Co-parenting after a separation or divorce does not need to be agony. In fact, parenting as a team rather than adversaries makes for happier, healthier kids and parents even if parents live in different homes.
The team model, says Sydney Swonigan, “shifts our mindset to being on the same side with a shared purpose which makes problem-solving and parenting more collaborative.”
Swonigan is a co-parent coach and the founder of the Seattle-based co-parenting support organization Exes & Babies.
Swonigan and her collaborator Jeffrey L. Cheatham II want other co-parents to consider themselves members of one team and learn the strategies that make teams successful.
A model that works
Doing so says Swonigan, “provides a framework for how parents can work together that has already been modeled in many sectors, be it corporate teams or sports teams.
“Co-parents need strategies for improving team culture and increasing productivity,” she says.
Exes & Babies will hold a FREE workshop on the Foundations of Healthy Co-parenting Sunday, April 2 from 1-3 p.m. at the Douglas Truth Seattle Public Library. Topics will include:
Different co-parenting structures, designing your co-parent team culture, cultivating a shared vision for your child’s future, and managing disagreements RSVP by March 31 to reserve a spot.
Swonigan, who works at Microsoft and also serves as a trustee of Seattle Girls’ School, is co-parent to 8-year-old son Dior. For a time, she and her co-parent, Adama Seck, recounted their experiences raising Dior together after a separation in the podcast Two Exes & a Baby. That experience eventually led Swonigan to found Exes & Babies.
A cultural shift
“I am a mom with an aspirational goal to shift the narrative and culture of co-parenting, babymamahood, and babydaddyhood to be synonymous with teamwork and peace of mind,” Swonigan explains.
Now Swonigan and Cheatham, a children’s book author and co-parent of a 13-year-old daughter, have teamed up to co-host the Exes and Babies podcast. Cheatham is also the organizer of the Seattle Urban Book Expo which highlights authors of diverse backgrounds.
“I brought in Jeffrey to continue providing the perspective of a young Black father who co-parents. He is a great role model for many of us parents,” Swonigan says.
An expanded co-parent circle
Of her own continued co-parenting journey, she says: “Adama and I still co-parent our son and we have recently welcomed Keisha Credit onto our co-parenting team. She is Adama’s girlfriend and has been an incredible addition. We co-parent really well and I still have to pinch myself over it.
“Everyone always asks what’s our secret,” Swonigan says. “So, I’ll be sharing tried and true tips in the workshop along with learnings from coaching others.”
Filling a void
What inspired her to help other parents? Swonigan says she wants to co-parents to have the community she once found lacking.
“When I unexpectedly entered the world of co-parenting, there weren’t many resources to help us find our footing and there weren’t any coming from people who looked like us,” says Swonigan, who is Black. “Not to mention all the advice and media out there was so toxic. Since youth, we’ve seen negative messages about stepmoms and babymamas. [But] I believe blended families can have better outcomes with more relatable examples of families co-parenting well, with resources, and with media that supports a positive, growth mindset in this area.”
Peer support and learning
Swonigan says she hopes not only co-parents but friends and family join the free Exes & Babies co-parenting workshop.
“I hope people who’ve lost hope in their co-parenting relationship come even if just to find a friend who can relate,” she says. “We hope to build a community of co-parents so no one feels alone. I hope also to see co-parent units who have built a solid foundation as well to share with all of us what has worked.
“We will learn from each other,” she adds.
More at Seattle’s Child:
“When parents live apart, co-parenting through the holidays”