When I started having children, some fifteen years ago, I planned to be the perfect parent. Two children, two “baby daddies,” many mistakes and lessons later, I remain inspired to be a powerful and positive force in their lives, but I’m far from perfect.
One of the greatest challenges has been co-parenting with my daughter’s father or, as he’s been affectionately labeled, BD2 (Baby Daddy Two). Our relationship began mired in dysfunction, so anger and rage led me to avoid introspection. My anger also led me to blame him instead of owning my role in the chaos.
After waging a decade-long war with my daughter’s father, I recently reclaimed my power and took the steps necessary to broker peace.
As a young woman I aspired to have a healthy, long-term relationship, grounded in love, and to one day begin a family of my own. Having fallen in love with my son’s father at 25 (aka Baby Daddy One – BD1), I embraced my roles as life partner and mother a year later. Having my son changed everything about my life (for the better). However, I soon learned my son’s father had different ideas about relationships and parenting. It became apparent quickly that he intended to live his life much as he had before our son’s birth – out all night, rarely home, resistant to daily diaper changes, feedings, and sleepless nights. Before I knew it, the relationship was on shaky ground. Things came to head one day, and he moved out. Before I could process what had happened, I was a single mother. Without question, I was still in love with BD1, but I was hurt and sought to fill the void with male attention.
I met my daughter’s father soon after my unexpected separation. BD2 appeared to be BD1’s polar opposite. He was family-oriented, attentive, and stepped up to help me with some of the things BD1 hadn’t. BD2 was breath of fresh air. Yet, I knew instinctively from the very beginning that it wasn’t going to work. I was still in love my son’s father. BD2 was a rebound. Almost as soon as the relationship began, I knew it was over. I’d tried to medicate the pain of one failed relationship by beginning another. I had to end it. In fact, I had planned to end the relationship with BD2 the day I discovered I was pregnant. Talk about crazy making.
My plans to reconcile with BD1 were destroyed. I was ashamed. I was fast becoming the Baby Mama stereotype – having a second child with a second man out of wedlock. I was enraged. I was most angry with myself. BD2 was my primary target. He was a great scapegoat. Lashing out at him prevented me from dealing with reality. Seeing him, being around him, hearing his voice, triggered my anger, because each time he was there, I couldn’t escape the dramatic turn my life had taken.
It took me years to understand that my rage was being misdirected. It also took me a long time to care about how it affected BD2. My rage was a great contributor to the war that ensued.
To be fair to BD2, he did many things right in the early days, and I pushed him away. I didn’t want him at doctor’s appointments. I didn’t want him rubbing my belly or coming to my house. Because of my internal anger, I didn’t want anything from him until after the baby was born. By that time, he was fed up. He left Jamaica when I was 7 months pregnant. I didn’t care that he left but kept thinking about how to make things work for the children’s sake. We briefly reconciled when my daughter was a baby, but that was short-lived. BD2 wanted us to be a family, but he just wasn’t the man for me. We separated again shortly after trying.
BD2’s anger boiled over after the second break up. He began a series of spiteful direct attacks. What did I do? Responded in kind. We spent years exchanging verbal assaults and threats of physical harm, peppered with fleeting moments of calm, only to be dashed with insults, disrespect, and disregard for one another. After close to 10 years of this, I began soul-searching and asked myself a few hard questions: How had our co-parenting become that toxic? When had anger, resentment, and bitterness consumed us? How could we find peace? I knew something had to change. Namely me!
My Inner Conflict
Despite knowing it would be best to break the cycle, old habits die hard. I wasn’t the only one feeding the negativity, so I began to ask why I had to be the bigger person? After all, I was no Gandhi, Mother Theresa, or Dr. King. Why did I have to the peacemaker? Besides, I had a deadbeat, sorry Baby Daddy Story to tell. I had spent years standing on my high horse and “repping” hard for all the other Baby Mamas. My cousin sarcastically labeled me the President of Baby Mamas of America. He and I laughed at the title, but I kinda liked it. It meant I was right and my Baby Daddy was wrong. That felt good and right!
Isn’t that the historical narrative of war? One side is good and right, while the other side is bad and wrong. After you tell that story enough both sides not only believe it, but embody it. In that moment, I realized breaking our destructive cycle, and ending this war, meant telling the kind of truth that isn’t found in spin and propaganda. Instead, it meant going deep and ferreting through the hurt and pain that brought us here in the first place–and owning my contribution to that hurt and pain.
The relationship’s remnants painted a picture of dysfunction that began the day we met, continued through conception, and persisted during my daughter’s formative years. From the beginning, we were a Category 7 hurricane. We were a disaster waiting to happen. What began as a brief physical distraction culminated in a life-long commitment and the birth of the most beautiful girl in the world: our daughter. After ten years of war, it was time to honor our little girl with accountability and forgiveness.
I’ve heard it said that “man plans, but God intervenes.” I credit God with this intervention. Divine intervention pointed me to the power of forgiveness (forgiving BD2 and forgiving myself).
We love our daughter. However, we spent close to a decade being the antithesis of love. Embroiled in a vile yet pointless war – one that would yield no victor. Just two months ago, after sending my most belittling text message laced with choice expletives, I asked myself: Shouldn’t we be fighting harder to demonstrate respect and compassion for one another? Shouldn’t we [as her parents] be more vigilant about extending love and dignity to one another – for her sake? Wouldn’t it be more productive of us to fight intensely to repair the damage and heal the toxicity? Isn’t peace between us in her best interest? Upon answering each of these questions, I picked up the phone, called BD2 and had one of the most honest conversations we had in years. I also apologized for my role in the discord and asked him to forgive me. Thankfully, we’ve remained on our path to peace since that day.
Damali Robertson is a single mother of two beautiful children. Her children are 14 and 11. Her son and daughter have changed her life. She thanks God for them and this experience every day. Damali is a Grant Writer by day and an activist and poet in those late-night moments of solace and inspiration.