I am a single mother of two children, aged nine and five—who works a full-time, overnight job, who dates, has a social life, and also occasionally has time to read a book. My children are well cared for and want for nothing every hour of the day. How do I pull off this amazing feat? It’s quite simple: I’m best friends with my ex-husband.
We were married for almost ten years, and during that time, we learned how to communicate. Though we had differences we could not overcome and hurts that could not be healed, we knew how to put the most important thing first—the safety of our children. Our children never asked to be brought into the world with all its problems, and we figure the least we can do is shelter them from our own. My ex and I believe that it’s our responsibility to keep them as secure and safe as possible.
We have confused our families because there’s no animosity, boggled our friends because we live in the same house, and shocked co-workers because of how calmly we speak about our exes. But by amicably maintaining our relationship as parents, if not as husband and wife, our children remain relaxed. On most days, they’re all smiles.
I personally believe this was due to the slow nature of our parting. We both knew it was coming, but we kept it very quiet. First we moved our bedrooms. Over the course of years, we’d alternate spending more time with our parents or friends. The divorce was quiet—a sigh rather than an explosion. And even when we started seeing other people, it was gentle. Our children understood that we had friends, and that sometimes those friends would come over for dinner. Our children saw that everyone was calm, caring, and comfortable, mommy and daddy included.
Despite this, we still have a somewhat traditional setup for shared custody. We trade weekend responsibilities with the children. We share the cost of living and the responsibilities of school and other events. And of course, we make sure that we are on the same page in discipline, and that we never, ever badmouth each other in front of the children. It can be a challenging endeavor. Our daughter struggles through school. With me working, my husband has to step up to the plate and help with homework. Unfortunately, his job keeps him busy, and he sometimes forgets or doesn’t have time. Inevitably, her grades will start to slip. Instead of pointing fingers or placing blame, we had a long, frank discussion about our daughter’s needs and his ability to feasibly meet them. We finally agreed that I would have to find a way to help because it clearly wasn’t his forte. In turn, he helps more in other areas.
We are cognizant of the fact that, one day, we may need to move, particularly if we find someone new to share our lives with. By recognizing that this change will rock our worlds, especially our children’s, we have once more decided to ease them into it slowly. We talk about having two houses. We take our children on trips to places where I might move so that they can become accustomed to it. We’ve planted the seeds of new lives and adventures in their minds so that real change will be less of a shock.
We coordinate our schedules. We communicate our needs and wants, but we put those of our children first. In the end, we compromise so that everything works out as smoothly as it can.
I have never understood the animosity between some divorced couples who have children. While there are always extenuating circumstances, many divorces are simply the result of incompatibility or growing apart. I will always love the father of my children, in some special way. I loved him enough to create these two little lives with him, after all, and he feels the same. We owe it to our children to show them how mature adults should act, even when they are no longer married. Our lifestyle may be somewhat outside the norm, but it’s taught our children many important life lessons: discussion and communication are more important than being “right.” People can have many different relationships while still caring and respecting others. Partnerships come in all shapes and sizes, and parenting is no different.