Darnell Nicole's Blog: How I Handle Co-Parenting My Daughter with My Ex a Year After Our Split
"I no longer analyze my single motherhood, searching for answers as to how I could have prevented it," Darnell Nicole reflects in her first PEOPLE.com blog
Please welcome our newest celebrity blogger, Darnell Nicole!
The star of E!’s hit reality series WAGS: Miami, Darnell is a trained dancer, actor and creative writer who worked as a choreographer and playwright after college, appearing in commercials and a few films before moving to N.Y.C. and then Miami.
Today, the 32-year-old is a mom to 4-year-old daughter Carson Cree with ex Reshad Jones. Alongside her starring stint on WAGS: Miami, Darnell can next be seen featured alongside Khloé Kardashian in the Fall 2017 Good American campaign.
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It’s funny — around this time last year, I would open my eyes in the morning, look over and see my daughter’s pigtails poking over my duvet and immediately get lost in thought. Lying in bed with the sun pouring in, I would begin to over-analyze how I got there. Not in my bed — I’d remember that fairly well — but how I became a single mother.
That obviously wasn’t my plan, and it rarely is for most moms. To enter into a new situation as a duo and have to continue solo, simply put, is just scary as hell!
My daughter Carson Cree was born in September of 2013, and after nearly five years and an engagement, her father and I called it quits last summer.
I’ll spare you all the sappy details, as most of them have already played out on national television, but what I will tell you is that I took the split pretty hard, and the last thing I ever wanted to see again was his face. The problem with that was, regardless of how we felt about each other, we were forever bonded through this little life we created.
Co-parenting after a long-term relationship, for me, would mean that I’d have to mentally erase my relationship with my ex and form a new one that called for me to put aside how he was as a partner and what I feel/want, and drop all pride. Piece of cake! HA!
I won’t lie. Initially, I had the hardest time letting go of the pain and the fact that my life would change drastically while his would stay the same. He simply moved from the home we lived in as a family to a larger one down the street, hired a chef, had the cleaning lady come weekly and paid someone to assist him with his daily errands. (A rep for Jones didn’t reply to PEOPLE’s request for comment.)
I was completely replaced as if I were never there to begin with, and that feeling is often what drives the pride that prevents healthy co-parenting.
The overwhelming feeling of being replaced and loss of control can drive you crazy. It can cause a loving mother to use her little one as a pawn, and with pride as her guide, keep an inadequate partner albeit competent father from seeing his child.
I’ve seen it. I’ve seen women stop all visitations, place too many rules on visitations and bring up issues every time he comes for a visitation. That stuff only feeds your ego and hurts your child, period. I get it, though. It’s the last little bit of control you have left and you want to clench it with kung-fu grip!
Trust me when I tell you I wanted to do ALL OF THOSE THINGS! I was in pain. I was angry and I wanted him to feel something — anything. I had given him all of me. I felt I had dug into the depths of my soul searching for the last crumbs to give him and that, too, was not enough.
It would’ve been easy to make it difficult for him to cultivate a healthy bond with his daughter, but why would I ever do that? My only goal as a mother is to raise a healthy, intelligent, well-rounded young woman who transitions nicely into adulthood. That is my job. To keep her from the man who not only helped make her, but who loves her dearly and wants to spend time with her would automatically decrease the chances of those goals ever coming to fruition.
For that reason, I never allowed my feelings about our break-up to determine how much time he would be allotted with his daughter. Yes, I was hurt. Yes, I loved him. But I have always loved her more.
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When he sends a random text asking to pick her up outside of our designated visitation times, if we have no prior plans, my response is always, “Okay.” If I have an issue that I want to discuss with him, I never address it when we meet to exchange Cree, so as not to create a hostile atmosphere around her. Instead, I’ll send him a text while she’s at school, or call him if I need an immediate response. That’s the extent of our communication right now.
I sometimes wonder if we’ll ever mature enough to be able to grab lunch and converse about our lives, or spend holidays together with our future spouses and crack jokes about the past over a cup of eggnog: “Hey, remember that time we got drunk and spent two hours trying to learn that weird dance we saw on YouTube?” My husband would laugh, and my ex’s wife would giggle and smile sweetly as Cree and her siblings open gifts by the fireplace.
I’ve always been a sucker for a good fairytale.
While there’s a good chance that will never happen, because I’ve always been fond of finding a sparkle in the dirt, I will say that we are definitely growing and learning a lot along the way. I’ve learned co-parenting is a skill that has to be worked on, and that leaving my pride and emotion out of it benefits everyone.
I’m aware that it will never be perfect, but I know now that it doesn’t have to be hard — and that one conversation about what each of us wants, mixed with a tablespoon of compromise, is a pretty good recipe.
Time is known as a gift and a curse, but thankfully, in the heart department, it has blessed me. Now when I think back on the last few years, I no longer analyze my single motherhood, searching for answers as to how I could have prevented it — I brainstorm about how I can make it better.
A full year has passed since my breakup, and my 3-year-old and I have settled nicely into our new home and daily routines. It’s all just proof that if you continue pushing forward while keeping genuine with your actions, there is always light on the other side.