My Personal Struggle With Co-Parenting After Years Of Taking Care Of My Son By Myself
When my son was born, it was one of the happiest and heartbreaking days of my life. The happiest of course because I was blessed with the privilege of becoming a parent, and it was a day of heartbreak because out of his two parents, I was the only one there to witness him coming into the world. Unfortunately, for his father, he missed out on one of the most miraculous events to ever occur in a person’s life. He and I decided well before my son was born that our relationship was done, but we agreed to be functioning and cordial parents for the sake of our child. Things were going well for quite a while, and then suddenly my son’s father decided that he wanted to take a hiatus from parenting.
While I was extremely hurt and disappointed with his decision, I had no other choice but to accept the fact that he would not be around to help raise our son. However, I still kept in mind that at some point, he might decide to return and want to be a part of our child’s life, so I wanted to be open to allowing him to do so with no drama involved. As several years passed I didn’t hear from my child’s father at all. Not on my son’s birthday or on holidays. While I tried to keep my ex posted as much as I could, I was only able to do so much without him meeting me halfway.
Five years later I finally was contacted by my child’s father, but not in the way that I had hoped. I received a notice to appear in court for custody of my child from the familiar stranger known as his father. I thought to myself, “you can’t be serious,” but he was. Before I knew it, I was at the beginning of a small custody battle that I’m still going through. As my son spends more time with his father, I’m starting to realize that I am struggling with sharing my child.
I struggle with co-parenting because I was my son’s primary caregiver for the first five years of his life. I didn’t have to consult with anyone in regard to the decisions that were made for him, from what he ate to what he wore. But now the circumstances have changed. I think my greatest struggle with sharing parental responsibilities is not so much that I have to consult with my child’s father in regard to what goes on in our child’s life, or that we don’t have the same parenting styles, but I primarily struggle with sharing time with his father, as I have grown accustomed to having my son all to myself. Now don’t get me wrong, I value the time I have for myself to rejuvenate my body and spirit so that I can continue being the best mother and individual I can be, but I still miss having my little one around seven days a week. And as time continues to pass, I know my son will be spending more and more time with his father. While I don’t object to this, it’s still hard.
In dealing with something difficult to fathom, I’ve become aware of some hard personal truths about myself and the entire situation. For one, I’ve learned that I need to take advantage of the free time I have–not waste it, but be grateful for it. I’ve also realized that my focus has primarily been on my child and my career for so long that I rarely take time for myself. Now I have the opportunity to take care of myself, and I’m going to take full advantage of it. I’ve also learned that I can’t have my child all to myself and he deserves to know all of who he is by spending quality time with his father. Most importantly, I’ve realized that I have to remove my ill feelings from the past about my son’s father due to his absence and focus on his attempts to be present now. Keeping those feelings from the past will only make things worse. Besides, why should I care about him not being around in the past? After all, he’s the one who missed out on great times, not me. I see the bigger picture within this situation and that is my son’s overall happiness. As long as he enjoys spending time with his father and he’s safe, I don’t have anything to worry about, or be upset about.
Being a parent is a hard enough task all in itself, but sharing parental responsibilities with someone who’s not in the same household makes it all the more difficult. It’s not a job you take vacation time from, nor is it a responsibility that should be taken lightly on anyone’s part and it should be shared equally when it can be, no matter how both parties may feel. While my personal struggle continues with my son’s father, I’m finding more and more ways to adjust and trying to keep in mind that my baby is happy. In the end, that’s all that matters.
Liz Lampkin is the Author of Are You a Reflection of the Man You Pray For? Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Lampkin.