Tips for When Your Co Parent Makes You Do Most of the Parenting

Co-parenting is an art that requires dedication from both parents. But maybe you've found yourself in a situation where the scales of parenting are imbalanced. Perhaps you’ve realized that you are shouldering the bulk of parenting responsibilities while your ex seems to be slacking off or otherwise uninvolved. 

This is not uncommon in the aftermath of a divorce.

Being the primary caregiver by default can be a daunting task. It affects not only your time and resources but also your mental and emotional reserves. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Stop comparing your parenting situation to others

If you find yourself comparing your co-parenting situation to that of a friend, neighbor, or the picture-perfect scenario portrayed by the media, stop right there, and know this: Your friend’s co-parenting routine may seem smoother on the surface, but surface-level observations often hide the complex mechanics underneath.

Ask yourself what you think the actual barriers to a more balanced co-parenting relationship are. Could it be your differing work schedules? Distance? A misunderstanding of parental roles post-divorce?

Once identified, these barriers can become the focal point for negotiations and adjustments.

Co-parenting is not a solo performance. Each parent plays their part. It is your right, as much as it is your responsibility, to seek equilibrium. This requires effective communication, mediation if necessary, and implementing structures, such as parenting plans, that hold each party accountable.

Communicating with your co-parent

Texting, email, dedicated apps, and notes are not just alternatives to face-to-face talk; they can be your lifelines. They offer the chance to communicate without the immediate pressure of confrontation, creating space for thoughtfulness and deliberation before hitting 'send'. 

There’s a flip side to this, however. When using digital forms of communication, exercise some caution. Once your words are sent/said, they cannot be unsent and unsaid.

Here's a primer on keeping your digital dialogue neutral or positive:

  1.  Preemptively depersonalize your message. Before you type, strip your message of emotions. Focus on the subject at hand, be it scheduling, expenses, or health-related concerns regarding your children. This is not a platform to air personal grievances.
  2.  Draft your message, and then draft it again. Write what you want to say, but then pause. Take a break, and then return with fresh eyes. Revise your message if needed. The goal is to be clear and get quickly to the point. 
  3.  Prioritize facts over feelings. Lean on facts when discussing co-parenting issues with your ex. For example, if the topic at hand is a change in your schedule, state the proposed times clearly. If the topic is expenses, list them. There’s no debate to be had over verified facts.
  4.  Aim for consistency. Be consistent in your communication style. Erratic messages breed misunderstanding. Whether your tone is warm or strictly business-like, let predictability be your trademark.
  5.  Appreciate the power of positivity. Inject a dash of positive language where possible. Phrases like "Thank you" or "I appreciate it" go a long way in maintaining a cordial tone.
  6.  Proofread your messages for tone. Before sending any message, read it aloud to catch any unintended negativity. If it sounds harsh to your ears, it will probably sound harsh to theirs, too.
  7.  Use technology to your advantage. Harness co-parenting apps designed to document communication and keep it focused. They often have built-in features to promote organization and reduce conflict.

Suggested: 5 Useful Co-Parenting Plan Resources

Tips for dealing with an imbalance in co-parenting duties

The division of parenting duties post-divorce can often feel incredibly imbalanced. Here are some strategies to encourage equilibrium.

Establish ground rules

Sit down and chart out each parent's responsibilities. This should be less about keeping score and more about gaining clarity. Ground rules are your co-parenting constitution, so write them down, refer back to them, and amend them (together) as your children grow. 

Document everything in writing

When you agree on who handles pickups from ballet and who's got soccer on Thursdays, jot it down. This isn't pettiness; it's pragmatism. Written agreements are imperative.

Lead by example

Leading by example is effective. Demonstrate the behavior you expect from your co-parent. Yes, it can feel like you're pulling more than your weight. But consider it an investment in your parenting partnership. Show up, follow through, and respect the established ground rules.

Seek mediation or legal counsel

If these strategies aren’t cutting it, perhaps it’s time to consider mediation or counseling. Professional help can be the lighthouse guiding you back to safer shores.

Read: 8 Tips for Co-Parenting with a Controlling Ex

Mediators can work wonders by facilitating fair dialogue. They understand your situation, and they can help navigate you both toward agreement. A family therapist can also help you clearly define your roles within the family structure. 

If these approaches don’t help, consider consulting an attorney. At Hello Divorce, we offer flat-rate meetings with attorneys where you can ask questions and troubleshoot in increments as short as 30 minutes. Before you schedule such a meeting, we invite you to schedule a free 15-minute call with an account coordinator. We can help you figure out what your next steps might be and point you in the right direction.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.