Divorce is never easy and when there are kids involved you still have to journey on together and learn how to co-parent for the sake of the children. Co-parenting after divorce can be especially hard as new partners enter the mix but is also especially important. As a child of divorced parents, I have my own perspective on how important good co-parenting is and how uncomfortable it can get as new parents enter the equation.
I was quite surprised when I came across two moms (a bio mom and a step mom) that wrote a book together sharing the first hand stories of trials and tribulations of raising kids between two families. The book is entitled, (Step)Mom: Dual Memoir, How We Navigated Divorce, Remarriage, and Co-Parenting With the Same Goal. . . Happy Children and I couldn’t help but be impressed by these women that overcame a huge divide. The book is available now on Amazon and I included an affiliate link below.
Co-Parenting After Divorce
Coming up with co-parenting guidelines is pretty essential to helping the transition go smoothly from one family to two families. There are lots of great co-parenting resources available and I do suggest you read some how-to tips but this book offers something different. (Step)Mom: Dual Memoir is authentic, entertaining, and inspiring in a non-didactic manner. You will not want to put down this book as they share raw, funny, and sometimes-awkward, stories from their world of “co-parenting.” And if these two ladies could learn to parent together for the kids, and even be friendly enough to write a book together, well that is inspirational! I am so honored to share a bit of their co-parenting journey here with you today.
“Our mission is to help close the relationship
gap between bio-moms and stepmoms so that
children don’t get caught in the middle.” –Gipford Moms
First Hand Stories On The Beginnings Of Co-Parenting Communication
Excerpt From Step(Mom): A Dual Memoir, Publication Date: May 12, 2019, reprinted with permission
Chapter 3: Our Season of Courage
As told by Erin (bio-mom)
It was the middle of a kiddo-less week for me which meant they were spending an entire seven days, not only with their dad, but with Tina as well. I was still trying to adjust to the entire situation, attempting to see the silver linings. At this point, though, they were hard to find, other than that I knew the revised schedule was making my kids’ lives easier and less chaotic. But for some reason, this particular week was feeling harder than the rest.
Tina was still a person of mystery and I was okay with that. I wasn’t ready to meet my ex-husband’s girlfriend and I really didn’t know if I ever would be. How awkward! I could only imagine our introduction going something like, “Hi. I’m glad you like my ex-husband. Please be nice to my kids. Oh, and did you know that he <insert all his bad traits here>.”
Yes, that would have been beyond weird. Funny, inappropriate and possibly a bit soothing for my soul, but weird nonetheless. Nope, I wasn’t ready for any of that.
My phone rang and a number that I didn’t recognize appeared on my screen. Normally, I don’t even answer phone calls when I don’t recognize the number. I figure if I don’t have the number saved and it’s that important, they will leave a message. Also, being an introvert, I hate talking on the phone. For some odd reason, probably out of complete boredom from not having to be a parent that week, I answered the call from the unknown number.
“Hello? Erin?” I heard a soft, quiet and timid voice ask on the other end of the line.
“Yeah, this is Erin.” I responded, with a little hesitation.
“Hi Erin, this is Tina. I have April here next to me, and she has some exciting news that she wants to share with you. Here she is.”
“Hi Mom!” April literally shouted into the phone.
“Hey sweetheart, how are you? What is the big news?” I asked, trying to sound excited even though I had a hundred other emotions rising inside of me.
“Guess what? I lost my first tooth!” April screamed.
“Oh, wow! That’s awesome!”
April continued to fill me in on all the tiny details pertaining to the loss of her first tooth and I was overflowing with joy. It had been a long, lonely week by myself and talking to April was just the antidote I needed. My mommy heart had been recharged once again, thanks to a woman I hadn’t even met yet.
Wow, I thought to myself after I hung up the phone. Just wow. I was stunned, to say the least. It was very considerate of Tina to help April make that phone call. Never, in a million years, would I have ever expected my ex-husband’s girlfriend of four months to initiate and help my child contact me in order to ensure I was involved in the celebration of losing her first tooth. That must have taken a lot of courage on her part. If I had been in her shoes, I probably would have forced Shawn to make the phone call out of complete fear, but I was so glad it was Tina. It allowed me a small glimpse of her character exactly when I needed to see it.
What’s strange is that, even to this day, neither Tina nor I can remember when we met face to face. I asked her about it when we were together, hashing out book details, because I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember. Tina is someone who remembers everything and even she couldn’t put her finger on exactly when we officially met.
I can recall that many times over the course of that first year, when Shawn and I exchanged kids, Tina seemed to conveniently make herself scarce every time I showed up on their doorstep. I would sometimes hear her voice prompting my kids to “remember your pajamas” or “pick up your toys in the living room before you leave.” But I can’t remember seeing her in physical form. Of course, I wondered what she looked like, but I kept my curiosity at bay in order to avoid all the emotions that would likely accompany a face-to-face introduction.
