We have come across other parents over the years who when dealing with our family, who refuse to deal with the step-parent. They don’t want to talk to Bob or Molly, but only a biological parent. When one of the step-parents attempt to speak to them, they might act fine at first, until they realize who the bio-parent is, and suddenly the step-parent is tossed aside. I’m sure most step-parents have seen the behavior from other parents, and I hate to stereo-type, but I have personally noticed women I have crossed paths with have been more judgmental than men. I feel this is purely due to insecurity, the thought of being replaced in her own family if a divorce were to ever happen to her, and possibly an attempt at being territorial for the other biological parent. The mentality of, If she won’t stand up for herself with her, I will. She might be comfortable with the whole co-parenting thing, but I just think it’s weird. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that last statement. Men have treated us the same way on some occasions. I remember on one particular occasion, Jeff, Bob, and I were at a school open house. A male teacher walked over to the three of us and introduced himself. I completely understand how intimidating we must look to someone who is not used to seeing two dads, (with one holding a baby), one being an ex. As soon as the word step-dad was uttered, his gaze shifted between Jeff and I. He only spoke to the two of us. Gracious as always, Bob did not say too much about it after we went home, and our daughter asked if two parents could just take her the next time.
Our blended family recently came into contact with someone who had never been exposed to co-parenting. Another divorced parent, they were accustomed to the “old-school” way of doing things. There appears to be some parental alienation, although it comes from only one side of the story, so I am unable to tell for certain. Every time communication was initiated, the parent was hesitant to communicate through a step-parent. They preferred a biological parent, due to their personal experiences. Every time they referred to one of my co-parents, she put great emphases on the word step, which was noticed. Bob and Molly don’t mind the word step-parent, but when someone obviously treats them differently only because of their title we all wish they understood how much they do for the kids. Trust me, they both pull more than their fair share!
This parent had a complicated background with their ex, but then so do I. While I completely understand how difficult it can be to overcome the obstacles involved in co-parenting with an ex and their spouse, and I know not every situation is like mine nor can every family get to the point that we are, I don’t expect them to get to that point. Take it one tiny baby step at a time like we did. I did not get to this point over night. I did not wake up one day liking my ex-husband immediately after our separation. When we first separated, the waves of pain strangled me. I have admitted on this site how I felt initially. Molly and I were not fond of one another for the first several months. We still go through periods when the four of us disagree—we recently had a period a few months ago when we didn’t see eye-to-eye. We had co-parenting meetings and deliberated over the phone until we finally reached an agreement. The key is to start very small and work your way up to big. Don’t think way into the future, concentrate on the present moment.
Upon my experience with the parent I referred to earlier in this post, they have done the opposite of almost everything I’ve suggested on this website. Here is a list below of some of the things they have done the opposite:
- Do not badmouth the other parent in front of the child. The past and whatever has happened between the two of you will only have a negative impact on your child. I know that some parents will disagree, stating children deserve to know the truth. At some point, possibly, but age is also a factor. The other issue is you are not unbiased. Whatever you tell them will eventually make you out to be the bad guy, not the other parent. Lastly, your child comes from the both of you, so when you badmouth the other parent, the child takes the insult personally. They also want to believe the best about their parents—both parents. While I do not always sugar-coat or hide all truths, I also do not tell my children everything that happened between their father and I because it is not relevant to their growth and development at this time. It is important to both of us for our children to maintain strong relationships with both biological parents, while cultivating solid relationships with their step-parents as well. In order to do so, we refrain from talking badly about one another.
- Do not share your personal problems with your child. They are not your friend, they are your child.
- Do not treat a step-parent like a sub-species. (Be careful how you speak to your spouse, step-parent in front of the child. Don’t teach them it is okay to treat them disrespectfully.) I have been guilty of correcting my husband in front of my children, which does not show a united front. When you show doubts in your spouse’s parenting, your children will automatically not take them seriously, and neither will other parents or teachers. Back your spouse up at all times in front of others. If you disagree with their parenting decision or style, wait until you can speak to them privately.
- Start with small goals, only focusing on today. As previously stated, we did not start out liking one another. Start with being civil. Treat them as a business associate on a job interview, respectful and professional. Smile and be polite.
- When communication with your ex or their spouse, only speak about the children and arrangements pertaining to the children. Do not bring up any other topic.
- When communicating with outsiders to your family, back up the step-parents. I try to make it a priority to introduce Bob and Molly to everyone. I also back them up if anyone treats them with disrespect or ignores them.
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of twelve and fifteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish is the owner and founder of Family Fusion Community. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, and www.bigblendedfamily.com. She is a regular writer on www.herviewfromhome.com. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, and, Linkedin.