Co-Parenting: Another Approach

I learned my lesson, people. The last time I saw someone give what I thought could be potentially harmful co-parenting advice I titled it, More Bad Advice. This time I shall label it, “Another Approach”. Perhaps people will not call for my head this time around. I’m also not going to link to the article this time so that should help as well.

Tip #1

The relationship is over. It is not your job to “ruin” the life of your ex. Please refrain from gossip that may harm the image of your child’s other parent. Remember that is still their parent and you chose them. Taking the high road, especially when you’ve been handed the short end of the stick, will go a long way in establishing a dynamic that is good for all parties.

First of all, who has said anything about ruining another person’s life? If by “ruining” you mean “imposing consequences” then I’m all for it! Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener. Sometimes when you act like a jackass people aren’t willing to help you out.

As far as gossiping goes I do my best to follow Chump Lady’s lead. I report the facts. I do not editorialize. If the facts lead others to believe you’re a shitty person… what can I say? If you wanted people to speak more kindly about it perhaps you should have acted better.

I always find it remarkable that the person who is shit on is the one being given the advice. Hey, even if your partner has completely fucked you over, take the high road. That’s what good people do. You want people to think you’re a good person, don’t you? Do you want people to think you’re bitter and angry? Then you’d better smile and be willing to work with fuckwits. Otherwise everyone is going to know you’re a horrible person who deserved whatever injustice you’ve been dealt.

Tip #2

When you start dating, vet your dates. If a person shows major signs of distrust or envy when it comes to your ex, they may not be mature enough to handle a healthy dynamic. For example, if they cringe at the thought of the two of you going to an event to support your in common child, sincerely take that as a red flag.

Vet your dates? Are there a lot of people out there who don’t do this naturally? Oh him? He was my prison pen pal. I’m sure he’ll be great around my kids. Sure, I had a little bit of a setback with that hitchhiker I picked up last summer… Like I knew he had a head in the duffel bag! But this guy is different. He wasn’t even in on murder. And he’s innocent! It was all a big conspiracy! He was framed! 

All snark aside, I think this can actually be very good advice. If your new partner becomes a green eyed monster whenever you and the ex need to have a conversation about your shared child, or throws a fit if you say hello when you bump into one another at a kid’s event, you probably need to examine that. This is probably not a good pick for a future partner, especially if you have young children and will need to co-parent for a while.

Similarly, I would be leery of the exes that do everything together. If you, new partner, think it’s weird for them to go to brunch every Sunday to discuss little Sydney, or think it’s unnecessary for them to co-chair the big spring carnival, or wonder why they still go to the movies together, this might not be a good relationship for you. They seem a little too entwined to me.

With that said, if you decide you want to act like one big happy, polygamous family, good for you! I won’t fault you for that. I, however, do not wish to hang out with the ex at every event. I prefer cordial when necessary. Not buddies. Not spending vacations together. No hanging out. Then again, that’s my line. You are certainly free to draw a different one.

Tip #3

When separating from the ex you share children with, you should consider it your job to assist when possible the betterment of that ex. What’s that mean? If you learn about an opportunity they could benefit from like a job, let them know about it. Or maybe you were their transportation before the break and they still need you to maintain employment, just do it. For as long as you can. And give a warning before you cease. Be the bigger person. Your kids are watching.

Give me a break! It is not your job to assist them. That stopped being your job when the relationship ended. How crazy would it be if we quit an actual job and people continued to tell us it would behoove us to continue to do that job? Listen, Gloria, I know you quit your job at the bank but don’t you think you owe it to us to come in and assist our customers? If you don’t do it, who will? Here. Just sit down right here at this desk. Turn on that computer. Maybe throw a loan or two together. Open up an account. You owe us that much. It’s your job to do your job that you quit. What kind of a person are you? Are you a quitter, Gloria? Are you?  A little warning that you weren’t going to continue to do this after you left the bank would have been nice.

You want a warning that I’m no longer going to continue to do things for you? Here’s your warning- I’m divorcing you!

