They say a camel is a horse designed by committee. This analogy also applies to coparenting. You have an idea of what you want to accomplish and the raw materials to make it happen. You have a concept you are pretty sure is going to work. You have vision. You have hopes and dreams. That’s all well and good but at a certain point you realize: you’re not the only one at the table.

That person sitting across from you who USED TO LEAVE THE MILK ON THE COUNTER AND OMG THAT THING WITH THE TOILET PAPER they have their own concept, vision, hopes and dreams. You have a mound of clay between you to shape into something awesome. You both work at it a little, taking turns (like you do with your parenting time.) You want to build a horse but with artistic license and differing opinions from that person you used to be married to you end up with a camel.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a camel, it’s just not what you had in mind at the beginning of this exercise. When you add in step-parents, the committee gets big and your camel ends up with a lot of humps and maybe it spits a little but gosh darn it y’all did your best. And that’s really all you can do.

What I have found to be most helpful in horse/camel construction is being really focussed on the horse/camel. You can spend a lot of time arguing the merits of horse vs camel or you can focus on what’s right in front of you. You need to focus on feeding it, sheltering it, and making it tame enough to be approached. If you don’t do those things, your camel/horse isn’t going to make it. You have to decide at a certain point that it’s more important to have a healthy horse/camel than it is to be right about which it could be.

This little story about livestock is the easiest way I can find to explain child-centred co-parenting. You will come upon things that maybe you wouldn’t prefer and you will have to make decisions and compromise and there’s going to be turmoil. What makes it easier to decide what’s right or even maybe tolerable is to decide if what is being proposed is in the child’s best interest and if it will add value to the child’s life.

The other thing to keep in mind is that child-centred co-parenting is hard work. You are going to be the hardest working camel herder/horse wrangler around and you need to make sure you are rested enough to face those challenges. Remember to take time for you where you can, even if it’s just five minutes. Stress makes decision making more challenging, and co-parenting involves a lot of decision making. Taking care of yourself and learning to manage the stress of your situation can make that process less difficult.

Single parenting is hard work. Parenting with someone you just broke up with is hard work. Honour and acknowledge that it’s hard. You’re not whining, it’s just the reality. It is hard. You can’t control if the person across the table from you is going to want to build a horse or a camel, but you can control how you react to their decision, and you’re better positioned to do that with adequate rest, exercise, nutrition and hydration. After all, you can’t live on camel spit alone. Ick.

This post originally appeared on the Hot Mess Express, a parenting community where I help moderate the single parenting group. If you click on the Hot Mess graphic below and join, I get a small amount of money towards coffee I will probably spill on myself anyways.

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