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Stop-start parenting



60:40 Dad – a blog about parenting after separation


The confidence trap of discontinuous parenting

I think remaining confident as a parent isn’t easy at the best of times. You can be in the happiest relationship going and still it can be a rollercoaster ride of confidence with an unpredictable little person to look after. I’ve found this gets worse still as a separated parent though, for a number of reasons, but the one I’ve been thinking about recently is the stop-start, discontinuous nature, of separated parenting.

I co-parent, the children live with me part of each week. Things go wrong when you parent. You can’t get every decision right and you can always do better the next time. Parenting is perhaps the toughest education you’ll ever have. You’re learning every day and if you’re lucky you know just that little bit more than you need for that day and get ready to fight the next day.

Extra Pressure

I absolutely love every second that I spend with my children, but there is extra pressure in separated parenting. When your children always live with you, there is always tomorrow. There’s always the next day, the next decision, the next meal, the next sleep, the next anything to get things right and feel confident again. My experience is this is so much tougher when separated. You can find yourself living in fear of handing over your children on the low part of the oscillating confidence curve of parenting. You then have to live with those fears until you next see your children; stewing and ruminating on your abilities. And if you’re a single parent, you don’t have that reassuring voice of another adult telling you you’re doing fine.


Worse still, because of that fear; the fear of handing over in a place of anything but perfection, you can end up trying to turn things around, chasing the opportunity to get things right quickly, rather than letting things follow their natural course. I sometimes think that’s the thing that parents who don’t have their children most don’t understand about separated parenting; that discontinuous nature of it, that cliff edge where you won’t see you children for a few days makes the ups and downs of parenting all the more heart-wrenching.

So what’s my point here? Why am I telling you something you either have already experienced or are reading in the bewilderment of ignorance? It’s in part so that if you’re reading these words and recognizing them you have some reassurance that you’re not the only one who feels this pressure. As for what I’ve learnt, I don’t claim to know the answer, or even be able to put these words into practice all the time, but I think as with so much of separated parenting (or parenting in general to be honest) you just need to do the best you can do. Try not to find yourself chasing perfection, and try as much as possible to have faith that parenting is a journey and you’re as entitled to those highs and lows as much as any other parent no matter what their situation. And if you’re a separated parent you’re just as entitled to have the highs and lows; don’t beat yourself up about it.


About the Author

60:40 Dad, has two boys (4 and 5yrs). He has been separated from the Mother of his children for two years now and his children live with him 40% of the time. 60:40 Dad works part time allowing him the flexibility to spend some weekdays with his children, to be there for school drop off and pick ups and try and make things balance. 60:40 Dad is keeping his real name private to avoid shining the internet’s spotlight on his children.

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