Four Keys to United Co-Parenting

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The past seven years of my life have looked a little something like this: happy marriage and sweet baby … turned affair, betrayal, and double life … skip to divorce, grief, and healing … and now, finding love again, an amazing second marriage, and blending all of the above. Successfully navigating through the past seven years has been tricky at best and now, the co-parenting dynamic in a blended family is no different. The complexities that go into the relationships that now make up our new family unit run deep. This has a lot working against us at times. We, however, are all working for one thing, our daughter. So, in my experience, here’s what has helped the most.

We Leave the Past Where it Belongs

More often than not the reason people arrive in a blended family is the product of heartache and trauma. At least two people in the co-parent foursome have experienced the pain of their divorce and that takes serious time and healing to recover from. Taking that time to grieve is crucial in how you’ll operate parenting together. Our magic number was three years. During that time, no one had re-married quite yet, allowing for some focused healing, forgiveness, and mourning the losses that came from the divorce. This time set us up to interact on a healthier level for the sake of our daughter. By the time remarriage was on the table there had been enough time and healing in place to move forward. And what to do with that extra water under the bridge? Make the choice not to drown in it. As co-parents it’s not about your former marriage, it’s about your child(ren).

We Keep the Lines Open

Aside from how we all arrived here, if there’s one thing we can all agree on present day it’s that we want to raise our daughter to be the best little human, thriving in every way possible. Talk about common interest! We could all go on and on about the funny things she says, how amazing her latest painting was, and how proud we are of who she is at only six years old.

As a parent, I will say, hands down the most lingering pain of divorce is sharing your child. From missing the major firsts to simply not getting to tuck them in every night. It gets really sad if you keep your focus there. The ways we soften the blow are a whole lot of pictures, videos, and updates in our “team sweetie” group text that the four of us have going. I missed my daughter’s first flight this past summer, but the video her bonus mom sent me was as second best as it could possibly get. I watched that video on repeat, and it made my heart so happy knowing that she was experiencing this first with a set of parents who love her as much as I do.

This solidarity doesn’t just apply to the joyful and gushy moments of parenting, it’s just as important (if not more) when dealing with the challenges. The behavior issues, the discipline, the consequences, the consistency in all of it … and if you’re a parent, you know that the list goes on. Once you’ve semi-handled one stage of your child, they throw you for a loop and it’s something brand new to deal with. We keep our rules and expectations as identical as humanly possible across the households. And with this, we are all in the know about everything that goes on. If there’s a behavior issue at one house, we all know. At school or soccer practice, we all know. She knows she’ll get the same answer, consequence, reward and so on from each one of us. She knows that we all talk and share and that between the four of us, she can’t get away with much.

We’ve found that there is an exception to the parenting rule when your child is one of a blended family. Some days, they need a little grace when going back and forth from household to household (and that’s okay). They aren’t robots and we can’t expect for them to act like ones. We notice more emotional outbursts and acting out in our daughter when she goes from house to house. She doesn’t express exactly what she’s feeling, but there’s something she’s processing internally that’s beyond us. Do we let her get away with murder? No, but we are mindful that there is an adjustment period needed at times. We give her that space to settle into one environment, family dynamic, and set of parents to the next.

We All Show Up

Softball games, parent-teacher conferences, dance recitals, school meetings, soccer practice, birthday parties, preschool graduations … We all show up, all the time. We continually show her that she is not only lucky enough to have the love, support, and encouragement from mommy and daddy, but also from her two bonus parents. She will never be short on love or support, that’s for sure. We also show her all of our different strengths and interests and see if they spark anything in her. Whether a child has two parents or four, personalities and passions will differ. Children will find that in certain seasons they’ll relate better to one than the next. We hope that she sees what each of us bring to the table separately as something that helps guide her. Parent to parent will always look a tad different, but what looks the same is the consistency of love and support our child receives. Our daily choice to all stay united and show up for our daughter trumps every reason the past has tried to divide us. We choose day after day to be the adults, to show up, and to ensure our daughter always has the loudest cheering section at the softball game.

We Respect Each Other (and our new family units)

As much as it benefits our daughter to be a united blended family, we are still big on developing and fostering each individual family unit. She has separate outings, traditions, and routines for each household. This gives life to each family unit on its own. Yes, we are blending and co-parenting, but we need each side to have its own individual foundation. We respect that in the other. It’s easy to have that sense of “I was here first” when watching an ex-spouse start over. However, this is not the hand we were dealt, nor is it the attitude we should carry. Point one on repeat. We leave the past where it belongs, and let our new families start over and grow. We keep our communication about our daughter and nothing else. We give each family unit the necessary space. If our daughter misses any one of us or wants to talk/facetime while she’s at the other household, we always allow her to, but we also try to respect the time she’s spending with each set of parents.

