It was around 4 years ago that me and the children’s Mummy separated, divorce followed a year and a half after but the one thing that remained a constant through what can be a turbulent time is the amount of time and love we have both dedicated to our children.
When we did separate, amongst other things, the conversation quickly turned to the welfare of the children and what sort of arrangements we would look to put in place moving forward.
Pretty much from the outset we were both in agreement that as parents, neither had a more significant role than the other to play in the lives of the children and to be fair, that ideology has never once been challenged – it has always been a given – we are equals.
I would be lying if I said it’s been completely plain sailing and of course there are challenges, but there are in any traditional relationship too! What I want to try and do here is give a fair and balanced appraisal for any parents who are trying to work a situation like we have or if they are facing separation/divorce in the future.
For all of our faults (no one is perfect right?), the one thing that remains a constant is the fact we both respect each other as parents. We both know and understand that we have the children’s best interests at heart.
No matter the reason for a break up, it’s important to try and put any sort of personal emotion to one side and to keep the children central to what you do.
Those who have been through a break up with children or indeed any break up, will always have friends and family trying to give advice and support and at times it can be difficult to accept or listen to these people, despite their best intentions. One piece of advice however, resonates with me still even to this day and it was from a friend of mine who at the time was doing the complete opposite to me, he was just getting married and had only just become a father. But his advice to me came in the form of two words and all he said to me was, “stay classy”.
Those words have stuck with me more so than anyone else’s and it’s an easy mantra to adopt to help keep you on track.
So what does “stay classy” mean? Well I guess you can interpret it in different ways and my friend and I never dissected this in any way at all, but to me it means, remembering the little things – letting the children choose a Mother’s Day card, giving her a picture that they’ve done while with me, calling when you say you will – that kind of thing. I’ve no real place for mind games or dramas, who needs it?
There’s no doubt communication plays a fundamental part here. You will all have views on communication with an ex partner who you have children with as to what you think is too little or too much. I guess, it comes down to an agreeable level as to what works for you both as co-parents.
For me, there’s no correct formula to apply here but some of you may be wondering what levels of contact I have with the children’s Mummy.
So, if one of us have some correspondence from school or nursery that the other parent may be interested in, then the person who receives this will usually take a picture of the letter and send it to the other parent. The school our daughter attends issues text messages to one parent about updates and things to be aware of in school. My ex receives these and will literally forward on ever single correspondence even if it doesn’t directly affect me. Some of you may be wondering, why is this relevant? For me, I can use these as talking points and engagement pieces with my daughter. Contrastly, my son’s nursery will simply email all parents anything of any relevance.
For me the email methods works best, as there is less reliance on the other parent to send things on in this particular scenario. We are all busy people and sometimes we forget etc.
FaceTime plays a pretty significant part in the lives of my children. My parents, (the children’s Grandparents) are over 250 miles away so it’s the main method we use to keep in touch. It is also something me and the children’s mother use too when we don’t have the kids at times. Neither child has a phone yet and we both believe it’s a nice way for the children to maintain contact (for the parent without the kids to see them for a short period of time and talk about what they have been doing). There’s no real set arrangement here, but the fluidity generally works. There are of course times when answering a FaceTime call is not convenient, but this links back to my earlier point around communication. I guess managing expectations in these situations is paramount. Sometimes, the children may not want to chat too much or are just tired – that’s ok too, it’s not about completely forcing something on a child.
Our Chidren’s Birthday parties and parents evenings are generally something we would both look to attend. I think in the eyes of the child it provides more security, more consistency and I suppose it sets a healthy example to them too for their future when it comes to building and maintaining relationships. When we had our daughter’s last parents evening, we were both thoroughly delighted with her progress and we both had a sense of achievement at the end – both parents deserve the chance to feel that!
I was reading an article recently around mental health and how children as young as 4 have mental health issues – http://news.sky.com/story/mental-health-issues-affecting-more-children-at-younger-age-10836272
This poll was carried out on 2,051 teachers – all members of the NASUWT union and it was saddening to read that 18% of those polled said they had been in contact with four to seven year olds with mental health issues. The reason for the increase in mental health issues according to the poll were family problems such as ill health or family break ups, according to 91% of those teachers.
Of course co-parenting is not achievable if one or both parents are unwilling to cooperate. We don’t set out in life to be like this, but it’s about making good a potentially bad situation. Polls and statistics can also be misleading at times, but for me personally it’s about giving your child the best chance in life no matter what situation we are faced with, all while trying to stay classy! 😎