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Opinion: 'My daughter is happy. My daughter has two homes.'

Co-parenting after the breakdown of a relationship can be difficult – but, with a little humility and cooperation, you can do the best for your child.

Kellie Kearney

THE TERM CO-PARENTING describes a parenting situation where parents of a child are not living together or in a romantic relationship with one another. It is when separated or divorced parents share a child.

At first, when Kayla’s dad and I broke up, I would probe her, hound her with a million questions. Where were you? Who were you with? How long where you there for? Who is she? Kayla was wobbling, she was barely talking when she became the victim of a bitter break up. I would confuse and often upset her until I got a detailed account of her entire weekend. This would often lead to bitter phone calls, ignorance and insults. I’m a stubborn cow. The change in routine, the new living arrangements and the lack of communications; it all had a negative effect on Kayla.

I felt that Kayla was too young to have the situation explained to her – but she was old enough to feel the tension and the bitterness. At the age of two she had already asked why I didn’t love her daddy. I didn’t have the answer. What do you say to a two year old? I would reassure her that both mammy and daddy loved her very much.

Then, when I had begun to accept Kayla would have two homes, I would feel sorry for her and her ‘broken’ family. I began to spoil her. I compensated her with sweets, treats and toys. This continued until my mother intervened and made me realise what I was doing. She didn’t need chocolate, pancakes or the latest, must-have toy. She needed her parents to communicate, to compromise and accept that she needed us to work together as a team.

Kayla’s dad and I have different personalities, routines, and unique styles of parenting. Even though we live minutes apart, we live completely separate lives. Every family’s system is different and it took me a long time to accept this. We didn’t always see eye to eye; there would be ongoing disputes. We were unreasonable and would refuse to negotiate. Conflict is a completely natural part of co-parenting. Parents need to negotiate and resolve their differences. We both loved her. We both wanted the best for her. It took us time to agree what the best was.

You need to put your child’s needs ahead of your own. I think this is why her dad and I began communicating, we began to compromise, we combined our different strengths, we began to negotiate and resolve.

Whether your child is two or 12, talk openly and honestly about separation. Encourage your child to express any feelings or concerns. Make co-parenting work for the sake of your child’s well-being.

I am no expert in co-parenting and I will never claim to be but I have learned so much in the past year: always be respectful when giving your point of view; communicate directly with the child’s other parent; never allow your child to be a messenger or to negotiate on your behalf; never undermine, criticise or argue in front of your child.

Ensure your child retains contact with the extended family. I receive six to seven phone calls a week from family wanting to take my daughter here, there and everywhere. It’s hard to please everyone, especially when your child has two families. You need to find a balance.

It has taken me over two years to understand and accept I am co-parenting. I have learned so much about myself on my journey, my strengths and weaknesses. I am not perfect and I can only learn from my mistakes. Co-parenting doesn’t work for everyone, but unless you try, unless both parents give it their heart and soul, it will never work.

My daughter is happy. My daughter has two homes.

Kellie Kearney writes an Irish parenting blog over at mylittlebabog.com, sharing the ups and downs of parenting as a stay-at-home mammy with her two children, Kayla and Frankie. She writes about what really happens behind closed doors… along with ‘how to’ crafts, sensory play activities, reviews and giveaways. You can visit her website or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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About the author:

Kellie Kearney

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