This article first appeared on The Montague Reporter,
under my monthly column “The Life and Times of an Indie Mama”
This one goes out to my baby daddy. Or, as I more commonly refer to him, my co-parent.
I really like the term “co-parent”. I like that it’s reminiscent of the word co-pilot. And I like that it evokes within me a sense of partnership, comradeship, and teamwork. It reminds me that we’re committed to this parenting journey together, and that through all the ups and downs, I am not alone in this.
My co-parent is a man who shows up every day for his child, and since the moment he was born has been in his life. As a person who grew up without a father, the fact that my child’s father is and has been present makes it easy for me to want to try harder in this relationship.
It is after all a relationship. Bound by a little person whom we both deeply love.
Though to be perfectly honest, working on this relationship has been no picnic.
Sometimes trying harder means looking straight at the mirror he holds up for me, acknowledging that which is flawed and sometimes fear-based. Sometimes it means Amazon Prime-ing our individual copies of Nonviolent Communication, and sitting down with a therapist to help us navigate choppy waters. Sometimes it means setting boundaries and standing firmly by them. And more than once, this relationship has come back from the brink of extinction by the simple and frequent exchange of appreciation and acknowledgment.
Once upon a time, I learned how vital appreciation and acknowledgement are when it comes to creating healthy relationships with men. And not just romantic relationships, but truly, any relationship with any man, be he your dad, brother, co-worker. Acknowledgment is one of the key ingredients, and when expressed authentically, can make any man feel like a hero. According to the woman who taught me this and other secrets, at the very core, men are wired to serve women. And when a woman guides a man how to best do so, and acknowledges and appreciates him along the way, this makes the man feel like he’s winning at life.
Now, look: I get that in our age of gender-fluidity and non-binarism, this may sound antiquated at best. But I’ve witnessed the relationships that exist between those women who practice this mindfully (and authentically) with the men in their life. And let me tell you, the relationships they are creating are nothing short of revolutionary.
When thinking about my co-parent, as much as I appreciate him, there are things about him that make me want to pull my hair out. He’s not some perfect magical baby-daddy descended from the cosmos of some rom-com. There have been countless times when I’ve called my closest girlfriends to straight-up vent about him, to rage over what he’s said or what he’s done.
And while all of that is valid, I continue to use the tools I’ve learned along the way to acknowledge that which is truly the most important: his everyday efforts at fatherhood. I applaud how he continues to show up for his child, and I feel blessed to be a witness of their love.