Co-Parenting when the other Parent doesn’t want to
By Sage Single Mom Mentor Charlsei
This week on The Real with Sage Single Moms Kenyata and I discussed “How to Co-Parent when the other Parent doesn’t want to…” whether they are uncooperative or just down right non participatory…how do you cope?
Co-Parenting can be difficult when both parents are actively TRYING to make it work, but what happens when one doesn’t want to? What do you do when you are trying to co-parent but the other party is only interested in counter-parenting or not parenting at all? Tonight Kenyata Thompson and myself discuss how to make this work.
Co-parenting is when two people share the duties of parenting a child or children. This can mean they are divorced, separated, or perhaps they were ever in a true relationship. It can be, or just flat out IS hard to work together for many. It is not always easy or natural to set aside feelings and emotions in order to try to compromise with someone you are no longer in a loving relationship with…harder still if that was never your reality. But it is oh so much harder when one parent decides they just don’t want to co-parent. Maybe they have just walked away and aren’t parenting at all. Maybe they are combative and counter every decision or suggestion you have in trying to parent the child you share. What is a single mother to do?
Let it Go.
Seriously, take a deep breathe, cry it out, scream if you need to…but let it go. Now I don’t mean give up when I say Let it Go… I mean let go of the fact that this man you had a child with clearly isn’t and may potentially never be the model father you’d envisioned for your child, and it’s going to be ok. I know it hurts. I know it sucks. But you have no control over it. You really cannot change it. What you can do is have a good cry, and let it go.
Now you focus on being the best Mom you can be, because your child deserves that. If their father decides to step it up, great. If he doesn’t, that’s ok too…because you’re no longer clinging to that.
Connect with Dad’s family.
Just because a man doesn’t want to parent his child with you, or perhaps only wants to be high conflict and make things harder, doesn’t mean that his family feels the same way. If you two aren’t able to get along, enlist their help in drop off/pick ups. It makes drop offs and pick ups less stressful for you and for the kids and gives them some extra time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.
Perhaps you’re dealing with someone who isn’t making any effort or spending time with the child at all, and you can’t make them…but you can certainly ask the grandmother or the aunt or another family member if they’d like to spend time. This gives you a break, your child gets to bond with their paternal family, and perhaps it will encourage their father to step up to the plate…
Establish Clear Legal Rights.
So many people wait until things are at their absolute worst before they look into getting a proper parenting plan/custodial order in place. Even if you get along, you need to have this. Because you know what? Everyone gets along…until they don’t. Do not wait until the house is on fire to have insurance.
I know you may be thinking “But it’s so expensive, I cannot afford that.” There are many options. Look for mediators in your area, maybe you can find one that is low cost or offers services on sliding income scale. Most juvenile courts have a free legal assistance office, you can make an appointment to ask for advice or even to have an order drawn up that you can sit down with the other parent and agree on. You can download tons of examples to work from on the internet.
Check with your church, many churches may have an attorney, counselor or mediator that’s a member and willing to help parishioners with negotiating a parenting plan that is fair. If you can both come to an agreement you can sign, have it notarized and enter it with the courts yourself.
If you’re dealing with a very high conflict other parent, this is unlikely to happen. My advice is to save your money, research solid but affordable family attorneys in your area and secure their services. Check with your employer and see if they offer a legal assistance program to help with retainer fees, many do.
I also recommend an app/website called Talking Parents. It’s a secure and reliable form of communication. They keep complete and accurate records that can be used in court if necessary. You can even have the courts require you to communicate exclusively through this completely free service! Look into it, it’s easy to use and takes only a moment to set up.
Build Your Village!
If you’ve been reading my blog posts and listening to the shows I host, you’ve already heard this multiple times. Get used to it. I’m going to stress it every time, and hope that it sinks in. Parenting was never designed to be done solely by just Mom! Heck it was never designed to be done by just Mom and Dad! Look at cultures all over the world, the expression “it takes a village” means something! There are so many ways to do this, and it is so very important.
I think leaning on your own immediately family is awesome. But don’t do it so much you’re burning them out. Don’t have your momma and your sister ignoring your phone calls because you only call when you need a babysitter. You need to grow your circle, build your village to include more than just your immediate family. If you have a child that plays sports or takes dance, connect with other parents. Work out trades for practice drop offs/pick ups. Connect with other moms at your child’s school, they can help if you need assistance with carpool, send you pics from a field trip you cannot attend, etc.
You’re going to have to get a little out of your comfort zone. Strike up a conversation with a mom you see at the park often. Maybe you’ve noticed another mom at church that has children the same ages and you think she might be a single mom too, get to know her! Make friends with your neighbors, this can be so helpful especially as your child ages and is mature enough to stay home after school until you get home from work.
Look for drop in daycares in your area. Many have a reasonable hourly rate and offer 6-8 hours care in a day or evening with usually just thats days notice. You may meet other parents there to add to your village. I’ve always been a big fan of babysitting trades. I used to trade Saturday evenings with a couple different fell single mom friends and it was so nice for us to be able to have an adult evening without having to spend the extra $60+ on babysitting, and the kids loved it because it meant a sleepover or a night of pizza and video games with a friend.
We know it’s tough. And we know it’s overwhelming. But it gets better, when you do the things we’re advising and take care of yourself. Don’t carry more stress than you have to. Don’t exhaust yourself from trying to control things you can’t or shouldn’t. Set boundaries, build your village and conquer single motherhood!
Feel free to reach out in the comments or via social media if you would like to discuss a struggle you’re having while trying to co-parent with someone who is just not cooperating. Thanks for reading, and thanks for tuning in to The Real with Sage Single Moms on Thursday’s!
Sage Single Mom Mentor