MamaSpeak: Can You Be a Co-Parent if You’re not Co-Parenting?

February 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak, Spotlight

MamaSpeak

I can’t count the number of times a frustrated parent has lamented to me, “You can’t be a co-parent, if the other parent won’t.”  Yeah.  I feel you.  And, really, I get it.  It’s a reasonable perspective.

But, it’s only one perspective.

There’s another that asserts that who you are and what you do doesn’t have to be contingent upon what anyone else is doing or being.

Yeah, maybe I can’t actively co-parent (the verb) without someone with whom to do it.  But, does that mean I can’t be a co-parent (the noun)…just without a partner?  Call me crazy, but I think it’s possible.  (Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?)

It’s all about who you say you are; What you’re committed to; who you’re willing to be for the sake of your children…and your integrity.

See, for me, a co-parenting is kind of like a religion…and I strive to be a faithful follower…a devoted co-parent.  It frames how I choose to be in this world, in my relationship with my child’s other parent.  It isn’t relative, my sense of myself as a co-parent, because I stand committed to it regardless.

There are many times when I fall short.  I’m no co-parenting saint.  In fact, I admit to being a backslider.  But, there is a force larger than me, greater than any co-parenting sin I might commit—my love for my child—that gives me the strength to forgive my transgressions, to stand and step forward again believing that the journey will be worth it in the end.

When my son’s father fails to follow one or all of the Co-Parenting Commandments, it doesn’t change the fact that I have chosen to be a believer and to adhere to the tenets of my faith.  It does not mean that it is acceptable for me to treat him as anything less than a parent of my child; one who is human, and fallible, perhaps even a non-believer…and who despite it all, is loved steadfastly and unconditionally by our child.

See, for me, co-parenting is all about what I believe in, what I choose to be committed to, what I will stand for even in the face of apparent impossibility.  And defining myself as a co-parent is all about who I choose to be.  It’s a state of mind; a way of thinking about myself and my child’s father that guides me in being the best parent I can be for our son–independently of what his father may or may not be doing or being in any given moment.

It’s also a commitment.  A beacon of light that illuminates the steps to take along a sometimes treacherous path.  A lighthouse that stands unmoved by the ebbs and flows of my co-parenting relationship, pulling me back on course when I have lost my way.

Sure, I have crises of faith.  Welcome to the human condition.  Whether it’s faith a higher power, in ourselves, or in humanity, doubt will creep into the cracks, leading us to wonder if it’s really worth it, if our faith-guided actions really make a difference, if what we believe in really even exists.

And, the truth is, we don’t really know.  We have no guarantees.

The skeptics may be right.

Still, I remain a faithful, committed co-parent.  Amen.

MamaSpeak: Ending My Maternal Martyrdom

May 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak

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Perhaps I learned it from my mother, or maybe it’s just how we’re socialized—which allows me to not blame my mother. Either way, being a Mommy martyr in my co-parenting relationship came pretty naturally to me. It was such an integral part of how I knew to be that I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

It looked a little like this:

I plan all of our child’s activities, because I am the better planner. You let me, because I am the better planner. Then, I start to feel overwhelmed and resentful about your lack of contribution and dumping all of the responsibility on me. But, you’d just screw it up anyway, so what choice do I have other than to just do it…for the sake of our child?

And, to compound it all, everyone knows that if anything is going to get scheduled, planned, coordinated, organized or sorted out, that I’m the one to contact, so they don’t even have your cell phone number. They call me. And, you let them. Then, I start to feel overwhelmed and resentful that no one calls you; they only call me. But, you’d just screw it up, anyway, so what choice do I have other than to just do it…for the sake of our child? Woe. Is. Me.

You get the picture. The result? I continued to be overwhelmed, exhausted, resentful and alone. He got to feel useless, unconfident as a parent and disconnected. And, none of that was what we wanted.

But, here’s what I had to get before I could change any of that for myself. Buried deep beneath my need to make sure everything was handled perfectly was a deeper need to feel like a great mother. And, hidden deeper still was a nagging suspicion that I actually wasn’t a good enough mother. By clearly establishing myself as the better parent, though, I could get something that resembled reassurance; temporarily anyway, until the next doubt seeped into the cracks of my parenting confidence.

