I have been married for more than 16 years and I have two smart, funny, and beautiful teenagers. Getting started early, I was 19 when I had my first, 22 when I had my second, and 23 when I lost the third. My husband and I have struggled through financial difficulties, medical hardships, and our share of relationship problems but nothing has been more difficult than the obstacles that have arisen in attempting to co-parent with someone else.
My split family situation is from my first child, my daughter. Her birth father and I were together for about 2 years but were young and naïve and had no idea what lay ahead. Although we broke up prior to finding out that I was pregnant, we gave it several more tries before the real ending when she was 3 months old. It was bad then and has gotten much much worse than I ever thought it could be.
My best advice to someone entering a split family situation?
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, think of how much your child(ren) mean to you, and …
suck it up.
Get ready for years of holding your tongue, being verbally abused, manipulated, lied to, and used.
Be prepared to swallow your pride and forget that once perfect vision of what you believed your relationship with your child would be.
Learn to be humble and learn to give in.
Be prepared, if you truly love your children, to be the disciplinarian, the teacher, the provider, the one who cleans up the messes, and of course, the chauffeur, but usually receives no credit for any of it.
Get ready for the upcoming court battles, the countless hours of distance between you and your child(ren), extreme personality changes, and thousands of dollars gone to lawyers, counselors, and mediators.
Be prepared to do your job in addition to the jobs of many government agencies and be prepared when they come knocking on your door. Don't assume you are somehow superior, making you so overly confidant that it would never happen to you- trust me. It can.
Get ready to fight for your child(ren) when no one else will and get ready for the day they don't want you to fight for them anymore.
Parenting is about loving someone so much that you put their needs first. No matter if it makes you late for or miss work. No matter is it means catching the flu because your sick child needs you. No matter if you can't connect with them. No matter what.
It sounds like a lot but, believe me, every second has been worth it. In the end, how you conduct your life teaches your children how they should conduct theirs. So, do your best to keep those conversations open, and reach out to others when you feel like you are alone. You are not. There are organizations that can help us and parents should be encouraged more to use them. Here are some great places for parents to get help in the tri- state area:
Specializing in mental health issues for children and families including Expert Coaching, Peer to Peer Mentoring, Parenting Education, Treatment Foster Care, and Professional Development, Beech Acres can be reached at 513.231.6630.
With parenting enrichment opportunities, interfaith support, or NAMI classes, Jewish Family Services is available at 513.469.1188
A wide variety of parenting classes that focus on relationship building in families as well as many other mental health services are free to the public here. Call 513.381.1555 in Cincinnati or 859.525.3200 in northern Kentucky to get registration information.
Along with health services, they also offer educational classes for parents as well as general public concerning healthy relationships, abstinence and sex education, puberty resources, STDs, media awareness and sexual decision making skills. The PACE program is designed to provide sexual resources for parents of children at varying stages of their life from ages 4 and up. You can reach them at 513.721.2313.