Not Everyone Can Positively Co-Parent and That’s Okay
Last week, two things happened that made me shake my head. First, the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos and his wife, Mackenzie, announced they were getting divorced after 25 years of marriage, according to a joint statement posted on the Amazon’s CEO twitter account. It read, “We want to make people aware of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends…”
I had to stop and shake my head – here we go again – before continuing reading the statement.
“We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all over again….” Again, I had to stop reading, shaking my head again, before continuing. “We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals projects ventures and adventures. Through the labels might be different, we remain a family and we remain cherished friends.”
Then Gwyneth Paltrow had to go out and share that she and her new husband Brad Falchuk went on their honeymoon…with her ex-husband Chris Martin. “We had a big family honeymoon over Christmas. So it was my new husband, his children, my children, my ex-husband, our best family friends.”
First, celebrities are not just like us. Most of us who get divorced do not put out joint statements, for one, sharing how we’re are going to remain the best of friends. Second, while I do believe most divorced couples should try to always put the children first, that doesn’t necessarily mean most of us can, do, or even want to remain ‘cherished friends’ with our exes. Rather, we would choose to be friends, but, really, even remaining friendly with your co-parent can be extremely draining, confusing, and unattainable.
Or it’s attainable for a week or so and then you’re back to bickering about how you should be on the same page about bedtime until three days later when you’re talking about how you should remain friends for the kids again. And that’s okay. I think to pretend otherwise – that everyone who divorces nowadays is expected to remain friends – is doing a disservice to those of us who are happy to put our children first, but don’t want to go trick or treating together or spend March break with our exes. Why? Because we are human. We have resentments. We don’t have anything in common with our exes anymore. They hurt us. We hurt them.
Do you know what real life looks like when it comes to co-parenting, for those of us not putting out sweet press releases about our soon-to-be-exes? Well, I’ll tell you. Near the end of last year, for example, a school email was sent out about booking parent-teacher interviews. When my ex sent me a text, somewhat demandingly, saying he booked a time and would I be there, I wrote him back, “I have already spoken to the teacher and have booked another time. Many divorced people do this. We are not that unique. And it will not affect the well being of our son.”
My ex was not pleased. He knew that I didn’t want to be in the same room as him, because guess what? I didn’t. I couldn’t. I wasn’t emotionally ready. And our bickering was an on-going thing still, so why would I put myself in a position that would make me miserable? Sure, yes, if I believed that both of us had to be at the same parent-teacher interview, or else my son would end up in therapy for life, yeah, I would have spent 15 minutes in the same room with my ex. But my son had no idea it was even parent-teacher interviews.
These celebrities who go out of their way to post photographs or share how they are still best friends while getting divorced are setting the rest of up for feeling like failures, or at least to question why we can’t have weekly Sunday night dinners all together…just like when we were married!
I think it’s cute that so many people who divorce think that they can still remain best friends.
I will always put my children first, and I will never say anything negative to my children about their fathers, but that doesn’t mean I have to spend Christmas with my ex, go on holidays with him, or even go to the same 15-minute parent-teacher interview.
There’s one real-life example of a woman who shares her story on living right next door to her ex and his new wife and how they’re able to co-parent. I appreciate what she’s trying to do, but this seems to be an anomaly (in non-celebrity situations) and not really the norm. Most of the posts on her site are written by people who are looking for advice on remarriage, child support, and to complain about new partners in their exes lives.
Admittedly, when I read positive co-parenting occurrences – “We went to Disneyland together!” – I question why people who loved each other, respect each other and are best friends can’t remain married? People really need to be honest. I can believe, over time, that you can become friends. Even really good friends.
Truthfully, I am trying to positively co-parent with my ex but I find it difficult, to say the least, as I’m sure my ex finds co-parenting with me difficult as well. The problem, mostly, is that even if you have the best of intentions to remain friends, (and, let’s say your ex cheated on you? Gambled all your money away? Are we really expecting these people to remain friends with the exes? Maybe, but that may take time), feelings arise, because, well, we’re human.
But then finally! A celebrity who doesn’t pretend that positively co-parenting is easy. “Chris and I work really hard ’cause we have Jack, that is sort of the long game idea and making sure Jack is really happy, which makes us really happy,” Anna Faris said, per Us Weekly. “We have sort of the luxury of circumstance. You know, we are both in other loving relationships. … But It’s like, how do you not in general sink into a place of bitterness?”
My point, I guess, is that just co-parenting may be enough. If you don’t find yourself being ‘positive’. Being kind to each other is enough. Only communicating through text is enough. Just talking about the kids’ schedules is enough. Not saying anything negative about the other parent is enough. Not fighting in front of your kids is enough. Putting the kids first is most definitely a MUST, but I don’t buy into the belief that to put your kids first means spending 7 days and nights on a tropical vacation, with your ex and his new girlfriend, or have weekly ‘family’ dinners.
Well, unless you’re cooking, then I may have a change of heart.
**Editor’s note: this post has been edited from the original version.