See, by relegating my son’s father to the non-planning parent, the not-as-good-as parent, the parent you love to hate…I was only creating more overwhelm for myself—unnecessarily. At the same time, I was getting an emotional payoff that apparently seemed worth it at the time. In reality, it wasn’t.

I didn’t have to feel like I was doing it alone. And, in fact, I wasn’t. Making the shift wasn’t/isn’t easy. It has required opening up the box and letting him expand a little…maybe even shine now and then. It has demanded that I accept that things may not get done the way or even in the same timeframe in which I would do them. It has taken a little faith, a dose of forgiveness and a whole lot of humility.

Fast forward, and I’ve relinquished a few responsibilities and continue to hand more over. I have found that when I don’t try to do everything, some things still actually get done. Piano homework gets done, birthday gifts get purchased, and the little guy gets picked up from school (late, but he gets picked up!). On top of that, I get to build a life beyond my household, get to remember what it feels like to be a whole human being again.

And, we both get to be great parents…which is what we both really want and our son really needs.

Does anybody feel me on this?  How are you martyring yourself unnecessarily?

MamaSpeak: This Game of Co-Parenting…Are You Playing to Win?

January 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak

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Doesn’t it suck when you think you’re winning a game only to find out halfway through it that you’ve been playing the wrong game? For thirty minutes, you and your partner, affectionately known as “Them”, have taken some serious risks, so you wouldn’t underbid and lose points for winning too many books. And, you’ve done it masterfully, talking high quality junk all the while. Confident, cocky even, in your mastery of the game and ability to diminish your opponents, “Us,” both on the table and verbally. It’s the fourth hand, and you and your partner start smirking at each other from opposite sides of the card table, because these fools, “Us”, went board and then took twice as many books. You start clowning, talking loud, because they’re about to be down another 80 points for sandbagging. But…What? Oh. Hell. No.

House rules…We don’t play that way. Wrong game, Baby!

Yes, that smooth, culturally relevant metaphor is all about co-parenting. The fact is, too often, we go along thinking we’re winning, only to find out we’ve got the rules wrong, or worse, we’re playing the wrong game altogether. We’re bidding our hands, but winning the game actually requires a little sandbagging. We’re playing Joker’s high, but really deuces win. We think spades are trump, but they keep changing it. Oh snap, we’re playing Spades and the game is Tonk! Damn.

And, of course, the problem is that the way you score points, how you win, how you play, everything changes depending on the game. Co-parenting is the same way. Too often, we find ourselves playing the “Better Parent” game. We rack up points, playing full out, in areas like:

  • Who’s spending more time on our child?
  • Who’ spending more money on our child?
  • Who “knows” our child best? Who knows more about what goes on in his/her life? Mind? Heart?
  • Who does our child prefer or even love more?
  • Who cares more?
  • Who’s the better parent?

But, guess what? Wrong game, Baby! In this house, we play the “Happy, Healthy, Whole Child” game. Here, you score points in categories like:

  • How loved does my child feel?
  • How whole does my child feel?
  • How safe and secure does my child feel?
  • How successful does my child feel?
  • How confident is my child in his ability to deal with difficult challenges?
  • How happy is my child?

Winning requires strategies and skills like teamwork, effective conflict management, high quality listening, meeting in the middle, focusing on solutions, and yes, do-or-die commitement. Talking across the board is allowed, if it’s respectful, and everybody knows the house rules up front. And, hell, if you’re winning and want to talk junk…we honor bragging rights. Because, where we live, in our house, “Us” and “Them” become “We” and, we play this co-parenting game to win. Our kids deserve nothing less.

So, in your next quiet moment of reflection or while you’re in the throes of an argument with your child’s other parent, stop for a minute and ask yourself what game you’re playing. And, if it’s the wrong one, change it up…and play to win!

