The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story of what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. In this post, Leah Hadley shares about parenting through divorce, as well as gives advice to anyone going through a similar situation.
All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.
Baggage & Motherhood — Parenting Through Divorce
Have you ever had one of those moments when you knew your life was changing forever? I’ve had a handful of those moments in my life. The first I remember is when I was eight years old. I felt my heart break into a million pieces. It was a moment that will stick with me forever. It was the moment when my parents sat me down and told me that they were getting divorced.
Only, the thing was that my dad had let it slip before they sat me down together. I had been in denial when he told me.
My mom was the one doing the talking, and I started crying instantly because, at that moment, I realized it was really happening. I started sobbing before she could even finish what she was saying. She immediately got angry with my father, realizing that he had already told me. I was crying, and she was yelling, and quite frankly, it’s one of my worst memories.
When my ex-husband and I decided to get a divorce, I was determined not to let my children have the experience that I had. Our kids were 3, 6, and 7 at the time. I was determined to get on the same page with their dad so we could talk them through it together. To our credit, I think we both deserve a pat on the back for that particular conversation. He and I were both calm. We answered the kids’ questions matter-of-factly and reinforced how much we loved them.
What we didn’t handle well was what came next – the actual transition from one home to two.
We were both stressed, and the kids were on edge. I think it took us about a year before we got into a good rhythm. Until then, transitions were tense, and there was a lot of miscommunication. Actually, that’s an understatement. There was a complete breakdown in communication.
While our transition wasn’t smooth, I hope that others will learn from our mistakes.
We have come a long way since then and are now true partners in parenting.
Here are 10 tips for successful co-parenting that I’ve learned from my own experience:
1. Commit to co-parenting.
Parenting is not an easy job. Co-parenting with an ex is even harder. Committing to being a good co-parent is different from choosing to be a good parent. It’s a commitment to working together even though you are no longer married and making a conscious choice to co-parent successfully. It’s recognizing that you both serve an important role in your child’s life and committing to including the other in your child’s life.
2. Respect yourself, respect your ex, and respect your children.
Notice that I started with, “Respect yourself.” Set appropriate boundaries. Create structure in your relationship. Recognize what you have control over and what you don’t.
Treating everyone involved with respect will go a long way. Remember, respecting your ex is part of respecting your children. Your ex will always be their father.
3. Keep to a regular schedule.
Your schedule will change as your lives change, but having a consistent schedule makes transitions easier for everyone. My youngest son was still a toddler when my ex and I divorced. He really needed that consistency more than any of us, but once we got on a regular schedule, it helped everyone involved.
4. Be flexible within reason.
While you need to keep a regular schedule, your lives will be much easier if you can both be somewhat flexible. My ex and I try to give each other as much notice as possible with scheduling changes. We are both even more flexible when it comes to out-of-town family visiting and special events. We both value family and want to demonstrate that to our children.
5. Regular, consistent communication is critical.
You have to talk to each other regularly to stay on the same page about your kids. My ex and I text periodically, call when we need clarification, meet when we need to discuss something important about one of the kids, and eat dinner as a family with our children about once a month. Your communication may look very different, but the key is that it is regular and consistent.
6. Remember, you’re on the same team.
When it comes to significant health, education, or discipline issues, work together. As I mentioned before, my ex and I meet in person to talk about important issues. Once we’ve had an opportunity to talk to each other, we speak to our children as a united front.
7. Pick your battles.
You’re not going to love everything your ex does. You probably didn’t love everything your ex did when you were married, either. I know I didn’t, and I do find myself biting my tongue when it comes to things that don’t matter that much. Sometimes, it’s just better to keep the peace and overlook the small stuff.
8. Honor each other’s values.
Have an honest conversation with your ex about what is most important to you when it comes to your children. Do not assume that just because you were married, you know everything there is to know about their values. Listen with intention, share honestly, and honor each other’s values.
9. Give your ex the benefit of the doubt.
When we first got divorced, my kids were on a mission to see what they could get away with. They would often tell me things that their dad did or said that had me raising my eyebrows. They have since learned that we talk enough that they can’t get away with much. That’s also why communication is so important.
10. Don’t give up.
It’s not always going to be easy. Parenting isn’t an easy job, and parenting through divorce has added challenges. Just don’t give up. Get professional support if it’s not working. Mediation is a great way to work out co-parenting conflicts.
My relationship with my kids’ dad is not perfect. No relationship is perfect. I’ve decided that it’s important to me, though, and I treat it like it’s important to me. I am now remarried, and my husband also treats my relationship with my ex like it’s an important one. It’s important to us because it’s important to our children.
No parent is perfect, but being there and doing the best you can is all anyone can ask.
Best-selling author Leah Hadley, AFC, CDFA is the founder of Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions and Great Lakes Investment Management. She is also Chief Mom behind the blog, Moms Managing Money. Leah is committing to strengthening families through financial wellness. She invites you to join her for free resources and support in the Moms Managing Money Facebook Group.
I want to say a big thank Leah for sharing her story of parenting through divorce to help other mamas going through similar circumstances, and for offering such helpful and sage tips and advice. Please go check out all Leah has to offer at her links above!
Thank you for reading along with Leah Hadley’s story of parenting through divorce in this Baggage & Motherhood guest writer’s series.