First off, I am not a family therapist, nor am I shaming that line of work because they have helped many people, families and children cope with new changes. However, I am here to tell my story from my perspective living in the world of a blended family in order to help someone else with this situation. *Disclaimer- this article is not to insult anyone or pour salt on the wound if you are guilty of doing any of these rules. We are all adults here, so lets get real and be real and shift perspective in order to have the best co parenting and blended family life.*
Let's dive into the STORY in order to start somewhere!
Long story short, I met my husband in 2008 and he was recently recovering from a nine year relationship and had two children with his ex. Growing up I did not imagine myself finding someone who already had a family, I always imagined my life would be with someone who "started" a family. Little did I know, this would be the most amazing journey I have walked in this life time so far. As the new instant step mom I was unsure how the kids would take to me and even more so how his ex would take to me. Keep in mind that you can't expect to have a long lasting co parenting situation if you can not sustain the presences of the EX. There is just no way around this that is successful because at the end of the day the ex is still the children's parent and will constantly be lingering whether you want to block them out of your life or not. In fact, from my experience, showing resistance of keeping the "other parent" at an arms distance away proved to be very stressful and kept everyone in a animosity situation.
Rule #1 So how exactly do you NOT keep your Ex or the other parent at an arms distance while still focusing on your new life? Communication is KEY! You might say, "well the entire relationship failed in the first place because of the lack of communication!" Well, if you are starting a new life and trying to deal with co parenting while trying to keep everyone happy then you are going to need to step up your communication game like no body's business! And I mean, COOOOMMMUNNNNIIICCAAATTTEE! You don't need a play by play, but you need to make sure everyone is on the same page.
parent to parent
"Hey, I will be by to pick up the kids around 3:00pm. If I am running a few minutes late I will message you back and keep you posted."
Why was the last part of that text important? Well, when we first started our blended family and co parenting journey we found that sometimes someone would show up at 3:15 or 3:20 and if no one brings up the fact that there is a possibility they could be late than that causes issues. We would sit around and say things like, Wow this is so irresponsible where they heck are they, don't they want to see their kids, or, we have plans this is so rude. So by adding that extra sentence you just saved yourself a lot of headache. This is for everything you do, not just scheduling purposes. The more you are on the same page the more you will get forward momentum. Also, you need to check your ego at the door because if you are angry with the ex spouse you are more likely to hold back and not communicate but you need to do this for YOUR own peace. At first it can be a headache to constantly be communicating with them but once you get a good flow of communication it becomes easier and YOU become less stressed. Isn't that the end result to be able to be less stressed? By resisting communication you just prolong the time it takes to get to that point of good communication so you might as well JUST DO IT in order to get peace quicker. Or just ask yourself " Do I want to be a douche and make things harder for the next 2 years because the other person is annoying, OR do I just want to communicate now, and be able to get into a good communication flow that only takes 6 months." The choice is yours, you are responsible for yourself.
Rule #2 Never ever under any circumstance talk badly about the other parent. I know for a fact that this happens day-in and day-out and sometimes it's hard not to do so. Our friends just dealt with an ugly divorce and the ex wife is completely ruthless and says the most awful things to their son about his dad and this has had such a negative affect on their son. This is EXTREMELY selfish and only affects the children involved. Children only want to appease their parents and they love their parents DESPITE the fact the situation with the other spouse. Put yourself into their shoes for one moment- Lets close our eyes and think about OUR own mom and dad. How much harder would your life be if you only heard horrible things about your mom from your dad? If this "was" you and this has happened, ask yourself how that made you feel? You love your parents despite what THEY are going through, so show your children the same respect and never speak badly of the other parent. HOLD YOUR TONGUE.
Rule #3 This rule is JUST as important at the 2nd rule, you do not ever want to make plans through your child as the middle man! I understand that some people with severe situations just want nothing to do with the other parent so you believe that using the child as the middle man is easiest. I'm just going to rip the band-aid off and be very straight forward if you have done this- ARE YOU KIDDING ME? How selfish of you to put your problems onto your children's shoulders. Now with that out of the way, we are all human and we try to do things that might feel best in the moment, like telling your child to call their dad to find out where they are and when they are coming. I know my husband did that a few times with his EX and their daughter was the one affected by it. Needless to say- I cut the shit out RIGHT AWAY. I told my husband, "This is your situation and the schedule should only be handled adult to adult" The children are already trying to transition to a "new" life so lets make it easier on them by keeping them focused on "kid" stuff and less on "adult" stuff. Does it suck to have to do that sometimes, yes, but sorry you are the adult and you need to woman up or man up and get it done. Your job as the parent is to ensure your child has the best possible childhood you can provide and emotional stress is not something you are going to want to give to your child, trust me when I say this I have seen it first hand.
Rule #4 Introduce the other parent to the new spouse. Yes this is weird and awkward but if you guys want to have a long lasting co parenting situation then a proper introduction is a must. Always present it in a positive way, for instance you can say- I would love for you to meet Caley because I would like you to be able to meet the person who is going to be around your children to show respect towards you. As much as people resist this and you might through a huge fit and say, "I don't want to meet them." Trust me, you do! We are naturally curious beings and it's important to know who they are. You don't need to go above and beyond but again we are all adults here, so act like an adult when you meet this person. If you want to stock them on Instagram later or call up Jenny Jones and talk shit about what she was wearing and how he down graded then do what you have to do, but to their face FOR YOUR CHILDREN show respect. Always think of your children, you are doing it for your children. Chant it over and over again if you have to. Because at the end of the day you will not have control over who the other parents decides to date or spend time with, so you need to just control yourself and not fight it tooth and nail because its exhausting. Again, isn't this the end result to be able to co parent and move forward, this is just one of those realities of it.
Rule #5 You don't need to be so nit picky. When we first started our co parenting journey as the new step mom I would make sure the kids went back over spic and span in perfect condition. At first, everything is going to be viewed under a microscope, you are so annoyed with your ex you will literally find anything to get upset with them. "Really, they have marker all over their hands, you couldn't bathe them before dropping them off." Now if you can relate to this sentence then my word of advice is- let it go. You will stress yourself out over it and bring more unwanted situations and arguments that really mean nothing and do nothing positive for forward momentum. Kids will be kids and I'm sorry but they are messy as shit. Just think about how your child is, with you, and coloring pictures and getting marker all over them; I can almost guarantee you are in no rush to get that marker scrubbed off. Instead you let them continue playing and having fun and perhaps a couple hours later you give them a bath. This goes to show you are just trying to find any little thing to make the other parent feel as if you are better. Don't do it. You are already going through so much, why add more stress to your life? Focus on simplifying things, just let it go and let it be because you will find more peace in letting go than you will holding on to everything.
Don't lose hope, this is not going to be over night but if you keep up these rules you will become successful and your life ahead will become a lot easier. Life is hard, but hating is even harder so focus on yourself and less on the other spouse! You are perfect just the way you are and through every bump in the road there is something to learn in order to make us better people. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has the opportunity to grow and become a better version of themselves. Now, stop beating yourself up for mistakes and start owning your life and working forwards a brighter happier future as a co parent!
This amazing book saved my life. It has an amazing uplifting out look and great advice!
The Co-Parents' Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted, Resilient, and Resourceful Kids in a Two-Home Family from Little Ones to Young Adults
"Co parenting is not a competition, it is a collaboration of two homes working together for their children's best interest at heart. Work for your children, not against them."
**IF YOU GUYS WANT ME TO POST 5 MORE RULES I AM HAPPY TO DO SO LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW**
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