Posted in Lessons Learned

The Great Co-Parenting Experiment

Last Updated on June 7, 2020 by World's Okayest Mom

Raw cookie dough may be the variable that determines positive parenting

“How would you feel if Chandler and I went on a fishing trip?”

When The Husband first posed this question to me, I envisioned a long day of fishing on Lake Michigan. Maybe an overnight stay. Oh how naïve I can be. I agreed to a “maybe” overnight fishing trip with Monica’s husband/The Husband’s bestie/neighbor that turned into a ten-hour drive, no cell phone reception, five-night trip. Two weeks before departure, it morphed one last time into an extra day.

So Monica and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to test a theory we had been playing around with.

The Hypothesis

I’m sure we are not alone in this. In the middle of a Wine Night (exactly what it sounds like: Me. Monica. Kids in Bed. Back Deck. View of the Lake. Bottle of Wine. Glorious.), we vented about one or another annoying trait of our men and wondered if we could just co-parent – just the two of us – with less stress. Thus, The Great Co-Parenting Experiment.

Co-Parenting Experiment science

The Experiment

Maybe I should start at the beginning, as the results differed greatly day to day.

Day 1 – The Beginning Stages

Day one was pretty easy but there were outside conditions.

Factor 1 – We had outside support. Both my mom and Monica’s mom were around for a good part of the day, as well as another well-loved neighbor, who I’ll call Phoebe (because she’s beautiful, blonde and about as clueless about our favorite show Friends as Phoebe is about everything).

Factor 2 – It was not a work or school day, so the schedule was relaxed and fluid.

Factor 3 – We had a well thought-out and fail-proof plan: trap the kids in the backyard and let them run wild. Oh, and there were wine slushies. Yes, that’s a thing. A wonderful gift straight from God to mothers with crazy children kind of thing. Those could have played into our relaxed, laisez-faire attitudes. That’s not to say the day was without bumps. It was a wine slushie, not a wand-waving, bibbity-boppity-boo-singing godmother.

Co-Parenting Experiment wine slushies
Wine Slushie. Need I say more?

There was the normal fit when it was time to part ways. After ten straight hours together, you’d think the kiddos would be sick of one another. Then there was my personal favorite: Little Lulu basically jumped off the 20-foot tree house. I was left hanging onto the ladder with one hand and holding Little Lulu by the arm with the other hand. It was like the climatic scene of Lord of the Rings. I’m Samwell, reaching/holding desperately to Little Lulu, and she is Frodo, somewhat indifferent to her fate and much more interested to the “pretties” below. Adrenaline does kick in during these situations. I could have lifted a car (like a SmartCar or a Prius) off the adorable, little, suicidal daredevil. And Phoebe was there to catch the little rascal.

Day 2 – Learning from Our Mistakes

Day two was the real experiment. Life was back to normal, but without The Husbands. My Girl and Jane were back in school. Little Lulu spent the day at daycare, and Monica and I worked all 8+ hours. Translation: we were all tired.

But Monica and I had a vision. Dinner would be a progressive and feminist version of a Norman Rockwell painting. My Girl and Jane would happily complete their homework at the dining room table like the Brady Bunch girls. Then all the girls would play nicely and quietly while Monica and I completed a 25-minute yoga workout like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in velour tracksuits, minus the tracksuits because neither Monica nor I own such apparel.

Oh, the naivete!

Dinner was more like the mess hall of an army camp – people yelling, running in and out, complaining about the food.

Little Lulu was, once again, the wild child, running back and forth between the table and the toilet. I use those blue toilet cleaning cakes because, yes, I’m that lazy. Or, as I like to look at it, I do preventive cleaning instead of reactional cleaning. So all throughout dinner, Little Lulu couldn’t stop talking that her pee was green instead of yellow. She was three days into preschool at that time, so explaining the mixture of yellow and blue to make green was beyond her.

After dinner, My Girl and Jane did, indeed, work on their homework. Though the words nicely and quietly were far from the description. Jane loudly struggled with naming ten types of reptiles, and My Girl loudly struggled with the fact that Jane was whomping her ass in a math challenge game.

Lastly, if someone had made a video of Monica and I attempting our yoga workout, it would have gone viral. We would have been rewarded with a spot on Ellen’s couch during her daytime talk show. Little Lulu tried to do the poses in between us. My Girl and Jane needed something from us every 4.5 minutes. The Husbands tried calling. And my little wiener of a dog tried humping me every time I did downward-facing dog.

By the end of the night, Monica and I cranked up Backstreet Boys on the CD player that she brought to my house for this sole purpose (of course, My Girl looked at the player and said with doubt: “what’s that?”). Then we grabbed huge spoonfuls of cookie dough and hid from the girls while inhaling it.

Day 3 – Success!

Monica and I used our limited knowledge of the scientific process to make adjustments to the previous night’s errors.

