Modern Living: Co-parenting

Boundaries help. Recently, I told my child’s father that he cannot call or text me after 9pm. He cannot come to my mother’s house as-and-when he pleases, especially not while smelling of alcohol or cigarettes.

I am a proud mom to a beautiful 3-year-old and I am also a co-parenting partner. Shortly after finding out about my pregnancy, my son’s dad and I discovered that we do want to be in each other’s lives as lovers and yet, we were bound by the precious gift that is our son. There were several stages that required maturity in order to bring our sons needs ahead of our own.

No, my situation is not historically/typically correct according to society. People still give me looks of pity and amaze when I tell them that my son’s dad and I were never in-love and our friendship ended while I was still pregnant. As a result, my pregnancy was a horrible time for me, I did all that I could, in order to bring a healthy child into the world. I was 23 years old, freshly graduated and earning an intern salary. Between a dad that was unable to fulfil his duties to our child, my mom that was so disappointed in me she wasn’t able to speak to me and a church that thought I was a virgin cause I was a youth leader. It was a surprise pregnancy and most people would terminate.

Once the decision to keep the child is made, one must learn to forgive themselves. Acknowledge and account for my role in the demise of our friendship, forgive myself for it and move on to learning how to be a mother and co-parenting partner. I realised that forcing a relationship with him would make both of us unhappy. I can only be a good mom if I am a happy woman.

The third is to take responsibility of the things that you did and the things that you did not do. I remember quite early in my pregnancy, he asked me if I wanted to make things official between us and I told him that no, I am okay being friends at this point. That would hurt any man and that is the moment that lead him to look for better love. I remember how I used to disregard his views. I remember how I would tell anyone who would listen about his shortcomings. What did you think was going to happen? One must take responsibility and apologise.

The hardest part of co-parenting, I have found, is learning to create boundaries without jeopardising the relationship between child and parent. I fundamentally believed that my child must grow up knowing who his mother and father is, which may bring discomfort to me, my new lover, him and his new lover; but it must happen. The main concern we have as new mothers is that the fathers may fail at being dads, like they failed at being good partners. Yet, it is not our place to judge that component, our children must decide on whether we are good parents or not.

Yes, it is my responsibility to protect my child from harm and potential heartbreak from disappointment. When our child was born, there were meaningful contributions into the baby’s life however as time went, the efforts took a downward spiral. For example, at my son’s first birthday, his dad chose to go to a party and sent him a cake instead of physically being around. My worst fear is that if he continuously disappoints our child to the extent that the child disregards him as a dad. It will hurt when he starts saying things like, “No mom, I don’t think dad will come teach me soccer. He always says he will come but never does.” Or “Why doesn’t my dad love me? He never comes to see me?” as many of my friends have to answer to their
kids. I just pray that will not be the case with me. Well, we make mistakes, we are learning not only to be parents to our child for the first time, but also to be partners in this.

Boundaries help. Recently, I told my child’s father that he cannot call or text me after 9pm. He cannot come to my mother’s house as-and-when he pleases, especially not while smelling of alcohol or cigarettes. He must call my mom or the nanny and make prior arrangements, and keep to it. When his family wants to see the child, they are welcome and I sometimes take him there as well and I am respectful to his family. Simple things like this definitely make for smooth co-parenting. There must be boundaries when it comes to the topics we can or should not speak about. I really am no longer interested in his struggles,
successes or his deepest fears.

This whole journey is long, exhausting and tiresome. But I thank myself for leaving a particular situation that was going to break my spirit. I have a duty to my child to be a sane, beautiful and kind person. My son wants me to be happy. So you cannot stay in a futile relationship for the sake of a child. I am fortunate that I have been able to do these things before my son got very old. There are some co-parents that have kids as old as me and yet there is no peace. We are the only two people my son will ever call mom and dad; we have to get along at whatever level.

I pray for our son. I pray for his dad and hope he finds an amazing woman to be my son’s step mother and for me to not compromise until I find a man that is going to be an amazing step father to my son. I want my son to have half brothers and sisters. I want a huge blended family. My child to have two moms and two dads that love him.

Contributed by Anelile Gibixego (@anelieg_17)
Anelile is a feminist, mother of a 3-year old, scientist and an authoress. She tells stories about
black women, for black women. Visit her blog at anelileamantombazane.wordpress.com

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