• How Do You Move On From Heartbreak and Co-Parent With Your Ex?

    From financial arrangements to parenting styles, 5 solo parents reveal how they make it work with their former partners.
    by Maria Pilapil .
  • How Do You Move On From Heartbreak and Co-Parent With Your Ex?
    IMAGE huffingtonpost.com
  • A break-up is a sad and painful experience, and when there are children involved, it gets even more complicated. How do you move on from heartbreak, and at the same time learn to co-parent with your ex? Five solo parents* let us in on how they make it work. 

    Chesca and Andrew, co-parents to 10-year old Mari 
    Lived together, now separated for 9 years 
    Physical arrangement: Mari alternately stays with each parent every other week.  
    Financial arrangement: 100% of expenses shouldered by Andrew, but Chesca spends for Mari when he is with her.

    Smart Parenting (SP):  How did you explain the separation to your child? 
    Chesca: I told him sometimes things just don’t work out between couples, and a separation was better than going home to an unhappy household.  

    SP: How did you come up with the arrangements? 
    Chesca: We never talked about the financial arrangement; for Andrew, it was a given. He considered the fact that Mari has younger siblings whom my husband and I provide for, and he only has Mari. Some people comment on our living arrangements and how it must be tiring for our son. But it was Mari’s decision. We tried other options, but Mari didn’t want to be away from either household for too long.

    SP: How do you keep parenting styles consistent with your former partner? 
    Chesca: I have a chat thread with Andrew and his wife, Monica, for all things Mari. I am very fortunate that both Monica and my husband, TJ, are also amazing parents to our son. Our respective spouses respect and support our decisions about how Andrew and I wish to bring him up. We aren’t perfect, and I’m sure Andrew gets annoyed with me and I with him still at times -- it’s natural -- but it’s important to us that we don’t bad mouth each other to Mari.

    More from Smart Parenting

    SP: What challenges have you encountered in co-parenting?
    Chesca: Right now the biggest problem we have is coordination. Signing documents takes twice the amount of time because we have to send it to two households. Mari was also a very picky eater and would apparently eat a wider variety of food while with us than when he is with his dad's family. Monica would consult me about the things he likes to eat, so I sent her a couple of recipes to use.

    ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

    When issues come up, such as in school or otherwise, of course, it’s impossible to sit him down together and talk to him about it. So what we do is Andrew and I talk about it first, and decide on points to raise. Then whoever is with Mari at that time gets to speak with him and say, "Hey, this is what your Papa and I discussed." Then we report on with how it turned out, so the other parent can bring it up again to reinforce with Mari later on.

    SP: What makes co-parenting a better option than doing it solo, or staying with your previous partner? 
    Chesca: I don’t think any single parent will ever say doing it alone is a walk in the park. Growing up with a single mom, I saw how hard it was for both of us. I didn’t want the same thing for my child. Though I ended up in a similar situation, I was certain that I wanted it to be better. Andrew and I didn’t want Mari to feel any less loved or to be sad about his situation, and that was our only goal. He has four parents and twice as many grandparents who love him to the ends of the earth, not to mention two younger siblings that think he’s the coolest kuya ever.

    Had I stayed with Andrew, I don’t think it would’ve been a favorable environment for Mari. Neither Andrew nor I would have been able to grow, mature, and be the best version of ourselves if we had stayed together -- we have our respective partners to thank for that -- and we would have been incapable of raising a son the way we try to do now. You can’t shower with love and happiness if you can’t find that within yourself. 

    SP: What advice can you give to parents who want to make co-parenting work? 
    Chesca: I know many situations aren't as great as ours, but keep in mind that it took a lot of work to get to where we are today. Just like in any relationship, open lines of communication are very important. I can’t stress how important it is to have a good support system. Talk to friends and family who can give you sound advice and constructive criticism, and avoid people who will add fuel to the fire. Easier said than done, but I’m pretty sure we’re not the only people who can work towards a happy modern family.

    ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
    More from Smart Parenting

    Isabella and Josh, co-parents to 4-year old Alessandro  
    Married and annulled, now separated for 4 years 
    Physical arrangement: Sole custody was granted to Isabella by the court. Josh visits on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends. Alessandro stays with Josh when Isabella is out of town, but he still has remain in the mother’s house. 
    Financial arrangement: Josh gives financial support. 

