Today I am speaking with Charlotte, 34 from Nottingham. She works for an education provider and is also a stylist. She has two children from two previous relationships; a girl who is a teenager and a boy who is under 5. We discussed how co-parenting with two partners has affected her and her children.
Listen to the podcast discussion on co-parenting with my guest hosts
What happened in the relationship with your daughter’s father?
I was 20 when I met him and I had just come out of a long-term relationship. He was basically a rebound when I look back in hindsight. I was in a relationship with him for two years and fell pregnant within the first year. The reason for our relationship breakdown was primarily due to our age. We were too young and in two completely different places. Our cultural differences also caused an issue. I am of Caribbean descent and he is of African descent. I did not understand his culture and certain expectations that were required of me at the time.
Can you give me an example of what cultural differences may have caused a problem?
For example, I was told we had to do a naming ceremony. That was fine pretty much, however the fact it had to be done 7 days after her birth did bother me. I did however, agree to do it despite my reservations. The actual problem arose when I was told I had to wear traditional wear for the ceremony. Being quite young and headstrong I refused to comply. Maybe had I been asked and not told, it may have been different. I didn’t like the fact I was being dictated to.
What ultimately caused the breakdown in your relationship?
We eventually broke up when my daughter was between 18-24 months old. This was mainly because I didn’t feel supported and he was a habitual liar. I had gone back to college, would take and pick up our daughter from nursery whilst he sat indoors on his PlayStation. He was not supporting me financially or otherwise. When I would press him about what his intentions were for his career, he would just tell me about what courses he had done. Nothing ever materialised. He proposed to me but I soon found out he needed his stay in the UK. His visa needed extending otherwise he would be deported. He had lied to me throughout our whole relationship and I could not trust him. Our relationship was never secure and he was not honest about what his situation was. I had no idea he had issues with staying in the UK. He then asked me to help him raise four figures to get someone to illegally sign some documents. Morally I could not do it and didn’t want to put my daughter’s name on any fraudulent documents.
How was your co-parenting relationship following that?
I never made an issue with him or his family seeing our daughter. Initially the co-parenting worked fine as he was working with my dad and living with my cousin. That didn’t work out in the end and the frequency of him seeing her would decrease. He got married when my daughter was around 6 and he went on to have 2 other children.
How was your relationship with his wife?
I had no issues with her but she was very ‘anti’ me. I wanted to have a civil relationship with her because she was looking after my child. As far as I was concerned he was her problem now.
How would you summarise your co-parenting relationship with him?
I would describe it as fractured and non-existent. I went away on holiday for a week when she was over two years old. He accused me of being a bad mother and being neglectful. At this point I had not even left my daughter for more than a night before then. He threatened to take me to court, take our daughter and disappear. I went to see a solicitor and I did not hear from him for 4 years. She bumped into him at a fairground with my dad. Currently he pops up every two years or so. I do not converse or have any dealings with him. When she was around 11 years old, I found him on Facebook and gave him her mobile phone number so he could have contact with her. He has never paid me maintenance and the CSA couldn’t assist because he did not earn enough.
What affect has this had on your daughter?
She doesn’t show her feelings towards him as she doesn’t understand the situation. My ex-partner of ten years has bought her up so she has a father figure who she speaks to daily. I’m not saying that their relationship makes up for it, but it’s almost a distraction from the fact that her dad isn’t there. Now that she’s in her teens her behaviour has changed and not for the best in some ways. She’s now learnt to play the game so she will ask him for things. The stubborn part of me gets annoyed but at the same time I don’t blame her for getting things out of him now. In summary, I would say it has had a detrimental effect on her. She suppresses her emotions a lot but they then come out in bursts. She doesn’t let people get too close because of her fear of rejection.
You were in a long-term relationship of ten years. What caused the breakdown in your relationship with your second partner?
