The winter holidays are dubbed the “most wonderful time of the year,” but for some, it means grieving family and friends who are no longer with us, a reminder of being single and a hopeless romantic, or even spending Christmas without your children because they are with your co-parent.
I am the mother of 5 terribly, terrific kids — three from a previous relationship, and two with my current husband. Because my previous relationship was so volatile and unhealthy, we went to family court and had a judge determine our co-parenting schedule and financial responsibilities. The whole legal process was tough and honestly, my emotions were all over the place.
I had been solely responsible for everything under the sun when it came to my three little ones, and I received very little emotional or financial support from their father. However, times were changing. We had finally put our “situationship" to bed and we were dating other people. He wasn’t too happy about that, and I can admit, I was a little sore about him moving on with a woman I had known he was dealing with after our second child together.
We had confrontations over the phone, and my ex just wasn’t handling the situation properly. I wasn’t particularly fond of my children being around this woman, or even him. In my mind, I could not separate the relationship they had with me from my children and ultimately thought they would be in harm’s way.
As I admitted before, I was wrong. Even though their motives, in my opinion, were not pure, he still had the right to spend time with his children. We came to the standard 70/30 time-sharing agreement, which meant my children would spend every other weekend with their dad and we would alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
My stomach sank and I felt empty when I realized spending time with my own children during the holidays would be a compromise.
I tried to brush it off as if everything was ok, but in fact, I was hurting. My role as a mother was my number one priority — yes, I was one of those moms who always put my children first, even before my own needs and mental health — and I hadn't yet learned how to function without being solely responsible for them.
We came to that agreement in the summer, so the immediate discomfort was only felt for a short time and I quickly adjusted to this new schedule. Sharing them four days a month was a breeze. Hell, I needed the breaks and it allowed me time to actually focus on me. Then all of a sudden, it was as if someone snapped their fingers and fast forwarded to December. I had to let them go, or be in contempt of the court order and risk of being fined or going to jail.
I was sick. I was devastated. I felt like border patrol had come to snatch my kids and I would never see them again. I realize now that although those feelings were very valid and real, they were also very selfish and dramatic.
My children were deserving of spending time, especially a holiday, with the man that helped create them — even if it meant they’d be around the woman he chose to be in a relationship with.
I had to learn how to cope with all these unfamiliar feelings and learn how to control my selfish emotions and deal with them in a healthier way. If you’re going through something similar, here are some tips on how to cope with co-parenting through the summer and holiday breaks:
1. Accept the schedule as it is and realize you have to relinquish full control of it
It’s called time-sharing for a reason. Your child is made of two halves – you and your co-parent. Children aren't infinity stones, and you aren't Thanos. They deserve to have a healthy connection with their other half, without you being there to interfere.
2. Form healthy habits
Organize your closet. Deep clean the house or fold that pile of clothes that’s been sitting in that basket for days that you were just too tired or busy to get to. Meditate and focus on your goals and what you might need to accomplish. Ask for support from your close friends and family members. Seek professional counseling.
3. Enjoy your break!
Go outside. Read a book. Occupy your time with things you enjoy. Even try something new that’s adult fun. You’re kid-free, live that shit up!
4. Come to an agreement with your co-parent about communication while they're away
Face-time, text, call, do whatever you feel is necessary to reconnect with your children if you’re missing them.
5. Encourage your co-parent and children to have a good time
Time flies when you’re having fun and they’ll be back in your loving arms before you know it!
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