Co-parenting : what is best for our child ?

I haven’t written about co-parenting recently.  I’d like to be able to report that all is going swimmingly, that we are working well together and that we are doing what is best for our child.  That’s the goal obviously, but then this is real life, and as we all know, real life doesn’t like to follow a smooth path. Real life seems to object to a plan.

It’s been nearly two years since we separated and we have been living apart for 18 months trying to navigate this co-parenting journey.  A lot of the time, although we may have the same agreed destination (what is best for our child, our son), it feels like we have a different map.

All co-parenting, divorce and separation literature is quite clear that both parents have to do what is in the best interests of the child.  This is indisputable really; it’s a no brainer.  Both my ex and I would wholeheartedly agree that our son is the centre of our separate universes and that his best interests are primary.   The problem is that we both seem to have very different ideas about what is best for our child. 

Take a recent example, a recent obstacle in the road if you like.  We have just about been managing to work to the same schedule for a year.  This schedule involves Cygnet spending every Tuesday night with his daddy and one night and one day at a weekend.  This means that Cygnet gets to see both of us frequently and gets to spend quality time with both of us every weekend. 

It can be a bit tricky: we are always operating to an agreed handover time;  our activities have to fit into the allocated time slot, but it is working.  Cygnet spends time with both of us frequently and for a two year old with no real concept of time, ‘frequently’ feels really important. 

Cygnet’s daddy wants to change things. 

what is best for our child

He wants to go to an alternate weekend schedule whereby Cygnet spends the whole weekend with one or other parent.  This is not an unusual arrangement for separated parents, but Cygnet is barely two and I think he is too young to be able to understand these longer periods of time and will suffer from not seeing one or other parent so frequently.  I think the current schedule is working for Cygnet and I see no reason to change it.  My ex disagrees.  Therein lies the problem; we both have different ideas about what is best for our child. 

After some negotiation over at least three months, we have now just about come to agree that we will need to change the schedule anyway when Cygnet starts pre-school in about nine months time and this will be the time to introduce the alternate weekends.  Arriving at that agreement was long and painful. 

Another recent example was the fraught discussion that we had about Christmas.  Cygnet spent last Christmas Day with his daddy.  You can read about my first Christmas Day as a single mum here.  I had assumed, naively as it turns out, that we would do the reverse this year and that Cygnet would spend the day with me.  Anger and fireworks followed as my ex argued that I had no right to assume anything and that he felt that I was always dictating plans. 

Negotiations have been tricky.  I can honestly say that I have learned more about negotiation, diplomacy, calm influencing and which battles to fight through negotiation with my ex over the last few months than I have in fifteen years of work. I am learning from my mistakes.  Co-parenting with a narcissist requires extra consideration, planning and objectivity, but lets not go into that again here. 

What has struck me most on this co-parenting journey so far has been my inability to predict how my ex will react.  He is predictably unpredictable and that’s about it.  Some days he is angry and I receive long, passionate and illogical emails and text messages.  Some days, when he says things aren’t going his way, he cries.  He is a master of manipulation.  He is like a wounded dog, licking his wounds and seeking sympathy one minute and barking and biting angrily the next. 

At other times, he is totally reasonable.  He’s agreeable and easy to talk to.  He puts his position across in a clear and straightforward manner and I can feel that an agreement is within reach.    

The thing about divorce and separation is that you no longer share a life with your ex.  You share a child with your ex, but you live totally separate lives.  I don’t know therefore when my ex has had a bad day at work, has a cold, has had two flat tyres in one week, has had a big argument with his mother or his sister (I know this happens a lot).  I do know that all of these things will influence how he is with me.  I am still his metaphorical punch bag most of the time, but unlike when we were living together I cannot foresee the punches. 

What we have managed to do, just about, is avoid having any difficult conversations in front of Cygnet.  There have been a couple of occasions when I have had to say to my ex that we cannot have a conversation in front of Cygnet.  I did once ask my ex to leave because things were getting a little tense in Cygnet’s presence.  Most of the time though we manage to make sure that Cygnet is the centre of our joint attention when the three of us are together.  I guess we should give ourselves a pat on the back for that.

