Blog Motherhood

Co-parenting – Two Years On

It’s been a long time since I’ve been open about co-parenting.

I really do believe that, when it comes to a split, you owe it to the other party not to talk about it – at least the personal and finer details – online. I just think it’s the fairest way of dealing with things, and fairest when there are littles involved too.

It’s been over two years since Bill’s father and I decided to split and parent separately. And it’s been quite the learning curve.

When you split with someone – whether it was your decision, their decision, or mutual, as in our case – you naturally, at some point, feel like it’s best to remove that person from your life.

It’s all part of moving on. And sometimes you might hate them, and sometimes you might feel nothing, and sometimes, you may even find a way to be friends. But you need that space first.

And you don’t get it when you have children together.

Even if your contact is minimal, you are tied together forever more.

I don’t at all regret the way my life has turned out, because, I’m so happy now. And I believe that Bill is happier too, because he’s not the sole audience to a happy relationship. I’ve got Mark – my lobster. And his daughter is currently making my belly dance. And I’ve also got a son who makes my heart come alive.
But co-parenting is not easy. And it’s a big pay-off for your own personal happiness.

This path, for me, has always felt very unnatural. There’s something that feels wrong when I say goodbye to my son. There’s something about it that will never feel right.

So what’s it been like these past two years?

Well, initially it was the adjustment and the judgement.

I started single motherhood with a lot of opinions being offered to me on a platter. Like I was being force-fed solutions, or judgement that I didn’t want or need.

I lost some mutual friends, because some couldn’t accept that I’d found someone new and it didn’t involve a sordid affair. And I remember adjusting to this new world where, apparently, I was a tramp, a leech on society, who couldn’t keep her legs closed. You don’t need to know my sex life, but trust me, I’m a pretty old-fashioned young lady, and even then, does it matter?

You have people who really rally around you on the other hand. People who love you. And who are so confident in you being the good guy, and the other party being the bad guy, that sometimes ‘fairness’ gets lost. Of course I’ve had days where I’ve wanted to throw a dirty nappy at my ex, and I’m sure he’s wanted to do the same to me. And I’ve ranted, and I’ve raved, and I’ve cried, and I’ve been hurt.

But there’s no innocent party. The instinct to parent and to love your children is such an overriding factor, that you naturally put your needs first. Of course you do. Bill’s my son. I chose to have my little surprise. I grew him. I fed him. I did my very best. And I’m so obsessively in love with him.

But to be that in love is to understand that you cannot be enough. I know that there are exceptions to this rule, obviously, but when my son was born with a father in his life, I should never be the one to take that father away.

This isn’t actually about me. Or his dad. It’s about Bill. I am not a 100% happy mother. I mean, who is? I suppose what I mean to say is that I am not the mother I wanted to be. I wanted to be a part of my child’s life for as much as possible, while they needed me in that raw way that little ones do. And I couldn’t be, first because of work, and now because of a situation that I chose for our family.

That’s a very large pill to swallow on a lonely night when your son is not in your arms.

You begin, very quickly, to start questioning yourself. When you argue over times, and dates, and who has him when, it starts to make you feel sick because your child is not a possession, but you don’t want to be the one who is always caught short in a hard deal either.

I work full-time in consistent office hours, so I’m fixed. I’m the reliable one in the sense that everyone knows when I’m around. I’m also the one who is blessed with the mother who cares for our son when I’m at work. I’m also the primary caregiver.

It also means that I have to be quite flexible too. I try my best to cater to the different working hours of Bill’s dad. And also my mum’s needs to have a break, which she rightly deserves. It’s put me in a position where, honestly, I don’t know what the next month will be like until I’m told. That’s one of the weirdest parts of all of this, because I don’t know whether I can RSVP with three of us, or just two. Or make plans, in case they get changed.

And there are dates you will fight over, Christmas, their birthday, your birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. And you regularly have to stop and check yourself – at least I do – and ask: “Am I being a dick? Am I being unreasonable? What would Bill want?”

And even then, I don’t know the answer to that question.

Over the past two years, I’ve had times where Bill has cried heartbreaking tears when he has to leave me. And I’ve felt horrible. And even now, he won’t want to go sometimes, particularly on weekends, when he knows it’s what he calls a ‘Mama & Mark Day’. Every morning he asks me what type of day it is, and I know sometimes, based on his mood, he’ll hope for one over the other. I think, as he’s getting closer to four, he is starting to become more aware of our time together and he does try and tell me he wants more of it: “Mama, please don’t go to work today.” Or: “I just want to stay with you and Mark.” And the pain of feeling like I’ve rejected him is sometimes too much to bear.

I still cry, pretty much every week, when he leaves. Or over the situation in general. And I’d love to say that it has gotten easier – I suppose, in some ways, it has – but at the same time, I wonder if I’ll ever honestly accept it?

