The most unfortunate side of divorce are those who never got a choice in the matter: the children. No one gets married with the idea in mind that eventually this will end, but sadly, it becomes the inevitable. For many couples, the follow up to a decision to divorce are the tough conversations that must be had with the children who have no idea that their lives are about to become interrupted and upended. In my case, the conversation I had with our son and my step-daughter is one of the worst I’ve ever had to have in my life. To top it all off – we had to communicate this decision to our children who were already dealing with the effects of our conflict. My ex and I no longer recognized each other and could barely stand to be in the same room with each other at the time. So, having to tell them that we would be splitting up and seeing the look on their faces is what made us put our own feelings aside to get to work on focusing on making sure they would remain priority one at all times. The goal in mind was to make sure they would feel protected and showered with love blossoming year around from us to them. We decided that it was better to be partners rather than competitors when it came to raising our children. This is how we have been able to co-parent successfully to date. My ex and I have actually become friends again through this understanding and because of it our children are the happiest they’ve ever been.
One of the co-parenting aspects that often gets overlooked is being a co-mother or co-father to your current spouse’s children with their ex. I was caught by surprised the other day, while watching actress Jada Pinkett-Smith’s new web-talk show series Red Table Talk. In her first episode she sat down in a one-on-one conversation with Will Smith’s ex-wife Sheree Fletcher. Both women detailed how co-parenting wasn’t easy in the beginning, but that they were able to find common ground and master it successfully through their mutual love for Will’s eldest son Trey.
One of the things they detailed in their conversation interview was learning how to co-mother together with Sheree who was divorcing Will Smith at the time and Jada Pinkett entering the situation as the new girlfriend. It made me think back to my own situation where I came into the picture with my step-daughter who was all of 2 years old at the time I had met my ex, and how dealing with her mother started off very rocky. We were so young and had no clue what to expect with this new family dynamic and how it would affect her. It was interesting to see Jada and Sheree discuss this issue openly because it’s the other side of the co-parenting experience we don’t hear about. Likely, because it provides insight on the whole babymomma stigma. You know that nasty label that society has stamped on single mothers raising children. No matter the circumstances surrounding why a relationship ended, single mothers are labeled as the angry, bitter individual who is an impossible person to deal with. A pariah to your ex’s new relationship. The very idea of this is enough to make anyone want to steer clear of entering into a new relationship with someone who has children from a previous relationship. The thought of feeling powerless in a situation where you have no control can be frightening. But, the reality is that in the world we live in, it happens everyday and many blended families have conquered this stigma successfully.
Co-parenting is not easy at all. But, best way to co-parent successfully is by way of reaching a mutual understanding through your shared loved for your children. The love for our children is what is often gets forgotten in blended family situations. This is because the adults involved are often more concerned with protecting their egos than they are the family unit. I am living proof that it’s not always easy to agree about our differences with our exes but you can overcome them. I always say that things can easily go as planned if folks would only learn to adjust your expectations to your reality. This is what Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith and Sheree Fletcher have also done. They realized they were responsible for the journey and their love for their children far outweighed any issues they had with one another. This love is what made them contribute equally to the growth and development of Trey and his siblings. The goal is for the children to grow and thrive. The only way this can be done is by way of building a solid foundation where love remains at the center.