Ah, co-parenting. The term comes with an assumption that if you’re co-parenting, you’re separated or divorced. But that’s not necessarily true!
Whether you’re happily married, single, or somewhere in between, if you parent with someone else, you’re a co-parent — period.
You’re one half of a parenting task force for the next 18+ years. And however your situation looks (or might in the future), it’s 50 percent on you to make it work for the good of your little ones.
No pressure or anything.
Maybe running half the show comes easy to you, or maybe you’re a control freak who believes it’s your way or the highway. I’m not here to judge.
Regardless of your style, co-parenting is a skill set all its own — one you can’t truly develop until you have little ones of your own.
Sure, there are ways to prep for parenthood, like growing up on babysitting gigs or caring for younger siblings. You can get a mini-taste of what to expect.
But co-parenting? You’ve got to be in it with someone else every. single. day. to understand.
And once you’re in it, it becomes crystal clear that you’ve got to find ways to make it work.
Your children were born of two people who may or may not have similar ideas on how raising a child should go. You have different experiences, visions, and expectations for how you want things to look. Things get even more complicated when there aren’t just separate parenting philosophies, but separate households in the picture.
That’s the co-parenting world I live in. And while it can be challenging, to say the least, my ex-husband and I always agree on the most important thing — putting our two boys first.
And as we enter our third year of fumbling to figure this whole thing out together, I have some been-there-done-that tips to share no matter how your co-parenting commitment looks.
Here’s hoping they help your journey become happier, healthier, and more harmonious.
Whether you live together 100 percent of the time or not at all, co-parenting starts and relies on a smooth schedule.
Of course, you have day-to-day schedules and routines before a baby comes along, so think about what they look like, and which parts of them you like most. Use that intel to create a co-parenting schedule that fits into your existing life, keeping your habits and preferences in mind.
If it works for you, it’s more likely to stick.
Your shared schedule likely changes from season to season and year to year, but establishing and re-establishing one that works all around is a must.
Maybe one of you is expected at work earlier, and the other is responsible for breakfast and daycare drop-off. Maybe one has more flexibility and can manage those midday doctor’s appointments. Night owls may want to take nighttime feedings, and so on.
Consistency is important for developing children and the peace of mind of both parents.
Presenting yourself as a united front is absolutely key in the world of co-parenting.
Show your kids that you communicate, discuss, and agree as often as possible and that the decisions are handed down from the two of you. Show them you’re a team.
They’ll come to understand that they can’t slip something past one parent without the other knowing — or even worse — try and pit you against one another.
It goes without saying that there will be sticking points and disagreements along the way, as in any relationship. But work them out behind the scenes, out of earshot, and without involving your little ones at any age.
The more they come to see and respect you have each other’s back, the smoother the co-parenting road for all.
Even under the same roof, it’s important to catch up with your co-parent early and often. From the newborn stages and on, the days are full and increasingly busy, to say the least.
Things change constantly, from moods to stages, preferences, milestones, and everything in between. So when I say catch up, that includes… well… on just about anything you can think of.
Has the baby been spitting up more than usual? Has your toddler been extra anxious at drop-off? How’s your co-parent feeling, and are there any frustrations or observations you’re sharing?
Remember that you’re only experiencing one half of this. Express yourself, and be ready to listen, too. You’ll know best whether prescheduled check-ins or impromptu touch bases work best. Heck, even a quick text can do the trick in a pinch.
Whatever your check-ins look like, make sure they happen — for everyone’s sake.
Yes, it can be challenging to be a co-parent, but it’s also a giant blessing to have the co-creator of your kids want to take an active, meaningful role in their lives.
Nobody can understand what it’s like to be the parent of your children except for your co-parent. Even on the most difficult, most frustrating days, keep that in mind!
Having a committed co-parent is a chance to share the journey — and the responsibilities.
There are physician and dental appointments. Extracurriculars. Laundry. Groceries. Medications. Birthday parties. Daycare. Preschool. Regular school. Sick days.
The list of obligations never ends, and while we’re happy to do them, there’s no doubt that having help is a wonderful thing. Lean on each other to get it all done and it becomes that much easier for both of you.
Kate Brierley is a senior writer, freelancer, and resident boy mom of Henry and Ollie. A Rhode Island Press Association Editorial Award winner, she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in library and information studies from the University of Rhode Island. She is a lover of rescue pets, family beach days, and handwritten notes.