1. Stop calling yourself a “single mother.” Unless your child’s father died or has no involvement in your child’s life, your child still has a dad. Calling yourself a single mom marginalizes dad. I know of a mom who sent dad a copy of the registration form for summer camp, since dad was paying half the cost of extra-curricular activities. Mom put her name and contact information on the form and drew a line through the section for the other parent. Even if you have sole custody, respect the fact that your child has two parents. 2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Dads need to know what is going on with kids when they are at mom’s home, and vice versa. I know of a dad who reached out to mom to discuss how to handle a power struggle. Mom responded by saying, “That’s between you and [daughter]. You have to figure it out on your own.” I wonder if mom would have said the same thing to a teacher asking for input. This isn’t a test where comparing answers is cheating. This is your kid’s life. And don’t forget there will likely be a time in the future where you are struggling to find the answer to a parenting dilemma. It is a relief and a blessing to have a co-parent when that happens. 3. Communicate doesn’t mean micro-manage. The flip side is the mom who is hyper-vigilant and second-guesses every decision, monitoring every meal and activity. I know a mom who was critical because dad ate out at restaurants too much. Give yourself permission to let go of the small stuff.When my daughter was younger, she was on a soccer team but was tired of going to practices. She was at my house and was supposed to be picked up in the carpool. What I didn’t realize is that she texted her friend and said she wasn’t going to practice, and then she left the house and re-entered through the egress window in the basement. I found her hiding out in the basement. It was a relief to be able to call her dad and have a unified approach to dealing with honesty, and to also re-assess soccer as an activity for her. Unless there are domestic violence issues, do whatever you can to nurture a parent partnership. Let go of competition with dad. Let go of anger towards dad. Let go of perfection. Trust me, life is so much better, for your kids and for you, when you have a co-parent.
Besides being a family law attorney, I am a divorced mother of a teenager. My daughter was 9 when her dad and I separated. Parenting is not for the faint of heart, even with a great kid. I cherish the fact that I have a strong co-parenting relationship with my daughter’s father as we celebrate the successes and face the challenges of launching a young woman into independence. So it bothers me when I see divorced women torpedoing the co-parenting relationship. I don’t seem to attract these kind of women as my clients, but I meet them socially or hear the stories from others (None of the moms below were my clients). The following is my advice to those women, because I have lived it.