I do think it has defined me as a parent. I know that, sometimes, I must seem to only ever be happy and in love with my son. Like I mustn’t have bad days, or struggle with parenting. And I’ve had a few people nudge or hint those thoughts at me. But I suppose, parenting, as I have learned, is wholly perceptive.
What is bad for you, may not be bad for me. But that does not make it any less bad. My downfalls and my hard times, are when my son is not around. And that’s my battle. My issue. My bad part. We’re experiencing all the shitty times too. Like Bill’s new thing for the past week, which is to pretty much refuse to eat his tea. Now, when you’ve just got home from work and you’ve taken the time to make a nice meal, from scratch, with a swinging baby belly in the way, that is rubbish. Even more so is the tantrum that goes with it.

And then there’s the worry that goes with things like that too. Is it me? Does he prefer the food his dad makes? Is he happier with my mum when he’s with her and I’m at work? Does he not like me? Am I the bad cop? What have I done wrong? Is this normal behaviour for a child, or is this some sort of deeper struggle of being a child who doesn’t know which family member he’ll wake up with tomorrow?

The answer, this is my first child, I just don’t know.

Now I’m expecting my second, a daughter that will be here all of the time. I’ve never experienced that. A daughter who I will have nine months with when she’s born. I’ve never experienced that. Maybe I will learn a lot in that time. And maybe I’ll feel better, or even worse. But it’s a whole new challenge in itself.

I think, what I’m trying to say is that, ultimately, it’s a very unusual life to lead. But also very normal at the same time. My son has the blessing of being loved by his biological parents, and more people besides.

Mark had Bill one night when I went to a friend’s leaving do from work, and he said to Bill, as he was cooking their tea: “Look at me cooking your dinner like Mama!” (I’m the cook in our house). And Bill replied: “Mark, you are not a mama! You are my Mark Daddy!” We’ve never encouraged this, out of utmost respect for Bill’s dad, but it’s good and healthy for us to know that Bill not only accepts Mark, but adores him. And I don’t think I could have asked for a better man to play that role.
Now we’re entering a new phase, as this little girl comes our way, and a new set of challenges when school begins in September, and no doubt weekends will be more fought over.

I just hope that I can continue to try my best to do what my head tells me is right, even when my heart is screaming in the background: “Don’t let him go again. Please don’t.”

I know that to be fair, and put yourself last, is not to be weak, it is to be strong.

And Bill, should you ever read this one day, you are always going to be my first. And I hope I did you proud.

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  • Reply
    Charlotte Rawles
    12th February 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Ohh, this broke my heart but made me smile all at the same time. I can completely empathise with you, my eldest son is not my husbands and we have to share him. It is so so hard and like you, I cried every single weekend he left. I can promise you it does get easier as they get older. He is nearly 8 now, and although asks the odd question, he fully understands and i was surprised how many of the pupils in his class are in the same situation. I was so so worried when he started school that I would be frowned upon and judged but it was the total opposite. You'll be amazed how many other families have a similar set up when he starts. And one thing I have come to realise is that the reason they act up for us is because at home is where they feel most comfortable. It has everything to do with how much they love you and nothing to do with disliking. Promise! X

  • Reply
    Alex Gladwin
    12th February 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Ohh Charlotte. I want to come and give you a big hug and a squeeze , I really do. You are such a strong strong lady, you really are. I admire you. Your strength with this situation is something that I admire and Im not personally in your life, so just think how much William is going to admire your strength with this when he's older and maybe a parent himself one day.

    I can't imagine how hard it is for you, of course I can't. I can only tell you that you need to be less hard on yourself. When William doesn't eat his dinner, it's because it's a phase. It's normal, we all went through the dinner thing as children. Don't overthink it, because you don't need to blow up all these already hard to handle emotions in your head.

    You've said it yourself, William has two biological parents that adore and love him, they love him so much that they almost bicker about who's having him the most. He's a very lucky boy to have two parents that care so much about him and that's coming from someone who knows.

    William is probably asking to spend more time with you, because he adores and loves you. You could probably spend every second of everyday with him and I bet he'd want more. 🙂 Take it as the highest compliment. Your little boy loves you very much!

    I’m going to stop writing now before my comment turns in to it’s own blog post, but I hope you are OK. You’re doing fantastic lovely lady, you really are. Keep being a strong, inspirational Mama! Sending lots of hugs. xx

  • Reply
    Emma Bailey
    12th February 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I think the fact that after all this time, you are still questioning every parenting decision you make, actually makes you a good parent. No one is the mother they wanted to be, believe me. I never thought I would be the mum to lose their shit with their kids in public, but there I was this morning before nursery, yelling at Alice because she wanted to play on the swings and we were late. And I know it's not the same. It must be awful for you to have to "share" your child, if that makes sense? But I know, if I were Bill, I would grow up so incredibly happy that you gave me the chance to know my dad. So many kids don't get that chance, and your relationship with your son will be much better for it, i'm sure! xx

  • Reply
    Laura
    12th February 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Oh crikey this is a bit too close to home for me. Welling up here! I can totally sympathise with your situation, I'm in the same boat and there are times when I can get really upset if I dwell on it too much. I hate the fact that my son can't be with me all of the time. I hate the fact that birthdays and Christmases are negotiating acts rather than things to look forward to. I hate that he doesn't have my surname and that he's always going to be stuck in the middle of two parents who lead totally different lives with totally different values. But. It's what we owe them. They deserve the chance to have a good relationship with both of their biological parents. It's not about our feelings, it's about them. Over time I've gradually started to enjoy my 'me time' rather than sitting at home wallowing and watching the clock. But I'm never 100% content until he's back home with me again. It's just how it is.

