Choosing to co-parent for my children's well-being

Fathers Matter , Co-parenting

For the first piece in our co-parenting blog series, Lebo, a 37-year-old mother of three, talks to us about her co-parenting journey. From the start, she chose to be a cordial co-parent with her ex-husband for the sake of her children’s well-being. This is her story.

Having my children wasn’t a ‘mistake’. It was intentional and planned. Both my partner and I wanted the same things from the get-go: a home, marriage, a family, and stability. So everything fell in place rather quickly and naturally.

As with any relationship, over time challenges arose. These were due to how we related to each other as a couple, and a lack of boundaries with my former in-laws. It doesn’t sound like much, but for a 20-something-year-old at the time, who had my own personal issues to deal with, it was a lot.

So when the issues we had reached their peak (and I should probably instead say “when I had had enough”), I decided to leave. Because it was a decision that I made, I felt like it was my responsibility to contain the implosion when it came to our kids. So, I made a promise to myself to prioritise my children’s well-being above all else.

At first, it wasn’t easy. There were challenges as we adjusted to this new dynamic. For a while, my ex-husband was angry and hurt, and this translated into a bit of resistance and some harsh words from his end. I felt guilty, like I had failed my children and had failed as a woman to keep my marriage from falling apart.

We never lost sight of the fact that our children deserve nothing less than love and understanding from both of us.

Although some of the things he did and said hurt, I didn’t retaliate. I had checked out long before leaving, and the decision was actually a relief, so I had made peace emotionally and mentally. His world, however, had been torn apart, so to a certain extent I understood.

Throughout the countless back-and-forths that we had, we remained dedicated to doing what was best for the children. And despite the challenging situation, we found a rhythm that worked. One day my ex-husband asked to meet with me so we could talk. I was shocked because he had been angry for so long and I had imagined that things would always remain that way.

Clear roles and boundaries

We spoke about the children, established clear boundaries and routines, and clarified our split responsibilities. This included coordinating our schedules for school events and celebrating birthdays. In some areas, we made a conscious effort to show unity and support for our children.

I was relieved because my decision to leave was for my own sanity, my personal growth and the safeguarding of my children. I was never angry with him or bitter. Over time, our efforts paid off, and our co-parenting journey evolved into a harmonious partnership. Most importantly, we never lost sight of the fact that our children deserve nothing less than love and understanding from both of us.

Separating our issues from caring for our children

In hindsight, I realise that what led to the demise of the union was that we both didn’t have the tools to manage our challenges in the marriage because we hadn’t dealt with our own personal struggles. We knew what we wanted, attained it, and that was it. We didn’t know how to sustain or defend the relationship beyond that. Although these facts weren’t so clear at the time, it was never the children’s fault.

The context of each co-parenting dynamic is different, and I respect that hugely. However, being affected by circumstances beyond my control as a child myself made me respect the role I would play in my children’s lives. If the circumstances are not dire, I’d encourage each parent to put their children’s needs first until they’re old enough to make their own decisions. Most of the problems we face today stem from how we were raised and the environments in which we were raised. And if we can get that right, we’ll be well on our way to a rewarding future.

Today, as I reflect on our co-parenting journey, I am filled with gratitude for the strides that my ex-husband and I have made in raising our children. While our paths may have separated, our commitment to raising happy and healthy children remains unwavering.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the people featured in this story.

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