creative coparenting

i am sad to see mothering magazine go. i would have liked to have submitted an article there at some point. i always felt there was somewhat of a misrepresentation and under-representation of single mamas. i’m sure (as in, 100% certain) i have a gigantic chip on my shoulder about this. at the same time, i have heard it from others as well, that single mothers always seemed left out of the mothering conversation, or pitied and disparaged, if spoken of at all.

the good news is,Β  yes, even single parenting can be pulled off with style, flair, and success. if i may be bold (and it’s certainly brash of me to suggest that my child is a success when he is only about to turn 4 but i’ll still say it) i’d say that in many cases, single parenting is the best and most beneficial option for some families. i have come across quite a few unconventionally-formatted families in my time on different parenting forums and blogs, and it’s quite inspiring to find the depth and breadth of family styles creatively co-created by two single parents, or forged by single mamas on their own ( i haven’t come across any single dads but that’s likely a cafe mom bias, ha).

no one ever will say that it is ideal for a child’s parents to be separated, all else being equal. however, given the option of two whole, healthy, happy parents, or a couple of miserable, broken ones (as in, all things are decidedly not equal)- the choice is clear. i’m also not saying it is always this cut and dry, but in our case…

in our case, it didn’t seem cut and dry from within the (broken) situation, but a few years later, with some new tools in our belts and having had glimpses of real happiness, it is crystal clear to me that we took the best path by going our separate ways. when i say separate, we have done our best to disentangle our personal lives from each other, while also endeavoring to maintain very high levels of communication and collaboration and cooperation surrounding all matters that involve our son. this means, we don’t get to tell each others’ stories anymore, we aren’t wrapped up in what we think of each other anymore, we are each the author of our own story, and quinn has an intact mama, and an intact dada, who both love him very much.

i attended a parenting class early on after we split up, where i heard the phrase “if you think building a successful marriage is hard, try building a successful divorce.” while the terms marriage and divorce don’t apply to us in the letter, the spirit of this statement is highly applicable. it’s not really that it’s easier to make things go well in separation than it was in that utterly unhappy coupledom. it is still hard work.

however, the big promise of getting separate is that i know for myself, i had a lot of growing i needed to do that couldn’t happen inside of that relationship with its particular dysfunctions that the two of us co-created. i still have lots of growing to do, and i know that if i’m going to be a part of a couple again someday, it’s going to have to follow the rules i’ve been learning, starting with my first commitment is to myself and i get to tell my own story.

i am overjoyed that i am living these truths, and that my son is seeing it modeled before his very eyes, day in and day out.

but back to creative coparenting. in our situation, we are lucky in that both parents have extremely similar ideals when it comes to what we want for quinn. while that may seem like stating the obvious (or why would we have created a child together?) i know that parenting differences (preferences about everything from food clothing shelter, every aspect of education, breastfeeding, weaning, cosleeping,Β  child care, television, books and movies, on and on) often surface once the children are on the scene. things that childless people may not even think of, come to the forefront when there is a little real person involved. quinn’s dad and i both want quinn surrounded with nature, with natural toys and games and relationships, with an unschooling approach to learning, with an abundance of good friends, food, music, and experiences. we both strive to provide him with unconditional love, emotional competence, learning opportunities without end, endless supplies of playdough, markers, paper, wood, glue, beaches and forests to romp in. we both want for quinn to be raised by us, not child care providers, not teachers, not school administrators.

it can be a tricky dance. one of the trickiest bits has been providing us both with income separately, to live in separate homes and provide two rent holes with rent, without having quinn in child care.