Jesus Christ on crutches! It reminds me of Jackass and him asking me if we were still going to have spaghetti for dinner after I told him I knew he was fucking Harley. Gee whiz! I can’t think of a single reason I wouldn’t want to. Oh yes, except for that whole, “You’re fucking a whore!” thing. That makes me not want to cook for you anymore. FYI: Spoiler alert! I won’t be doing your laundry anymore either.

And always with the ominous warning: Your kids are watching!  Oh no! You mean my kids might actually see me standing up for myself? They might actually see me refuse to take any more shit? How awful! My God, they may not grow up to be co-dependent people; they might actually develop a backbone.

Generally I try to be open minded. I try very hard not to tell people what to do. But I’m begging you. Please, please don’t take this awful advice and continue to prop up someone who shits all over you. It is NOT YOUR JOB! Why? Because this person FIRED YOU FROM YOUR JOB! That’s why!

With that said if you were the asshole then I suppose it’s fine to continue to help out. Perhaps it will ease your guilty conscience.

The author goes on to say that she knows some of these examples are far fetched but implores the reader to hear her out. Too often when we split we want to make sure life is not better for our ex’s without us. It’s true. We all like to think we are the best thing that has ever happened to anybody we’ve come in contact with.

Eh. I don’t think CF deserves to have a wonderful life after what he’s done to me and our kids. I think the life he’s living is far better than the life he deserves. I definitely don’t think it’s my job to make sure his life hums along and that he has everything he wants. I owe him nothing. And quite honestly, I don’t have to do anything to make his life miserable. He’s done a fine job all on his own.

Instead, she wants us to get to what’s important. The children. Apparently, if you speak negatively about the other parent that is going to trickle down onto the child and damage their fragile psyche. If Mommy’s a bitch that must mean I’m a bitch. If Daddy’s an asshole, then I must be an asshole. Or so goes the conventional wisdom. The author points out that even if what you are saying are all facts you shouldn’t speak them because you could traumatize your children with that information.

I say, once again, if learning the facts about what you are doing would traumatize your children then YOUR BEHAVIOR is what is wrong. You can’t argue that cheating is okay or beating your partner is okay or gambling away your paycheck is okay or whatever behavior is okay, but actually telling your kids the truth about that behavior is traumatizing and never right. No, no. If it’s okay to do it then it’s okay to talk about it.

She goes on to tell a fun little story about her ex never paying child support. The man was $22k behind. Hmmm…. sounds familiar. Due to circumstances beyond her control he still wound up in front of a judge who was only too willing to throw him in jail for failure to pay. But Your Honor, this is a man who, despite being a deadbeat, sees his children every chance he had and his children appreciate that. His presence is so much more important than the money it takes to raise them. She decided to withdraw her petition for support and forfeited the past due amount. She didn’t want to be left having to explain why dear ol’ daddy had to “go away” for a year.

You know what? Good for her if she can forgive that debt and be completely fine without his financial help. Not everybody can, though. I sure as hell can’t say, “Hey, Cousinfucker, don’t worry about support. I’ll forgive it all. We’ll make it work on my hefty $28,000/year. I love the fact that I don’t make enough to have a home of my own. I enjoy sleeping on the couch. You and the whore take your combined $180,000 and go have yourselves a real fun time. You deserve it!”

Something tells me, though, that this woman always worked. She wasn’t a stay at home mom who followed her husband across the country. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she had been the primary breadwinner. I would also be willing to bet that if she wasn’t the primary breadwinner, that she at least made close to, if not equal to, what the father of her kids made. God bless those who are able to support their kids on their own. Sadly, not all of us can. And if you’re one of those who can’t you shouldn’t be made to feel as though you’re doing something wrong by insisting upon child support being paid.

I would LOVE to find a job paying me $60-$80,000 a year. I would LOVE to be able to tell Cousinfucker to fuck off, that I don’t need his goddamn money and he will NEVER be able to influence my life again. Alas, I doubt that will ever happen so I do the only other thing I can. I hold his feet to the fire. If necessary, I’ll throw his ass in jail.

