Co-parenting….seriously one of the the hardest concepts in the world. It goes against the normal design and function of a family, and requires you to be friendly, compromising, and forgiving of someone who may have caused hurt to either you or your child in the past. Most of you who follow this blog have seen my own emotional ups and downs caused by our family situation over the past six years, and for all of the adults involved it has been a tough road to navigate. Having a child before you’re ready, with someone who you are not designed to be in relationship with, is something that can take a lifetime to work through. We just have to be willing and open to working through it. I am not going to pour out personal past information into this blog post, but I will say that I have caused some hurt and been the recipient of some hurt during the years where I was too immature and somewhat selfish to even be willing to work at it, or even accept that this was how my life and my family would look forever. However, over the past few months, after a lot of prayer and conversation (and some of it not always nice), I am finally at a place of peace with all of the people involved in the raising of my daughter, and while I thought that letting go of some of the control would feel more like giving up, it actually feels more like allowing myself to breathe after all this time. Showing kindness and respect to my daughter’s father and his girlfriend (who has been a consistent figure in her life for some time now) just to be an example to Gabbi felt like work, doing it now because I feel that after all this time we actually have a friendship growing actually feels like personal growth. Being able to enjoy spending time together is something that I am so grateful for. Being able to work together instead of against one another truly allows me to feel like we are all at a good place for Gabbi, and offers her something that none of us could give her on our own, a cohesive family.
I used to think that a child growing up in a situation where his/her biological parents live separate lives that the lives and relationships that that child had with his/her parents would have to be separate. The fact of the matter is, and I will say that this is true for myself and for other situations that I have had the ability to witness, that for all adults involved, this set up seems to be easier. Regardless of what happened in the past, whether a split was amicable or disastrous, whether there is respect for one another or you loathe one another, getting on with your own life and building your own future and family is easier if you emotionally and mentally cut the other person out. It would be true if their were no children involved, and it still feels like the natural route even if there are, as long as you can be assured that the time your child spends with this person is good for the child, and that they are taken care of well and enjoy the time they spend with “the others”. In the last year, however, I began to search and ask God if this is truly the best situation for any child. If it is possible for the child to experience life with everyone working together, for the child to witness the development and sustaining of friendship between both the biological parents and the step parents involved and if the child knew, not only because they were told but because they saw and experienced it, that everyone was involved in the raising and care – giving of this child together, wouldn’t this be a much better and stabilizing environment to grow up in? If the situation is that this child will never experience growing up with both parents together, and for a lot of us these days this IS the reality, then isn’t the very next best thing, or perhaps even a better thing depending on the situation, for the child to grow up with everyone working together? And not just because they have to, but because they WANT to, because they like each other, and because they want what is best for everyone involved? My take on this is most definitely YES! My experience thus far is that is proving to be working out both better and easier than I thought it would and it has made life more enjoyable for myself, my family and I hope all parties involved.
It doesn’t mean that it is the easiest thing. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself, and I can speak somewhat for my husband because we have talked about this so in depth, but I had to make a conscious choice to approach things differently. In my ideal world, where everything went my way, both sides of my daughter’s family would have the same exact parenting styles, philosophies, values etc. In the real world, this is just not realistic. I truly have become more accepting that things will be different when she is with her dad, and that different doesn’t mean bad or worse, it just means exactly what it means, different. Perhaps something she experiences and learns over there that she would not have experienced and learned here at my house will benefit her while she is growing up, I truly believe that it will and I truly can say now that I can be okay with that. I KNOW and ADMIT that I like to have control over things, especially when it comes to raising my children, but being able to let go of some of it has been good for me. Not just in this situation, but also in being a mom in general. The world will get a hold of children at some point, and I feel like God is showing my that I have the tools to teach them how to handle it, not just avoid it. Eventually they will all go out and experience life for themselves, and I won’t be there to control every move they make, or to shield the affects it has on them.
I am sure that as life progresses that there will be hiccups along the way. And while I was writing this mostly because I just felt compelled to get my thoughts out on this matter, I also wanted to let other moms and parents in this situation know that it is possible to get along with the other people involved in raising your child. Society on a whole seems to push this whole notion of not getting along with the other parent. I watch shows like Teen Mom and hear constant arguments over custody battles, preventing the other parent from being involved, trash talking the other parent and continuing on in a life long power struggle, regardless of whether or not the other party is a capable parent or not. Of course there are situations where the child being involved with the other parent is NOT healthy, and in these situations I firmly believe that actions should be taken. However, in most cases, as parents, we need to put our own personal emotions aside and work together. I think you will be surprised at how much easier life becomes for everyone when working together becomes your main focus, when the child becomes your main focus. Through prayer I felt God telling me and reminding me over and over again of Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes EVERYTHING to work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose for them.” (NLT). Well, I love God, and my husband loves God and my daughter loves God, and we are all called according to his purpose, and we trust Him in everything else, so why wouldn’t we trust and believe Him in this. On the days when I am missing Gabbi because she isn’t here, or when I am feeling inadequate because her family looks different than her friend’s families, or when I am not seeing eye to eye with her dad’s family, I have to remind myself that each and every one of these situations is coming together for the good of my daughter and her future. This is the life He has created for her and for us, and we need to trust in Him that this is all a part of His purpose and His calling for us. I can rejoice in the days that are easy, in the days where we are all together for her, in the days when I am enjoying our new found friendships as parents and as adults, and on the days when it is difficult I can be reminded to trust in the Lord, to begin to let go and to still rejoice in the fact that we are giving Gabbi the chance at cohesive family, and that is greater than any gift any of us could buy.