i’ll be honest here: it hasn’t been pretty the whole time, and it isn’t straightforward, and i will not claim we have made the best system or that it shouldn’t be completely revamped. πŸ™‚ but i am proud to say that we are capable of approaching this stuff with a solution-oriented attitude, and that we do solve things. we have made it happen, one day at a time. i’m proud that quinn can see us working towards solving problems, that he can see us be civil and cooperative. i’m happy for him that he, too, gets to know what it’s like to be swung by two big strong parents’ hands as they walk down the sidewalk with him, on the way out of their monthly calendering meeting, after his treat of getting his very own teapot to pour tea from in a cafe. of course my heart breaks for him when he gets dada on the phone and tells him “i was wondering if you would come on along over. we still have your rocking chair…” as a way of inviting him to be a family of three once again, and i know that deep desire will likely never go away for him. i know he may always draw all three of us together in a boat, or together on a crab dock, when he grabs his markers and drawing book. but i am also ecstatic for him that he has the language to say how things feel inside, how it is to always be missing someone (one or the other) and chronically have that one thing he needs at the other parents’ house. he’s got a lot of tools, too.

how it works right now… i am the one with the paycheck. dada is the one providing 9-5 childcare four days a week so i can work a day job as a biologist. i pay my rent as well as dada’s, he makes the rest of his ends meet however he can. one wrinkle- i look at the check i write him as covering the “choice hours” tax for the weekday time, as in, he can’t work while i’m working. in theory, he can work whenever he wants, as he has a fully functional wood shop. he looks at the check as compensation for providing child care services, and he looks at his time providing child care as his “work”. i have major issues with this, as (you will be chorusing with me) “but he is the father not the babysitter”and he has issues with me (if i can tell what i know of his story for a microsecond) saying that he should be providing his own income. aiyayayai. well, like i said, it isn’t always pretty or straightforward. time wise, i provide the lion’s share of the child care including almost all nights (they have one overnight roughly every other week that seems to be the rhythm that’s working for both boys), almost all evenings and then the 3 full days i’m not working.

it’s horribly unfair, both of us have deep seated resentments about different aspects of the arrangement, and we’re constantly reworking the scheme to try to get yet another kink out. still, we have accomplished the goal we set out to accomplish, and our little boy has had virtually no daycare, preschool, or life, without either his mama or dada involved. (there was a period of 4 months with some daycare but that was during the major transition time… in the grander scheme, it barely counts.)

we’ve got a little boy who knows both his parents better than he knows anyone else. he knows his dad better than most children, even in families with married parents, know their dads. he has had an abundance of nurturing love every step of the way.

lately coparent and i (can we up the usage of the term coparent, by the way? let’s colloquialize it, please! i like not always having to say “my ex” as if all he is to me, is a former partner. or “quinn’s dad” as if he’s nothing to me, he’s only something to quinn. when in reality, he’s something to me every day in the present moment- he’s my coparent. for better or worse, till death do us part) have been embarking on some business endeavors together, to hopefully help us keep this quinn-hangs-with-his-parents thing going. as some of you know, i am slowly growing a small handmade organic cloth diaper and baby carrier (and other baby stuff) business called earth huggy, and have recently decided to start selling some of coparent’s wooden toy creations. he’s an amazing artist, a master of woodworking. he can make anything out of wood, no joke. a baby spoon, a schooner, and anything in between. recently i commissioned some wooden rattles and some tree blocks and driftwood blocks…. and they are now a part of my small, very slowly (*crosses fingers* sustainably!) growing business. it’s not clear if this will be the key to everything, or whether we are even being wise having business dealings when we already have enough trouble communicating as it is. πŸ™‚ that’s the fun part about life, you get to keep trying over and over and over and over again. πŸ˜‰ life is messy. but it’s very good. even if we crash and burn, i am still excited to see where the next phase of this journey takes us.

i’d love to see more support for not-your-average families in our world. i hope that my little tale here passes for such support- i hope it brings hope and strength to anyone out there who is feeling not quite normal, and helps the unconventional folks feel a little less alone. do you have an unconventional family structure? are you a single parent? what has been your unique experience on this path?

my ~dwell~ series will be back next week- this is what i was feeling today, so this is what i posted. πŸ™‚ really, it’s just another area of life where i’ve been trying to live with intention, so i think it’s fitting for a dwell thursday anyway.

15 comments to creative coparenting

  • Sandy Lipkin

    so fortunate…you are an inspiration. Love you mama!

