We have all heard stories about the ex-spouses who go on joint vacations with their children even after their divorce–sometimes even taking new spouses or significant others–and we take this image and tell ourselves that this is what “co-parenting” is. But this ideal of co-parenting is not only unrealistic for most, it may be damaging as well.
For many former partners, co-parenting means discussing their children’s activities, schedules, medical decisions, behavioral issues, all of the child-centered decisions that must be made by people who are no longer married to each other but are still in the business of raising children together. The communication is cordial but not necessarily overly friendly; it is business-like but not cold.
Good co-parents have boundaries they honor that stop at the decisions made for the benefit of the children without meddling in the other’s life or imposing their belief on what a “good parent” should do.
So when faced with the reality of what most co-parenting really is and comparing it to the ideal of going on vacations together, it may be easy to think that keeping an arm’s distance from your ex means you are failing your children: it does not. It means you understand that your relationship with your ex is fundamentally different now, but not bad. It means that you appreciate the other parent for being just that–a parent to your child–and not necessarily your friend. It means that your children know they have two parents who communicate about their well-being, even if they are not going to be together any more. Boundaries are not always a bad thing–and sometimes exactly what is needed to move forward.