and I take her on together. I know this is not the norm and many divorced couples are not able to have this level of civil respect for and/or with their ex, but we have been able to recognize that our faults and failures in our relationship are ours alone and not the fault or failure of anyone else or that of our daughter.
We are both able to put aside our feelings of hurt, anger, and disappointment for the sake of our daughter. We maintain open lines of communication, which is something we do better now that we aren’t living together, mostly due to our communication focusing solely on our daughter. We have made compromises such as; he takes her to church, but she will attend a public school as opposed to a private one. As she is being raised in one household that is religious and one that is not, it is our hope (yes, both of ours) that she grows up to make up her own mind in her beliefs and values.
I do at times fear that she’ll grow up worrying about disappointing one or the other no matter which way she structures her core beliefs but it is my ambition and I believe the ambition of her father to love her regardless.
Our disagreements in finances, beliefs, or whether or not we should have dogs or cats was between me and him alone and are now moot points since we have separated. Now we can put all that aside and focus together on the one thing that really matters: our kid. Luckily he and I do agree on that. And that’s all that matters.
While I do struggle with some aspects of how he chooses to structure his house versus how I choose to structure mine (mostly concerning finances and the lack of routine), I feel we are better parents apart for our daughter than we ever could have been together. We are able to put aside our differences for the sake of raising one hell of a kid.