Parenting is a mammoth task, definitely not for the faint of heart. Whatever action or behaviours you display have a huge impact on your child. As a parent you have been blessed with the chance to mould a little human’s life until they become independent. Ideally, you want your partner with you as you navigate this journey, but life has it’s way of working out and sometimes a couple has to go through parenting seperately due to a dissolution of the marriage or relationship. This often adds a whole new dimension to parenting as you have to deal with your own emotions about your partner and the situation without having those feelings seeping into your child’s mindset. Not always an easy dynamic to manage which is why we got some do’s and don’ts on how to handle it from partners who are living the co-parenting life.
A universal agreement from all of them is that it is paramount to always carry a positive tone with your child when referring to your ex. This counts even for couples that are not seperated. Adopting a positive tone is important to ensure the child’s view of their parent is not diminished and they don’t stop respecting them, regardless of the challenges the two of you are facing. According to Nyasha, it is not always that easy. She says, “You are sometimes pushed to say things that tarnish your partner’s image because you are the parent that is present. You are the voice of authority and that makes you bad cop, whilst the other parent comes in as the good cop.” However she does mention that finding peace is important as it helps your response to certain issues. Easier said than done we think but not observing this will have far reaching repercussions.
One of the most important things to a child is a sense of balance. A sense of security and stability. It is therefore important that the child feels that in as much as things have changed they are still essentially the same. This helps the child feel safe and feel that they are still important to both of you. Regardless of the fact that you and your ex are no longer together there should be a shield to the negative aspects of the breakup. Queen Momma says she believes she is raising her son in a good home and is grateful that she has a very strong support system and the love has kept him secure, although she does wish she could provide the normal mother and father setup for him. She recalls breaking down this one time when her son had a lesson about families and he said his mother was a single parent without a husband.
It is also important to set aside your unresolved feelings otherwise they will cloud your ability to be a good parent to the child. Sometimes you just want to take out your frustrations on the nearest person which sometimes can be the child. Unfortunately. Nyasha says she would at times allow her unresolved feelings for her partner to affect her parenting abilities. She acknowledges that she sometimes allowed her feelings to play a major role in her parenting abilities, and depending on how she was feeling on that day some things her child did would remind her of her ex and would evoke deep negative feelings. All the bitterness, anger and despondency would come. “I’m not proud of some of the things I have done or said, no matter how true they are or were. You can find yourself being irritable and quick to punish and it’s something you may not even be aware you are doing but it happens and it can break your child.”
Parenting ideologies are different and it is important for the co-parents to touch base from time to time. According to www.todaysparent.com, there needs to be certain rules and routines guiding your partnership. Decisions on birthdays and holidays are essential and need for you to discuss and make decisions together. If you and your ex are not cordial you can involve a third party. The child is who matters most. You need to understand that fair sharing doesn’t mean you get 50/50 access. Section 5 of the Guardianship of Minors Act of Zimbabwe creates what has been referred to as statutory custody. In this case, where parents start living apart, the mother shall have custody of the minor child, until the Children’s Court or the High Court determine otherwise on application by the father (or mother). This means the mother will definitely carry the bulk of the physical custody.
According to marumeandfuridzo.com, care and affection is considered more than luxury and comfort in Zimbabwe which is why the mother gets custody. Society has deemed mothers as primary caregivers so the bulk of parenting often falls on them. In Africa, as early back as the nineties, even if a couple was together, the brunt of the work of parenting fell on the mother. Your co-parent might still be hanging on to this school of thought hence parenting discussions are important. Tendai says her ex’s idea of being a father is paying school fees and sending money while she believes that the father and son having a personal relationship is more important. She wishes she could take legal action for people who don’t put in the time for their kids. We understand your sentiments Tendai, parenting is more than just financial provision.
We had the opportunity to get some nuggets from the book “When Fathers Go Missing” by Greyson Fungai Chipote. His book mainly talks about fathers who abandon their children. He focuses on the reconnecting bit of the relationship. Chipote stresses the importance of apologizing and talks about apologizing to the children whom you left. He also says if you’ve been absent from your child’s life and you suddenly come back, expect resistance. Parenting does not give one godlike status in the child’s life. You should expect and accept animosity and always remember childhood wounds can manifest later in life.
One of the stickier aspects of co-parenting is when your child should meet your new partner. You need to navigate this area carefully as you don’t want your child meeting every next person who enters your life. However, ultimately you know what is best for you and your child. Tinaye says she never let’s her son meet the men in her life. He will only meet the one who will become her next husband and his stepfather. Wise decision as you want to help your child maintain some semblance of stability.
There are no rules that are set in stone to navigate the murky waters of co-parenting. What’s important is ensuring the child gets the best life possible. Section 81(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that, “A child’s best interests are paramount in every matter concerning the child” So whatever we are going through as parents let’s ensure that our children are living their best lives! Happy parenting!
By: Nyaradzo Ngoma