Let me tell you a story. It’s about the first time that I had to say goodbye to my one year old after his dad and I separated.
It was summer. It was probably a Tuesday night. My son’s father rang the doorbell to pick up our child to take him to his new flat for the first time. The flat wasn’t very far away. It was actually at the end of the road. I answered the door and I felt sick. Our child was so little still. A baby. His dad stood on the doorstep. I clung onto our son. I didn’t want this to happen. I didn’t want to let go. And as I reluctantly passed him over the threshold, he began to scream. Scream like I have never heard him scream before. And I will never ever forget that screaming for as long as I live. It was like he knew that his whole life was going to change. As though he knew it was going to be harder for him in many ways. He was protesting. He clung onto me and I had to unpick his little hands from my top and hand him over to his dad. I could still hear him screaming down the street.
I closed the door. I fell to the floor. And I wailed. For a very, very long time. And then I went out and got very, very drunk. So drunk that when I came home, I went and stood outside the block of flats where my son was sleeping for a very long time. Something primal and fundamental had been severed from me. It was a pain I don’t think I have ever fully healed from. A deep visceral pain that ran through my core.
Now it’s 12 years on. So much has happened. I’m a co-parent coach for a start. Which must mean that somewhere along the way it must have turned out ok. And yes, in many ways it has. We share our son, we communicate well. We even all get together with new partners and new children so we can surround our son with a safe parental bubble as often as possible. From the outside in, it looks ideal. And it is. And it also isn’t.
I’m being brave here. I want to tell you the truth. I work as a co-parent coach. I help parents who are separating get to a place where they can talk with each other, make decisions together, protect their child as parents together. All of this provides such a fundamentally important structure for the child to grow up in. It keeps them safe and teaches them that relationships may not be perfect, but they can still work. I also tell parents the truth. That this will be the hardest thing you ever do.
Every time I say goodbye to our son, every handover, every holiday he goes on with his other family, a little bit of me wants to vomit. The ache I feel is palpable. The despair is still there. I have just learned to put it somewhere. I’ve learned to cope, to function. But I need to be honest, co-parenting means that you will see your child less than you want to. And that’s not easy. The thing that keeps me going is that I know, I deeply and fully know, that my son needs to be with his dad too.
There are practical things that we need to overcome as co-parents too. Weekend clubs don’t cater for ‘every other week’ families. They don’t charge you 50% less if you can only bring your child to a class every other week. So, if you can’t agree with your co-parent about what clubs to do, you either have to stump up the money, or not send your child.
Other parents at the school gate don’t understand why scheduling playdates is so hard. They don’t fully get why your child isn’t around in the long summer holidays because they are away with their other family. And you know you need to create that time for your child to play with their friends so that they can learn to build long and meaningful friendships, not 50% ones. It’s a constant juggle and a constant thought process about what is best for your kids and also what you need as their parent.
Sure, there are some plus sides, you get time to be an adult, to go away with friends, to party. At least until you meet someone else and then you start the family life all over again. But there is always a part of you that knows something is missing, and that you are biding your time until you see your child again.
So, to all of you separated parents who share access to your children. To all of you saying goodbye. I feel you. I hear you. I salute your bravery. You’re doing the thing that is best for your child. You are enabling them to have both parents. It’s the most important gift you can give them. You are a hero.
Rolling Stone Coaching Limited
Company Number: 13414383
Registered to Onslow Gardens, London N10, England.
Director: Marcie Shaoul
The Co-Parent Way is a registered trademark. All methodologies and intellectual property are not to be reproduced in any way. The Co-Parent Way is a trading name of Rolling Stone Coaching.