When my daughter was 2 years and 3 months, our world was rocked. Her dad and I mutually decided to end our marriage. It was an incredibly hard decision, but the right one. Leading up to this decision, my biggest fear was how it would impact Lilah and how scary the thought of having to split time with her was. But the decision was made, and quite quickly, so we were left to figure it out as we went.
Luckily, our split was very respectful and amicable (obviously we are human and the beginning was rough emotionally). Our first month of separation we continued to live together and slept in different rooms. This was difficult, but also lead to a gentle transition for Lilah of having her dad move out. Once he moved out we didn’t have a set “visitation” schedule for him. The door was open whenever he could make it over to see her. During this time, he was coming over almost every day after work to be with her, and spend time with her up until bedtime. I would use this time to work, make dinner, clean the house, etc. and would still be present with them in some moments, so that she felt that we were still her team. I don’t have any secrets to how we made this work after such a recent split, but ultimately we both wanted what was best for her even if that meant being a little bit uncomfortable. After about a month of this, I realized that I was having a hard time grieving our relationship and beginning the process of healing because I was seeing him everyday. After a great conversation with my therapist, I decided that I needed to set some boundaries around how often Lilah’s dad was in our space. So, we set up a schedule. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I think he was coming over every other day and then would have her from wake up till bedtime one day of the weekend (I’d step in at bedtime and do the bedtime routine).
One of the biggest things for me was keeping things as normal as possible for her. I didn’t want her going to his new place, for two reasons. The first was that I wanted to keep her surroundings the same so that there wasn’t an added level of stress. The second was that he had roommates and I didn’t feel comfortable with her going there and being around people I hadn’t met.
This routine worked great for us. We maintained open communication and were both very open to changing the routine if one of us had an appointment or special plans. As I continued to heal from our split I started focussing on seeing him as my co-parent and NOT my ex. I realized that in order to best serve Lilah, I needed to see him as a teammate and feel like we were on the same team. While this wasn’t always easy, it really helped keep things respectful between us and it helped maintain our lines of communication. I’ll be very honest here and say that things weren’t beautiful and easy breezy at every moment. Past pain was still there, and issues that ultimately ended our marriage were still there, so there was a lot of navigating these big emotions/hurts while trying to keep a united front for Lilah. Therapy and time were my best healers for this. I also needed to learn what was a big deal to me and what I needed to let go of. Things like screen time, sugar, etc. became things that we needed to discuss in order to have firm boundaries around what we were OK with. Open communication was hard but necessary and lucky we were both willing to work at it for Lilah.
Today, a little over a year after our split, I feel like we are in such a nice groove. The schedule has changed. Bruno now does Tuesday morning through Wednesday evening. So, he’s doing bedtime and a sleepover with her. They continue to do this at my house, while I go to my parents house during their time together. I do work from my house on Tuesday so I’m in and out of their space during the day which I think is great for Lilah. She sees us interacting and gets time with both of us. Some mornings we will eat breakfast together other mornings we will go on a walk together. I think that these moments that she can spend with both of us are so important for her. She sees that we respect each other and she also doesn’t feel torn between us or like she needs to choose sides. I sometimes wonder how long it will feel sustainable to have to leave my space every week BUT for now, I know that it is what is best for Lilah and I try to see my night at my parents as a mini-vacation each week.
In terms of holidays- we spend them together. We had a joint get-together for her birthday so that we were both present. We spent Thanksgiving with my family (Bruno included). We spent Christmas Eve just the three of us and then Christmas day he came over to spend the day with all of us (Lilah, myself and my family). This was another big concern for me leading up to our split- I didn’t want Lilah to feel like she was flip flopping between homes on the holidays. I’m so glad that we are able to maintain respect and I’d venture to say we are even forming a friendship, which I’m so thankful for. When/if new partners are brought into the mix I will continue to prioritize keeping a united front for Lilah.
I feel very fortunate that Bruno and I are able to put our past behind us and really work together as co-parents for Lilah. I recognize and understand that this isn’t the case for all couples who split up. If you are trying to co-parent but having a hard time, I highly recommend checking out Jen Gallagher of Single Parenting Solutions for resources/coaching on how to navigate co-parenting in a way that supports your little one.