Kid's Look After Your Parents

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I felt like my Offbeat-ness was something to be suppressed. In my trying to assimilate, I married a very Onbeat boy. I knew it wasn’t right, but for reasons that seemed good at the time, went through with it anyway.

One month later, found out I was pregnant. All of the brewing troubles were brought to the surface with this news, and the marriage was as good as over. We finally split for good when my daughter was two and a half. Our parenting relationship was initially pretty stable, but as we began to grow and pursue our own paths, those paths diverged greatly, and the tension began to rise.

I worked within the local music scene and tended bar because it paid better than a 40 hour workweek. I quit my office job and went back to college to study art. I dyed my hair, tattooed my body, and allowed myself to be the person I had been suppressing for years. I fell in love with a banjo-playing Irishman and we turned bluegrass punk. It felt so good to finally let my freak flag fly … until I was served with papers suing me for custody of our daughter.

Our once-amicable pending DIY divorce turned into a custody battle. Even when we tried to get along for our daughter’s sake, it was never smooth sailing. Every couple of months there were clenched jaws and shouting matches (thankfully never in the presence of our child). I felt like I was seen as a pleasure-seeking drunk punk mama who was more interested in my own pursuits than my child. Me coming into my own seemed to have been perceived as some sort of second childhood rebellion.

I tried my best to be a bigger person, but I didn’t always succeed. I felt ostracized for being different and pressured to straighten up and be more traditional. The tense give-and-take of anger and resentment continued for another couple of years, until I gave birth to an unwitting catalyst — my second child, a son.

Before he was a month old, my son was diagnosed with a genetic disease. My daughter was worried, stressed, and began acting out in ways that concerned all of her parents. My ex-husband’s partner reached out to me in a phone call that was filled with concern. We all spoke enough to agree to take my daughter to some counseling, and to participate in group sessions for her benefit as well. It was something I had wanted to do, but it took a crisis to bring it to make it happen.

Regardless of how it came about, it changed everything … for all of us. The therapist listened to all of us, and helped us understand each other, even when we didn’t agree. Our therapist’s experience and guidance helped me feel humanized instead of just “the ex-wife.” Likewise, I was able to let go and stop feeling so judged all the time. We were all able to embrace that the experience of growing up in two wildly different households could be a huge benefit to my daughter … if we could work together, rather than struggling against each other.

We still disagree. They think our organic diet and rejection of mainstream culture is ridiculous and borderline offensive. We feel the same about their desire to wear branded clothing and eat McDonalds on a regular basis. But we don’t feel like we are in opposite sides of the ring, waiting to be sucker punched, and that makes all the difference.

As my daughter grows, she will have the choice to become who she wants, be it Offbeat or otherwise. She will have models of two vastly differing lifestyles, both functioning to her benefit. And we, all her parents, hope that the biggest lesson we can teach her will be to embrace the differences rather than fight them.

Comments on Learning to co-parent with an onbeat ex

  1. I love this! I would love to see more articles about blended families. I’ve been thinking a lot about this kind of thing as I just started seeing a guy with a child.

  2. I think it’s so great that you all can see past your differences for the benefit of your daughter. I really wish my parents had been able to do that. It would have saved me and my brothers so much stress growing up. And kudos to your ex’s partner for actually communicating with you!
    It’s really great to see blended families that work 🙂

  3. This is a great article. I recently discovered my suppressed offbeatness about 2 years ago and because of it, it gave me the strength to realize that I didn’t need to succumb to the typical disdain of a woman in a trapped marriage just because there was a child involved. I applaud you for continuing to do what you do and keeping your kids your top priority all at the same time.

  4. girl! thank you SO much for sharing your story! it is a representation of MANY stories not so often shared. i experienced a very similar co-parenting experience minus having been married prior to our daughter being born.

    i will be sharing this, your story, with her dad. i hope it will spark enough interest to learn to appreciate and value how we are two very different people on two very different paths, that both lead to the best possible outcome for our daughter!

    thanks again!

    meredith…another off beat mama!

  5. What a great post! It is so great to hear that you guys are making things work.

    I am a total believer in family therapy, by the way– it seems almost impossible for one arm of a family to be healed while the other goes on as usual, doesn’t it?

  6. Thank you for this! I am in the middle of a VERY similar situation. I am going through a messy custody battle, with tons of mud slinging, that mainly revolves around my offbeatness. I was feeling very alone and sure that no one had ever gone through this. Having my self expression and who I am as a person used against me in court is something I never imagined having to deal with. Just this morning I was woken up to an angry phone call over cloth diapers… Somehow I am a bad mom for switching from disposables… Your story is exaclty what I needed today! THANK YOU!

  7. What a great story. Thank you, Amy, for sharing this and reminding people that there is a way to “agree to disagree”.

  8. Wow, thanks everybody! I joked earlier that learning from my mistakes is what I do best, next to making them. But in all seriousness, I’m so glad anything I’ve been through stands to benefit someone else. It makes a body feel useful.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing something so personal! I’ve been struggling with my desire to leave a relationship, worrying about my 11-month old daughter and what our futures will look like… This has certainly given me a good perspective on how much work it would be, but also how much potential for good there could be too! Thank you!!

  10. my husband and i healed our rifts, but we are also off and on-beat. what has made the difference is to respect our choices nd attitudes, and to respectfully disagree.

    i was so glad to hear you all teamed together for the sake of the children.

  11. Amy, thanks so much for sharing your co-parenting story. I co-founded a blog with my ex, CoParenting101.org, and we’d love to cross-post this and/or offer you a standing invitation to guest-blog for our site. Our readers would be encouraged by your journey. I hope we can connect!

    Best to you and your family,
    ~Deesha

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