Monthly Roundup With Sarah: Co-Parenting Lessons

It's No Use Crying Over Spilt Milk

The beginning of anything can be rather exciting, as well as daunting depending on what is starting. Beginnings can be also terrifying, which might also be a word to describe the life of a blended family. However, things don't have to be terrifying if you are able to navigate with some help along the way.

At the end of each month, I will be publishing this Monthly Roundup blog and share what I've learned as well as summarize the solutions to classic stepmom problems that work for me! I know that these suggestions might not work for everyone, you might even say "duh we have been doing this for years".  But hopefully, I will debunk any thoughts of "oh they have a perfect life", because nobody does, including myself.

January is the beginning of a new year, and this is a big deal! As we said good-bye to 2018 we acknowledged the happy times, sad times, and we let go of the stressful times.

I should tell you it was like taking a deep breath- you inhale clean and fresh air,  and then you exhale and release all of your tension and anxiety (and by that I mean all of the negativity from 2018). It is exciting to think about having a fresh start- to me at least. I have learned not to easily get set/stuck in my old ways. I have also learned that in order to grow in the most positive direction, I need to get rid of the negative thoughts and patterns we have developed. 

This month, I learned from our experiences and have developed a new 2019 boundary to follow.

So….what did I learn?

We learned that accepting the children in addition to the time that is already allocated to us as part of the negotiated schedule, we are putting a strain on everyone's relationships.

I've also learned over the years that you just cannot control what you cannot control. For us, this meant that we had the kids more than what was agreed upon (which was thought to be the right amount of time split between mother and father).

Why negotiate in the first place if you are often offering the kids to the other parent?

Two summers ago, we had the kids from about July 15th (give or take a day) until labour day weekend (minus camps and few odd days here and there).

Slow your roll right there! Do co-parents not typically split the holidays 50/50? So I thought. The November prior, we had the kids almost 24-25 days out of 30. During holidays we had them the majority of that time. This most recent holiday break we had the kids 12 days out of 17. For math lovers that was 70% of the holidays. We are always happy to have the kids as much as possible because we love our grande family. In fact, my girls love their sisters and brothers to be around as much as possible and get super excited when they know their siblings are coming. What could make a mother more happy than seeing her kids full of love and excitement?

What we did not realize is that the kids who are going between homes or who are away at school eventually will suffer as a result of not spending equal time with their parents. In fact, what we did realize is that always taking the children could actually become a detriment to those relationships, because your child is truly craving equal time.

Ensuring that time is split equally between parents is something we are going to be sure to do better this year.

What did we do?

We recently had a family meeting which was a first for us! We talked with our kids and told them that we are going to do better at parenting, whether it is bedtime routines, health, wellness, or alone time. Ahhhh alone time- this is something we forgot about. Alone time can be so easily forgotten in a blended family but is so incredibly important.  It's easy to get overwhelmed when you are constantly surrounded by the masses. It is crucial to include alone time which could look like any of the following: spouses with together, father and son, father and daughter, mother and son, and mother and daughter.

Incorporating alone time is not always easy, especially if your blended family is large like ours. Therefore, I cannot emphasize enough that you need to physically sit down with your calendars and block it off for each relationship.

Stepmoms, do not forget about yourself and your spouse. This is the most important relationship and needs to be prioritized first. I once heard someone say "my kids are my responsibility and my spouse is my priority", and I cannot agree more. 

From now on...

We have made a vow, for the sake of everyone, that we keep to a more consistent schedule of “YOUR” time and “OUR” time.

Of course, I do not see anything wrong with helping out and/or going to do some activities. With that being said,  the kids do need to remain with the parent whose time it is to have them.  Isn’t that why blended families negotiate this schedule in the first place? To ensure that each parent gets to spend quality time with their kids with the benefit of the kids knowing when they are coming and going? 

This is when you need to remember: don't cry over spilled milk.

If you cannot make the plans in your arranged calendar happen in one weekend, spread it out! It is all about the quality, not quantity.

We are determined to make this plan work, and we are already seeing the benefits of having our weekend remain as our weekend.

Be sure not to forget that when you find yourself in situations that become sticky or stressful. Instead, take a deep breath in of fresh air, and exhale out all the stress and anxiety. It may take a while to find a solution, so remind yourself that when clouds disappear and the sun comes out that's where your solution will be.