How to co-parent (when you don't even want to co-exist)

Elizabeth Anile-90.jpg

If you came here looking for a step-by-step guide, I'm going to stop you right there.

Truth is, I've got no idea. And i'm not sure I ever will. Is there a manual on how to co-parent when one side has completely annihilated the other side's heart? How long does it take to achieve civility? When will I stop scrutinising every minute of the final 6 months of our relationship, accept it is what it is, and move on? Because until I can learn to do that, I don't know how to co-parent for the sake of my beautiful little boy. It hurts too much. If I had my way, I wouldn't even co-exist with this person. But the truth of the matter is, whether I like it or not, he is going to be in my life for years and years to come. And I just have to dig deep, grit my teeth, and manage it. Somehow.

It's been three weeks since he left. 504 hours. 30240 minutes. And during that time, no two seconds have been the same. From charged up anger, frantically texting through abuse, to depressive lows consumed with sadness, contemplating how I can move forward and fall in love again when I've been burnt so badly, to grieving someone I loved more than anything, to every now and then, accepting this was my fate.

Interspersed through the manic highs and lows is the knowledge that we have to learn to co-parent. 

This is what I've come up with so far:
- Oliver deserves to have his father in his life. That's a fact.
- I have to learn to accept that their relationship exists separately to me now. I am no longer part of that trio, our three lives are no longer intertwined (this point kills me)
- Oliver has the right to make his own memories of his father, not to be clouded by my thoughts and feelings
- contact is too difficult right now, stop responding to his texts and forward any necessary correspondence through a third party
- minimise face-to-face contact, there's no point putting myself through that gut-wrenching feeling of wanting to vomit/run/cry when I hear his knock on the door
- put an end to him demanding to see Oliver whenever he wanted... it was too emotionally traumatising for me
- lock in regular access visits.
- TRY and continue with life as normal... which sounds kind of ridiculous now this thought is typed out. But what I mean is we WILL still hold his Christening in 2 weeks time. Oliver deserves it. I WILL make sure his first birthday is full of so much love from both of his parents, and all of our friends and family on both sides.
- never shut out his family and friends, they have done nothing wrong. They deserve to be in Oliver's life, and they always will be, in whatever capacity they choose
- instead of resenting the moments he gets to share with Oliver, use the alone time as an opportunity to do something for myself
- regular appointments with a therapist; my circle of friends have been incredible - but there's only so much they can take before staging an intervention

In a perfect world, I'd follow my own guidelines, greet him with a smile and hand Ollie over with ease. Oh, and look super hot and skinny thanks to my heartbreak diet of skipping breakfast, a piece of chocolate for lunch, and whatever I can muster in the fridge for dinner. 

There are days I’ll feel strong enough to be everything I’ve imagined, and others where the sight of him standing in our house holding our child makes me want to vomit.

Anyone who has walked this rocky single mum road will know that no two days are the same. However, this is a distinct familiarity that binds them together, making it difficult to decipher whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday, or recall what you had for breakfast the morning before.

Immediately upon waking, there’s the suffocating realisation you weren’t dreaming. This really is happening. He really has gone. You really are alone.

And this crushing tonne of bricks hits you every. single. morning.

This is followed by anxiety brewing deep in the pit of my stomach. I have to get up and do everything alone. I have no one to help me. Oliver needs me. He is crying. He wants to get up. I am all he has. We only have each other. Am I going to let him down? Am I doing a good enough job? What if I fail? 

After a bottle and a play in bed, we head to the living area where he crawls around and I sit numb on the end of the couch for a good 45 minutes. Replaying conversations, overthinking the last six months, analysing every time we were apart/phone calls he made when I was out of the room/who he told me he was with on certain nights. It’s crushing. Especially when you pick up on something you’d missed before and the glaring truth smacks you in the face. 

“I can’t keep doing this to myself” I think as Oliver screams at me, his puzzled face wondering why mum is sitting in a comatose state staring at nothing in particular… and where the hell his weetbix and banana is.

Its his need to eat, sleep and feel love keeping me going. I am pouring every last ounce of energy I have into him. So much so, I have nothing left over for myself. Most mornings I don’t eat (I used to LOVE breakfast) as I can’t be bothered whipping together a smoothie. I cancel my F45 class. I don’t care to be fit and healthy today. The dog needs a walk, but I look at her and apologise. Nothing can motivate me to walk out the front door. And once Ollie is down for his morning nap, I curl into a ball on the couch and wonder how I’ll make it through the day.

It’s debilitating. It’s boring. It’s mind-numbing. But it’s my new routine. And in amongst the fog, twice a week, its his access day. He drops in like a bomb. Destroying everything in his wake. And scoops away our son. 

Here’s hoping it falls on a day I find the strength to abide by my own guidelines. 

Oh, and look really hot.