Her relationships look different with each one of us and we all respect that as well. No one is out to replace or compete against each other. We respect our daughter’s feelings towards each one of us and find joy in the relationship she has with each of us individually. We each take her out on solo dates, we spend time with her in our separate family units, and we spend time all together. Each facet of time spent is respected, encouraged, and important.

Divorce doesn’t end family life; it reorganizes it. The points made above are all daily choices we make FOR our daughter. Some days there are triggers of the past or painful memories that work against our choice, but we don’t let them win. All in all, we keep our heads above that water left under the bridge and focus on that greater good our child deserves.  

Pain & Our Babies

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Since I am two years past my divorce, and close to five years past the beginning of the crazy downward spiral, my pain has been dealt with. The pain I feel is no longer my own personal heartbreak. Healing, time, and prayer have been there along the way to help rid that pain. However, the residual pain is different. It’s less personal and more channeled for my daughter. I feel pain that I anticipate her feeling because of our divorce. I feel pain when I think about how she was the innocent victim of two people’s choice to sin. I think about how she will feel if she finds out what I went through, what her daddy did to mommy. All of this hypothetical pain can get exhausting.

One of my favorite authors about all things self-help and overcoming hardship is Glennon Doyle. She was actually a huge motivator for me to finish my book. Anyhow, she wrote this recently about our fear as parents. It resonated with me and as much as I still resist the thought of my babies ever experiencing pain, I do see the beauty on the other side. And that is not all bad. Quite the opposite.    

“I always feared that my babies’ pain was my failure. But if learning to step into life’s struggle is my warrior journey, isn’t it theirs too?

More than anything, I want my kids to grow up to be brave, kind, wise, resilient humans.

So what is it in a human life that creates bravery, kindness, wisdom, and resilience?

What if it’s pain? What if it’s the struggle?

The bravest people I know are those who’ve walked through the fire and come out on the other side. They are the ones who’ve overcome again and again – not those who had nothing to overcome. They are the ones who no longer avoid the fires of life – because they have learned that they are fireproof.

What if we are trying to protect our kids from the one thing that will allow them to be the men and women we dream they’ll be?

Maybe our job as parents is not to protect them from pain, but to hold their hands and walk into their pain with them.

If we want to invite our children to be warriors, we need to look at them and say: ‘I see your pain- it’s big and it’s real. But I see your courage, too – and it’s bigger and more real. That fire won’t burn you, you’re fireproof.”

Be encouraged, friends. Don’t let fear bog you down. Walk in the pain with your children. Hold them, pray for them, hear them, and show them the beauty that can come when we let courage take over.

Light of the Broken

FullSizeRender (2)I hope this post finds you all enjoying summer and finding moments of joy wherever you can! Summer has me traveling and enjoying the sunshine with my family.  My prayers, of course, are still with you! And thank you for those of you who reach out to me for guidance. I truly love helping you through whatever stage you’re in.

I am working on a few side projects right now that I am eager to share with you. One is the much-awaited piece on co-parenting that I’ve had brewing in my mind for about a year now. That dynamic is not one to be explained simply, so it’s not surprising it’s been difficult to craft.

All that aside, I read this quote a few weeks back and it really encouraged me. I hope that you too find that there is much beauty to be seen in the pain.

“The broken will always be able to love harder than most. Once you have been in the dark, you learn to appreciate everything that shines.” -Zachary K. Douglas

My hope and prayer for you is that the darkness you’ve endured through your divorce will be the means of seeing the world in a brighter light than before. I know that I certainly appreciate the life God has blessed me with now all the more because I lived through such a season of darkness. Divorce is dark and painful, no one is denying that. However, the brightness that comes in the rebuild is beautiful. Love and prayers to all of you, my friends.

Divorce is Not Failure

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I came across a really powerful article and wanted to share it with all of you. I related so closely it was as if the words were my own. It’s so easy to feel like if your marriage ended in divorce it failed. This not the case, friends. Give this article a read and be encouraged that divorce is not a failure, but an avenue for strength.

To choose divorce is not to choose failure.

To choose divorce is to sink lower than you ever thought possible. Then once you reach that abyss, when you are in your weakest hour, divorce grabs you by the scruff of your neck, slams you against the wall, and demands that you find the greatest strength and courage of all — an inner strength from somewhere deep inside — to carve out a new path. It is a strength that takes a long time to find and an even longer time to recover from.”

