With 15+ years of being a divorce lawyer under my belt, I can say without hesitation that I am most often asked by my clients and people in general, about how I personally co-parent my children post-divorce. My former spouse and I share joint legal and physical custody of our school-age daughters and have for the last 4 years. Some people have commented, “You make it look easy.” The truth is, it isn’t easy and just like any parent couple knows, it comes with ups and downs.
My former husband and his new family have a dinnertime ritual of debriefing their day and sharing around the table each family member’s “pit” (worst part of the day) and “peak” (the highlight of the day). This past week I experienced both a pit and peak in my co-parenting relationship.
The tears started streaming down my face with no warning as I texted a message to my former spouse that read: “I am still their mom even though you have someone helping you. It just puts me in a weird spot and I wish you would see me as that person.” This message was the result of my daughter and her dad having an inconsequential conversation that was potentially leading to a new privilege of independence. I felt out of the loop. I craved being consulted. I wanted to be the parent.
He, of course, had no idea that my message to him caused me such heartache. He couldn’t see the messy tears that were preventing me from seeing his sincere reply “I am sorry you felt out of the loop…” I knew that his intentions weren’t to leave me out. He has a new wife that no doubt talks with him about minor decisions that are being made. I am sure he had discussed the situation with an adult. I just wanted that adult to be me. I hate that my divorce means that I am not present for every single little decision that needs be made for my daughters.
My girls love the practice of “pit and peak” from their dad’s house and often recall a particular peak or pit to share with me. This week it looked like this:
Anna: “Mom, did you know that you were Dad’s peak 2 times this week!!!”
Me: “What? Why?”
Sophia: “Dad said on two nights that he was so happy about the work Mom was doing on the Freedom to Marry case and that we should all be proud.”
Ummmmm. More tears leaking down my face. To be acknowledged by my former spouse in this way in front of my girls and bravely in front of his now wife was amazing to me. It was unexpected and went straight to my heart. It helped me with perspective for the “pits” when I feel like I am forgotten or not acknowledged.
The pits and peaks of parenting are traversed by all parents – married and divorced. As a divorced parent, I sometimes get sucked into the thought that if we were still married, we would peacefully parent our daughters without dispute. Right.
I forget that even if we were co-parenting under one roof, we would still have different opinions to navigate around bedtimes, discipline, and activities. I forget that even if we shared the same address, there would still be moments when one or the other of us would not be present during a spontaneous decision-making discussion with one of our kids. I forget that the pits and peaks are just part of parenting.