When Co-Parenting Fails: The Reality

co-parenting failsThis is my story of when co-parenting fails. Two years after separating, it seems almost comical now how naive my initial expectations of co-parenting were. At the start I believed those advice pieces about the importance of creating a strong co-parenting relationship. I thought that the first time my son had a 40+ temperature his dad would want to know, even though we weren’t together. I was a scared first time mum. I might be a single parent, but surely I wasn’t a lone parent; I called him, he never responded. Then there was the time I thought he might help with the baby when I had a migraine so bad I could barely function. Wrong again.  I still agree with those pieces in theory. It’s just life can be very different in practice. The most crucial piece of missing information is that before co-parenting can work, a desire to parent is essential.

It took me a long time to realise that my ex wasn’t interested in parenting. It’s understandable – why would I assume that the man I once loved, a man who was so keen to have children, would not want to parent? It wasn’t in my realms of possibility. After separating, I redirected the energy I had been ploughing into my marriage, into the relationship between my ex and our son. Only recently have I realised this is not a battle I can win alone, no matter how much I want to.

The expectation is that I will put all my feelings to one side for my son; that I will ignore the hurt, the anger and the fear and invite him round for tea. And, here’s the thing – I will do that, I have done that. The problem is in the maths though; I’m only 50% of this co-parenting relationship, but I’m 100% of my son’s parenting.

I see many women women putting all their emotions on hold to allow the relationship between their child(ren) and their ex to grow. They try to reason with them, discuss ways forward, only to have it thrown back in their face. They plan regular visits to have their ex not show up with little no warning. They continue to allow their ex to visit even when they pay no, or very little child maintenance. They continue for one reason, and one reason only. Their child. 

I know this, because it’s what I have done and I’m not alone. I have done this not because my ex has the right to see his child – he gave up that a long time ago – but so that my child may know his heritage and understand his father – warts and all. I worry that having no connection with his father may create a yearning that can never be filled, I’m, trying to avoid that at all costs.

The advice seems to be somewhat contradictory for women like me. As a modern, independent woman, we should get out of these crappy (borderline) emotionally abusive relationships sooner. Yet, once we do, in the age of equality we should allow the modern man to be active fathers, we (note, not he) should ensure a positive co-parenting relationship with that very same man. This irony is not lost on me. If my ex could not prioritise our son when we were in a relationship, why would he do it now? All my feelings of being let down have been transferred; now I feel the disappointment on behalf of my son instead of me. It has taken me years, literally, to see this.

I have tried so hard to encourage the relationship that I now worry I am trying too hard; does the fear of my son growing up with no father mean I accept anything, much like I did towards the end of my marriage? My ex threatens to cut contact if I apply for child maintenance; he threatens to tell my son I’m the one who stopped them having a relationship. I fear my son will blame me; I fear it will be my fault. This fear gives him control over me. Control that no-one else can see. Yet how can it be my fault that someone else doesn’t fulfil his duty; a duty which to me is the core of my life? I am starting to break away from this control. As I slowly piece myself back together I am taking the right decision, no matter how difficult. I recently put in a claim for child maintenance in the knowledge that if my ex choses not to see his son and suggests it’s because of this, there will, in reality be only one person to blame, and it won’t be me.

I am not sharing my experiences to level criticism at those who have chosen to end contact between their children and the father, rather the exact opposite. I want people to realise that sometimes those ‘ten-tips to great co-parenting’ articles are more than we can stomach. Those judgments that we mums are denying father’s their natural born rights, are – nine times out of ten – wrong. Like many women, I have busted a gut to enable my ex to have a relationship with his son, giving him chance and chance again. But the reality is, that’s not my job. It’s a hard and thankless task that would be near impossible even with a man you had no history with. When you add in the emotions of a divorce or separation, the expectations levied on us call for a super-human approach. Which, I hasten to add, many of us have, but it doesn’t mean that it will work.

For now, my ex has some (irregular) minimal contact with his son – in my home, with a family member present. I don’t know one week to the next if he will come or not – his interest is beyond erratic. I continue to live in the hope that by keeping the path open, one day his father will find his way back to him. Until then, I will no longer allow my ex the opportunity to destroy the atmosphere in my home, or to use his visits as a method of control.

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
One Messy Mama

18 comments on “When Co-Parenting Fails: The Reality

  1. I’m helping someone very dear to me go through this and my heart truly goes out to you. She has suffered similar behaviour to you and her health visitor (yep, she was expecting when he upped and left) has told her what he is doing is financial and emotional abuse… that’s exactly what you’re experiencing now. In my mind, if you’re not prepared to fulfil your responsibilities as a dad, you’re don’t deserve any of your rights either.


