Raising kids is one of life’s great joys, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy. When you are divorced, it can be even harder. You hope that you are doing the right thing, that you and your ex are united in how you parent, that your kids will be okay: there is a lot of give and take, and some days are harder than others.
But you’re in good company; even Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin struggle with co-parenting, no matter how easy they make it look. In a recent interview on The Drew Barrymore Show, Paltrow admitted that co-parenting is “harder than it looks.” E! Online reports:
Paltrow said she really wanted their kids, Apple Martin, 16, and Moses Martin, 14, “to not be traumatized, if it were possible.” However, she admitted staying committed to the co-parenting plan wasn’t always easy.
“Chris and I committed to putting them first and that’s harder than it looks,” she shared. “Because some days, you really don’t want to be with the person that you are getting divorced from. But if you’re committed to having family dinner, then you do it. And you take a deep breath, and you look the person in the eye, and you remember your pact, and you smile, and you hug, and you make a joke, and you just recommit to this new relationship that you’re trying to foster.”
Celebrities – they really are just like us.
The struggles of co-parenting are normal and common
At some point, every co-parent will have doubts about how he or she is raising the kids. Should you give your ‘tween a cellphone? Should you have let your child ride in a car with another teen driver? Should you have been stricter, more lenient, less angry, more supportive? When these insecurities are compounded with the Child Warrior Cry of “But Mom/Dad says I can,” those struggles can feel overwhelming.
The good news is, you are not alone. The better news is, there are things you can do – with or without your co-parent – to help you deal with those struggles.
- Take a deep breath. If that doesn’t work, take another… and another. Give yourself a few minutes to get to a place where you stop seeing red, so that you don’t make a rash decision.
- Create a new plan going forward. If your parenting plan is no longer working for you and your co-parent, change it. If the changes affect factors like custody agreements, for example, you will need to modify those through the court. If they don’t, you can work on them one-on-one.
- Stand united. Successful co-parents work together, not against each other. This means standing united in what is important. Maybe it is a family dinner once a month, or a rule that homework must be completed right after school. This can be hard when you are not physically together to work as a team, but it is not impossible.
- Seek counseling. Even the most successful co-parents are going to argue and disagree; it is human nature. What you want to avoid is dumping that information on your children. Working with a counselor or therapist (together or apart) can help you work through your frustrations.
- Accept the things you cannot change. Paltrow said that she had to learn to be accountable for her role in the end of their marriage, and to “learn to forgive [and] let go of spite.” It is good advice for all parents, married or divorced. If you can learn to let go, you might find yourself in a better place mentally and emotionally.
- Don’t compare your situation to other parents’ situations. Every divorce is different, and comparing yourself to other couples is not healthy. That is not to say you cannot learn from others; some couples (like Paltrow and Martin, or Demi Moore and Bruce Willis) seem to have co-parenting in the bag, as they say. Remember, though, that what happens behind closed doors is very different from what you see as part of a branded persona. Your path is different from theirs, and that’s okay.
- The rules change if you suspect abuse or neglect. Disagreeing on bedtimes is frustrating; seeing signs or abuse or neglect is a red flag. If you believe your co-parent is abusing or neglecting your children, you should immediately file a Petition for an Order of Protection. In most cases, a magistrate will issue an ex parte Order of Protection and set a hearing for within 15 days. Ensuring your children’s safety is the number one priority.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s admission that co-parenting is a challenge even for A-listers may be helpful to parents who are struggling with raising kids while apart. It serves as a reminder that families come with all sorts of challenges. If you are struggling with your current parenting plan or child custody agreement, Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC can help. If you believe your children are in danger, we will fight to protect them. to reserve a consultation, please call 615.391.4200, or fill out our contact form.
Karla C. Miller has devoted her entire career to the practice of family law in Tennessee. She attended Auburn University and Nashville School of Law, and upon graduation in 1996, she opened her own law firm and has been assisting families throughout Tennessee since then. Learn more about Karla C. Miller here.