Find the article, To Choose Divorce is Not to Choose Failure, over at ScaryMommy. If you’re a mommy, I recommend following this blog anyhow. It’s so spot on and quite hilarious!

Have a happy Wednesday. My prayers are with you!

“God Gave Her to Me”

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This past week I went to an adorable celebration at my daughter’s school called Moms & Muffins. I don’t say this to sound like mom of the year nor to be cliche, but one on one time with my daughter is gold. My daughter and I spent four years, just her and I. And now, with our present day blended family, I share her with three other parents. Are there perks to sharing in the parenting of this beautiful little girl? Absolutely (another post I am working on)! Qualities, attributes, and love shown to her by four parents instead of two is not all bad, folks. Okay, let’s stay on topic here … I am convinced the days and nights we spent just the two of us created something real special. She was my drive to keep my shit together when I was on the verge of losing it. She was this insane beauty beaming through the ashes of my dead marriage. That bright bond we created through such darkness will always be there.

Our morning together, celebrating Mother’s Day at her school is a time I will always treasure. We ate muffins, read stories, and she showed me all of these insanely cute projects she had been making for me. When her teachers asked her why I am special, her response was: “God gave her to me” and then of course, what I was good at: “sweeping the floors” … Oh my, I freaking love her.

Her first answer really did make me want to weep on the spot. “God gave her to me” … I think as mothers we can agree that this is how we feel about our children. God gave them to us. They are our gifts. For divorced mamas especially, they are this silver lining that came from so much heartache. And here I am reading her words, God gave ME to HER. ME? Ugh. I am not sure how many of you are with me in that I feel like I fall short as a mommy more often than not. Yet through her eyes, I am this amazing gift. Humbling, no doubt.

I read this really great piece about the Good Shepherd last week and it spoke to my mama heart pretty hard:

“You know yours, and they know you. Just like the Good Shepherd, you rise every morning to lay down your life again. Even in small ways the world never sees. But the Father sees you and loves you. He knows your heart longs to be like the One who is Love.

If you listen, you will hear His voice. What you long for will lead you.

He promised you this. His promises do not fail. He is the Good Shepherd.”

What an incredible encouragement for mothers. Knowing our shortcomings, our sin, and the stuff we lay down morning after morning is made whole through His love and promises. God’s good grace fills in the gaps of our mommy fails. And our little ones? They have hearts eyes for all that makes up our beautiful mess. We are their gift and they are ours. Let us not forget this truth!

Divorce and single motherhood can really magnify the ways we think we are “failing” our littles. Promise me this, if this Mother’s Day greets you mid-divorce or as a single mama, read some advice I wrote when this too was my reality. As most of you know this will be my first Mother’s Day in four years that I do have an amazing husband to celebrate with (there’s hope!). However, I feel deeply for you ladies on the other side. Give my words a read from last year describing past Mother’s Days.

I pray that ALL the mamas out there will feel loved by their little ones, peace from our Good Shepherd and overwhelming gratitude for the many amazing ways they’re raising these incredible gifts we’ve been given. ❤

My Superheroes

Happy International Women’s Day! I know this day can be pulled in a million different directions of social, economic, cultural and political greatness that women have accomplished in the past and hope to continue in the future. While this is obviously worth celebrating and then some, the greatness that came to my mind was the strength that makes up all of you.

The greatness that is all of the women who are fighting to save their marriages. Or the ones who have rocked their life after divorce. The ones who didn’t sign up for this path, but are overcoming it like a champ. The ones who take it (whatever it is) and handle the heck out of it. Today we celebrate all of YOU, my superheroes. 

One of my favorite quotes by the dear Elizabeth Gilbert seemed perfectly fitting for this day:

“The women I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong and they handled it. They handled it a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.”

Take Heart

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Oh dear ones, I can’t believe the last time I wrote to you was during the Christmas season! Well, from one holiday to the next, here we are at Valentine’s Day (sigh, for some). I wanted to connect and let you know that even though my blogging has been sparse, my heart is still woven in with all of yours. I pray for all of you, I think of all of you, and I am here for all of you!

A few things I wanted to update you on …

First and foremost, for those of you who’ve followed my story for awhile now, you knew that I had met an incredible man who I was starting my Life #2 with. Well, we got married two weeks back! Yay! There is SO. MUCH. HOPE. for life after betrayal and divorce. I will be writing a separate post on that, but had to give it a shout out!

Second, I am doing a Valentine’s book giveaway. Just like last time, first five to message me will get a free copy of my book in the mail as well as a valentine from me!