It feels like the co-parenting journey has already been long, but I know that we have only just set off.  There are many twists, turns, obstacles bumps in what will be a very long road.  It is going to be hard work.  I am going to have to maintain my calm, concede in some areas and stand my ground in others.  I do know that Cygnet is worth it.  He is worth every single second.

12 Comments

  1. December 18, 2016 / 5:41 pm

    Despite all your challenges, it sounds like you’re doing a brilliant job. I’m in a difficult situation at the moment whereby I don’t know what 2017 will bring for my marriage, I have a feeling that if we end up co-parenting, my husband will be similar to your ex. I’m seeing signs of it already. I hope that you manage to have a good christmas xxx #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      December 22, 2016 / 8:50 pm

      Hi,

      I am really sorry to hear this. If you ever want to chat, feel free to email me at Pen@thesingleswan.com. Pen x

  2. December 20, 2016 / 8:51 pm

    At the end of the day what is the best for cygnet is what matters. Hopefully you can both come to some agreement.

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    Happy Christmas! xx
    Rachel Bustin recently posted…Book Review: Late Whitsun by Jasper KentMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      December 22, 2016 / 8:49 pm

      Hi Rachel,

      thanks for your comment. Pen x

  3. December 22, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    It’s all just so complicated isn’t it. I mean, it sounds like it should be straightforward, when you both really do just want what is best for your son, but it never is that easy. It sounds like you’re doing a really great job though, at working through things to get that end result that you both want. x #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      December 27, 2016 / 10:02 pm

      THank you. Pen x

  4. December 30, 2016 / 9:49 pm

    Pen I wanted to comment on this when I first read it because it resonated so much! Reading back over this yes, I recognise that thing where I am accused of dictating plans when I’m simply trying to suggest and reach a fair and reasonable agreement; yes, I recognise the massive unpredictability of the husband’s behaviour and not being able to fully predict his moods; yes I recognise the swings from anger and aggression to the wounded dog – the victim. Our child contact arrangement is up in the air without his cooperation – he uses shift work and having ‘no time’ as an excuse for trying to mess me about by seeking ad hoc, last minute days and nights with the children without bothering to draft a pre-arranged list. I feel like I am the metaphorical punch bag too – I bend over backwards to fit in with whatever it is he wants and I still get accused of being dictatorial, manipulative and deceitful. Today I got a text “YOU’RE A CONTROL FREAK” and this because I’d asked him again for a list of dates and said I’d happily accept it via text or in person if he was unable to reach me by phone. *sigh*. All that to say – I hear you and we’re not in this alone. X
    Layla recently posted…Facebook misdeeds and affairs of the heartMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      January 1, 2017 / 3:28 pm

      Thank you for your comment. This is going to sound selfish, but I am glad it is not just me who feels like this. I’ve come to realise that there is no point worrying about my ex’s responses any more. I am not a control freak, I am just trying to live my life and to enable my son to live his. That is what every mother should do. If our exes have a problem with that then it is their problem. They just don’t like not getting their own way all of the time. Your ex is the deceitful and manipulative one. You know that and so do I! Happy New Year to you. Pen x

  5. January 4, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    Obviously I have no experience of this, but from what I can tell from others it all seems to be about compromise, and at the end of the day neither parent really gets their “own way”. It’s tough and I don’t envy you that! You’re doing a fabulous job #kcacols
    OddHogg recently posted…Piglets 10 Months UpdateMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      January 4, 2017 / 10:17 pm

      Thank you. I agree it is all about compromise. I just wish that compromise was reciprocated once in a while. Pen x

  6. January 5, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    Oh wow what a bumpy road to navigate. It’s pounds link you are doing the best you can. I know what you mean about not being in on what kind of day they have had and how they will react to you. I get this from my daughters dad sometimes too. Although we have a good relationship sometimes and innocent question or text off me will cause him to fly off the handle. Also I agree with you about cygnet being too young for the change in schedule. I think little and often works best when they are young and leave the whole weekend until they are older #kcacols
    Tracey Bowden recently posted…To Believe or Not To BelieveMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      January 6, 2017 / 10:43 pm

      Hi Tracey,

      thanks again for your comment. Thanks also for your words about Cygnet’s change in schedule. I have read your blog and it sounds like you are managing to make this whole co-parenting thing work. Congratulations and i value your advice. Pen x

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