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Co-Parenting: An Uexpected Guide in 5 Steps

Chelsea Nelson


By Guest Blogger, Candice Baker
Salt Lake City, Utah

Here is the thing.

Being a single parent, although extremely difficult and lonely at times, is still just being a parent.

The level of parenting you put in is the same, and yes, you are the only one around to handle the children when they are in your care. Various tones are heard from those around you: “wow, I don’t know how you do it all, I barely get by and have my husband to take over”, or “you must get so much done when you don’t have the kids with you.”

And while some of this is true, from where I am sitting, I am always a parent.

Two years post-divorce and I do feel like I’m in the best spot I have been since it all went down. Since really, ever. My kids are developing at a pace I am enjoying and they have had minimal turmoil and issues arise. I am blessed and feel so every day for the amazing children that my marriage granted me. I wouldn’t take any of it back. Now, some reading this may not be at this point yet, and what I want to say to you is “You WILL get to a more comfortable spot.”

Or, maybe you are even more comfortable than me -- and to that, my utmost respect and applause, because for God’s sake, I know it wasn’t as easy as you made it look.

Part of me always likes clarifying statements, so here it is. The list of suggestions I am about to lay before you are merely that: suggestions. Life is not one-size-fits-all, so neither is this. Just a few tidbits about parenting as a non-coupled human that I have picked up along the way, although I think much of it is pretty much relevant if you have young-uns, or are a human.

1) Let go of the guilt – It will rear its ugly head long after you feel you’ve dealt with it, and when it does, letting it pass can sound easier than it seems. There are too many emotions that can hold on and create wasted effort if we do not simply feel it, and then send it on its way. Things that WE HOLD ON TO AS GUILT -- like guilt about not being there for every holiday (since they will be with their other parent for some, and some major ones) can be difficult. Which is really a great segway to the next tip.

2) YOU create the memories, not the holiday – Before I was parenting as a single person, Christmas was one of the holidays that was done up. During mediation, we discussed that we could celebrate together while the kids were young so neither parent had to miss out on the magic of Christmas morning. That lasted exactly 1 Christmas. Life moves on and ideas are continually changing about holidays. One of the many cool things about becoming an adult and a parent is that you get to decide what the traditions are. Of course, there are a few key things I have kept even as I celebrated Christmas a day early with my kids this year. We actually celebrated for about five days, so we more than made up for it.

3) But… Don’t feel like you have to make up for things – Haha! Life can’t always be made up. Kids will learn that you are there for them, as over time you show up more than not. They have endless amounts of love to give and will show it to you. You also, especially if you are still reading this, are a good parent who tries, because you are online reading about parenting. Always be honest that you are doing the best that you can and lose the effing comparisons. (As Chelsea has said “no mommy shaming”, and no parenting shaming allowed.)

4) Integrate your kids into your new life – This one has been a little tricky for me. Many of the new friends I initially made were a young, single lot, who liked to party. Not exactly a kid-friendly environment – but as A 50/50 situation allows, that time was for me. There were times I wouldn’t attend get-togethers because I had my kids, but overtime, as I could delineate what the occasion would entail, I would pop-in, kids in tow, and we all had a good time. Albeit a short visit, versus a full on rager. But it was nice to be able to incorporate both worlds. Although some of those friends and party times have gone by the way side, the lessons learned have stuck – my kids are my life and anyone who is going to be a part of it will welcome them as needed (and always as appropriate).

5) Keep up on you – Despite the 50/50 situation, there are times, while with the kids, your attention has to be given to yourself. Learning to listen to what you need amidst the tantrums and full-time demands the kids make it hard but, if you need a break, take one. When I was able to recognize that taking time out for me, actually provides better parenting to them, was a huge eye opener. Even if that means getting a sitter – because guess what – most kids have baby sitter while growing up at one point or another.

As we navigate the tricky roads of parenthood, relying on yourself can feel overwhelming as it relates to single-parenthood. The good news is you really don’t have to. Even as artificial as the online support system may seem, or as much as we don’t want to bother those around us by asking for help, that is what they are there for. People love and care about us as the parents of these amazing beings as much as they love those amazing beings themselves. Keep your eyes out and you will find the support system best fit for you.

You got this.