The following was syndicated from Medium for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at TheForum@Fatherly.com.
Trying to raise a child with both parents on the same page is hard enough. Being separated from the mother only adds to the stress because both of us have ideas on what is best for our daughter. Even worse is that we both feel like we’re right, and that means whatever the other parent is doing must be wrong. See where I’m going with this? In circles, which is exactly what happens if you don’t learn to accept a few realities and forge out a few more.
The first reality you need to accept is this: Do not expect that the rules in your house as a father will be the same in her house as a mother. Just get that out of your head right now. Even if you and the mother of your child(ren) get along fine, chances are you both have different opinions on at least one or 2 major child rearing points.
And that’s to be expected. You’re not together for a reason. And if you’re like me who hasn’t been together with my daughter’s mother for over a decade, you can definitely expect some differences. But once you learn to accept these differences as things you can’t change, you can then begin to find ways to deal with them.
You should also know right off the bat that it won’t be easy. I can attest to the challenges of trying to set parallel rules in the face of so many other co-parenting tensions. But my daughter is proof that it’s possible, so I’ll share what I’ve learned.
At the end of the day, your child is what’s at stake. Their self esteem, mental stability, their social attitude.
Agree On The Big Things
We’ve already established there will be differences, but there will for sure be some Big Things you both can agree on. In my situation, there are certain people we agree my daughter shouldn’t hang out with, and certain places she isn’t allowed to go to without a parent being present. You need to talk these things out so both parents are clear, but in most instances, you both should be on board with these rules.
What’s Best For You Is Not Always Best For The Child
There are a lot of foods I don’t eat strictly for health reasons. That’s a personal choice and one that I shouldn’t necessarily impose on my daughter or on her mother. I think it would be unfair for me to say “my daughter is not allowed to eat meat at your house,” if her mother is fine with eating meat. Keep the rules focused on your child’s activities, not your own.
Don’t Question Personal Experiences
My daughter’s mother doesn’t like her sleeping over at her friend’s house. She doesn’t mind her visiting for however long, but actually sleeping over is a problem for her. I don’t care about her sleeping out and actually encourage it. But that’s because I had positive experiences in my childhood sleeping over at my friends’ houses; my daughter’s mother hasn’t. Who am I to question those experiences? So we compromise and come to a fair solution.
Like I said, you’re separated for a reason, and co-parenting is going to be a roller coaster ride any way you look at it. But at the end of the day, your child is what’s at stake. Their self-esteem, mental stability, their social attitude. Don’t complicate their lives because you can’t get your sh*t straight. The main thing is to keep the vibe positive within your own household and communicate as effectively as possible. Piece of cake, right?