MamaSpeak: Meeting the Challenge–What I’m Thankful For…

November 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak

Thank YouI was going to make this week’s post all about being thankful for your co-parent. But, my friend, Deesha, of Co-Parenting101.org did it for me in a wonderful post “What I’m Thankful for:  a Co-Parent’s Challenge,” on SingleDad.com. After confessing her own appreciation for her ex, Mike, and his wife, Sherry, Deesha issues what for many of us may truly be a challenge:

At this time of year, even folks with the hardest of hearts and the biggest axes to grind might pause to reflect on their loved ones with gratitude, however grudgingly. We can probably all think of at least one family (if it’s not our own) where hatchets are buried, even if only temporarily, as the carving knife slices into the Thanksgiving turkey. Thanksgiving is also a time where many, if not most, children of divorce, like mine, are spending it with one parent, and not the other. So this Thanksgiving, I’m encouraging all co-parents who are observing Thanksgiving with their children to consider giving thanks, publicly, for their child’s other parent. Yes, I said it: Give thanks for your ex.

I try to thank my son’s father directly on a regular basis, because it makes me feel good and makes him act right. Kidding, of course…sort of.  But, I do think that expressing our appreciation to our co-parents does help us see that “they ain’t all bad” and reassures them that whatever effort they may be making is being noticed.

So, I’m taking Deesha up on her challenge, and I hope you will, too.

I am thankful for my son’s father and my co-parent, because:

  • He not only shared in creating my child, who is my greatest love and inspiration, he stood by me through the entire pregnancy and hasn’t stopped being my partner in parenting since, even when things got tricky.
  • He continues to demonstrate that he is not only capable of growth, he is patient with me in my own journey.
  • He cares for our child in a way that lets me feel secure in knowing that he is safe and healthy when he is with his father.
  • He never speaks unkindly about me to our son, even when he may have wanted to, and he consistently instills a respect for me in our son.
  • He lets me be right most of the time.
  • Despite his very private nature and initial reluctance to have our business exposed through my blogging, he agreed to do an interview with me to share his thoughts about our co-parenting relationship.
  • He is determined and inspiring in his creative and entrepreneurial pursuits.
  • He is my friend and partner in a way I could never have predicted.

And, with that, I say, “Thank you, Ed!”

And, to my WeParent Family, for all you do for your families;  for your commitment to taking the journey, whatever it may look like for you; and for being a constant source of support for that of me and mine…

Thank You!

MamaSpeak: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned about Co-Parenting

October 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak

tmbonisi

Sometimes, it’s valuable and enlightening to take stock of where we’ve been, how far we’ve come and what we’ve learned along the way.  I did a little stock taking recently and thought I’d share these lessons I’ve learned along this co-parenting journey.  I look forward to hearing yours.

10 Lessons I’ve Learned about Co-Parenting

  • Being right doesn’t always equal winning. Sometimes our co-parenting relationship is better served by just listening and hearing my son’s father’s perspective and keeping my opinion to myself. There are times when each of us just needs to be heard.
  • Saying, “I’m sorry,” doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Acknowledging my mistakes sometimes goes a long way, because it gives both of us permission to be human every once in a while and it has allowed us both to let our defenses down a little.
  • I don’t know everything. Once I finally started listening to my son’s father like what he said might actually matter, I found out that he has a little insight into this parenting thing.
  • There is more than one way to do just about everything. And, it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll choose any way but the one I suggest. But, letting go of “my way or no way” leaves a lot more opportunities for it to just get done.
  • Sharing information makes life easier for everyone. Making sure that our son’s teachers, piano instructor and soccer coach have both of our email addresses and phone numbers allows us to share responsibility in managing our son’s schedule. Then, all the work doesn’t fall solely on me.
  • There’s usually a win-WIN-win solution, if we just look for it. Focusing on the solution and not just the problem is sometimes all that it takes. Of course, that usually requires being patient enough and listening intently enough to understand everyone’s concerns then putting our child at the center. It takes practice, but it’s possible.
  • There is power in having even the appearance of a united front. Whether it’s disciplining our child or advocating for him at school, when we stand together (even if we’re faking it in that moment), we stand stronger and provide a more solid support for our son.
  • Flexibility is a virtue. Pretty much nothing in life goes exactly according to plan. Parenting and co-parenting are no exceptions. Being flexible within boundaries makes for smoother sailing, and it can score you some credit for when you need the favor returned.
  • My power lies in my ability to choose how I will respond. I may not be able to control what my son’s father will do, but I can control how I respond. When I’m running my life instead of the drama running it, I am happier, more peaceful and a much better parent.
  • It’s all a work in progress. Even when it feels like nothing will ever change, there is always possibility. Building a strong co-parenting relationship is a process. I now look for progress, not perfection.

