Co-parenting after Divorce. It can be done.

There was a time, soon after we became a one-parent family, that I thought I would never be able to have a civil conversation with my ex, let alone be in the same building as him. There was a time that it hurt just sharing the same planet with him, breathing the same air – I was in so much pain that I couldn’t see past it.

We may no longer be married, but whether we like it or not, we are co-parents for life. We have four most awesome sons together who are our souls, our lives. Both of us are 100% invested in doing everything in the children’s best interests. Truthfully, occasionally our perception of the kids’ best interests differs, but we are always able to come to a peaceful resolution.

Time healed. Time allowed us both to work through our own issues and get past them. But that’s only because we were BOTH invested in doing so for the sake of the kids and for our own sakes too.

2 months post separation, when he was 11, our eldest asked about his barmitzvah. I can still taste the bile that rose in my throat at the thought of celebrating this momentous occasion with the “other side” of the family. It scared me. It frightened me. There was no way that I saw that it could possibly happen.

You know what? We made the barmitzvah together and it was awesome. It showed the children that their parents are willing to put them first. It showed the kids that they are our number one priority (or as they say, numbers 1 thru 4) and we would do anything for them. Sharing the simcha hall with my ex was fine – there are awesome benefits to mechitzahs!! We’ve since made another barmitzvah and have one coming up in 8 months. (We had three sons within 31 months!!). We have celebrated graduations and birthdays together, and sat holding our broken-legged child in the ER together.

Today we are able to pick up the phone and talk to each other like grown-ups. We don’t talk about anything other than the kids, and that’s ok. But I am so thankful that I am able to have this kind of “relationship” with him – that we have left the past in the past. Accepted that it is over. We have moved on with our lives. We are both remarried with stepkids. Our lives are an amalgamation of families and in-laws and relatives on four sides. As my kids say – so many more people to love them (and give them presents!!).

I just wish that all divorced couples were able to do the same. That at some point they come to the realization that they need to move on with their lives, and leave the nastiness and bitterness in the dust. It is even more important when there are children involved. I wish the divorce court could mandate some kind of co-parenting class for divorcing parents. Make them sign some kind of agreement that forces them to do what’s best for the child. There have been many things I have had to just accept, because being angry and bitter would not change them.

Had I not accepted my lot in life, the fact that I was getting a divorce – had I allowed myself to be consumed daily with anger and resentment and every negative emotion known to womankind – I would never have been able to move on with my life. I would never have been in a position to meet the KoD and realize his true value. I would have cheated myself out of this fairytale that the KoD and I have recurrent starring roles in.

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  1. G6 says:

    You should run a workshop.
    I’m not joking….
    What you both have accomplished is incredible.

  2. frumgoth says:

    I agree with you completely. Holding on to the bitterness is toxic to everyone involved. It is so much better to bury the hatchet and find ways to get along for the sake of the children. My kids are so much better off now that my ex. and I have a more positive “collaborative team parenting” situation.

    And that workshop idea is great, G6. I think you could reach and help so many families Hadassah. You’ve been through a lot and learned how to do the co-parenting thing successfully. It’s quite an accomplishment. I am still learning, after all these years being separated/divorced. Keep up the good work! It’s encouraging to hear.

  3. Yael Sandler says:

    Brilliant, Spot on!
    If were able to bottle fortitude and common sense, you could market it at you on site store under you own label.
    I admit I would be a consumer.
    Thank you for that most meaningful post.

  4. Yael Sandler says:

    I seem to be dropping my “r’”s. I meant “your on site store under your own label”.
    Proof reading-pays.

  5. just thinking says:

    I am so happy that you were able to succeed in this very difficult life situation. Clearly you and your ex basically share the same values and the same lifestyle (not identical of course but on the same course). It is not so easy to maintain a united co-parenting relationship when the two have diverged so much that perhaps he/she sees the other as dangerous to the values and lifestyle believed in and treasured. Of course the children always do and will need both parents but sometimes it is not as “easy” as just getting over the bitterness of divorce.

    • HSaboMilner says:

      I totally agree – there are often other things at play, but they don’t always have to be major battles either. There is always a possibility of some common ground.

      • fille says:

        I do not completely agree with you, Hadassah.

        I am very proud of you that you made the best of the very difficult situation you were in, and that it bore fruit for you, for your children and for your ex.

        However, it is perfectly possible to imagine situation where a positive contact is simply not possible any more.

        I agree with you that your situation, where a positive contact is possible with good will from both sides, is more frequent than most people would think. However, the other situation CAN occur, and it could be quite insulting to parents in this second situation to be told that with a bit more goodwill than they display, it would be possible to change the situation…

        • KoD says:

          Fille,
          I am curious as to why you are always so negative, so contrarian. While I agree with you that unfortunately in some situations nothing can be done to foster the kind of relationship that Hadassah has with her ex-husband, there are many couples who would benefit from learning that there are couples who have developed the skills to truly focus on the best interests of their children.

          • fille says:

            So we are completely on the same page:

            Many couples would benefit, but it is not possible for everyone.

            (Think for example of problems with alimony. As far as I understood from this blog, this seems to work OK with Hadassah. Couples where it does not work are on a completely different page…)

  6. Rainy says:

    Oddly enough, my ex husband is still one of my best friends. We worked through the anger and resentment, realized that we simply are a terrible mismatch as a couple, and chose to honor the friendship and love that caused us to get together in the first place. I think that, whether one can be friends or co-parents or whatever, it is important to honor that. To remember the love and friendship, because it is from that place that our children sprang, they are the embodiment of the very best we had to offer each other, you know? They are the best parts of us, brought together, for us to nurture. G-d gives you something so precious, you don’t want to make a hash of it by fighting and ruining it with anger…

    My hat is off to you, Hadassah. You’re a great mum and you’re modeling something so important to your kids.

  7. Lisa says:

    You should run a work shop and put BTDT after your name! That would rock. Seriously though, I’m the child of parents that divorced when I was 5 and then proceeded to have a 4 year custody battle. I’m now 36 and they still can not be in the same space without extreme tension. They can barely be civil on a phone. Its made holidays and graduations difficult at best. Anything that can be put out there to avoid that pain for other kids I whole heartedly support.

  8. itsallgood18 says:

    As a child of divorce, I am very proud of you. My mother has TRIED to be in healthy communications with my father, but it just isn’t there. Your children will appreciate your behavior so much!

  9. Lonely Frum says:

    Hadassah, I have been a long time lurker on your site. I check it daily as well as others. I have never commented as my lurking has more to do with my (weird?!) voyeuristic urge to see how other people who were raised frum and have been thru hardships managed to stay frum. I haven’t been thru too many hardships but I lack faith. Please visit my new blog, I would love to hear you pov. lonelyfrum.blogspot.com. Thank you

  10. ima2seven says:

    I agree with you 100%. I went into the role of stepmom so optimistic that we could work as a team… but as some other commenters have said, it simply isn’t always possible. Sometimes the inability to move on and behave as a mature adult is the very thing that necessitated the divorce. My heart has broken for 12 years that we cannot work as a team for my stepson’s benefit, but we cannot make someone else do that.
    While it may be an overgeneralization, I think you have hit on something about “moving on:. Often if you look at who cannot work together for the sake of the child(ren), it is the same divorcee that hasn’t seemingly moved on in their personal life at all. I don’t know which one causes the other, or if they are both symptoms of something else. I do know it is painful for all involved, of course first and foremost the child(ren).

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