    SP: How did you explain the separation to your child? 
    Isabella: We separated when Alessandro was only 4 months old, so this is pretty much all he knows. Recently, though, he has started to ask questions, like why I can’t stay at his dad’s place with him. I usually answer that I just can’t, and we have our place. He isn’t persistent in his questioning, so I haven’t had to deal with it seriously. 

    SP: How did you come up with the arrangements?
    Isabella: I have always believed that what's between me and my ex is an entirely different matter from my son's relationship with his dad. If my ex wants to be a good dad to our kid, why would I say no to that? In the beginning, my ex would text to say when he was coming, but I said we should have a proper schedule so our kid can have a routine, and he'll know when to expect to see his dad. We all live relatively close to each other, so it's convenient.

    SP: How do you keep parenting styles consistent with your former partner? 
    Isabella: We just always think about what's best for our son and the values we want him to instill in him. I think if you have a common goal, that's half the equation already. We want him to grow up brave, compassionate, confident, kind, and resilient. For other things, we just text each other when there are issues and resolve them as needed. 

    SP: What challenges have you encountered in co-parenting? 
    Isabella: It was tough at the start when I was still hurting and healing from the separation. Co-parenting meant I still had to see my ex when I honestly didn't want to. But I just had to suck it up for the sake of my son.

    SP: What makes co-parenting a better option than doing it solo, or staying with your previous partner? 
    Isabella: I think I would feel an immense amount of mommy guilt if it were just me raising our child. I have a lot of things going on outside of work and the home, so having a co-parent makes it easier for me to go out and do what I have to do.

    ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

    SP: What advice can you give to parents who want to make co-parenting work? 
    Isabella: Think about the kids. Set aside your pride and your ego. It's hard, but try to compartmentalize. And don't take it out on the kids. I've been told that "hurting people hurt people," and when your partner has hurt you badly, it's natural to want to retaliate. And sometimes this comes in the form of depriving them of time with their kids. When you do this, you're not hurting just your ex, but your kids, too. For women, it's very important to know your rights. Don't just complain that your ex doesn't give support. You can do something about it. Your child's father is legally obligated to give you support.

    More from Smart Parenting

    Kat and Marc, co-parents to 13-year old Zach 
    Married and annulled, now separated for 10 years 
    Physical arrangement: Zach primarily lives with Kat. On weekends and non-school days, he stays with Marc. Holidays are discussed on a case-to-case basis.
    Financial arrangement: School expenses and birthday celebrations are split 50/50. All other expenses are shouldered by the parent taking care of the child at the time.

    SP: How did you explain the separation to your child? 
    Kat: He was only 3 years old when we separated, and we initially thought that we wouldn’t have to explain it to him because he was still too young. But later on, we realized that he was already aware of what was happening. Once, Zach thought Marc and I were fighting, and he tried to stop it. I took that opportunity to explain why Marc and I weren’t together anymore. I told him it was to avoid any more of those ugly fights, which had nothing to do with him because we love him so very much. 

    SP: How did you come up with the arrangements? 
    Kat: Even if I was mad as hell when Marc and I separated, I never banned him from spending time with Zach. Whatever irreconcilable differences we had shouldn’t stand in the way of him being a good father. 

    SP: How do you keep parenting styles consistent with your former partner? 
    Kat: We have the same ideals and beliefs as parents, so being consistent isn’t a problem. We trust each other’s parenting style because we think alike. We immediately message or call each other when we feel or see something alarming, so we can discuss or decide what action to take. We keep an open communication with one another and bear in mind what’s best for Zach. It also helps to show Zach that we, his parents, are truly in good terms. It sets a good example because he sees that we are trying our best to give him the best parenting possible even if we are separated.

    ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

    SP: What challenges have you encountered in co-parenting? 
    Kat: It was during those times that I refused to talk to Marc because I was mad at him. The conversation was limited to abrupt text messages or through the yaya. 
    Another is getting through some awkward moments and events like Zach’s graduation or birthday parties. It was a struggle at first because Marc and I already have our respective partners. It was awkward having us, them, and our families, all in one event. But as soon as I realized it wasn’t about us, I got over it. When it became clear that it’ll make Zach happy, it hasn’t been an issue ever since.  

    SP: What makes co-parenting a better option for you than doing it solo, or staying with your ex-partner? 
    Kat: Major financial expenses are cut in half. Zach is exposed to different personalities, backgrounds, and experiences that allow him to be more sociable, fluent and flexible. He has developed tight-knit relationships with our families, which makes us confident that in case something happens to us, he will be in good hands. In this case, co-parenting is not limited to just me and Marc; it extends to our parents, partners, siblings, and a few close aunts and uncles.

