Though I’ve been divorced for nine years, I didn’t start parallel parenting until two years after. Honestly, back then, I had no idea what parallel parenting meant. Back then, I was naive, nervous, anxious and wanting to please the children and their father before pleasing myself. My after the divorce anxiety fueled every decision I made when interacting with my children’s father.
We had a court order that my ex had no problem disobeying. The visitation order changed drastically, going from every other week to 1 day per month!
Our communication was very similar to how we communicated during the marriage. Soon, we were just communicating through email, which soon turned into back and forth emails laced with accusations and teetering on the bully scale.
My anxiety kept me from taking him back to court.
I didn’t understand how to use my power. Honestly, I didn’t realize I had any power.
This type of behavior went on for two years. It was becoming exhausting and the stress was starting to take its toll on me. I felt like I always had to be on guard, ready to respond to an accusatory email, like I always had to defend my parenting skills.
Something finally clicked but at some point, I got tired of being scared.
I knew that what we were doing was not co-parenting. Co-parenting sounded like some type of cooperative, collaborative type of parenting. If we could not stand to be in the same room with each other, how on earth would we be able to parent the children?
I started researching and stumbled on something called parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is when one or both parents can disengage from each other and begin to parent the children independent of each other.
I like to say that parallel parenting is co-parenting’s red-headed, fraternal twin sister. It’s the style of co-parenting that no one really talks about or promotes. Many think it’s a selfish style parenting after divorce. For me, it’s been a relationship saver.
Parallel parenting has not only saved my relationship with my children but with my relationship with their father.
Here’s what I’ve learned in seven years of parallel parenting:
How to respond instead of reacting.
Prior to parallel parenting, I allowed my emotions to run wild! With every accusatory email I received, I would fire one right back. I noticed that when I responded with emotions, it would only fuel an emotional reply. Over time, though, I learned to communicate with just the facts. Who can argue facts?
How to have confidence in my parenting style.
No one is perfect (yes, not even your child’s father) no matter how many times they point out your imperfections. When people point the finger at others, this usually means they have neglected to take a self-reflective look at themselves. I find it much more satisfying to acknowledge my shortcomings and deal with them before anybody else throws them in my face. Grant it, this may not happen every single time. In those cases when someone else points the finger at me, I take a look at myself to determine if I am displaying what they have called out. At that point, I begin to pray about the issue.
How to live my own life.
A life that is not dictated by how the children’s father thinks it should be. I had to remember that my children’s father could no longer influence how I lived life.
No longer viewing my children’s father as “my ex”.
This was no longer his role. This may sound silly to some but an episode of Iyanla: Fix my Life clued me into why this was important. I realized that, by calling him my ex, I was trying to cross him out of my life. Of course, I could not do that because he is their father. I had to accept his role as my new normal.
How to let go and concentrate on what is going on in my house.
Parallel parenting allowed me to let go of trying to control what went on when the children were in their father’s care. It was exhausting trying to run two households! I accepted that their father is an adult and should have their best interest at heart.
Accepting that I cannot change people.
If you’ve ever tried to change something about yourself, then you can imagine how hard it would be to try changing someone else. I couldn’t change my children’s father while we were married, not sure why I thought I could do this after the divorce.
Not allowing my feelings to influence how the children feel towards their father.
Honestly, I have never wanted my children to feel negatively towards their father. I always felt that, as they grew, they would be able to determine how they viewed him as a father. It would not have been fair for me to point out every single thing their father was doing wrong. I would often put myself in their father’s shoes, wondering how I would feel if he pointed out my shortcomings to them. I didn’t want to look back and hear them say to him “well, mom said that you were lousy at…”. It’s so much better to give kids the opportunity to draw their own conclusions.
Seven years of parallel parenting hasn’t been easy but I value the lessons I’ve learned. These lessons have helped to shape me into the person I am today.
If you are trying to parent with your children’s father and want to learn more about parallel parenting, give me a shout and I can help you get started.
Tiffany Benyacko is an aspiring author and speaker, who lives in Georgia with her husband and tween daughter. Tiffany blogs at Unrehearsed, which is where she writes about parenting a prepubescent tween girl while parenting with an ex and, oh yeah, fighting the thoughts of pre-menopause that only exist in her head…for now.