We have 5 children.
Our youngest is 1…he is ours.
Then I have a daughter who is almost 3…she is mine and she is ours every other week that she isn’t spending time with her father whom I have joint custody with.
I have a son who is 4….he is mine and he is ours about 10-12 days a month when he isn’t spending time with his father whom has sole custody.
He has a daughter who is 4 and a son that is 6…they are his and they are ours every other week that they are not spending time with their mother whom shares a verbal agreement of joint custody with us.
Co-parenting…it can be an absolute nightmare straight from hell and cause stress that wreaks havoc on a family…OR it can be almost blissful if you put effort into making it that way.
The first step is ending the blame game and choosing to be on the same team. Two people that created a child need to come to terms with the fact they now have a new responsibility of thinking of someone else instead of themselves. A child does not need much from their parents. A consistent relationship, unconditional love, security, and people to stand as role models that they can learn from are some of the most significant things. In the heat of the moment when parents can’t agree they seem to disregard the fact that their child will one day be an adult and take what they have learned into their own future. Teach them right! Even when it is hard as a parent to cope with someone that you would rather not associate with does not entitle anyone to make poor decisions and create or continue hostility and tension between the two homes of a child. No excuses. There is no justification for not being able to contain your own emotions at the expense of your child’s past, present, or future and anyone that wants to disagree with that needs to take a spiritual journey of some kind. If you a part of a child’s life (parent, step-parent, guardian, etc…) then you have the ability to adjust a child’s future, so use that ability in a positive way. Don’t nitpick the other parents involved in your child’s life hoping to find reasons to sever the bonds between them for your own taste of control. When you make the choice to raise a child separately, even if the choice was not initially yours, you have to accept that your child will not be raised exactly how they are raised when they are with you. No two parents are the same and the quicker you can get on the same page and compromise, the better it is for your child. That’s the whole goal, making it work for your child not just yourself. Of course there are extreme cases where this may seem impossible because some people that have had children don’t want to be parents. I am speaking for those that openly express they want a place in their child’s lives but can’t seem to see past their own flaws to create a better future. Just because two people could not romantically be involved with each other to raise their child does not make them any less capable of being good parents together. Those two people need to be dedicated to making it as easy as possible for their child to have a loving and stable relationship with all parents involved. It is no longer about your feelings for the other parent(s), it is about your child’s feelings. What child wants to hear someone being negative about one of their parents? Even as adults we are offended if anyone speaks down about our parents (assuming the relationship is a good one) so why should children be condemned to living a life carrying around their parents negative emotions and comments about each other? They shouldn’t. I am no where near perfect and have subjected my children to my fair share of negativity that I am not proud of but I did come to the realization that I was wrong and changed it. Now, I want to help others do the same. I may be harsh but the truth is sometimes hard to accept. Once you allow yourself to focus on what you can do to improve a situation then you have the power to make a difference. You may not be able to CONTROL anything but you can play a hand in compromising so everyone benefits in some way. The stress of co-parenting in a hostile situation is EXHAUSTING!! But it doesn’t have to be. Everything we do in life is a choice and how we react to situations defines who we are as people, parents, friends, etc… The easiest thing to do is focus on the flaws of someone else and lash out when we don’t agree with something or when someone offends us, especially to those we have a distaste for. The problem with this is the stress and turmoil it creates effects more than the adults involved. It’s like the butterfly effect. One little insult could lead to an all out bash match and create permanent tension between two homes, a courthouse, and whoever else decides to step in…then it trickles down onto your child that you claim you are just trying to protect. Before you know it, said child grows up and can’t handle their own relationships in a healthy way because they were never taught any different from the parents responsible for guiding them to have a successful future.
Some split parents tend to argue over trivial things, demand impossible requests in a rude manner, put each other down in all aspects of life (including, but not limited to, their personal affairs which to an extent should not be a concern for two people no longer sharing a life together), lie or purposely hide things from each other, compete for recognition or love, and/or have a false sense of entitlement to “ownership” of their child. It’s sad, but incredibly common and people have an extremely hard time accepting that they are actually doing the opposite of “protecting their child.” They are in fact, destroying the magic of their childhood and instilling the same negative coping skills for them to carry on after childhood.
With all that said, quit the “game” of who is the better parent. Just let it go!! Start RIGHT NOW!! Let it go and turn over a new leaf for the sake of your child and the sanity of yourself. Stop taking every little thing to the extreme. Stop attacking the other parent(s) for things you don’t agree with big or small. Approach each other in a manner you would approach a beloved friend about an issue. Even when you are infuriated by something…calm down and try to see that maybe there is something you don’t understand or see from your perspective and once you are calm and your emotions are collected approach the issues in a mature manner. Everyone in life is going to piss you off at some point but you can’t control anyone but yourself. When trying to resolve an issue or disagreement you need to be consistent with your goal of finding a solution and not creating a bigger problem with insults and negativity. You do not have control over anyone’s response to you but once again, you do control your own. Swallowing pride and taking the high road means having to ignore negativity and accepting that just because someone lashes at you, you do not have to lash back. Not everyone is mature enough to contain their anger or frustration but by extending a little respect to someone you may think you are “better than” could provide you with mutual respect to build the foundation for better communication and a healthier relationship, who knows…maybe even like my case…a friendship. Your child is at stake here. If you treat your boss or acquaintances with more respect than you treat your child’s other parent(s) with then the issue lies within your own character. You are a hypocrite if you are constantly demeaning another parent while trying to boost your own ego with the idea you are more fit for your child. What makes you better? You could be more mature, more understanding, more compassionate, more likely to compromise…but that still does not grant you the right to think you share a deeper love or concern for your child than another parent. In some cases it may, but as I already stated…this is about parents who are actually trying to be parents.
