Proceed with confidence as you learn to coparent with their stepmom
Hopefully, within each of our lives, we have people whom we can tell memorable, loving, and positive stories about. I also hope to be one of these people in my children’s lives; I want them to see my presence and memory as a place of loving comfort. I want them to know that they will always have me. When they are leaving for the weekend and they do not want to go with their father, I put my hand on their hearts and tell them, “I am always with you, right here.” Then we make the sound of a beating heart together: “Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boom.” I remind them that if they feel sad or lonely, in their heart is where they can always find me.
I will admit that it’s hard to let them go on weekends. I wish they were with me always, but I know I have to honor their relationship with their father—and now their relationship with their stepmom—even if the kids don’t want to leave. I know part of my job as a mother is preparing them for the world beyond my loving arms; I know each person they meet will teach them new things; and I know I’m not the only person they will love or be loved by. I want them to have full, enriching lives, and so I choose to be a positive role model when it comes to coparenting with their father and stepmom.
This isn’t always easy, and I don’t always get it right. This was
particularly challenging when their stepmom was first introduced into
their lives. I made mistakes along the way, and I have forgiven myself
for making them. I have forgiven myself because I have chosen not to
give up on my coparenting relationships, and I hope my children will see
me demonstrating positive behavior and learn to compromise. I have
chosen to use my coparenting relationship with their stepmom as a way to
teach my kids honor, acceptance, patience, and perseverance. Here’s how I do that.
Coparenting with anyone includes honoring our differences, in addition to honoring our ex’s new partner. We also have the choice to honor ourselves by not letting our ex and his new partner get to us when we—or they—are challenged by the coparenting relationship. Honoring the new relationship between the children’s father and their stepmom will show our children that it is all right for them to accept her into their hearts as well. We do this for our children so that they can be happy and feel loved and accepted in both homes.
The stepmom may not be the person you would have picked to have a coparenting relationship with, but she is the one your children’s father picked, so, like it or not, it’s better to accept it. She may be different from you, but these differences will help make your children more well-rounded individuals in the long run. Accept that she may see the world in another light, and these viewpoints will likely be shared with your children. Accept that she will parent differently from you, whether you like it or not, and you have no control over this.
Once the new woman arrives on the scene, things will be different. Your coparenting relationship with your ex will change. It can be frustrating to have a new person step into a civil coparenting relationship and decide that it does not work for her and things need to change. The truth is, this is all normal, and it’s not always fun. It’s helpful to remember that, while you are trying to honor and patiently accept her, she is trying to become part of your culture with your ex and children. She is trying to create a place of her own, and her way of doing that may be by trying to push you out of the picture a little bit.
Keep on trying. You may be a lucky woman whose kids’ new stepmom is a pleasure, or she may be a difficult person with whom to deal. Regardless, the woman who enters your children’s lives is the woman you will need to work with for the easiest and healthiest transition for your children. The two of you don’t have to be friends; you just need to learn to coparent effectively for the sake of the kids. Two practical things that I have found helpful for coparenting effectively are group texts and e-mails between the three of us, checking in with both my ex and the stepmom and keeping the lines of communication open. If there’s an area of major concern with regard to this new woman, make sure to address it with your ex in a tactful way.
When coparenting, it’s all about what’s best for the kids, so show the new stepmom respect in front of your children. Let your kids know that it is all right for them to have fun with her and like her, that it is all right for them to love her. This will send a powerful message of your self-confidence and strength. She is not a threat to you. You are—and always will be—“Mom.”
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