Going gray early might be heredity, but I sure know I’ve earned a few extra silver strands since transitioning to motherhood. Taking care of two little human beings is a high pressure role. It can also feel like walking a tightrope with blindfolds and bed of nails beneath your feet when you’re co-parenting with a narcissistic moron. Does it sound like I’m speaking from personal experience?
Too many incidents have pushed me into mama bear mode, or what the aloof parent likes to call crazy. Now, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about those laughable moments when Dad serves cold pizza as a healthy breakfast or forgets to dress the kids in matching socks. I’m referring to everyday neglectful shit that can ultimately put your child at risk. Yesterday, for example, I felt my blood pressure rise and a painful knot at the back of neck as my toddler and 6 year old were set free and told to run across a busy parking lot. Twenty-five hours of labor combined and 6 years flashed before my eyes.
To be fair, there is no manual to being the perfect parent. However, after a few years in and repeatedly trying to offer guidance you begin to realize that the other parent is 1) stupid AF or 2) doesn’t recognize the potential harm because, as T.S. Elliott puts it, “they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves”
As a mom, you begin to lose patience and you could care less about the rhyme or reason behind irresponsible or neglectful parenting. When your only concern is to raise your babies in a safe and healthy environment, how can you cope with or get through to a narcissistic co-parent?
Here are some helpful ways to keep your sanity and the well-being of your children as a priority:
1) Don’t Give Up
A narcissistic will never see your point of view even if it’s in the best interest of his/her child. It’s also common for them to be dismissive and refer to you as overbearing or overprotective. Yet, it’s important to stand your ground when it comes to behavior that will affect the welfare of your child. Yes, it’s a horrible feeling not to trust the person you decided to have kids with, but you’ll feel even worse if your child is hurt in the process.
2) Get a Documented Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is a written document that outlines how parents will raise their children after separation or divorce. You can basically list arrangements regarding visitation, education, healthcare, basic safety requirements and more. It will help to provide structure and a somewhat predictable environment for your children.
3) Put Everything In Writing
Because narcissists do not take well to boundaries set by others, it’s best to keep a journal of any incidents that occur. Unfortunately, you may also have to limit communication to emails and text messages. Narcissists tend to abuse others with lies and manipulations. They will literally tell you the sky is neon green while you’re standing outside with binoculars on a sunny day.
4) Don’t Feed the Beast
It’s only natural to feel disappointed, hurt or worried when the other parent fails to provide a safe, nurturing and consistent environment. However, “narcissists often have a hard time experiencing empathy; they often disregard and invalidate how others feel.” (Psychology Today). As hard as it might be, don’t become emotionally charged when dealing with your ex. You will only end up frustrated or angry by their lack of understanding and, in turn, satisfy their narcissistic needs.
5) Try Parallel Parenting Instead Of Co-Parenting
When dealing with a narcissist, you have to be realistic and accept the fact that this person will never have an aha moment or put your child’s needs above their own. This is where co-parenting or (holding hands and singing kumbaya for the sake of the kids) will not work. According to family therapist Virginia Gilbert, you should think of “Parallel Parenting as an approach many Alcoholics Anonymous folks use when dealing with the addict in their lives: they stop going to the hardware store looking for milk.” As I mentioned earlier, limit communication to emails or texts and only do so on an as-needed basis. Avoid going to school functions or doctor’s visits together. Even throw separate birthday parties if you must.
At first, some of these ideas might sound impossible and counterproductive, especially with younger children. In the long run, you’ll begin to realize how much easier it will make your job as a parent. The less stress and conflict you have to deal with, the more time and energy you’ll have to focus on what matters most– your children.