I Am A. Co. Parent?

The thought of not spending Christmas with my children makes absolutely NO sense to me…they will spend Christmas with me until they’re adults and are married – non-negotiable!

This led me to think about co-parenting. Kimora Lee and her ex’s and current are such an idealistic family, she has four children with three men who all seem to be getting along like a house on fire, my favourite was when they all holidayed together, SURELY that is ex/co-parenting goals. Surely. Mara try that in South Africa with a black, “traditional” man. Come and give me feedback of how you, your new husband/lover and him and his new wife and all your kids all went on holiday together…HIGHLY unlikely if not completely impossible.

I am an idealist and I sincerely believe that people who are no longer in love or in a relationship can successfully raise children peacefully, can be fully present for all major milestones and holidays, but my reality as well as those of many around me is completely different. Break-ups come with so much resentment that adults cannot look past themselves and their issues so that children can be raised together – some parents resent each other SO much, the mother either completely keeps the child to themselves and shuts out the father or the father stays away completely in order to spite the mother. I do not understand it and I can’t stand it.

My parents separated when I was really young and my mom remarried several years later – she is still very happily married to a man I absolutely adore and who I call dad. In fact I am closer to him than I am to her – he’s way more relatable. I was lucky. My father, bless his kind soul, missed out on many of my life’s major moments – he’s never been to a graduation, he didn’t see me off to my matric dance, he didn’t come to my 18th, didn’t attend my first holy communion… there are plenty more, he allowed my mother those and was satisfied with pictures and stories from my joy-filled face. It breaks my heart that I do not have a picture with both my parents – I never will. I have accepted this. My mom doesn’t want to unpack her resentment towards him and he always speaks well of my mom “she is stubborn, let her be”. So far history seems to have created a similar reality in my current life.

Surely the cycle needs to be broken? Surely we’ve got to be better and be present parents in equal proportion whether we are together or not – the humans we bring into this world are worthy. There are people that do it well, schedules are in place one week/weekend with mom and the next with dad – but holidays are usually on an alternating basis. I am not the biggest fan of that, I must admit, but if it’s best for children then it must be done. I grew up swearing that my children would grow up different, in a home with two parents and at some point I got it super right and I have since gotten it VERY wrong.

Then there is also the major challenge of moving on as a woman with children who co-parents well with an ex…one needs a very strong and completely self-assured partner to appreciate the importance of parenting with someone you once cared very much for, that that relationship is over but the love for your children surpasses your differences. Some fathers are PETTY and resent the fact that the mothers of their children have moved on, some even go as far as cutting off communication and sometimes money, because one has moved on. Men can be quite territorial I suppose…

Despite all these realities and thoughts, I have been feeling extremely guilty of late, wondering why I have completely failed to co-parent and also wondering whether I am selfish for denying my children a “nuclear” family structure because as adults we cannot work through our issues in a constructive way? I can never romanticise single parenting – it’s A LOT. At the same time I do not want my children to grow up in a home where the tension and hostility hangs in the air like cheap perfume, I’d love for them to come home to mama and papa dancing to their favourite song, or to never try to pit us against each other and getting double allowances (lol I did that a lot, it was great), is it a female thing to try make things work post a breakup? Do men want it too? Are we capable of successfully co-parenting once the ship of the love we had has sailed? I mean I’d lose my marbles if the kids decided to voluntarily NOT spend Christmas with me… too many questions, many variables… why did our parents and grandparents stay together and raise generations? Are we too stubborn as people to look past egos and preferences? Can the cycle of single parenting be broken?