I spent my Saturday a couple of weeks ago hanging out a local food truck festival with my husband, stepdaughter, and my stepdaughter’s mom, Amanda. We were there to support Amanda’s best friend who was promoting her clothing boutique at the event. Kind of unique, right? Not only do we hang out with mom, but we support the people she supports. One of the things I’ve learned in this crazy, beautiful stepmomming world is that it’s always evolving; there are ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. Even when you think you’ll be high conflict forever, you can be surprised with a peaceful, respectful co-parenting relationship.
What a Henna Tattoo Taught Me About Stepmomming
We were all walking around the festival when I spotted a henna tattoo vendor. I looked at Amanda and jokingly said, “Want to get matching tattoos?” to which she eagerly responded “Yes!”. That’s an import takeaway: say yes! It’s a parenting technique, but it’s totally applicable in other situations. When practicing improv, actors are taught to say “yes” when another actor suggests a situation or asks a question. You cut off creativity, halt teamwork, and set a negative tone when you say “no.” So even though my henna tattoo suggestion was silly, Amanda said “yes!” The more we say no, the less productive we’ll be. The more we say yes, the more collaborative we’ll be.
Sometimes We Disagree
As we were perusing designs, I fell in love with a dream catcher design. It’s actually the exact design I want for my forearm in a permanent tattoo one day. I’ll shade the main part of the dream catcher with blue and green, my husband and I’s birthstone colors. Each of the feathers will represent our children; so, I’d shade one of them aqua blue to represent my stepdaughter K’s birthstone color (and then add more colors to other feathers as I have children). Amanda initially liked the design, but she was more intrigued by the traditional henna hand tattoo. I wasn’t sure I could walk into my corporate job with the hand tattoo, so I suggested we get different tattoo designs.
Even though we chose different designs, we remained united in the initial venture. And that’s what matters most when we’re stepmomming; as long as we stay true to the general idea, we can stray from the specific details. If we agree as co-parents that education is important, then it doesn’t truly matter if I focus on educational games and mom focuses on reading. We stay aligned in the big picture and allow ourselves freedom to deviate on the specifics.
We Make Big Decisions Together
As soon as K saw our tattoos, she obviously wanted of her own! Dad was initially a little hesitant, but after he and Mom discussed, he endorsed the decision. If he had decided it made him uncomfortable, it wouldn’t have happened. That respect is completely critical to a healthy co-parenting relationship (and makes this stepmomming gig a lot easier for me!).
Mom and Stepmom are on the Same Team
As K watched Amanda and me, she said, “Look! Both of my moms are getting tattoos!”. I initially felt a little guilty for the way she phrased it. I don’t want Amanda to ever be threatened by me or to think that I believe I’m her equal in her daughter’s life (which is why I don’t let K call me “Mom!”).
But after the initial guilt washed away, I was overcome with gratitude. That we can have this kind of relationship for our little girl. That she doesn’t feel afraid to love us both anymore. That she doesn’t have to choose sides. And isn’t that the goal? It’s not about us, it’s about our children.
The tattoo has already washed away, but I’m still reliving the memory. Has something so small taught you any great lessons? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
PS: Interested in co-parenting like we do? Learn the ways you may be sabotaging your co-parenting potential!