“I always have to be the bad guy.  He’s the fun guy.  He lets the kids stay up late, have ice cream before bed, and they never have to do their homework with him.  It’s just fun, fun, fun. When they come home to me, I’m the task-master: brush your teeth, why didn’t you do your homework, make your bed.  When is he going to be a grown-up parent and share the real job of parenting?”

 I’ve heard stories like this—and more—a thousand times.  It can be difficult to co-parent with your wusband (the man who was your husband).  At times you feel like pulling your hair out, screaming and shouting and insulting him…in front of the kids. 

Is amicable co-parenting real?  Can you actually have a parenting alliance similar to Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, who—despite their divorce—vacation as a family, celebrate holidays together, attend school conferences and church as a tight unit?  It might seem impossible, and maybe that level of togetherness is not possible for you, but can there be something other than a contentious co-parenting relationship with your children’s father?  Yes, there can…with a bit of work and a whole lot consciousness.  Take a look at the cheat sheet below:

1.     Don’t judge what goes on in his household.  His way of doing things may not be your way, but it may be good enough for your children.

2.     Don’t laugh at or criticize your ex in front of them.  Remember that they are part of him as well and when you do that, they see it as your laughing at and criticizing them.

3.     Don’t make him feel incompetent.  Dads need an opportunity to learn how to parent effectively when you’ve done most of the heavy lifting.

4.     Don’t try to compete with him regarding stuff, fun, love, anything!

5.     Be consistent with YOUR rules and don’t worry about what’s going on in his home.

I realize this is a challenging time and full of emotions you may not know that you had.  Give yourself—and him—some grace and kindness as you work your way through this.  Your children will be the beneficiaries.

And always remember to Love Your Children More Than You Dislike Each Other.  You and he divorced, but your children didn’t divorce their father.

Take good care.