Reflections on 19 years of shared parenting, joint custody or whatever they call it now

I doubt you will ever meet a person who co-parents a child with a partner who they are no longer with, who doesn’t occasionally wonder either out loud or silently when will this end? Even when a couple parts ways on a good note, joint parenting is not for the faint of heart. Trust me, my ex-husband and I split up when our son was thirteen months old, and our son will turn 21 in less than two months. I am no expert on the issue of shared parenting, but I have been at this for a while.

I won’t lie, there were many years when I wondered, how much longer? Funny thing is that for all the articles written on co-parenting, I see very few that discuss life after a child turns 18. Funny thing is co-parenting never really ends because in most healthy situations, each parent still wants to share important moments with their kid.

This was brought home last night after a discussion with the college boy (aka my son for new readers) who is home on Thanksgiving break from school. Lest you think this is a bash the former Mister BGIM moment, it is far from that. My son who is in his 3rd year of college while managing his growing musical career at the same time is taking his first adult steps and moving off campus into a real apartment. Zoinks! As a result “our” standing time together at Christmas time will be truncated as he is moving into his place right before Christmas break and before he heads back out to Maine he is visiting his Dad who lives in the Midwest. A few years ago, this news would have sent me into a downward spiral, instead as I heard my son tell me how joint custody continues to impact him, I found myself in awe. In awe for every child that crosses the line into adulthood yet must continue navigating between parents who are no longer together and just how very tiring that must be at times.

I assured the college boy that whenever he returns back to my house it will be fine and that by all means, he should spend time with his father. The funny thing is I meant it; it wasn’t me putting on my game face. In recent years I have come to see my ex-husband as no longer “the ex” but as a part of my family, no matter what we are always connected through our son. We last saw each other at my son’s high school graduation and rather than holding two separate celebrations, we held one big bash put on by the ex and his wife where both of our families came together. I imagine we will both be there when he graduates from college and all the other major milestones that may happen in our son’s life.

Joint parenting, shared parenting or whatever you call it doesn’t end; it simply changes once your child hits 18. In our case many of the long standing tensions have disappeared in recent years and while we still share our son and our time with him, I like to think that our son has taught us how to be better at sharing. Love is not limited and there is more than enough to go around.


5 thoughts on “Reflections on 19 years of shared parenting, joint custody or whatever they call it now”

  1. I am curious how you know your father took your mom to court for spite. Did he tell you that? Or, was that your mom’s opinion?

    Men who go to court for custody usually do it because they want custody. It is the women who assume it is for spite, which is interesting and brings up the spectre that women do things only for spite.

    • I am quite certain, at that time in his life, it was out of a fair amount of spite or at least self(ish) interest (and a very small amount of actually wanting to have his kids). My Dad was not equipped financially or emotionally to be a full time parent to two small kids. I came up with this idea on my own after years of mulling it over. When we were small and we stayed with my dad he didn’t show a lot of interest in being a dad. Sure he liked to do the fun stuff with us, but when discipline or advice or support was needed…he was not interested. My mother never told me it was out of spite. Everyone involved, including my brother and I, knew it was not the right choice for my dad to have us. Being in close contact with my father to this day, I think he would readily admit that he was not doing it out of best interest for his kids.

  2. My brother and I are the product of split parenting, My parents split when I was 3, got back together and then split again when I was 8. I was glad they split, even at 8 years old I knew it was for the best. The yelling at night that I could vaguely hear from my room was gone! Peace descended on the house….it was nice. It was hard sometimes too: a single mom, unemployed at the beginning…having two kids under 3 years old. We struggled financially and did have to make use of food pantries etc.
    My dad took my mom to court for custody out of spite and I hated him for that and many other indiscretions for a long long time (like until I was 25). We went to have dinner with him every wed night and every second weekend we stayed with him. As a pre-teen girl I HATED that part. I did not want to sleep on a futon in the living room at dads place. Anyhow, long story short, my dad now lives literally 6 houses down from my mom. They used to trash each other to us kids but now it is all over. They are friends, we share holidays together when we can and it is a much healthier, happier way to be than when we all lived together. Sometimes, as the previous commenter mentioned staying together is not necessarily the right choice for you or your kids.

  3. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I have a relative whose marriage failed when the children were in their late single digit years.They had a family construction business that grossed over $4 million a year. Because the couple built the business together, when they split, the money split as well. The kids went from private schools to public, from luxuries to bear necessities. The kids loved me, and i did my best to support them. I reminded them of their father, and they embraced that for a while. But, when they missed him terribly, they would also direct hostilities towards me for the same reason. After experiencing the psychological pain of my nieces and nephews firsthand, I made a pledge to never leave my family.

  4. As a 48 year old ‘child’ of joint parents, I can tell you that it never ends. The children only hope that their parents are able to get along, or at least be civil, at all of those major milestones, so that all the people who are important to the kids are able to be involved/included in the big events.

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