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Mom Talk: Inside The Messy Reality Of Co-Parenting

Written by Lorena Vargas

Photography by Photography by Heather Moore

We’ve seen lots of positive examples of successful co-parenting recently. And while achieving a peaceful partnership for the sake of the kids is no doubt ideal, for most fractured couples, the road to getting there is bumpy to say the least. That’s why we think this week’s Mom Talk is an important read. Lorena Vargas is currently in the thick of it. She is struggling through that never-easy first year as a mother, while also sorting through heartbreak and betrayal from a failed relationship with her daughter’s father. Lorena writes honestly about how, despite her best intentions, anger and hurt often win out, even when she knows in her heart that the priority is peace for the sake of her child. Read on for her story. 

It’s something I could never have prepared for, and a family dynamic I never imagined would be my own—a constant contrast between love and hate, leaving me forever searching for the middle ground. I’ve found co-parenting with my ex to be one of the hardest things I’ve experienced to date. Even the people who have found a way to co-parent as best friends admit it wasn’t without its battles. And for us right now, it’s a struggle, a process, and an ongoing challenge. The possibility of evolving into best friends from a state that seems irreparable often seems beyond the scope of reality.

I promised to always put my daughter first, but at times hurt and anger control the situation, making me see red and wishing her father never had a place in my world. But all it takes is one look into her eyes and I’m reminded that she needs her daddy in her life; it’s her right, and not even her mother has the right to decide otherwise. But it’s far from simple, being able to detach my pain from their soul tie and let them forge their own bond without our mess in the way. And though at times it may burn to remember what he’s done to me, I know in my heart and soul that she is his world, and he loves her deeply.

We have had our moments of success, communicating and engaging positively. We’ve spent time as a family embracing our new circumstance, appreciating each other for what we essentially gave each other: everlasting true love in the form of our daughter. But it never takes us long to crash and burn, time and time again, leaving us back at square one. Breaking boundaries was our first fuck up—God knows why we kept finding our bodies wrapped around each other. Half convenience, half whatever love was left over are the only things I can think of. However, I’ve learned co-parenting with benefits simply doesn’t work. It just maximizes the complications.

In hindsight, I see our mistakes clearly: Instead of stabilizing the foundation we had left in order to co-parent, we let our resentment for one another take the focus away from what was truly important, and each time the cycle became more detrimental. These moments of stress have been so debilitating it’s made me sick, leaving me physically and mentally out of sync, and triggering my UC (Ulcerative Colitis) to flare up. During these moments I’ve lost my sanity, and each and every time it takes me months to find my feet again and feel peace within. The thought of us not being able to amend our relationship out of the love we have for our daughter Myla will forever be a missing piece to my puzzle.

I’ve found it’s all too easy to point fingers, pass blame, and fixate on the darkest days. Why is it easier to drown in the pain and hold onto the anger? The urge to spite him back and even the playing field has done far more damage than good. I’ve wasted so much energy proving what he has or hasn’t done. I’ve spent hours trying to understand the reasoning behind his actions, only to end up with an endless list that does nothing but wind me up further. I’ve spent days reminding myself that I’m the better parent, and he’s just part-time, so he could never be my equal. I’ve sent meaningless emails, hoping they’ll, for once, allow him to see my perspective. I’ve focused on every flaw that made me despise him. Part of me may hate to admit this, but this way of living hasn’t freed my soul, instead it has made me a prisoner and kept me from freedom.

The reality is, everyone loses in this scenario. But a child needs both their parents, and they are the ones who lose out most when the adults act like children. Our innocent babies are left on the back bench, their healthy development compromised due to our drama. I’m stressed, but she’s the one that suffers. It’s a sense of security and safety that allows a child to thrive, but growing up without unity between the parents steals any such reassurance. It’s easier said than done—putting your issues aside, and coming together as the family you are—but part of giving them a childhood they don’t need to recover from is making sacrifices and putting them first. So, as long as her father remains an active part of her life and I’m confident she’s safe in his hands and loved unconditionally, I will support her relationship with her father. I may be hurting and angry about everything he’s done, but not even I can come between them.

Whether her father and I find peace, and the strength to reconstruct our friendship or not, I’ll never be ashamed to tell my baby how much I once loved her father and that she was meant to be. And just because we didn’t work out doesn’t mean we love her any less—Mummy and Daddy will forever love you like no other. We may not always see eye to eye, but never question if it’s because of you—you’ll never be the reason or responsible for the obstacles we face. And last but not least, I’m an imperfect being, so I’ll ask for forgiveness when I’ve not stuck to my word and acted on emotion. I still have my picture framed— happy, pregnant, and in love with her dad. It’s up in our room so she never forgets where she came from: Love. For as long as I live, I’ll make sure she always remembers she never has to jump ship or pick a side, because regardless of our history, we’re all soul tied.

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