What lessons have you learned?

Battling Over Bitty Briefs…Ah, Co-Parenting

September 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak

underpantsI remember the bad old days of kid-exchanges in friendly locations like the Waffle House parking lot. We’d start off with cordial greetings, but before long, we’d find our way into the downward spiraling discussion of what clothes I had packed. I often felt attacked, because what I had packed either didn’t meet his metro-Dad standards, or I’d forgotten some important item…like drawers.

The feelings I experienced in these situations were no different than the feelings I was having about the entire relationship. I felt like I was carrying more of the responsibility for caring for our child materially than I should have to. I felt unappreciated given that I was the one providing the clothes, caring for our child most of the time and then being expected to remember every little thing. I felt burdened by his apparent dependence on me. I felt pissed, because I rarely got all the gear back. And, I felt powerless to make him do anything differently including stopping by WalMart to buy a $10 shorts set or pack of socks. So, yes, we would argue about bitty briefs right there in the Waffle House parking lot.

Despite hating this frustrating and petty drama, still, for a long time, I would continue to pack the clothes and then complain about it to him and anyone else who would listen. And, subversively, I admit, I would purposely neglect to pack the tighty whities– which inevitably would lead to the very Waffle House incidents I claimed I wanted to avoid.

Then, after a good bit of self-reflection, I realized something mind-shattering and central to the changes I started to make in my response to this problem: My son’s father absolutely loooooves our son, and he will not allow our child to go hungry, naked or homeless. Somehow, he will make a way.

And, with that, I began the process of firing myself his self-appointed manager and started creating some boundaries around what I would be responsible for and what I wouldn’t.

Over time, I stopped sending clothes. When he would argue, I would calmly explain (while focusing on keeping my smile genuine and not taunting): “I can’t run my household smoothly without clothes. So, to make sure that I’m able to take good care of our child while he’s with me, I’m going to need to keep the clothing I’ve purchased here. And, I know you’re a great father and that you’ll make sure he’s taken care of at your house, too. It will make it easier for him knowing that he has the clothes he needs and likes at both places, and neither of us will have to worry about where things are.”

That was it.

At first he was pissed. I imagine it seemed that I was making some sort of power play. But, I remained consistent and soon after, our son had a brand new wardrobe courtesy of Daddy. Every once in a while, he would still ask me to send something over, and I did. It wasn’t always smooth, mostly because I would accuse him of holding a soccer uniform hostage only to find out that it was actually still in my hamper…but I’ll let him write that post.

Eventually, after some practicing, we’ve come to a point where the only clothes either of us sends to the other’s house are the ones on our child’s back. We have agreed upon a budget for this Fall/Winter clothing and plan to make that trip together taking great care to send an equal number of little boy briefs to each home. I can only imagine how our son suffered in those Waffle House parking lots (He now prefers to eat at IHOP) and what a difference our willingness to fight for a win-win-win solution has made in his life. It has certainly improved mine.

I want to tell you that there’s no guarantee that your child’s parent will grow into the parenting partner you want if you just focus on what you can do and make peace with what and whom you can’t control . But, I also want to tell you that it is so possible. I have experienced it in my own life, and I have witnessed transformation in relationships significantly more shattered than my own.

For me, the key was getting myself out of feeling victimized and stepping into my power where I could make choices and establish boundaries that left me standing without tearing down my son’s father. In that place, I find peace, even when we have conflict. That peace allows me to be a better partner, which invites him to do the same. And, most of the time, he accepts.

Co-Parenting Conflict is a Chronic Condition

September 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak

Ethnic Young Woman Has a HeadacheWhen I first started on this WeParent journey, long before the site ever launched, I thought that effective co-parenting meant that there was never any drama, that through hard work, self-development, lots of prayer and meditation, you could transcend all that. I guess it was my version of the two-household white picket-fence fantasy.

And, so, I embarked on a long, enlightening quest for my best self, the one who would be the uber-parenting partner; the co-parenting supershero who could rise above the petty and not so petty to emerge ever peaceful, understanding and yet powerful. All the helplessness, victiminess, frustration, anger and resignation would all be behind me. I was taking this mission seriously.

