I highly recommend co-parenting. Eight years ago this June (June 21, 2001 I think), I met my co-parent. It was during a “how to have a baby” pregnancy class. Instead of the weekend crash course favored by many of my business school colleagues, Neal and I opted for a 7-week, every Thursday night course “Milk and Honey” which focused on Jewish rituals and practices surrounding birth (apparently we were the only couples to get this great course). There were two other Jewish couples in this class that we took in each other’s homes. Jessica and I, two very head-strong, opinionated women, somehow made each other laugh from the first class.
My mother referred to her Aunt Sadie as her second mother and talked about how much time she spent at Aunt Sadie’s house. I don’t know if my kids will refer to Jessica as a second mother, but they probably will not appreciate our invaluable relationship until they are parents themselves. Obviously, the most important partner in raising my kids is their father – but for a lot of the daily challenges and k’vell-worthy moments of parenting, I simply love sharing my parenting with another woman I respect whose in the same exact place as me.
We each have three kids. They are 12 days, 5 weeks and 10 weeks apart. We met while pregnant with the first two. The second two came along 25-26 months later – a pretty conventional gap. The third two – well, we actually talked about timing since we preferred co-parenting and it works for us.
There really isn’t a topic in parenting Jessica and I don’t discuss in real time as we’re experiencing it. When to start the fall-born kids in school - researched, analyzed, discussed and then independently decided. The merits of day care over full-time nanny/au pairs – got it covered. The issues and concerns about returning to work – and the issues with staying home – all covered.
Jessica and I make different decisions all the time – for example - I’ve worked full time with the exception of continuously shorter maternity leaves while she preserved a year one-on-one with each of her children. We chose different schools for our kids. The value is in the dialogue, support and respect. Together we determined how to sleep train, potty train, introduce foods, introduce chores, deal with inevitable grandparent spoiling and countless other mundane and germane parenting questions daily.
We cover for each other – we’ve taken their kids for a weekend for them to get away. They’ve raced over to day care/school to pick up our kids when we were in real binds. We love and discipline each other’s kids and the kids have the same behavior expectations in either house. We’ve dealt with moments when our kids’ friendships weren’t as close as ours.
Co-parenting is based on respect, trust and shared values. In our case, it’s significantly aided by close proximity. It takes effort and time to develop the relationship – Jessica and I had 5 weeks while she was on bed rest and I was (supposedly) in pre-term labor where we spent days together. We gave each other date nights for 4 years – every other Thursday, each couple went out while the other watched their kids. Invaluable couple time in the most tiring period of parenthood was a gift.
I wish every mom a co-parent – nothing could be more practical than an objective, but loving third party to help you think through parenting. My sister tells me she is working to develop a deep friendship with another mom whose kids are the same ages – a friendship like what I have with Jessica. I’m sure my co-parent makes me a better mom. Of course, I talk with my other mom girlfriends about parenting. They are an invaluable resource – practical parenting is not a one-woman or one-couple undertaking. But no one other than my husband is as involved in day-to-day parenting discussions as my co-parent. Do you have a co-parent (beyond your spouse/partner)? What’s the most memorable moment where he/she really made a difference?
Happy anniversary (about 6 weeks late) Jess!