Typically in a blended family, the goal is to co-parent well. Regardless of the type of custody, most parties desire to get along well… at least well enough for peaceful conversations and uneventful trades.
Occasionally, blended families work really, really well together. They’re highly functioning, communicating often, and totally considerate of the other parties feelings in big (or small!) decisions. The exes are able to completely let bygones be bygones, and move forward as friends for the sake of their children. For big events, such as birthdays and major holidays, everyone comes together to celebrate. This huge blended family affair may include in-laws on all sides, a combination of biological and stepchildren, and a collaboration of secret family recipes, which make for the best parties on the block.
Co-Parenting Well: Sharing the Kids or Sharing your Husband?
The issue for stepmoms is that with strong co-parenting comes frequent access to your husband for the Ex. When the family wasn’t co-parenting well, the Ex only called your husband when there was something significant to talk about. (Or, maybe she called all the time, but it was just to nitpick over small parenting differences). There were more formal email interactions, more direct text messages. But now, once you’ve overcome so much and got to the point of highly-functioning, you suddenly may realize the Ex has crept her way back into your husband’s life in ways you weren’t expecting.
Once you start co-parenting well, your husband and the Ex may talk more without you knowing (because there was nothing dramatic to fill you in on, so he didn’t). They could discuss changes to the custody schedule and other decisions that impact you without your knowledge, because they feel like they “know how you will feel,” or maybe they just don’t think it’s necessary to loop you in. Your husband and the Ex may start sending pictures of the kids back and forth more frequently, or checking in on each other just to see how the day is going. There are likely never ill intentions, but it’s easy to feel excluded as a stepmom.
Most of this sounds innocent enough, right? After all, this was the goal… open communication and mutual understanding. But when things were high-conflict, you and your husband shared a common enemy. Your thoughts aligned because they were so dramatically different than the opposing parties. Your opinion was taken into account in all situations, big or small, because your husband wanted your support and advice on how to respond. Times were tough, but you were your husband’s confidante. Now, the tides have shifted.
Your second wife insecurities start to creep back up. You thought it was great co-parenting when you were the one sharing pictures with BM… but now your husband is taking pictures and thinking, “Oh, I bet [BM] would like this picture!” How dare he! You find out that the kids stayed home from school at the very end of the day and think, “Why am I just now hearing about this?” You get a text from BM in regards to something she and your husband had previously discussed, and you feel totally blindsided because you have no idea what she is talking about.
You suddenly feel like you are sharing your husband. You have had this man’s [mostly] undivided attention for so long, and now you feel like he’s torn. You cannot comprehend why he and his ex suddenly seem like actual friends. A world you once felt you had so much control over has come crashing down before you… all because everyone is getting along. How could this be?! What should you do?!
The answer is simple, and may surprise you.
Get over yourself, Mama.
This was the goal… I repeat… THIS. WAS. THE. GOAL. You didn’t really want to be the liaison between your husband and BM forever, did you? Why on earth is it a bad thing for your husband to take a picture of the kids and think their Mom may want a copy? That’s not a bad husband- that’s a great co-parent! Why would you need an immediate phone call if the kids stayed home from school with BM? It seriously does not matter. It is not a discussion you need to be involved in.
If you are in your feels about BM texting your husband to check in with him mid-week, then you were never co-parenting as successfully as you thought you were. Marriage is the ultimate test of trust. Marriage in a blended family, when your spouse has frequent communication with his ex, can be brutal. The negative feelings you are harboring, whether it’s about second-wife insecurities, fear of others’ intentions, or otherwise, can be chalked up to internal feelings that you can work on.
You cannot possibly feel 100% comfortable with the all highly-communicative co-parent relationship if you aren’t 100% confident in yourself first.
This is unlike any relationship you have had in the past. You do not have the option of banning your husband from speaking to his ex (and let’s be honest, banning your husband from anything is probably a disaster in the making).
The harsh truth is, you are sharing your husband. You aren’t sharing him in your marriage- that’s exclusively something you share with him- but you are sharing the other parts of him. You are sharing his time between the kids, their mother, his job, his family… the list goes on. Blended family or not, that’s life and parenting in a nutshell.
You cannot control anyone other than yourself. If you are finding yourself upset about “how well things are going,” then I urge you to practice introspection, figure out what is triggering your insecurities, and tackle the beast. Stop self-sabotaging! Have a little confidence, Ladies! Your man is there to stay.
PS: More on what you can and can’t control here.