Throughout my journey into step-motherhood, very little has remained constant. Everything is consistently changing. From parenting schedules, to animosities (or lack thereof) our lives are constantly evolving. And from what I've read, that's pretty normal. It's how you adapt your mindset and shape your family around those changes and difficulties that's most important.
I've read more books on co-parenting and successfully blending than I can count. Each covering a million and one scenarios and topics. They explain just how you can be happy in adapting to your new life, as if some sort of infomercial shouting "A successful blending guaranteed!" But I can help you by cutting to the chase. The one recurring theme in all of these books is the simplest thing: Do what works for YOUR family.
But what if what works for your family goes against the grain? What if it's contradictory to every piece of advice that's been thrown your way? The answer: You do it anyways.
Or at least that's what we've done. Michael and I have made a tough decision as of late. It goes against everything we've heard in post-divorce parenting advice, but we're doing it anyways. We're parallel parenting with Michael's ex.
What's that you ask? Parallel parenting is co-parenting's antonymous helper; co-parenting minus the 'co'. It's a way of parenting that involves disengaging from your ex and re-engaging in your household and your child. Parallel parenting allows you to collectively co-parent through individual parenting. It means limited direct communication, set boundaries, structure, and specificity. In other words: You do you.
Through parallel parenting you can reduce the stress and tension involved in communications, and day to day decision making. Each parent’s household functions independently; each parent is responsible for making minor daily decisions about the child during the time that the child is in that parent’s household. Parenting plans/schedules are decided on in advance and followed to the tee. Any deviations are requested ahead of time. The need for contact between parents slowly dwindles due to the structure in schedule, and communication can generally cease with the exception of urgent matters and atypical changes.
It's a solution to a problem, and traditionally not an ideal first choice in parenting's grand scheme. It serves as a balanced standard for parenting when two households:
- Cannot communicate effectively
- Have vastly different parenting styles
- Are highly reactive to each other
- Are on different pages when it comes to matters concerning children
- Have trouble getting along, or
- Feel uncomfortable in each other's presence
It was a difficult decision for us, and not a decision we'd hoped we'd ever have to make. We wanted to be THAT family. You know, the one on that Facebook post you see; two households joined together on the sofa for _________ event/holiday. But after many arguments over parenting issues, and unresolved conflicts, we realized our households just aren't there yet. Our hopes are that we can eventually bridge the gap and become THAT family, but to get there we first need to go out separate ways! For now, parallel parenting will give us the opportunity to focus on our household, and give Ry the tension free environment he deserves!
Accepting that you aren't THAT family is hard. Like really hard. Michael and I sat down and had a conversation one day about his co-parenting situation. He couldn't understand why none of his attempts to co-parent were successful. Every request for compromise met by an argument, or even worse- just ignored. I had to remind him, there's a REASON his relationship ended prematurely. To end a relationship means that in some way or another, you and your ex don't align. It's a lot to expect someone who couldn't align with you during a relationship, to do so post relationship. And while I do wish positive cooperative parenting could be the standard of parenting universally post separation, the reality is, it can't be for everyone. Biting the bullet and making the decision to parallel parent certainly isn't the dream, but if the alternative is living engulfed in frustrations and living a life that doesn't suit your family, it's a choice I'd make time and time again! We're not THOSE people, but we ARE the kind of people who will do whatever it takes to make sure our children will grow up in a happy and healthy family environment. We're living and learning, and most of all- adapting to our situation. And regaining our sanity along the way!
Our decision to take a parallel approach didn't come easy, and if you're considering the same I suggest asking yourself the following questions :
- Are you looking for some solace from your current co-parenting arrangement?
- Have you tried to effectively co-parent to the best of your ability?
- Are you willing to take a step back when it comes to the daily decisions made in your child's second home?
- Is limited direct contact between yourself and your child's other parent something you and/or your family could benefit from?
- Do you have the ability to maintain a cordial, business-like relationship with your child's parent?
- Can you abide diligently to a set parenting schedule?
If your answers to the above questions are yes, parallel parenting my just be a good fit for you. I urge you to sit down and think of your options, and what works best for your family.
If you're already a fellow parallel parent, I'd love to hear your experiences and connect! What effect has parallel parenting had on you and your family? Feel free to reach out to me in the comments section below! I'm all ears!