How to Co-Parent When You’re Separated
Fifteen years ago, I was knee-deep in planning my wedding, had just bought my first house and was debating whether I would take my fiancé’s last name. These all seemed like the biggest decisions I would ever make in my life.
But they weren’t.
After two months of wedded bliss, Frank and I decided to start trying for a family, thinking it would take a few months.
But we were wrong.
After exactly one try, we were pregnant with our first; it was a boy. Our other two quickly followed, and somewhere in there, we bought a few more homes, a couple of dogs, made lots of mistakes, and here we sit, a decade and a half later separated and trying hard to do this co-parenting thing right.
While the marriage, kids and where to purchase our forever home were all huge life-changing decisions, somehow this decision—to stay friends even though we wanted to end our marriage—feels pretty significant. Just as a marriage takes work, so does this.
There are feelings, egos and a deep history involved that can make our lives seem like a jumbled mess. But we are determined to stay friendly and still get together to talk, laugh and dream just as we did before our split.
So, because we are still in this together, I sat down and talked to my ex to see how he felt things were going so far. While he isn’t much of a talker, he gave it up for me because he knew I would stop making him dinner if he didn’t:
Katie Bingham-Smith: What is the hardest part about this whole co-parenting gig?
Frank Smith: Managing the kids’ schedules on my own and trying to remember all their activities without constant reminders and you nagging me about it.
KBS: What is the easiest part? And by the way, I nag you because we both know you would be lost without the nagging.
FS: True. The easiest part? Coming over to your place for dinner. Ha ha. Seriously, it helps that the kids are super laid back about the schedule, so if something changes and they can’t stay with me or would rather stay at your place, it isn’t a big deal. I also like the one-on-one time I get if just one of them stays at my place. It’s nice you get to enjoy that more, too.
KBS: What do you think is the most important part about the way we are handling parenting as a separated couple?
FS: Us getting along and respecting each other. It’s nice the kids know we can still spend time as a family, that we are still a family, even though we aren’t living together anymore.
KBS: What can I do to make it easier on you? Because I have a few things you can do to make it easier on me, like please get a washer and dryer and stop bringing over your damn laundry.
FS: You can fold my laundry, that would make it easier. I mean nothing, you are perfect.
KBS: Well played, Smith. Do you think you are a better parent now that we are separated?
FS: Yes, I think so. I feel like I can be more attentive. Plus, we are both just happier.
KBS: What do you hope to teach our kids about the way we are handling life right now?
FS: You can still have a partnership and have a relationship without being married. We can still get along and raise a family together.
KBS: Do you tell your dates how amazing I am? You probably shouldn’t. That would be weird.
FS: No! I don’t say that. I would never say that.
KBS: Do you talk about me at all?
FS: I talk about your career, but we don’t really talk a lot about you. Sorry (gives me the side-eye)
KBS: It’s fine. I will let it slide. Do you still come over for dinner so much because you miss my cooking?
FS: No, it’s because I don’t want to cook, period.
KBS: Sometimes it’s better not to be so honest, just so you know. Next question: When we are eighty, do you think we will still be friends?
FS: Yes. Not best friends but friends. As long as you are nice to me.
KBS: Oh, please. Get over yourself. You have seen me at my worst, and we are still friends.
So while Frank and I are almost divorced, he is still my dude. He is my kids’ dude and always will be, because he’s their dad.
And that is huge. He will always be a part of my life. But I’ll be damned if I am ever going to fold his laundry again.