Example of seeing the bigger picture vs. the infuriating situation at hand:
Bio-Mom wants all the clothes that are from her house to be returned and discusses it with Step-Mom in a demanding way. Step-Mom feels attacked and lashes back with an attitude to some extent then discusses with father how much of a royal b**** Bio-Mom is and the situation escalates to the point of an all out screaming match over the phone with threats of court involved or lack of visitation if demands are not met or the other doesn’t stop demanding. Guess what?!?! Your kids are probably listening from the other room and hear everyone’s disgust and walks out and says…”Hey, they are my clothes…what does it matter which house they are at as long as I am wearing them?!?” Boom!! There it is…a big shot of reality to smack everyone in the face that their child just had to parent his parents on how to be an adult.
You see, there can be those “special” clothes you buy for your children that you want to see them wearing while they are with you but in the GRAND scheme of things…what the hell does it matter as long as your child gets to wear them? Why subject your child to raggedy clothing just because they are going to their other home and you don’t want to “lose” those items of clothing? What are you teaching your child? You are teaching your child that he has to live two separate lives just because his parents chose to do so. Would you sue your chuild’s school if he lost his favorite sweatshirt you just bought him while there and they can’t locate it? Probably not, unless you are really high strung and have a need to embarrass yourself and your child. You are teaching your child to be stressed out over an outfit that can be replaced just like you will replace his small clothes with big ones as he grows. You cannot replace a childhood. You cannot hit the restart button and make all the animosity from his life disappear. But you can see the bigger picture and put a stop to it now! You can play an important role in changing his future and make up for the past that you played a hand in destroying at some level.
What is a healthier way to deal with this situation? I’ll give you two examples…one with a one sided positive approach and one with a team of mothers being respectful of each other for the selfless love they have for their child.
Bio-Mom demands that Step-Mom returns outfit to her house or else “insert threat here.” Step-Mom replies after calming down and collecting her thoughts with something like this “Sorry you’re upset, I’ll try to get it to you as soon as I can but at this very moment I have some stuff going on. If you’d like you can pick them up or we can arrange a time that works for both of us to meet. If you’re coming this way and I’m not going to be home I can leave them in a bag somewhere for you. Is there anything else I can do help? Everything ok? You sound really frustrated. How is “child’s name”?. BOOM!! Even if Step-Mom gets a nasty reply at least she was first to extended the respect and understanding that maybe Bio-Mom has other things stressing her out and lashing out at Step-Mom was out of frustration of life in general because of their complicated relationship Bio-Mom feels comfortable being negative to Step-Mom. On the flip side, Bio-Mom gets pleasant reply from Step-Mom and is relieved someone cares enough to be kind and offer a helping hand. Maybe Bio-Mom had an incredibly rough day (flat tire, lost job, attitude from her child, personal issues, washer broke and she has limited clean clothes) and all she really needs is someone on her team to say “Hey, I’m here to help. We are in this together.”
Bio-Mom reminds Step-Mom “Those pants that _____ was wearing when he went to your place didn’t come back with him but is there any way you could drop them off as soon as you get a chance? If not I might be able to pick them up or we can meet? Those are one of the few that fit still and I know they are just pants but until I can get some more I really need those for him.” Step-Mom then should not feel threatened or attacked and would hopefully reply with something equally respectful and kind such as “He’s growing through clothes like crazy! I’m busy right now but maybe _____ if that works for you?” Hopefully with a simple gesture of respect and kindness towards one another it would open up to a more peaceful parenting relationship between two mothers of an incredible child as opposed to Step-Mom vs. Bio-Mom.
This mind set will help you in all relationships you encounter in life whether it be someone you love, hate, work with, meet at the store, etc. You see, the conversation may have been about a pair of pants but something so simple could quickly spiral out of control without the ability to see the bigger picture and look at things from a different perspective. When we take a step back and reevaluate what our end goal is we realize that more often than not we can find a common goal. As parents of blended families, the common goal is to raise a child into a great adult so we can celebrate their accomplishments and help them to succeed along the way and not just academically, financially, or career wise but emotionally and mentally as well. We want our children to be great! We want them to face this world with everything they need to do great things with their lives and to pass on our bloodline as something to be proud of. In order to ensure that…we have to teach them. We don’t just teach them with our words when speaking to them, we teach them how to treat strangers, elderly, God, siblings, the homeless woman a block down from your house that asks for a bite to eat and your spare change…we as parents have the responsibility as a team to teach them by example of ourselves. Someday maybe one of our children will have to face co-parenting with someone they extremely dislike…how do you want them to handle it? Do you want to have them feel the stress that you are? Do you want someone to be cruel to them and them be cruel to others? Of course not! You want them to be strong and defend their family, beliefs, morals, religion, whatever it may be BUT in a way that earns respect and not resentment.
I’m going to help you figure out how you can do it! Everyone is different but in any walk of life there is a way to be better than who you were yesterday. YOU and ONLY YOU can make the choices to do so. Start now.
Most children admire a fictional super hero of some kind…step up, be their HERO, and most importantly…teach them to be a HERO!!