    I know how hard it is but you sound like you're doing an amazing and selfless job. x

  • Reply
    What the Redhead said
    12th February 2016 at 9:38 pm

    I think you are doing amazingly. I wish my parents had even attempted to co parent. Even now they cannot even look at each other and it has meant that one cannot be a part of my life. You have, and will continue, to do Bill proud x

  • Reply
    lucy at dear beautiful
    13th February 2016 at 8:45 am

    Oh Charlotte, I think whatever your famil set up we naturally question ourselves as parents, I know for a fact that I do regularly. And while your set up might not even what you would have planned, it's definitely far from rare. And as you say, lucky Bill gets a life full of people who love him and I'm sure that more than makes up for the fact that it feels to you like he is always here there and everywhere. Honestly, he probably doesn't remember it ever being any different, so while all the passing around may hurt you, it's just life to him and he won't be hurt by it because he hasn't known anything else. Does that make sense?
    Although I don't envy you negotiating your times when he starts school, those weekends fly by and the kid you're left with after a day at school is hardly worth having some days. But you do get really good at making the absolute most of the time you do get.
    I also think that Bill will forever be grateful to you for how classy you've been about splitting up from his dad. Even when he's a teenager and hates one or other or both of you, he will always know he was never used as a pawn and that you did what was best for him always without badmouthing. x

  • Reply
    Shareen HD
    13th February 2016 at 2:44 pm

    This is such a strong post but it scares the hell out-of me should this every one day become our life.you're doing amazing X

  • Reply
    Katie @mummydaddyme
    13th February 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Hey lovely, i know we have spoken about this a lot before, but I just wanted to say the one thing I remember from my parents divorcing (I was older than Bill) was just how incredibly classy my mum was about the situation. My situation was different in that my Dad had an affair and ultimately is with the lady now, but it is all water under the bridge, we forgive and forget and it's been fifteen years and we love her and she is a great step nana to my girls. Ultimately if you are a good person you look for happiness and you look to forgive and my mum did that, over the years I was growing up she never ONCE badmouthed my dad to me- she used to say that he was a rubbish husband but the best Dad in the world and I have grown up thinking that and as a result I am still incredibly close to him and love him to bits. But it could have gone a completely different way had she been different towards him as ultimately I would have supported my mum. I thank her every day for that because I adore my Dad. I think Bill will always remember how respectful you both were to each other, even if at times you didn't feel that way. He will remember what a good Mummy you were to him and how you always put him first- I can promise you that. I promise! x

  • Reply
    Jodie Fisher
    14th February 2016 at 1:45 pm

    You are an inspiration and well done for writing this. I sometimes feel lucky that my eldests "dad" hasn't made any efforts and doesn't see her because it scares the life out of me to have to share her, share her time and her learning and her growing up. You are amazing!!

  • Reply
    Laura CYMFT
    14th February 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I think you are truly inspirational. Amazing. I have a friend who split from an ex (who I was also friends with) about 4 years ago. They have two children together and do you know, the ex has been so spiteful to my friend over him seeing those children. He only sees them when it suits her. She has a new man in her life every few months whilst my friend has been with his partner for 3 years. And yet he isn't allowed to introduce her to the kids but the kids meet every man she has been with since they spilt up. The kids don't get a say in whether they see their dad or not. It's an awful situation and I feel so sorry for those children. It must be difficult to let Bill go; I'm not sure I could do it with my two if my husband and I ever split up but I think it's amazing that you don't deny your son the right to see his dad and vice versa. You are an amazing woman and mummy and it sound like Bill has an amazing Mark Daddy too.

  • Reply
    Jenny Ripatti-Taylor
    15th February 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Oh lovely I think you are doing an amazing job and putting so many other's feelings, needs and wants before your very own which is noble. Bill knows he has a mother that adores him, loves him, cares for him and so much more always there. That's the most important parts and he will look up to you for it when it is grown I promise I was Bill in between parents who shared me. My mother is my rock, my go to person, my best friend, whom I look up to so much for all that she did for me and my family and I know Bill will feel the same if not more for you and all you do. Big hugs.

  • Reply
    Arti
    25th February 2016 at 10:30 am

    So I have no experience with raising children yet, but I know that when your son is old enough he'll thank his lucky stars that he has so many people who love him around. He sounds incredibly empathetic and caring, and that is kudos to you.

    I've read some children's psychology books by Steven & Sharon Biddulph which may help you understand the different phases Bill and your little un may go through.

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