What would I tell my kids if their dad went away for a year? Well, for starters it wouldn’t be a big change. But even if it were they are old enough that I would simply tell them the truth. Your dad owes thousands in back child support. The state takes his obligation to support his children seriously. He’s going to jail for a year as a consequence for not paying his child support, just like he could go to jail if he had been caught driving drunk or if he robbed a store. Honestly, I think that explanation is simple enough even for a young child. But if you think that’s too complicated try this: You know how when you do something you’re not supposed to, or I tell you to do something and you don’t do it so then you have to go to time out? When adults do things they’re not supposed to, or don’t do things they are supposed to they have consequences, too. Daddy’s going to an adult time out. We call it jail.

She goes on to say that the look on the judge’s and sheriff’s faces made it all worth it because they thought of him as cheap labor. That wasn’t going to happen on HER watch. He was her kid’s hero. I need them to see him as SUPERMAN. Really? A deadbeat is their hero? A man who leaves their mother to not only physically take care of them but also financially bear the entire burden? That is one awesome example.

She ends it by saying she needs her kids to know that both of their parents love them, emphasis on both. She wants them to have another person to run to if she’s not available. I need them to receive all the love God has made for them, even if it comes from their dad’s new love. She is in my place when I’m not there so she is important and is to be respected. She is important because she is there to enhance his happiness so we need her on board with the co-parenting dynamic so she doesn’t disrupt the flow of things.

Oh. Hell. No. For the record, I have no objection to them running to the other parent; however, the “new love” is not my replacement. She is not “the momma of the house”. She is not their momma. Period. She can be pleasant. She can be nice. She can take them to the movies. Hell, my wallet would appreciate it if she would take my daughter shopping. But she does not take over as momma. Even when I’m not there. Even when I’m dead she will not be momma.

Plus, I thought it was important to vet your dating partners. Why is her participation necessary for their co-parenting dynamic? How can she disrupt the flow of things? It is my belief that the other parent might be a little less than stellar if she has that much influence. Then again the man didn’t believe in paying child support so…

Also, she advises that you never be envious of the new love because “he/she is your ex for a reason.”

Sometimes that reason is because your ex is a lying cheater who tries to skirt child support. Sometimes that “new love” is the whore that knowingly fucked your then partner with absolutely no regard for you or your children.

She does wisely advise those who are dealing with a physically abusive person not to try to follow along with this. I think it should go even further.

You are not a failure as a person or a parent if you do not have the blended, happy model that is portrayed on television comedies. You are not a horrible person if you don’t want to pose for “divorce selfies” (dear sweet baby Jesus, yes, that’s a thing) on the courthouse steps. You do NOT need to get together with your ex and the new love to discuss “your” children. You no longer need to behave as your ex’s secretary; it is not a failing to say, “No more.” Your kids will be fine if Mommy and Daddy don’t vacation together or spend the holidays together. You don’t need to fool the world into believing you’re still a happily married couple even after you’ve divorced. You can have your own schedule, parent your own way, have your own set of cleats or tennis rackets or school uniforms and learn to rely on a new support system. That’s all fine if that’s what you want. Hell, I would encourage it.

I’ve also said many times that if being cooperative works in your situation then excellent. I’m happy for you and would never try to talk you into being uncooperative just for the sake of screwing with your ex. HOWEVER, what the author preaches is not the gold standard for co-parenting. Sometimes it’s just not going to work. Sometimes you are co-parenting with a person who does not have your best interest at heart and certainly doesn’t have the kids’ best interests at heart. Sometimes you are dealing with a person who hates you more than they love their kids. And sometimes you’re dealing with a person who just doesn’t care and doesn’t place a priority on their kids. Figure out if you’re in one of those situations and take it from there.

You do not need to act like a doormat in order to co-parent. I would argue that modeling such behavior is actually harmful to your children. You teach them to let people walk all over them. You teach them their needs are not important. You teach them that pleasing others is so much more important than anything else- like standing up for yourself or your principles, or demanding what is rightfully yours.

Remember, cooperation and civility are nice bonuses, but they aren’t necessary in order to raise some damn fine children. If you are willing and able to do that with your ex, good for you. But if you’re dealing with a toxic person there is no shame in walking away and letting them pick up their own mess.

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