He felt that I was not supportive of dreams. He was very much into his music and recording which was fine at the time. I just wanted him to get out of his bedroom and excel if that’s what he wanted to do. This went on for ten years but he didn’t want to go and study music to perfect his craft. He pumped a lot of money into video shoots which could’ve been a deposit for a house. He was nearing 30 with no real show of change or advancement.We kind of fizzled out from there. Over the next two years we still spoke and he was still active with my daughter. I ended up falling pregnant after we agreed to finally call time on things.
Did you get back together following your surprise pregnancy?
We tried to reconcile during my pregnancy but it just didn’t work. We wanted different things. I wanted a family unit with someone who would support me and vice versa. It was too one sided.
How would you describe your co-parenting relationship now?
I would consider it effective, it works for us. He has our son for four days and I have him for five days. It works well and our son is happy and extremely bright! He still lives with his parents so the test for me will be when he moves out and he doesn’t have the support of his parents. He doesn’t pay bills, shop, wash clothes and generally maintain a household.
How do new relationships affect your co-parenting?
We’ve never really had an issue. There was a minor blip at one stage but I let him know how I felt and it never happened again. He did have a girlfriend who was around the children for a period of time. This wasn’t a problem as she did treat the children well. He was also equally of the opinion that if a partner comes along they would have to embrace both children, or else it wouldn’t work. As long as there are clear boundaries in place there shouldn’t be a problem.
What are the positive things that have come out of your co-parenting relationship?
He comes to parents evening for my daughter and is very much involved in the discussion as I am. He’s always there for both children and is very active. He asks my daughter if she needs anything, has she tidied her room, has she done your homework. He even facilitated and orchestrated my daughter seeing her dad again and they would arrange visitations between them. Our relationship is such that I can call on him in an emergency and he is always willing to help out. My son and his dad have the most amazing relationship. It’s especially refreshing that he has a good male role model who is present and of Caribbean descent also. My son is very advanced in Maths and English for his age and is very confident. That is a credit to his dad and the time he puts into his education. His input has been invaluable.
What are the challenges that you’ve faced so far whilst co-parenting with your son’s father?
As amazing as things are, we don’t always agree on things and sometimes we do have lengthy discussion until we can reach an agreement. When he has our son for four days he would also have my daughter until very recently. There wasn’t a consistent message that she was getting from both of us. There were things that she would be allowed to do at his house that I wouldn’t allow her to do at home. This ended up causing friction between my daughter & I. Due to the change in her behaviour I no longer allowed her to sleep over, however she can still visit as much as she liked.
How has everything over the last 15 years affected you?
Whilst trying to co-parent with my daughter’s father, it got to the point where our conflicts were beginning to affect my mental health. There was an incident where we were having a blazing row in front of my daughter. Her father can be quite loud and aggressive and I felt like I almost had to match his energy. During the midst of us arguing my daughter clenched her fists and began shaking and screaming. Seeing her in that state broke me and that’s when I decided that enough was enough. Even talking about it now is making me feel emotional. I decided at that point that I needed to look after myself so that I could be at my best for her mentally. I began to work out at the gym excessively and to the point where people were concerned about my weight. At the time, I felt like I needed to fixate my mind on something else to keep my mood up and not slip into depression. I no longer have any dealings with him and it’s probably for the best. Right now, I am a work in progress. Sometimes at night I do cry and wish that things could be different. Although it is unlikely that we would ever work, I have thought about having that family unit with my son’s father. As a result of my failed relationships I have become very guarded, but I am not going to settle for less than I deserve. My kids are my world, so really, I have no time for a relationship. I do however, understand that I do need companionship. In hindsight, I can admit that I fell into all of my relationships, so I’m now more conscious of how I enter into them in the future.
I would like to thank Charlotte for sharing her story with Love Laid Bare. As we draw to a close on this topic, I encourage all parents to take a step in the right direction when it comes to communication and the wellbeing of your child. Conflict is never going be beneficial for the child and can have an affect on your mental health as well as your children.
We have previously discussed the possible repercussions of poor co-parenting and the links with serious youth violence. Read my previous post which includes all the podcast links.
Thank you for reading and have a blessed week.