And, I was setting myself up for failure and a whole lot of tears, because every time something came up that thwarted my pretty picture of co-parenting bliss, I found myself in the exact place I was trying to escape in the first place. My desire to transcend conflict, i.e., never experience it just wasn’t realistic.

Thus began the new quest to just minimize it, contain it, manage it and get over it as quickly as possible for the sake of my child and my own well being. Thank goodness, because just a couple weeks ago, my newfound super powers were tested.

My son’s father and I have come a long way in our partnership. Just how far was clear to me at our most recent planning meeting to finalize our son’s schedule for the year. It was a great meeting! I felt fully immersed in the very vision I had crafted of what a perfect meeting would feel like. We were making decisions together. We were discussing rather than arguing when we disagreed. He was actually looking at a calendar and using the online tool I’d been begging him to use for years. We were both on the same page, fully committed. It was all good. We had overcome!

But, just a week later, he called, frustrated and suggesting that we consider changing the schedule. The one he was proposing would involve more switches for our son and less extended parenting time for each of us. As soon as he even broached the subject of changing a schedule we just pinky-swore on and communicated to our son days earlier, a visceral response overtook my body. Seriously. I wanted to cry. Every story I had told myself about him being uncommitted to this process and being undependable and being immature…all those stories came back from the archives where I had put them to rest in exchange for stories about his being a loving father, an engaged parent and a steady partner. And, I wanted to fight. I wanted to prove my point, to make him see how wrong he was, what a bad parent he was. All of that was in me. And, in the tension we created in those few minutes, it was clearly there for him, too.

But, we have come too far to go all the way back there. It has taken too much. We both prefer the partner that we’ve found to the more-difficult-to-deal with caricatures we were parenting with before.

So, we acknowledged that we should resume the conversation later. And, during that brief time of retreat to our own corners, we each got to choose who we were going to be in this relationship. We chose partners. That meant that instead of dismissing his proposal, I committed to staying open to revisiting the schedule and not making him wrong for having an opinion different than my own. And, for him, it meant standing by the decision we made together long enough to effectively assess how it was working, not just for himself, but most important, for our son.

Based upon the last several check-ins, everyone is really happy with the schedule. But that isn’t the point. The moral of this story is that as we allow the conflict in our co-parenting relationships to guide us in growing ourselves, we may find that the conflict lessens. But, it doesn’t go away. It really is a chronic condition. If you chose to walk this journey, that’s part of the deal.

So, our mission is to get better at managing it and to deny it permission to run our families and our lives. In every moment of every conflict, each of us has a choice about who we will be, how we will respond and what really matters to us.

Being right about the schedule didn’t matter as much as knowing that my son’s father and I could have a conversation that would result in the best outcome for our child.

So, your turn…When have you found yourself in conflict with your child’s other parent and what choice did you make?

Can a Father Get a Little Positive Reinforcement?

June 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak

Like many of you, I often have my list of complaints about my son’s father.  But, the truth is, he ain’t all bad.  In fact, there are plenty of times when he’s actually pretty great.  In honor of that and of Father’s Day, I’m sharing a piece I wrote last year for another blog.

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Yesterday a dear friend of mine told me that one of his colleagues, an Asian woman, upon learning that he was the father of three children, actually asked him–politely and with permission–if all of them had the same mother!  Yes, she was accusing him of being a Baby Daddy, and though she didn’t say it, it carried with it all of the stereotypical (and sometimes very real) connotations with which we are all too familiar.  Much to my surprise, he didn’t seem to be angry with her.  But, what he was angry about was the experience of never being seen as the hardworking, committed father and husband that he is.  He shared his really deep and clearly painful feelings about the invisibility of Black men who are committed, do or die, to being good parents to their children or good partners to their wives, girlfriends and co-parents.  And, I am so thankful, because…

The truth is, there is a lot wrong with our families.  We all know the part of our reality that Black in America captured much to the disappointment of many who had hoped for more.  But, there is a lot that is not wrong with our families, too; and even some that’s actually right with them.  And, the truth is that Mamas, our men are not perfect.  But, just like us in all of our imperfection, there are so so many of them who try, who get better for trying, who love us and our children to the best of their ability and who deserve to be acknowledged for that.  I can’t tell you how many times I have ranted to my son’s father about how he takes all the incredible things I do for our child for granted; how sometimes besides a little child support now and then, besides a little time for myself, besides a little more help, I just need him to tell me that I am a good mother, I just need that acknowleged.  I need it acknowleged, because the truth is, sometimes I forget; or sometimes I just need to be lifted up by someone who knows not just where I fall short, but also where I have stepped up, where I hold it down.  I need to know that even though I am not perfect, dammit I try really hard to do and be better.  Doesn’t that count for something?

