If you are a stepmom, you know exactly what co-parenting is – in fact, you’ve probably seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to co-parenting. The term “co-parenting” in itself may bring up some strong emotions every time you hear it (it does for me). Co-parenting is not easy, in fact it’s the exact opposite of easy.
Recently, I asked my blogging friend Leah to write a post for The Stubborn Stepmom here on Leslie W. Leah blogs at Beehive Mama (her full bio is at the bottom of the post, check it out!) and writes about all things motherhood. As a mom and stepmom to five girls, she knows a thing or two about being a stepmom.
When Leah emailed saying “I have decided to write about the importance of a good relationship between all adults while co-parenting – good communication, patience, and being understanding while navigating parenthood together” I just knew the post would be perfect for any stepmom out there – since we all deal with co-parenting every single day, in some form or fashion.
So, ladies, relax, grab your favorite cup of coffee (or wine) and read Leah’s story about co-parenting – she went from conflict to community and tells us exactly how she did it. Make sure you let her know in the comments below if her story spoke to you in a special way – or maybe just let her know where you are at with co-parenting. Enjoy!
Existing Together, Separately | A Co-Parenting Story
Existing Together, Separately
I know being a step-parent isn’t easy. It is not for the weak or faint of heart. Being a step-mom has forced me out of my comfort zone, pushed my patience beyond belief, and shown me I can love without boundaries. And it has been hard. I understand the frustrations you are feeling. I know the doubts and fears you face. This is no Modern Family episode in which all problems are resolved within 30 minutes. However, this is real life as a blended family. This is separately existing together.
My Big Blended Family
In my case, there are five active parents, seven kids, and three households. Three of the five biological parents are also step-parents. My oldest step-daughter has four half sisters and two half brothers. The two middle girls have three half sisters, a step-brother, and four active parents. Things can get complicated. We are all entirely different humans. And as parents, we all operate differently. It is hard enough parenting with one other person. But on a daily basis, I am parenting with four other parents, trying our best to manage and meet the needs of seven kids.
In the Beginning
In the beginning, my husband and his ex had a pretty standard divorce and child custody agreement. She had primary custody. We paid child support and got the kids over the weekend. But, this never felt right to my husband or myself. We wanted more time with the kids. We wanted the kids to know our home was also their home. I knew we needed a better opportunity to build a deeper relationship with the kids. And honestly, how were we suppose to truly be co-parents if we only had the kids during the “fun times”? If all the responsibility of school work, activities, and overall child rendering fell on her, why would she ever treat us like more than a drive-thru ATM and babysitters?
In my heart, I knew all the kids needed a good relationship with us, and we needed one with them. Therefore, it was imperative to make changes. It was particularly important to me to change the way the adults in our blended family were communicating with each other. The grown-ups in the room needed to start acting like grown-ups. You know the saying: “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” And that was exactly what we needed to do. We needed to stop speaking negatively of one another, start being supportive, and be good examples to our kids.
So the first change my husband and I made was to stop speaking negatively about the girls’ mom. If my husband or I disagreed with something that happened at their mom’s, we waited to talk privately to each other about it. This was particularly hard for my husband, because he felt a strong need to defend himself. However, when we stopped negatively speaking about the girls’ mom, we were able to end the cycle. Ending the cycle began with us. By the two adults seeking change.
We made the conscious decision to stop putting the kids in the middle of a back and forth battle. We became positive examples of coparenting. Instead of reacting poorly to a story the girls told us, we made an active decision to change. We now were coparenting, separately. We were creating a united front of support. Which I promise, is much more beneficial for the kids than being a “right-fighter”.
Finally, Existing Together
As we started making it a priority to communicate respectfully, it became easier to meet all the kids’ needs. We were finally able to coexist together, as a big blended family. Thankfully, we now have a very organic flow of time with the kids. Do we still have court orders and pay child support? Of course. However, the girls stay at our house much more than over the weekend. And their mom knows she can ask for help, even if it is “her day”. As a parental unit, we discuss doctor’s visits, shared holidays, and important decisions. There is fluidity between our homes. Without a doubt, each home has different rules. However, overall as parents, we have agreed to similar expectations of the kids.
This outcome took years of hard work. And there have been many missteps along the way. Have the kids asked to leave our house to go back to their mom’s? Yep. And did it hurt like hell? Double yep! But did we put on our grown-up parent panties and with a loving face say “yes”? Of course we did. This is coparenting. This is being a blended family. Most importantly, this is what it looks like when every member of the family feels comfortable enough to communicate honestly. And that is a really really good thing.
I know this is hard, but I know you can do this Mama! When you said “I do”, you knew you were also saying “I do” to them. And they deserve just as much, if not more, time and effort, to make it work. Your big blended family is going to learn to exist together, Mama. You got this!
With all the love and honey, Leah
Leah Walters is a step-mama and mama to five girls, wife, and blogger. She created Beehive Mama to connect with and support women. As a step-mom, she understand the fears, doubts, and frustrations that come with co-parenting. Her passion is to connect with other women and support them during their journey through motherhood. Blogging has been her connection between motherhood and womanhood. It has given her an outlet to express herself while still being able to be the best possible mama for her kids.
First of all, thank you, Leah, for such a real-but-uplifting story on co-parenting – reassuring us that there is hope to be held onto during some of our darkest times as stepmoms. There are countless women who have been able to find a positive balance within their roles at stepmoms and have in turn given us reason to hang in there. So, thank you for sharing, Leah.
If you are new to Leslie W., make sure you check out The Stubborn Stepmom – it a place to go for help and support as a stepmom, along with countless resources for stepmoms.
Are you looking for more support as a stepmom? Head over to The Stubborn Stepmom Facebook Group and join us there for daily posts and support from countless other women just like yourself. You will love it there!
That’s all for today, friends. Thanks so much for reading, as always – and take care.