On mater mea’s Instagram page, moms from around the world take over our account to give us a sneak peek into their lives and to drop some knowledge about a topic that matters most to them.
Brooklyn-based writer and author Ashley Simpo recently talked about her experience coparenting her 8-year-old son Orion with her ex-husband, and why self-care is an integral part of how she coparents.
Photo credits: @poochiecollins and Ashley Simpo
My name is Ashley Simpo, I’m a writer and editor living in NYC and co-parenting my 8-year-old son. Today I’m taking over the mater mea account to give you a little glimpse into what co-parenting is like for me.
I’ve become more careful about calling myself a “single mother.” I think it’s an insult to anyone who is raising their children completely alone. I am a single co-parenting mother. I am the only adult living in my house, but I share the parenting of my son with someone who loves him the way I do. I think that’s important to acknowledge, even on days co-parenting doesn’t feel so great.
For me, co-parenting means my son goes between our houses every week. I’ve often been told this makes me privileged, having two entire weeks every month to myself. But, like all parents, my entire life flow is dictated by the coming and going of my child. There is never a day when I am not actively parenting, even if my son is not in my physical care. For me, how I take care of myself, my home, my work, all impact my child’s upbringing. So I take the time I spend without him as mindfully as the time we spend together. One week on, one week off. One week caring for my child, the next caring for myself so I can care for my child. All converging into each precious Monday. Transition day.
Waking up to an empty house feels like a sharp pivot. Suddenly it’s quiet and still. I usually peek inside his room, adjust the blinds, fix his bed. I drift down my hallway and linger in the silence. ⠀
I never wanted to be a mother who spent every other week away from her child. Even though he’s in the safety of his father’s home, it still feels strange. I grapple with the fact that since he was 2, I have missed moments that I can’t get back. That’s the tradeoff when you co-parent. ⠀
I use my weeks alone as needed. Sometimes I want to use the time to catch up on work. A week of interrupted Zoom meetings and checking homework and preparing meals and wake up and bedtime routines can affect how much I can do in a given week. Thankfully I have a chance to rebalance the scale when he’s away. These are also the weeks that I double up on self-care, which for me means journaling, writing, taking long showers, ordering delivery, cleaning and cleansing my home, or just getting in the bed early. The point is to fill up and center me for a bit so I can face the other stuff as a whole person. ⠀
How do you approach the downsides of co-parenting—especially during COVID? Do you play catch up when the kids aren’t around?⠀
When my son is back, it’s a different vibe. My home suddenly bends around him and becomes a kid’s house again. Days that he arrives from Dad’s house feel a bit like onboarding a new hire. “Welcome back, remember there’s no running down the hallway at mom’s house” is a sentence I utter at least once a month. I watch him reacclimate, poke around the kitchen to make sure his favorite snacks are present, collect the toys he was probably thinking about on the ride over. Hugs, lots of hugs. ⠀
Workdays are different when he’s home. Louder, faster, and constantly interrupted. I am more handsy with the “mute” button on Zoom calls, I usually eat less during the day, trying to speed through as much work as I can so I can step away for a bit when school wraps up. Sometimes I make him sit with me to make sure he’s paying attention and not just reading a book under his desk. (True story.) I juggle and stretch and give and rebalance those scales once again. This time a little more for him, a little less for me. ⠀
On any given day I am either wrapped in sweet silence or sweet chaos and the only consistent thing I have control over is the grace I allow myself in each moment. I stand by the belief that parents —partnered or not—absolutely must become experts in their own care, and not just their children’s. ⠀