    • Thanks Sarah. Really sorry your friend is experiencing this too. If she ever wants to contact me I’m happy to try and be an understanding ear x

  2. It is scary how common this is. I have a family member who went through this when her little boy was younger and in the end contact stopped altogether (Dad’s choice). The little boy is now older and knows who had his best interests at heart and that certainly wasn’t his dad. He now has a fab step-dad and the only person losing out is his Dad.

    • Thanks for commenting Tee and it’s nice to hear about your family story where it’s all turned out well in the end. x

  3. This is actually so, so dreadfully common and well done on taking control and writing this article. It can’t have been easy to write this and it’s given me a lump in my throat from bitter experience.

    My parents separated when i was 3 and my brother was 18 months. Our real father saw us intermittently when we were growing up and we never knew if/when he’d turn up. We were always disappointed and I now feel for my poor mother who’s heart must have been breaking for us every time. Yet she never said anything to us about the lack of visitation, maintenance or anything like that. It was only when I got to about 14 and he wanted to see us for Christmas and it was ME who said I didn’t want to see him. I haven’t seen him since. I later discovered that he didn’t pay maintenance when we applied to be adopted by our stepdad not long after this incident. It turns out, one of the ‘conditions’ of him signing us over for adoption were for us not to claim the unpaid maintenance over the years. This spoke volumes. As did the fact that my mother never once said anything bad about him. She didn’t have to. We saw his true colours for ourselves. I feel for you and I feel for your son as you’re the ones that are suffering from this man’s selfish behaviour.

    Hang on in there. Be the amazing mum you are. And one day, it may be years down the line from now, your son will know who his father truly is. He’ll just know. #globalblogging

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so sorry you and your brother and mum went through that. Although it’s really lovely to hear you were adopted by your stepdad. Thanks for the kind words, I hope you’re right. Part of me knows you are as I really am trying to do the best by my son and never insult his father etc. But I also worry that he may have a teenage period where he blames me. xx

  4. I can’t imagine what it is like to go through such an experience but could imagine all the problems but all you can do is work with it X #kcacols

  5. You are one incredibly brave and strong mother! You know what is right for you and your son! Good on you for standing your ground! Your son will (and probably is, even at his young age)be proud of you! Thank you for sharing! #globalblogging

  6. You have done the right thing! Completely agree with you on all fronts, I have been in a similar situation except I was the child. I always knew my dad was in the wrong, so don’t ever think that your ex can blame you, your son knows better : ). Honestly I think in this situation it’s probably best to listen to your son and do (with caution) what he asks, if he wants to see his dad I would let him (under supervision, depending how bad it is) because in the end he’ll just remember being either disappointed that his dad didn’t show up or angry at you for not letting him see his dad. But who knows! Every situation is different, I only know what I have been through. Sorry I think I am rambling now, I think you are an amazing mom and you have made the right decision, your ex should be supporting you (whether or not he likes it)! Thanks for sharing with #GlobalBlogging linky!

    • Thanks so much for the comment. It’s really good to hear from the perspective of people who experienced it as a child. I’m sorry you had that experience too 🙁 My son is still so little it’s hard to know what he wants but yes I think you’re right in general it’s good to involve him. Thanks x

  7. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. Both of my sisters have gone through this with both of their eldest daughters dads. There is no contact no despite them trying to make them build a relationship. I count myself very lucky I have completely the opposite relationship my my daughters dad. I do not take for granted our coparenting set up for one minute.

    As a child of a dad who done similar things to your sons dad, I can tell you that you will be enough and your son will know the truth when he grows up regardless of what your ex says.

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    • Thanks for your kind words. Sorry to hear your sister’s children have gone through similar. It’s so sad isn’t it. I hope they are all doing well. x

  8. Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that! It is really sad. It must be so tiring to try so hard to make this work! My sister also has something similar. Her ex never ever contributed anything. No funds at all! He appears once and then. He is useless, to be honest! My poor sister has raised my niece on her own since she was 2 years old. My niece is now 14 soon to be 15 and she is a gorgeous girl despite having no father around. My sister tried very hard to not talk bad about her father in front of her as she thought it was the best thing to do. Now that my niece is older, she understands everything and of course is very sad but life goes on. It is hard but I’m sure you will manage because women are very strong and can manage everything! No need of useless men! Only loving, hard work and caring ones are welcome! 😉 I wish you all the best! Thanks so much for sharing your story at #KCACOLS. It is lovely to have you, xx

    • Arh thanks Franca. Very true – only the kind ones need apply! Sorry your sister and niece have experienced similar but good to know that she’s turned out good 🙂 x

  9. You sound very strong. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this, but thank you for writing so honestly. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday x

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