  • one day at a time~you guys are really doing great,with all the ways it can go,i am amazed!give thanks!
    Stardove recently posted..Women&39s Faux Wrap Dress in Organic Cotton Eco Blend in Purple Plum

  • I'm sad about Mothering Mag, too. πŸ™

    What an interesting coparenting system you have! I know another mama through blogging who is just transitioning into a very similar situation. There are definitely a lot of single parents out there. It's gotta be tough, and I'm sure it makes you stronger.

    I love those driftwood blocks. I've toyed with the idea of making a little doll "fort" with natural finds like that. I hope your business does well for you.
    Lisa C recently posted..Fabric Finds

  • Thanks for the link love :)) And I second what Stardove said!!! Good job! I think it is awesome that you guys are joining forces and sustaining yourselves and Quinn <3 I have to admit, I am scared for the day when Ja comes to visit, because I know Noble will hurt worse after her leaves (knowing him) than he does right now (just knowing him long distance). I sympathize wig Quinn's delima, and agree that he is more blessed than most 2-parent households I know of ;)) I'm so glad that you and coparent (heehee) agree on parenting stuff. So true that stuff seeps up after baby is born <3 Had that happen both times :/ Such an amazing journey for you so far, and I look forward to the path before you, too! For you and for Quinn <3
    Wild zen mama recently posted..Updates and Tidbits

  • Divine Mother, your Intention is so complete, content & full. Publish it in other Mother Magazines. All power to you. Om Shakti.

    What is separate from 'normal' is that you parent with great awareness & that is your Divine message.

    On the subject of families in our world, some Tibetan woman have five partners with numerous children. They don't necessarily 'live' with just one male but as a village/community. Often the child's identity is unknown this is unimportant but it is the human rebirth that is celebrated. Each unique individual loved, honoured & respected. The community brings up the child which is considered to be the blessing. Your Quinn sounds totally cocconned in the Love.

    Thank you.

  • lb

    i will come be mq's nanny anytime πŸ™‚ (there just has to be a vet clinic nearby!)

  • This is indeed interesting and also inspiring! Thank you for writing about this, it helps me to read about both your concerns and your hopes. At this time of transition (I will be moving out on March 1), reading about how other single mamas have made it through similar transitions is incredibly uplifting.

    The co-business idea seems wonderful to me … and it sounds as though you two are communicating well enough, which is so much more than other parents out there. I will send out a prayer for your business. Jeremy is wonderful with his hands too, and we often speak of starting a small furniture business together, even though we're no longer romantic partners. I think it might work … just because we're not romantic partners doesn't mean we can't be co-parenting partners or business partners … as you seem to know so well yourself!

    Juliana recently posted..warm days in winter a photo journey

    • mb

      glad you saw this juliana, i was thinking of you (and me, and lots of others) when i was writing it. your story is very fresh in my mind though since i only recently found you… and you likewise have given me lots to think about and feel inspired and uplifted by, so thank you right back! πŸ™‚
      mb recently posted..this moment

  • I just found your blog (it's taken me long enough, hasn't it?) and I love it, and I especially love this post. Thank you for sharing your story of intentional co-parenting. My husband and I separated for a year when the kids were little, and it was a lot of work to navigate it all, so I am very impressed by your arrangement, and hoping that it brings a lot of hope and inspiration to others out there. I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog!
    Lara recently posted..The Peep Show!

    • marybethrew

      welcome lara. πŸ™‚ i have been loving your blog as well, and i'm so happy you connected- and it means a lot, what you say here. much of your homestead/life is so inspiring to me, so to think the inspiration is reciprocal is always fun. i would not have guessed that you had done a stint as a single mama, though come to think of it, you seem like one tough mama and would probably handle it no sweat. πŸ˜‰

  • […] is most likely about to have its first experiences with attending school. the best laid plans for creative coparenting sometimes go awry, it seems. i am likely enrolling quinn, at least temporarily, in one of our local […]

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