My parents got divorced when I was 13, in my first year of high school and at a difficult stage where I just wanted to be like everyone else – including a nuclear “normal” family. My life shifted immediately and I found myself stuck in the middle of two parents – one who was bitter, resentful and depressed, and the other who resented the other’s bitterness and depression. I often felt like a peacemaker, pawn and casualty in their divorce, and it broke me at times.
So, when I faced my own divorce two years ago, my ex and I vowed then that our toddler (two yrs at the time) would come first, putting aside our own sadness and occasional pain and anger.
My son didn’t ask for two homes, or to have his little family separated and new partners brought in, so my aim is to carve the smoothest road that I can out of a hard-impacting event. Here’s how we have done it:
Showing mutual respect
It’s important to me that my son sees that his parents respect each other, that they can organise his birthday parties together, and never badmouth each other, lest he ever feels negatively towards us because of it, or feels like he has to choose one over the other.
The truth is, I don’t know how I could parent successfully if I didn’t communicate regularly with my ex. We are in constant touch about our son, whether it’s a query about his routine, marvelling at his use of the toilet (I may or may not have sent him some pics of my son on the loo), or brainstorming what to do about his whining or tantrums.
Supporting each other
And there are times where I’ve been sick, or tired, or working on a deadline and have asked my ex to look after our son on “my” nights or days with him, and he has done so gladly. Because this is how good co-parenting works, I think.
Perhaps it’s overcompensation over my parents’ divorce, the guilt that I have for my son, or maybe it’s because I don’t “work” well in warring situations that I’m trying to lessen the impact this divorce has on my son. But whatever it is, I’m working hard at keeping my son the centre of mutual respect and parenting, rather than the middle of sparring and anger.
And while most divorcing parents say it, and with meaning and the best intentions, things often get in the way of executing it. Anger, fear, grief and resentment prevent us from putting our kids first, but I’m glad that my ex and I are able to practise it.