Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On Co parenting....

Ola Dolls (I still fancy myself a Kardashian, bear with me),

So my lovely little dragon AKA Aki-Baby AKA Miha AKA my daughter returns to me today after spending a few days with her father. Yep, that's right, we are both full-time parents but for half the time. Ha! See what I did there? No? OK, moving on. She has spent the last week, bonding with him and his family. She stayed a few days with her aunt and her cousin (I see a bestfriendship forming). They are the most adorable lot ever. I tell no lies. See below:

Hasn't your heart melted? They are sooo cute *said in irritating baby voice* She then went on to spend a few days with her paternal grandparents. How you might ask. Well, her father was on this grand tour de paternity with her. He wanted to spend time with her. He'd bought her a bike and wanted to be the one to teach her how to ride it. He also wanted her to spend time with his people. I cannot lie,I have been overwhelmed by the dedication. 

Someone recently asked me how we do it, this 'co-parenting' and I had nothing of substance to tell them. I went to my trustee know it all- Uncle Google and there's so little on the subject. No how-to's, no-one is blogging on the experience, it's all a big blank. There's Dr.Phil, a few classes and workshops here and there but there's really nothing to relate to and especially not in the African context. So how are we doing it? How do two adults who cannot be 'together' but want to be full-time parents to a child they have together achieve this.

Well, I cannot say it has been or is easy. Parenting is difficult even for people who live together. This has been a complete minefield for us. We've learnt a lot and are still learning. But I'd like to share a few titbits for anyone who's having the same challenge. Here goes;

1.Baby comes first: Whatever you do, always always, ALWAYS think of the child first. So you have a 'thing' to go to and it happens to be during the time you are with the child. That 'thing' will be cancelled, unless it's income-generating whereby you can beg the other co-parent to take one for the team and remember to make it up to the child. Also, you will alter your time-schedule for the duration that you have the child. This will be hard but remember, you don't always have them. You can bar-hop next week. For this week, you will go home early, you will cook, play house, you will eat baby food (oats, you guys, OATS!), you will watch cartoons (Not southpark or family guy, think Lion King, Disney, Dora The Explorer). BABY COMES FIRST.

2.Respect the co-parent: It's hard for me as a mother to let my daughter go. Am worried about her even when she's with my own mother, the woman who birthed me. So that worry sky rockets when she's with her other parent. I worry if she's eaten, has she taken the required number of naps? what is she watching on TV? what is she wearing? who's doing her hair? what are they doing? It helps that she has the same nanny in both places but I still worry. In spite of myself, I never call the co-parent to dictate terms and conditions of the stay. We have basic rules that the nanny and everybody knows e.g sleeping time, feeding e.t.c But basically, he's on his own. This is his time, his space. The only way this can be achieved is via respect. Of course we have squabbles here and there and it has taken a lot of time and maturity to get here but we still try as much as possible to keep out of each other's hair. You are a team even if you are not together. Think of it like you would a business venture. You both need this to prosper.

3.Trust the co-parent: This is the hardest. You are both very different individuals. Different core-values, different up-bringing and ergo different parenting styles. For example, am a health nut, we're always eating fruits, raw eggs, vegetable smoothies and whatnot. On the other hand, her dad is a huge fan of junk food so they'll eat that. This rubs me the wrong way but I know he has number 1 (Go back and read it) down so he'll do it in moderation. I, like he have to trust the other party's decision while they have the child. And again, it has taken a lot of time and we are still a work in progress.

4.Create memories: My daughter's first word was mama. But that was a given because she spent the majority of her first year of life by my side. Fast forward to now, she knows her Dad's full name, she can pick him out in pictures, she asks to speak to him regularly on the phone and recognizes his voice. When she's grown, she will remember a childhood with BOTH parents. This is because we both try to be as present as possible when with her. Put that phone down and actually interact with that child. I have a list of firsts with her but so does her father. Am teaching her how to swim, he's teaching her how to ride a bike.

5.Be clear about your intentions: This one is also hard. You have a child together. It is hard to not want to get back together. And all the forces that be (think parents,elders) want you to be together. But there's a reason you are apart. Do not use this experience as a means to sneak your way into your co-parents life. Do not be lurking around. Do not stalk them. Do not start surprise drop-ins/ stop bys. Do not be about that life. If you want to get back together, use other means. Approach them as you would any other person with whom you do not have a child with.

6.Other people: Of course you are seeing other people. Be open about your arrangement. Expect contributions or even support but essentially this is all on you. Refer to numero 2. Respect the co-parent. Applies to the people in your life as well. They cannot speak to the co-parent on your behalf or any of that nonsense, you're the one that had the sex that led to this child,not them. Keep the 2 worlds separate. 

This is by no means exhaustive and I am not an authority on the subject.I am sure we are both going to learn and grow even more the older our child gets. We still have struggles and challenges but so far so good. Baby steps. My child has TWO almost-fully engaged parents and is growing up to be a well adjusted individual. Not the same can be said for many children. WE ARE WINNING! *fist pumps the air*

PS: This is by no means an ideal situation. I'd love for my child to grow up in a 2 parent home. If you can stick it out. Bend over backwards to make it work. Hang in there. HANG IN THERE. But if you must, leave.You are a better parent when emotionally and mentally healthy.

P.P.S:This will only work if you are both reasonable adults. If one of you is psycho, all bets are off and only Jesus can help you.