Being a co-parent comes with multiple challenges. Some of which you were expecting, many of which you were not. One of the unexpected challenges is the pressure that co-parenting places on relationships, but what if there was never a relationship?
This could happen as the result of a very short-term romance — think vacation fling, a hook-up, a casual dating app, etc… I like to refer to this as an App Romance, or AppRo for short. Is having a baby without the added emotional baggage of a relationship gone wrong easier? What are the challenges when you have a child with someone you barely know, and how do you overcome them?
The challenges of co-parenting with an ex-spouse or ex-partner are well documented; some of the same challenges exist in an AppRo. However, there is the added burden of getting to know the other parent while trying to establish a positive co-parenting relationship. There is also the matter of developing trust while being asked to hand over the most valuable and vulnerable part of your life, your child.
The 3 A’s can go a long way to helping you co-parent with your AppRo partner:
ATTITUDE, ACKNOWLEDGMENT, ACCEPTANCE.
Your attitude makes all of the difference. Research has shown that conflict does far more emotional damage to children than being raised in two separate homes. When you are trying to parent with someone you do not know very well, first, start with the basic primes that they also want what is best for their child. This is likely true unless clear evidence exists indicating otherwise. When you do not know someone, and there is little to no trust, it is easy to interpret actions that you disagree with as selfish, vindictive or having a sinister ulterior motive. The reality is, even in homes with couples that have been happily married for years, significant parenting differences emerge. These differences are not rooted in a plan to alienate the other parent but based on differences in family backgrounds, childhood experiences and the ingrained values and beliefs and ideas that developed over a lifetime. Understand that having parenting differences is normal and have faith that believe that they can be resolved.
Acknowledge and accept the fact that, in most cases, children are better off when they have regular and consistent access to both parents, including extended family. This can be difficult when spending time with the other parent means spending time away from you and your family. Building this trust is a two-way street. Allow the AppRo to come into your home and ask the same in return. Try not to be judgmental about their living environment. If cleaning or childproofing needs to take place, talk about it openly and work together on that task. Putting extra effort into helping your AppRo is putting forth effort into helping your child. Additionally, having a common schedule in both homes is not mandatory, but helpful. This is very important for infants and young children, but it also plays an important role in latency-age children and, to an extent, teenagers. The bottom line is children, like adults, do better when they know what to expect.
Possibly the most difficult, accept that you have no control over the AppRo or their parenting style. Yes, this is a difficult pill to swallow. They may not want you to help them clean up or childproof their home. They may believe a vegetarian diet is best, while you believe steak once a week is healthy. The hard truth is that while your child is with the AppRo, they will parent as they see fit and you will do the same. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. As you and the other parent get to know one another, you should both identify your strengths without ignoring your weaknesses. Over time, you and your AppRo may be able to support one another in areas where extra support is clearly needed. If that type of parenting relationship does not develop, you will both have a good understanding of what you are working with in regards to the other parent.
AppRo Quick Tips:
1. Take a parenting class together (online classes count)
2. Try to focus on developing a friendship rather than a romantic relationship; chances are it will last longer and be less messy in the end
3. Develop a parenting schedule and stick to it as much as possible
4. Spend time with the AppRo’s family; even if this does not occur regularly, at least you have an idea of who they are.
5. Have a regularly scheduled meeting to discuss parenting issues in a neutral location (no more than twice a month and no less than twice a year)
6. Download coParenter, to get access to on-demand coParenter Professionals and keep all of your co-parenting communication and information in one place.