Co-Parenting When It Wasn’t Your Plan – Embracing Your Child’s Stepmom
The possibility of one day sharing our child with another woman who they will know as stepmother isn’t something any of us think about on the day our precious little ones are born. But with a divorce rate in the United States as high as 50%, it is inevitable that many of us will someday face this challenge – or be on the other side of the picture as the new stepmom.
Here are 5 ways I learned to accept and even enjoy my new reality even when it wasn’t my plan.
By Embracing Solitude
One of the hardest parts of having to share my daughter with her father and stepmother has been figuring out what to do with my time when she is gone. Over the years, I have learned to make the most of the time by traveling, spending time with friends, working on my own spiritual growth and development, and learning to be OK with being alone. The memories I’ve made during my solo adventures have been some of my favorite ones, and at times I have even felt grateful for the much-needed break from the perils of single mom life.
By Practicing Gratitude
Speaking of gratitude, having this kind of change in perspective is another crucial way to get through any difficult circumstance in life. I finally got over myself and realized that having one other person in our family who will love my child, spoil my child, care for my child, and support my child isn’t a bad thing. At the end of the day, the situation could be much worse. I am grateful that my daughter’s stepmother is kind, loving and fun in all of her interactions with my daughter.
Through Finding Forgiveness & Healing
Because of the circumstances surrounding our situation, it took me quite some time to accept this new person in my daughter’s life. However, my daughter also enjoys a relationship with her new (half) brother through her stepmother, and this important detail has sped up my healing process in order to keep things friendly on her behalf. I would never want my feelings to get in the way of my daughter spending time with her sibling. Plus, forgiveness just feels better than bitterness anyway.
By Connecting as Women & Mothers
As 2 women who will forever have a connection through our shared children, I get the sense that we both hope to form a bond that goes beyond any link to my child’s father to bring us closer together.
Though our relationship has been awkward at best and strained at the worst moments, we’ve both remained dedicated to fumbling our way through this uncharted territory in order to benefit our kids.
I think as women we tend to be the hardest on ourselves and each other, but we can also be the most genuine and supportive of each other when we put our differences aside and try love instead. I look forward to seeing where our shared love of these precious children (and eventually each other) will take us.
Through Discovering Parallel Parenting
In our case, co-parenting hasn’t exactly been smooth, and when I stumbled across a new term called parallel parenting it was a huge relief. The gist of the parallel parenting strategy is that each household essentially does their own thing in order to avoid conflict in relationships where complete cooperation just isn’t possible. Since we live in different states and consistent communication can be a challenge, this strategy has worked the best for us over time.
As 2 mothers and 1 father with 3 very different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and ideas on how to raise a child we are simply not going to agree 100% of the time. As a couple, they are not going to raise their son (or my daughter when she is with them) the same way I would or even as my husband and I did as a couple.
Letting go of my expectations is much healthier than obsessing or nitpicking over the little things. My daughter is safe, healthy, happy, and loved and that is more important than whether or not we have the same household rules or collaborate on every decision. Once I freed them of my expectations of doing things just like me, it allowed us all the freedom to parent as we see fit.
For other mothers who find themselves in situations like mine, I think it’s safe to say it probably wasn’t part of your hopes and dreams for your family. It certainly wasn’t mine either. But the unexpected journey has brought unexpected blessings and like much else in life – we often don’t have much choice but to embrace the cards we’ve been given.
Much of the success (or failure) of your new co-parenting relationship depends on your ability to shift your perspective when needed. Through gratitude, acceptance, love, forgiveness, and a little bit of time – a healthy and even enjoyable co-parenting relationship is possible.