Lastly, if you’ve been dreadddddding this upcoming Hallmark holiday, head on over to the Valentine’s Survival Guide I wrote last year about getting through the gushy love days. It will help you survive the 14th of this month. Whether your heart is waiting or broken, there is hope and joy to be found during this season. My prayer is that you find it real good. 

Tis the Season

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Hello, all! And a happy Christmas to you! This season feels rushed each year and as much I attempt to press the slow-mo button, it never seems to happen. Maybe next year when I have a tad less competing with the holiday spirit (marriage/wife prep, home renovations, motherhood, working full-time, wedding planning, and book launching) I will be able to slow it down a bit. Enough of the rambles, I have two gifts to share with you!

First! I am doing a HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY. The first five followers to email/message me will receive a FREE copy of my book! I would love to give the gift of hope to the broken and hurting hearts out there during this holiday season. So go ahead, be the first five! And my story will be all yours to read.

Last year I wrote a post about co-parenting during the holidays. Give it a read because if we are honest, we all need that refresher when it comes to dealing with co-parenting. Even with the progress of each passing year, triggers will come up that need to be handled. Prepping your heart in the best ways you can will set you up for a smoother holiday exchange.

My prayer for you during this time (and always) is that you will hold on to the hope of healing and peace that will come. If you don’t feel them now, I am sorry. Keep taking care of yourself: mind, body, and soul. My heart breaks for your breaking hearts, but please be encouraged and know that you will be whole again. Sending you many prayers of peace. Trust in God’s ability to redeem the pain and suffering.

Image by The Hipster Housewife

Give Thanks

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One of my all time favorite sayings about this time of year reminds us to act as the changing leaves, taking all that is dead in our lives and letting it go. This truth applies to any part of your life that needs to stay in the past.

For wives who are mid or post trauma in their marriage, my prayer is that you would be able to completely let go of the dead relationship you’re recovering from. I pray that you would see a fresh start as exactly that and move forward full of hope for your new life.

For wives, who are now exes. The ones whose marriages died and that was that, my prayer is that you will be able to fully let go of that life. Grieve it, but let it go.

Either way, reminders of the former life will come, both good and bad. I pray that you’ll thank God for the happy memories and that He’d heal you from the bad ones. I pray that God would give us all the peace to leave the dead things in the season where they belong, the past.

In addition to leaving the past right where it belongs, we must remember what we are thankful for in the present. I remember seasons where it was difficult to be thankful. And currently, I have pages upon pages filled with gratitude. Whether you find one thing or twenty things, keep your heart focused on what you are thankful for. Gratitude combats bitterness. So start your list and keep it close. Meditate on all that brings you a thankful heart. ❤

Let it Heal

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First off, if you love Jesus freak worship music as much as I do, please do me a solid and listen to the songs below. I heard them this morning and was reminded how we can get through anything with the Lord’s comfort and presence (divorce included).

Good, Good Father

The Lion and The Lamb

Other great reminders I have encountered this week have been reflections of a past conversation and reading through a motivational piece on healing from painful experiences, both of which I’ll share.

I remember having a conversation pretty fresh after the affair about how I just couldn’t imagine my life without my (now ex) husband. We committed to forever when we got married and when those vows were said I removed the idea that this person would ever leave my life. So when the unthinkable happens, and they are abruptly taken from your union, it feels impossible for life to go on. The advice I received was this: Think of the life you had before the two of you met. We met when I was 22, so that would be 21 years. 21 years of experiences, friendships, adventures, growth, you name it … Rich and fulfilling years lived without this person. And guess what? There will be those years after he’s gone.

Now, at the time, this advice probably caused a scene of me sobbing in public. I didn’t want to imagine life without my husband. It just brought me too much sadness. However, over time this advice rung truth. My life and all that made up who I am was amazing before he was in my life and it will continue to be after he’s out of my life. I totally get that you feel like there’s no life without that person, but I am here (and living proof) to tell you there is plenty of life to be lived without them. And like the good kind of living, not the kind weighed down by someone else’s toxic choices. So please, remind yourself over and over again, that your life existed before and it will more than exist (and then some) after.

On to my next piece of Wednesday encouragement! I was reading a piece about how to recover from painful experiences.

I loved how simple, yet powerful this was:

Let it hurt.

Let it bleed.

Let it heal.

And let it go.

Good stuff right there! Last and certainly NOT least, thank you all so much for your encouragement and support over the release of my book. The “official” launch date is coming soon, but I can’t thank you all enough for the incredible feedback I have received. This community was a huge motivator to finish writing the book as some days I did not have faith that it would actually get done. As always, I thank you for sharing your hearts with me and I am happy we are together as one tribe moving forward from divorce.