But, the truth is, sometimes I also want to hear him say it, because I want to know, and I want him to know that I’m the better parent.  Of course, I don’t say that out loud and only admit it now, because I read A New Earth and am trying to better understand how my ego drives me.  And, this is one of those ways.  I want to know that I am better, and I want him to know that he is not enough, because it makes me feel better.  There…I’ve said it.  I’m not proud, but it’s true.  My motivations aren’t always pure.  I’m working on that.  But what it means is that maybe I am part of the problem without intending to be.  So, there…I said that, too.

Well, actually, I figured it out a couple months ago, but where it has led me is to a place where I better understand that, aha, sometimes despite his imperfection, he also needs to be acknowleged.  And, that it is not my place to judge which of us is better, but rather to focus on how to give our child the best of both of us.  My tendency, of course, is to focus on everything he doesn’t do, or doesn’t do well enough, or doesn’t do well enough by my standards.  It is a rare occasion when I will point out what he does do, what he does well, or, difficult to imagine, I know, what he even does better than I do.  My friend, the one with the curious Asian colleague, said that one of our used-to-be mutual friends told him once (and I’ve said it to my son’s father before, too) that we shouldn’t get credit for doing what we’re supposed to do.  But I’m with my friend..to hell with that!  Why not?  Don’t call it credit, if that doesn’t feel right, but how about just a little positive reinforcement?

I know men who, whether I agree or not, stay in unhappy marriages, because they want to be there every day for their children.  I know men who have taken care of their children when their children’s mothers left, only to have the mothers come back and wreak drama on their lives when they decided to step back in.  I know fathers who pay child support, tuition, and more on time, but still don’t have reasonable access to their children.  My point is that there are good Black fathers among us.  There are men who are struggling daily not to be that image that the term “Baby Daddy” may conjure up for some people.  But many find themselves struggling not only against the image but also against us.  Of course, there are a whole lot of raggedy men out there, but the ones who are trying deserve our support and our love…perhaps the ones who aren’t do, too, but this isn’t about them.

So, I just want to suggest that as Mamas we be honest with ourselves about whether we are missing opportunities to offer up a little positive reinforcement or a little more.  This isn’t about stroking his ego, it’s about providing a little encouragement, a loving nod to the effort to do better for our children.  I can only imagine how far a card on a day other than Father’s Day, or a quick email or just a little “Atta Boy” (but don’t call him “boy”) goes in motivating a Black man who is stepping up to step a little higher.

Yeah, I may sound a little Pollyniqua-Annaish, but there is another story to be told about being Black in America…and it is ours to write together.

What say you?

Shacking is Not Marriage…and I Am Not Divorced

June 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, MamaSpeak

tmbonisiAs I do all this research in my effort to become the uber-co-parent, I continue to be struck by how much content and how many resources there seem to be for divorced co-parents.  I find that the guidance is usually very relevant to my situation, but still I feel like something is missing…it’s not speaking to me fully. 

My son’s father and I were never married.  Frankly, outside of the Creator’s requirement that this brilliant child of ours be born, we had no damn business laying down to make a baby.  Destiny demanded it, but we didn’t know each other well enough and didn’t have anything resembling a commitment.  Ha!  Or so we thought.  Three months into our dating relationship and three days after I realized “it” really wasn’t coming, we found ourselves committed for life…but not to each other!  Ends up that our only true commitment was to this busy little, back-talking, hip hop dancing (at least his own flavor of it), personality-for-days phenom of a son.

