Co-parenting is never easy, and not everyone’s situation looks the same. Whether you’ve been co-parenting for years, or this is a new life transition you are going through, there will be hurdles along the way you will have to navigate. From the first time you meet your ex’s new partner to watching that person interact with your child to eventually moving into a stepparent role, each phase brings up a new set of challenging feelings you must learn to deal with.
When I became a mother, never in my wildest dreams did I envision a life where I would only be physically present with my kids half the time, let alone have to share them equally with another woman. I will admit it wasn’t a seamless transition, and it took some time for us to get to where we are now. But I’m finally at a place where I can call her on the phone to discuss important issues—like my adolescent daughter learning to conquer body image issue and female friendships in her young life. My co-parenting relationship with my ex is still an important one. Our kids need to know that despite being separate, we still come together on significant issues, including cell phone usage and discipline from one house to another.
But the relationship I need to model in the most favorable light is the one I have with their stepmom, here’s why:
My children’s emotional needs come first
I learned very early on in the divorce process it is no longer about my ex and me. In all our choices, we must put our kids and their emotional well-being first. In the beginning, it stung my heart to hear my girls mention my ex’s new significant other by name, but I knew I wanted to provide them the space to talk about anything and everything, even if it hurt me to hear at times.
As time passed, hearing the stories became easier, and I became grateful that my ex-husband chose a partner who was kind to our daughters and made sure they are cared for in my absence. I could finally stop worrying if the kids were wearing clothes they had outgrown to school or what their hair would look like when I picked them up. His new wife puts my mind at ease and does all those tasks that dads don’t typically think about.
As time passed, hearing the stories became easier, and I became grateful that my ex-husband chose a partner who was kind to our daughters and made sure they are cared for in my absence.
All parents know how perceptive children are. Even when we think little ears aren’t listening or their eyes aren’t watching, we are aware our kids sense everything. When their dad called them via FaceTime to deliver the news of his engagement, I was in the living room folding laundry. I could see my oldest daughter glancing over at me to gauge my reaction to the news before fully expressing her feelings. So, I put down the pair of pants I was holding, walked over to the screen, congratulated them both, and asked what they were doing to celebrate. And that was that. The kids were excited, and I was excited for them.
There are perks to having another female to talk to
Having a 10-year-old girl has been a constant reminder that mean girls exist, and I do not want to be one of them. If I want to raise strong females who won’t turn into mean girls, that is the behavior I need to model for them, no matter how difficult it is at times.
Besides being a positive role model for my kids, there are times my oldest daughter comes home after dealing with playground drama and doesn’t want to talk to her dad about it. I’m so grateful she has another trusted female to confide in when I’m unavailable. And her stepmom is another set of eyes and ears when I can’t be there.
When my daughter is having a difficult day, and she’s at her dad’s house, she feels comfortable enough to FaceTime me, and the three of us can sit down and talk about the friend drama and how we would work through it. If my relationship with her stepmom was not on good terms, I don’t know that she’d feel comfortable enough to talk to her about difficult things, let alone have a conference call with me on FaceTime.
I know I can never be replaced
I know deep down that my role can never be replaced. With all my feelings aside, what matters most to me is that my daughters know how loved and supported they are by all parties involved, and when we can all get along, we have a greater chance of them growing up to be well adjusted adults.