The girls completed most of their homework in separate locations, except their math game, which was a group work instead of a head-to-head competition.

Instead of attempting a workout video, Monica and I took the girls on a long walk. My Girl and Jane donned their safari hats and explorer vests (I’m not speaking figuratively; they literally dress up in these items any time we are outside for an extended period of time) and we were as happy as the Steve Irwin family trekking through the Outback. Also, Little LuLu may or may not have been watching Aladdin on Monica’s phone…

Co-Parenting Experiment safari
My Girl and Jane on a normal walk through the neighborhood. They are ready for adventure.

Dinner was a relaxed affair of leftovers, so everyone got to eat what they wanted. Monica and I wanted wine for (ahem… I mean, with) dinner. Did that contribute to the positive outcome of the night? Undecided. It most definitely contributed to our impromptu dance party with the girls. Monica came up with our experiment’s motto:

Less yelling. More dance parties!

Lastly, I added toilet tablets to the weekend shopping list – not blue ones for the sake of Little LuLu’s sanity.

Day 4 – Objective: Less Yelling. More Dance Parties.

That was our mantra. Monica even spelled it out on her letterboad. She wrote it on the letterboard. That must be the case.

Ha!

You would think after eight years of motherhood, one or both of us would have known better. Maybe some moms just can’t be taught.

On day four, there was yelling. So much yelling. I’m proud to say it was not done by the parental figures but the girls who would put Colts fans cheering in overtime again the Patriots to shame. They weren’t arguing or upset. They were just loud.

The day had been long – piano lessons, horseback riding lessons, Girl Scouts. It’s also safe to say that our hearts were not in the experiment. We didn’t even consider trying to get in a workout.

Day four was pure survival mode.

Day 5 – Survival Mode

Movie Night. Maybe this was just a continuation of our survival mode, but I prefer to call it pre-planned celebration mode. There was pizza and a picnic and almost a fight about which movie to watch. Honestly, the whole night was eclipsed by a mind-blowing scientific discovery that Monica and I stumbled upon, rivaling Alexander Fleming’s penicillin, I would dare to say.

Chocolate chip cookie topped by raw chocolate chip cookie dough.

Co-Parenting Experiment cookie dough
Voila! Cookie dough on cookie. Ecstasy.

And just so there is no mistaking who should receive the byline on this discovery – it was not the girls but me and Monica. And so there’s no mistaking what kind of mothers we are, we did not share this discovery with our children.

In fact, when My Girl found us eating this Nobel Prize worthy treat, we both instinctively dove on top of the incriminating evidence and shielded it from her view. We were being protective of her safety. Haven’t you heard it’s unsafe to consume raw cookie dough? And haven’t you heard you don’t get between a crazed animal and its food? Both apply here.

We also learned the world may not be ready for our creation. Even Galileo was considered a madman? When we shared our cookie dough creation with The Husbands, one of them texted back: “I thought this was your workout time.”

That husband should thank his lucky stars that he was 400 miles away and that I was in a cookie coma at the time.

The Conclusion

After extensive research and experimenting (ok… it was only five days, but it felt much longer), I came to this conclusion: the alignment of parenting ideals does not make the actual parenting an easier endeavor. (I tried to sound scientific and esoteric. Did it work?)

Monica and I are pretty in sync when it comes to parenting. We both agree that the girls should be expected to do schoolwork throughout the summer – vacation be damned. We are in accord that Uncle Netflix is not a suitable babysitter. (I’m not saying we don’t utilize it in times of desperation, but we agree that it’s not ideal.) We concur that breakfast should not include donuts and chocolate milk on a daily basis, unless we want our girls to emulate the Energizer Bunny, but with a belly drum in place of a battery drum and comparable energy.

(This is not a judgement on any of those parenting choices, as they are directly from The Husband. They are just not mine or Monica’s choices.)

But from this experiment, I realized that it doesn’t matter how much you completely agree (or disagree) with your co-parent (be it bestie or hubby), parenting is still hard. That’s because my parenting ideals don’t align with My Girl’s. Nor will they ever. Thus, she’s a child and I’m a parent.

Actually, parenting may be easier when you aren’t completely on the same page with your partner. When I’m at my wits end with My Girl and know I need a time-out, The Husband taps in. When I need to sit on the deck with a glass of wine and a new paperback, The Husband is fresh and ready with an elaborate LegoLand game for My Girl. When I need to jam on the piano to some Ben Folds tunes, The Husband reads the signs and entices My Girl outside for a ride on the four-wheeler.

But when I wanted to say “take me out, Coach” when co-parenting with Monica, she was already right there with me. She, too, wanted to sit on the deck with the wine and her copy of Little Women. We may have been a little too in sync to give each other the necessary breaks during a week-long co-parenting experiment.

So basically: Parenting is hard. Period. End of experiment.

But wine slushies, raw cookie dough and dance parties are the variables that make it better.

Share your own imperfections.