What I learned from this season of life:
- Assumptions will get me nowhere.
- Gratitude feels better and is much easier than fear and angst.
- Small, kind gestures can help bridge large gaps.
As told by Tina (stepmom)
By this point, I had started counting my blessings on a daily basis. Our little apartment was filled with love and so many happy moments. The three kids seemed to be thriving on the new, seven-day schedule and all five of us had more quality time to be together… to be a family.
Oddly enough, even after several months of dating the man of my dreams, I realized I had still not met his ex-wife and mother of his children. I guess I really didn’t think too much about it as I was so caught up in the whirlwind of my new life.
Shawn had told me bits and pieces about Erin here and there but, being that I had a past, long-term relationship under my belt, I knew that there were always three sides to every relationship: his, hers and the truth. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to meet her yet. What if she was crazy? Couldn’t we just stay in fairy tale land a bit longer? I just wasn’t ready to deal with that whole aspect. I knew it was something that had to be done, and I was subconsciously dreading it.
In the back of my mind I was already assuming she thought the worst possible things about me. I was the new girl slowly encroaching on her family. She would probably point out every single flaw she could find and bring forth every insecurity I had ever had. If I was lucky, maybe not to my face, but I was sure I’d be the topic of any conversation she had with her friends and family for the next year.
I kept telling myself, “Tina, eventually you have to buck up and meet this woman if you are going to spend the rest of your life with her ex-husband.” I used that as my source of motivation throughout this whole process. I knew I loved Shawn, I knew I loved his sweet children; therefore, I knew a relationship with his ex-wife was inevitable. I still wasn’t looking forward to it though.
Almost as if the good Lord up above took it upon Himself to open a doorway for this new relationship to bloom, April lost her first tooth while she was at our place. I knew this was a momentous occasion for any child and, after all the excitement subsided a bit, I thought to myself, Erin would want to know that her daughter just lost her first tooth. I knew this because, if it were me, I would want to know.
Personally, I would have been devastated if Sam had come back from her dad’s with a missing first tooth and I had had no clue it had happened. You know, sort of like when your child is in daycare and they crawl or walk for the first time? You just want to know. I realized that I had to tell her and so, without hesitation, I asked Shawn for her number.
At best, it would break the ice between us. At the very worst, it would be the beginning of an 18-year battle. I was willing to take my chances.
I really didn’t even think she would answer since I was calling from my phone versus Shawn’s and I would be the infamous “Unknown Caller.” Then I started thinking,how do I even answer if she actually does pick up? “Hey, this is your ex-husband’s girlfriend whom you’ve never met but by the way…”
Hmmm. Awkward. No, I had to come up with something better. Did she even know my name? What if she got upset and screamed profanities at me through the phone?
Well, here goes nothing I told myself as I dialed, and the phone started to ring. Maybe I should abort the mission before she answers? No, I must do this. Please, God. Help me.
Erin answered, and I took a big gulp and said a silent prayer that she wouldn’t be upset that I had called. I just wanted to do the right thing. I was sweating buckets. The right thing is never easy.
Apparently, I was sweating buckets for no reason at all. As I would find out later, she was happy that I had called. Phew! I breathed a sigh of relief the size of the Grand Canyon when I found out how grateful she was. I just knew she would want to know.
I’ve heard so many “my ex is crazy” stories, I could probably write another book. I’m grateful that I didn’t let that assumption stop me from making the phone call. I am a mom that wants to know about her child whenever they’re away from me. I had to put myself inErin’s shoes and do for her what I would want someone else to do for me.
This positive turn of events made it slightly less scary to make the big move to Wisconsin. The lease on my apartment was up and all of our bags were packed and ready to head east. Secretly, I was still scared out of my mind. I was leaving all of my friends and family and moving to a rural, small town where I knew nobody. I had met his parents and sister briefly, but that was about it. Let’s not forget his family was probably still wondering what he was getting himself into. I’m sure they were all thinking the same thing… What kind of crazy woman picks up everything and moves away from her family and friends in such a short time? Maybe I was crazy, but I had fallen in love and I wasn’t about to let it slip away.
What I learned from this season of life:
- Not to fear how others will react to my actions as long as my decisions are coming from a place of love.
- Don’t assume the worst in people.
- Always stick to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
I love this co-parenting book because part of the hardest part of co-parenting is the feeling of being alone and against the world. This book says, “I know what you are going through, we went through it too, and we made it out the other side.” That is a beautiful message that carries hope and hope is just what you need when you feel like you are facing an insurmountable challenge. Are you trying to figure out co-parenting? Did these ladies strike a chord in your heart?