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How to Survive Co-Parenting
by Brie Bythewood
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November 19, 2018

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How to Survive Co-Parenting

“For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” I’ve had to remind myself of this mindless fact countless times during my co-parenting relationship.

 

Author Brie Bythewood
Author Brie Bythewood

 

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited for preaching one of the simplest yet easily forgotten truths, “For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” I’ve had to remind myself of this mindless fact countless times during my co-parenting relationship.

But I’ll share a secret…it’s true!!

My daughter’s father and I fell in love quickly.  And, years later, seemingly just as quickly, our relationship ended.  We were new parents, both for the first time, and had just moved into a beautiful new apartment that I’d expected to live in until our daughter turned 5 years old. But within two weeks’ time, I was standing in our living room, holding a new life in my arms and watching her dad move out.

Reality hit hard as I suddenly became…a single mom!

Brie Bythewood and her daughter
Brie Bythewood and her daughter

Like most couples, we had our fair share of arguments, letdowns, and disappointments but nothing that I thought would destroy us. Maybe at our worst of times I’d imagined my life without him, but my heart always reminded me how hard I’d fallen for him and how normal our relationship actually was.

As the apartment door closed behind him, I stood strong, straight-faced, stoic maybe, because I’d be damned if I shed a single tear. In that moment, I became the strongest version of myself and vowed to my daughter that our life together would be beautiful. We’d be fine.

He called the next day and I quickly established our routine, because he was a dad, not just a newly single guy.

I held him to task to act like a father, even if he wasn’t quite sure how, because I was determined to make sure he and our daughter developed a bond and a loving relationship. After a bit of a bumpy start, he began to visit our daughter regularly while he and I kept our interactions rather limited.

But we ultimately agreed to spend holidays together with our daughter because we couldn’t figure out how to split time.

By setting aside anger and focusing my energy on the positive, attitudes have shifted, situations have improved, and family time has undoubtedly become our favorite time.

Fast forward three years after our breakup, my ex and I have established the most respect-filled and loving co-parenting relationship based on one simple fact: our misery was secondary to our daughter’s happiness. It wasn’t about “us” anymore.

But this journey has left me with co-parenting lessons that I live by. I share them in hopes that your road to contented co-parenting is less bumpy and equally rewarding.

4 Lessons to Survive Co-Parenting

Co-parenting Lesson #1: Selflessness!

It was nearly one year after our breakup that I muttered the three words everyone hates to hear, “We should talk.” I recall walking with my ex to the rooftop of my apartment building and suggesting that we clear the air between us for our daughter’s sake and ours. I wasn’t quite sure where to begin, but I knew my intention. Because there are two sides to every story, I asked him to share his version first. As cruel as it may sound, hearing about his heartache actually made me feel better. I learned that I wasn’t the only broken heart. We shared our pain, our tears, apologies, laughs, and hugs and vowed that our daughter would grow up knowing an important truth – “mommy loves daddy, daddy loves mommy, and we both love her beyond measure.” We may not be a traditional family, but we love like any strong family would.

“Mommy loves daddy, daddy loves mommy, and we both love her beyond measure.” We may not be a traditional family, but we love like any strong family would.

Brie Bythewood’s daughter
Brie’s daughter

Co-parenting Lesson #2: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way!

As a single mom, I’m unapologetic for the way I love and the decisions I make because everything I do, I do for my daughter.

From family dinners, to spending holidays as a family of three, to family sleepovers and weekend vacations, we’ve come a long way, and our daughter’s smile makes it all worth the effort. Her happiness is the most priceless validation of our success as co-parents. It’s not been the easiest road, but we always find a way to make it work. It’s important for us to remember that we’re each 50 percent of our daughter and we both want what’s best for her. We try our best never to play the roles of good cop and bad cop, but instead we aim to have each other’s back. Parental trust has gotten us far, as has faith. When it comes to religion, I stand firm and he stands back. He knows that I want our daughter to form an early relationship with God, to learn her prayers, and to understand their importance. Despite her dad’s lack of involvement in that realm, he does try to reinforce my message to our daughter and helps build the excitement for Sunday’s service.  

Co-parenting Lesson #3: Compromise!

Of course, every day isn’t perfect dealing with an ex, but I do my best. As a constant advocate for my daughter, I’m sometimes faced with difficult conversations with her dad. Our most challenging topic of discussion has been her preschool education due to the rising cost. We agree on its intrinsic value but disagree on the type of school, location, and tuition. As this article is being written, the debate over public versus private preschool continues along with the question of how much is too much to pay. So for now, on my salary, I’ve successfully enrolled our daughter in a weekly dance class because she expressed a passionate interest, and I’ve hired a homeschooling professional to keep her on track academically (she is 3 going on 33 and already on a first grade reading level. I think I’ve got the hang of this mommy thing). Through our journey as co-parents, I’ve definitely learned to choose my battles wisely, although we always come to some resolve in the best interest of our daughter.

Co-parenting Lesson #4: Communicate

Brie Bythewood, her daughter and her daughter’s father
Brie with her daughter and her daughter’s father in coordinating Halloween costumes

I like to think of us as an imperfectly perfect bunch. We share an unbreakable bond as mommy, daddy, and daughter. We’re connected for life and will always choose happiness over anger, forgiveness over fault, and together over torn. Through our heartbreak, a best friendship blossomed. With each new day comes another moment, another challenge, another reason to reflect on the beautiful lives we live as co-parents to our favorite person on earth.

At the end of every day, I kiss my daughter goodnight and thank God for blessing us with each other. She’s 3.5 years old and has experienced 110,376,000 seconds of happiness and still counting.

Home page featured image courtesy of @thereelchill

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