It’s the time of year when advertisements reflect family gatherings of parents and children eating around the table, decorating together or opening presents together. What we don’t see is images of a single mother with her children, or the single father dropping his child off to spend a holiday away from him. This is the reality of so many families, and it can be hard, uncomfortable and awkward depending on the current dynamic of the parents. One single sailor is sharing how she mastered co-parenting with her ex.
Navy Seaman Kimberly Singleton, who has served 13 years, is a single mother to her son, DJ. She and her ex husband were married for eight years, and since their divorce in 2015, they have grown to operate like a well-oiled machine in the way that they co-parent.
“We get a lot of praises for our co-parenting. We’re at every event together, and we don’t argue or fuss. We still go to the park and movies together and even DJ’s medical appointments,” she said.
But just like every machine has kinks, they’ve had to work through a few issues and focusing on their priority — which is their son — always brings them back on track. Though, one of the kinks was her ex’s attempts at reuniting.
“He had to remove his emotions. Once his focus became DJ and he stopped trying to get our relationship back, everything fell into place,” Singleton explained.
They now share custody, which means they split all costs and time. DJ alternates weeks between each home. Initially she felt it would be too much transitioning for her son and he did have some issues adjusting.
“He’s seven now so he understands that he has two different homes and why me and his dad got divorced, but as a child he still thinks we’ll get back together tomorrow.”
Although Singleton is happy that she and her ex are still friends, she realizes that not all breakups maintain this level of being civil. She says, “Even though you’re divorced, when you have kids, you’re still a family. So we had to find ways to make it work.”
Here are some things they’ve decided to do that help maintain their new family dynamic while allowing the holidays to still be special for their son.
Split time on holidays
“We do half days. DJ spends the first half of the day with one parent then around 12 pm or 1 pm he would go to the other parent’s house. We don’t fight about it. It’s working pretty good,” Singleton explained.
This allows the child to still enjoy both parents/families equally.
Planning is huge
Singleton advises to pre plan what you will be doing. If you’re going to a parade, to see Christmas lights, or out for entertainment. She also advises that you include your child as a part of that process.
“We don’t try to hide it from him. And if he wants us to do any of the events together then we accommodate that. If we are going to dinner, it’s nothing more than dinner. We are there for our son,” she said.
Budget way ahead of time
Do your shopping early. While a lot people wait until the last minute, Singleton is usually done by October so she doesn’t have to fight any crowds to purchase a gift. She also recognizes that this time may still be a little difficult for her son and this is a way to ease the worry of disappointing him.
Make anyone you’re dating earn the right to be around your children
Although this isn’t specific to the holidays, she found it was the one area that she and her ex would have debates about.
She says, “Your child is the person you love more than anyone on this earth. Whoever you’re dating shouldn’t be able to be around him like that if they haven’t shown that they are dedicated to being in your life.”
No, you can’t control someone else’s relationships, but ask them to consider your kid(s) before they make those decisions.
Some divorced or separated couples who share children may have a long road ahead of them to finding their new way of being a family and working together.
“Take your emotions out of it. If both parents start to focus on the child and their well being it can work.”