Deesha Philyaw was passionate about continuing to co-parent with her ex-husband after their divorce. So passionate, in fact, that she and her ex-husband co-founderd the blog CoParenting101 to talk about their own experiences and to help other divorced couples learn how to be better parents to the children they share. They also host a podcast called the Co-Parenting Matters Show. Here, Deesha shares more details of her unique blog and how she hopes it can help divorced parents to work together in raising raise healthy, happy and well adjusted children.
When did you first start blogging?
I started a personal blog, MamaliciousNoire, in 2008. I can’t even remember when or how I first started reading blogs, but I do remember that they were entertainment/celebrity/gossip blogs in the beginning. Then I stumbled upon some really smart, really funny personal blogs that really engaged me, so I think I’d jump in and give it a try.
What gave you the idea to start a blog about co-parenting?
My fellow co-parent Mike came up with the idea of us co-authoring a co-parenting book. But he’s a banker, and I’m a writer, so he was sort of the Idea Guy, and I was the Execution Girl. I felt that to write a book that co-parents would find useful, we needed to find out what co-parents were dealing with personally, legally, what their deepest concerns and challenges were, and so on. Ours is but one experience, so we wanted to create a space to explore other families co-parenting stories. CoParenting101.org is for anyone who is co-parenting, who cares about co-parents, or who cares about co-parented kids.
Why is this an area of passion for you?
Mike and I understand that something that came relatively easy to us (co-parenting), poses an enormous challenge for a lot of people, so we want to help and encourage. We know that are cooperation and partnership allows our children to thrive post-divorce, and we want to support and encourage other parents and their children who find themselves on this journey. Kids don’t choose divorce, and we are passionate about helping parents help their children navigate the trauma and transitions that come with a parental break-up.
What are some of the most important things you hope people take away from reading Co-Parenting 101?
1. Love your kids more than you hate/resent your ex.
2. Someone can be a shitty partner/spouse, but a great parent, so let them.
3. Children thrive when their parents partner to meet their needs. They benefit from having healthy relationships with both parents.
4. Never, ever badmouth the other parent to or in earshot of your child.
5. Co-parenting should never involve putting a child or a parent in harm’s way.
What is it like writing a blog with your ex?
As with our co-parenting, we work together very well. Our “ex” issues never come up because we no longer have the pressures and expectations related to a troubled marriage bearing down on us. We’re free to focus on just what we have in common and are good at together: our kids and the site. We still have our differences, however, they are much easier to deal with now since we are only engaged in this limited way.
Logistically speaking, he’s comfortable with me as an editor, so there are no power struggles or squabbles over the tone or direction of the site.
Finally, our kids like the fact that we run the site together and do our radio show together. They like that we get along.
Does writing about co-parenting force you to “up your game”? How has it changed your life personally?
Not really. Honestly, our co-parenting life is so lacking in drama that we really don’t post about ourselves all that often. So we’re under the “spotlight”, but very, very rarely. When we have hit bumps in the road, we’ve posted about it, but in the heat of the moment, I wasn’t even thinking about the blog. On the flip side, we try to be thoughtful about posting the things we feel we do well as co-parents; we don’t want to come off as “Look at us!” Instead, we talk about how we got to Point B, how our children benefit, what are thought processes are. Plus, we love featuring other co-parents’ stories, so the blog isn’t 100% focused on us.
Writing about co-parenting has made me value my own co-parenting partnership more, and not take it for granted. Because of the blog, we hear from co-parents almost daily, and a lot of their struggles are just heartbreaking. By communicating with these parents, even though we can’t solve their crises, I feel as though I’m doing something meaningful in the way of service, and there’s personal value in that for me. As an only child and as a homebody, I gravitate towards navel-gazing and being insular, so the blog forces me to have an outward focus, beyond my own parenting and family circumstances.
What is the best piece of feedback you’ve gotten from a reader?
One reader taught me that rarely are things so black and white, and that while all we can ever control is ourselves, there’s much power in that. She was the perfect “victim”; her ex had been abusive, continued to be tyrannical & difficult as a co-parent, and is living with the woman with whom he cheated (the co-parenting mom refers to her as a “hooker”, but I’m not sure if that’s literally or metaphorically true). Theirs was a super-high-conflict situation, and he lied constantly. Recently, she told me that through some journaling and self-care, she came to realize that one of the reasons he lied to her, was that she jumped down his throat the minute he even remotely started saying something she didn’t like. She realized that she never gave the guy a chance. Now…does this excuse his abhorrent behavior? No. Is she responsible for his lying? No. Did the conflict disappear from their relationship? No. But…she found a way to take ownership of what she did contribute to the ugly dynamic between them, and how it–how she (in her own words)–was hurting her children. And she made changes based on this understanding. When I first heard from her, her situation, her fears…she sounded so hopeless. But what she taught me was that there can be hope even in the most dire of circumstances. Not perfection, not even perfectly healthy, but hope.
She has expressed appreciation for our site and outreach, but I feel like we were just a sounding board and a resource. She did the hard work of starting the healing process in her co-parenting partnership.
What inspires your posts? Do you write on a schedule, or as you feel an idea come about?
We try to post daily, but that doesn’t always pan out. We’ll jump on something if the mood strikes. Also, we have Google alerts set up for “co-parenting” and “divorce”, so we get notification of news (usually related to celebrities) and other articles/blog posts that might be of interest to us. So these can serve as a springboard for ideas.
Also, we welcome guest posts. So if we “hear” (usually via Twitter) from or about someone who has a co-parenting-related story, we reach out and invite them to submit a guest-blog post. We try to feature a variety of voices because co-parenting is not one-size-fits-all.
Finally, we study our analytics: Google Analytics and Sitemeter. We don’t get a lot of comments, but lots of lurkers, so the analytics are instructive in terms of whose coming to the site, and what’s leading them to us. What information are they looking for? Analytics revealed that girlfriends of co-parenting dads were hitting us up a lot! I mean, a whole lot! They wanted to know if it was “normal” for their guy to be communicating with his children’s mom…or sleeping in her bed during visits (answers: yes, no). They wanted to know why he hadn’t introduced them to his kids yet, or why his ex wouldn’t let him see his kids. We didn’t get these questions in the comments because none of our posts were geared toward co-parents and dating at that time. But because of what we saw in the analytics, we crafted some posts to address these issues, and to this day (2+ years later), those posts get more hits and comments than any other, hands down.
We also learned through analytics that women who were struggling to co-parent with abusive exes were desperately seeking resources and support as well, so we started writing about those issues.
What hopes do you have for CoParenting 101 in the next five years?
If we could get more people to comment, that would be awesome! We’d love for the site to have more of a community/dialogue feel, but we don’t want to have to moderate forums. We hear from people a lot privately, and we welcome that of course. I think the nature of our site means we attract people who are looking for answers moreso than dialogue or community, but we believe community can offer support and care, even in the absence of a magic bullet to solve a co-parenting/legal problem.
We also hope to have our book published by then. Fingers crossed!