    SP: What advice can you give to parents who want to make co-parenting work?
    Kat: Put your child’s interests above everything else. When this becomes your primary goal, other factors in your life will follow: the job you choose, the company you keep, your relationship with your ex, choosing your next partner, etcetera. Also, get to know your child well -- what’s important to us may hold no value to them, and vice versa. Always keep communication lines open, with your child and your ex. There is no such thing as “too young” to understand. Be vocal. Explain. And listen.  Don’t become a bystander or a mere observer in your child’s life to avoid wrong assumptions. 

    More from Smart Parenting

    Jane and Mikey, co-parents to 5-year old Grey  
    Married, now separated for 2 years 
    Physical arrangement:
     Grey lives with Jane and stays with Mikey, who can visit him anytime, on weekends.
    Financial arrangement: 50/50 on all expenses 

    SP: How did you explain the separation to your child? 
    Jane: I haven't discussed the situation with him fully since I didn’t want to burden my then-3-year old with too much detail, but I explained to him the new physical set up, where his dad will be moving to another house. 

    ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

    SP: How did you come up with the arrangements? 
    Jane: At the time of separation, we both felt that Grey would get better supervision from my end, not only because I’m the more pro-active parent, but also because I live with my parents, who can help take care of Grey when I have work.

    SP: How do you keep parenting styles consistent with your ex-partner's? 
    Jane: We talk about the disciplinary measures that may work best. We've agreed that on any significant occasion or event involving our son, we will both try our best to be there. We spend special occasions like Christmas and other holidays with him separately.

    SP: What challenges have you encountered in co-parenting?
    Jane: Sometimes, I [unfairly] get the blame for some things, such as when Grey gets sick or gets called out in school by the teacher. I deal with it by just focusing on how to fix the situation and getting my child to a better state.     

    SP: What makes co-parenting a better option for you than doing it solo, or staying with your ex-partner? 
    Jane: I admit and recognize that my son has needs that can be best given by a father. It helps that he gets to know and spend time with his dad because I know he can guide him on a lot of things. We both get to perform child duties individually. Mikey has become more responsible as a dad and isn't dependent on me anymore in doing most of the nurturing. 

    SP: What advice can you give to parents who want to make co-parenting work? 
    Jane: Just communicate. If you can't work out a good relationship with your ex, focus on having a good one with your child. Your child deserves love from his mom and dad.

    *Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the families. Answers were edited for clarity and brevity.

    More from Smart Parenting

     

    Co-parenting, from an expert’s point of view
    Herald Cruz, head of the Parenting Cluster and Family Counselor at RMT Center for Family Ministries at the Ateneo de Manila University, defines co-parenting as an arrangement that both parents try to work out after a separation. “When effectively done, co-parenting will provide more mental and emotional stability to the child, which can also positively affect the way the child will handle his or her future relationships. The goal should always be for the good of the child.” 

    But under what circumstances is it better to raise the child alone? Cruz replies there are no easy answers, but situations like the following can deepen the emotional wounds of the child:

    ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
    • Exposing a child continuously to an environment where the relationship of former partners is still very volatile.  
    • One of the parents has become incapable of effectively parenting due to psychological reasons or form of addiction
    • There is abandonment, so there’s no choice but to become a solo parent. 

    "I have seen children who grew up with solo parents who have turned out to be great and well-balanced individuals. They were raised by parents who have decided not be anchored in their past pain, but rather embrace the present reality and move on with life and become stronger and better individuals." 

    Are you hoping to co-parent with your ex-partner? Cruz has the following tips: 

    1. Believe that it is possible.
    Not easy, but also not impossible. If both parties are willing despite the anger and the pain, then co-parenting can even be a rewarding experience.  

    2.Be on the same page.  
    Agree on areas of compromise to minimize roadblocks along the way. Make the necessary adjustments along the way. 

    3. Work on your hurts and issues, if there are any. 
    When parents are in good terms with themselves and with each other, the child will be as well. 

    4. See a family counselor.
    Both parties should go to a family counselor to facilitate the best possible arrangement, and to provide some education and counseling on the challenges and opportunities of the new parenting arrangement.  

    More from Smart Parenting

View More Stories About
View more articles
Sign In with your website account