We did give it a go, shacking for a couple of years, but the fact is, we were never married.  When we split up, there wasn’t a court system demanding that we take a four-hour co-parenting class or requiring us to file any official record of how we were going to work together in this parenting game.  We didn’t transition to an acceptable “ex-wife/ex-husband” title.  All anybody had to offer us was “Baby Mama” and “Baby Daddy”.  And, thanks to Fantasia’s anthem (which I still secretly bump when I need a little Mommy motivation) and Fox News, we now have to give that up in the interest of being politically conscious, self-respecting educated Black folk.  And, don’t get me started on the soccer games.  It blows my mind how with all the dysfunction that Soledad and CNN shared about our single-female-head-of-household families every dang parent at our son’s soccer games is married!  They always assume that because we actually act like we like each other (and, we do most of the time) and appear to be working together well (and, we do sometimes), we must be married.  When I explain that we’re not married…and no, he’s not my ex-husband, the contorted look of confusion uncomfortably staring back at me cracks me up.  (I think he hates that I do that as much as he hates the idea of me putting our business in this blog.)

My point is not that we unwed parents are discriminated against, although that claim might stir up a little controversial back-and-forth on this tame little site of mine.  I’m just saying that our situation is a little different than one in which a couple has been married.  Not better, not worse.  And, I guess I’m also saying that sometimes I find myself looking for that voice that gets me/us completely, that addresses those subtle but unique aspects of co-parenting between Mamas and Daddies who may have only come as far as shacking…or just having the little one, to keep it real.  Sometimes, the romantic relationship, if it was even that to begin with, only gets that far.  But, some of us still take this parenting with some degree of togetherness seriously.

I’m crying out for my special “ex-something” title that doesn’t make Black people shift secretly into Cosbyism and confuse even Black soccer moms.  I want somebody, yes, even if it has to be the court system, to deem it important that I go to a workshop, or website or something that at least offers up adefinition of co-parenting.  I want my son’s great-aunts to stop telling him that we were married in an effort to cover up the sordid scandal that is our truth.

Now, I don’t necessarily know why I want any of this…perhaps that’s another post, and perhaps I’m just tripping.  But, just in case, if anybody knows where I can find an organization for single-co-pareting-never-married-professional-telecommuting-New-Age Mommy bloggers, sign me up!

Seriously, though, am I the only one feeling like this?

Re-posted from The Mama Spot.

Facilitating a Co-Parenting Revolution

April 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Articles

tmbonisiBe sure to check out CoParenting101.org‘s interview with WeParent founder, Talibah Mbonisi.  

Here’s an exercept:

CoParenting101.org had a wonderful opportunity to chat with Talibah shortly before WeParent’s official March 4th launch. Here are some other highlights from our conversation…

Talibah: I’ve said this to myself and to other mothers I know: You cannot have a child with someone after three months of knowing him, and then be mad when he turns out not to be your Prince Charming.  Well, you can, but the truth is,  we made choices, and somewhere along the way we have to own those choices,  shed our victim and claim our power.  That is my mantra to myself these days, and it has made a difference in my co-parenting relationship.

CoPa101: Some people can rise to the occasion of parenthood; others can’t or won’t.

Talibah: Very true.  You can stand between your child and serious harm, but you can’t shield him completely from the reality of who his father is.  Some people just aren’t going to be our vision of perfect parents.  But they may still have some purpose in their children’s lives, and we have to learn to be ok with that sometimes.

CoPa101:  We can’t confuse our hurt and pain and our disappointment in this person with the disappointment our kids may–or may not–feel.   Healing is so vital. We have to heal ourselves post-break-up for all the obvious reasons, but one really important reason is that we have to model healing and wholeness and cooperation for our children.

But let’s be frank: When someone has hurt you or disappointed you,  sometimes you want to do immature things, nasty things.   “I want you to hurt, because you hurt me.  And I don’t want you to be happy, because I’m not.  So, let me undermine your happy relationship with the kids.”  You want to get in your jabs,  but as a way of life, and in front of the kids and using the kids–that’s bad stuff.

Talibah: Pain will take you there, and many of us just don’t know how to allow ourselves to feel that pain but to also recognize it and move past it as part of the healing process.  We don’t have good ways to get those feelings out, except through our children and through drama.  And too often, our girlfriends (or guy friends) don’t call us on this behavior.

Read the entire interview

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