Divorce is hard.
Divorce with kids is harder.
Getting divorced with kids and trying to fix the relationship to a point where you can co-parent because you want to do what’s best for the kids? That’s the hardest.
And when stepparents come into the picture, a lot of parents are too overwhelmed to deal.
But we do deal. In fact, we welcome each challenge as it comes. Because we love our kids more than anything. And because even though we know getting divorced was the right thing to do to escape that toxic relationship, we don’t want our kids to be harmed by our decision to end a marriage. We don’t want the outsiders screaming “Divorce is a mistake!” to be right.
We want to prove them wrong.
Co-Parenting Against the World
It’s no secret that co-parenting (or “shared parenting”) and working together as a team has helped many a family after a divorce. It gives you the chance to prove to your children that even though Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other, your mutual love for them allows you to put their needs ahead of your emotions.
But it’s also no secret that getting to that healthier place with your ex can be difficult, especially when life and the world around you makes you feel like the cards are stacked against you.
I’ve had relatives and people I love, tell me I was a terrible mom for working two jobs and letting my ex-husband have more time with my daughter. That I should have sucked it up and stayed married so I could have continued as a stay-at-home mom, toxic relationship be damned.
Rumors spread that I left my ex-husband because I wanted to go wild and be single again.
I’ve been told I was better off killing myself than escaping a marriage that left me sick, depressed, and contemplating suicide. Because divorce is “wrong.”
For every woman who supported my decision and said it was better this way, there was another one ready to tear me down. All these I could handle. They weren’t the end of my world. People could think and believe whatever they liked.
The hardest thing I had to learn as a Mom after divorce?
To share her.
The truth that most parents don’t realize when they sign off on those divorce papers trying to escape that relationship, is that it’s not just saying goodbye to a husband. You’re ending your reign as the only mothering figure (or parental figure) in your child’s life.
Before my divorce, I was a stay-at-home mom, whose every second of every day revolved around my daughter. I made all the parenting decisions, trying to raise her into a bright and successful child. She was my whole world. We did everything together. It was everything I wanted as a Mom.
But after divorce, that’s no longer the case.
When you sign those papers, suddenly your ex is taking more of a parenting role. You’re no longer the one making all of the decisions. Suddenly, shared parenting is your focus. You’re having to discuss holidays, diets, belief systems, relationship statuses, and how to handle x, y, and z.
Setting a Place for Stepparents
Eventually, you’re also going to have to start sharing that role with stepparents.
More specifically – a stepmom.
And before you start yelling “She’s not the mom! She doesn’t have a say!” understand that I’m not saying a stepmom comes into the equation as your replacement. I’m saying that with a healthy co-parenting dynamic, stepmoms and stepdads are parental figures, too.
You want your kids to respect their stepparents, right? You want them to listen to Stepmom when she calls? To respect Stepdad when he talks to them? Of course you do.
As a parent after divorce, finding the perfect partner who not only loves you but accepts your children as his own, can be difficult. It is possible though – “the one” does exist.
But once those significant others are in the picture with Mom and Dad, co-parenting families have to add a place setting (or two) at that “parents only” table. Each new addition brings her own beliefs and ways of doing things, and can often offer a new perspective on tricky subjects. They take on their own roles as parents to your child, and should be treated as such.
Which means sharing your child’s time with them, and parenting alongside them.
Accepting My Daughter’s Stepmom
The most popular comment I hear as a Mom when I tell someone I’m friends with my daughter’s stepmom, is “How can you share your daughter with another woman?! I could never do that.” Or “How dare she call you the birth mom?! You’re the ONLY Mom!” Personally, I choose to ignore these comments.
Accepting my daughter’s stepmother as a welcome addition to her life doesn’t make me less of a mom. It doesn’t mean I’m fighting over my daughter with her. What it means is that my daughter not only has one amazing role model to look up to as a woman, but two! It means she gets twice as many hugs and kisses, twice as many Moms to ask advice as she grows, and twice as many positive examples to learn from.
Was it easy at first? Of course not.
That primal bond a mother has with her children is very much like a mama bear’s animal instinct. Your first reaction is always “Don’t you dare touch my baby!!” But when you stop and remove yourself from the situation in your mind, and really think about what’s best for your kids…
There’s no question.
Sharing your child with all the positive and healthy parental adults around her will only help her as she grows. That’s the nature of shared parenting.
Once a mother realizes the benefits of co-parenting, or shared parenting, of sharing their child with the other parents, of encouraging their relationships with each other…
There really is no going back.
PS: Want to hear more about my journey accepting my daughter’s stepmom? I spared no details.