What do you think about a separated but co-parenting living situation?
Q: My relationship with my daughter’s father recently ended. We were living together in a home I just bought and he decided he didn’t know what he wanted. In all honesty, we’ve been platonic since March and only faking it ’cause it felt like “what you’re supposed to do”.
He moved out this past Friday and is now renting a room at a mutual friend’s house. He has expressed regret at the loss of “normal”, and I definitely understand that feeling. Our daughter is 2 1/2 and she is happy as a clam right now because she and I are at my parents’ house (and boy do they dote on her). She doesn’t even really seem to be upset that things are different and that Daddy’s not here on a regular nightly basis like he was. In fact, she seems thrilled to be here (but it’s still new).
Here’s my dilemma… I have had a thought or two or ten that we go back to the house and co-parent, but not as a couple. He’d move himself into the guest bedroom and we’d maturely deal with all that, but she’d have her two parents and we’d have her. There’d be strict rules and guidelines, especially concerning new dates (none to the house). The positive view of this is that in the meantime, she’ll have us both there! We’ll both be able to be with her and spend time with her, develop a stronger bond with her than we have already, etc, while the only difference is we’re in separate rooms.
My worry is that, well … eventually the situation will end. One or both of us will find someone that we want to pursue something big with and the logistics of the “neutral ground” of the house will force major change. Then, our daughter, ostensibly older at that point and more aware, will have to deal with the loss of the home life and routine and the reliability of being with both of her parents.
Bottom line: is it better to go forward with the separation now, when she’s relatively young, or put ourselves in a very supportive-for-all-involved environment where she’s loved and cared for by both parents who happen to not be together?
A: I’m sure you could get 10 different opinions on this if you asked 10 different experts but it’s my opinion to leave well enough alone and move on from here. In my experience of working with kids of divorce (and parents) the younger the kids are, the more resilient they are. Kids can tolerate change very well at this age. The other advantage is that most of us typically do not have specific memories until we are about 4 or 5. So your daughter won’t remember the specifics of you and her father living together when she looks back on all this later. She will remember the situation you create for her.
If you really feel the relationship is over, I would just accept it, move on and work on co-parenting skills. She will be harmed more by a back and forth pattern and instability than she will by a clean break. Sounds like your parents are helping bridge the gap, which is great, but be careful not to let them take the place of her father. Make sure you prioritize her time with him and let him begin to establish some new patterns with her as well. There are many good books on navigating divorce and I’d suggest checking out the bookstores and libraries for kids books on the subject as well. Good luck with your situation.
Counts, H. (2007). What do you think about a separated but co-parenting living situation?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/10/21/what-do-you-think-about-a-separated-but-co-parenting-living-situation/