Co-parenting After Divorce: We're One Big Happy Mixed Family

We were a sight coming down the street -- a wall of people and 5 children. But the absolute best part of Halloween 2015 was when one of the kids pointed to all of us and said to the woman handing out candy, "Look, here comes my family." The 3-year-old gets it.
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For every great co-parenting relationship out there, there will always be those that simply cannot get along for the sake of the children. They argue over parenting time, name call, point fingers and do not want to "let it go." Children become weapons or pawns and end up in therapy, or acting out in school or shut down emotionally.

Post-Divorce: If you have ever talked badly about the other parent in front of your children, if you have ever argued over adult subjects in front of your children, if you have ever made them to feel like they had to choose sides -- you are doing it all wrong.

Is that a sweeping statement? Yes. Am I wrong? I don't think so.

Co-parenting in a split family is hard enough, so it makes zero sense to add any pressure to the situation. For those of you shaking your head or rolling your eyes, bear with me, because I have heard it all. "He cheated on me. Why would I sit in a room with him?" "She left me. Why do I have to go to conferences with her?"

Because you created a child and they are your greatest responsibility -- that is why!

I does not matter if you like the new boyfriend or dislike your former in-laws or if someone cheated on you. What matters is that is your child's family. In fact, it is your family too. It really does take a village. And that village, as big and as messy as it might seem to you, you need to get over yourself and see the benefit it provides your child.

I understand that there are circumstances that are volatile or dangerous. I am not saying you should have Christmas dinner with your physically abusive ex or Thanksgiving with the fall-down drunk ex. Exposing you and your children to violence is not what I am advocating.

Halloween, other holidays and birthday parties in my family consists of myself and my son, his father, his fiancé and her two daughters, the fiancé's immediate family, her ex and his family, my ex in-laws and my ex-sister-in-law's parents and sister.

We were a sight coming down the street -- a wall of people and 5 children. But the absolute best part of Halloween 2015 was when one of the kids pointed to all of us and said to the woman handing out candy, "Look, here comes my family." The 3-year-old gets it. Why is it so hard for some adults to fathom such a thing?

I still have a relationship with both of my sister-in-laws and I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at one of their homes. Divorce doesn't make family stop. Choice to abandon it does.

Just as I was wondering if I was alone in my view-point on this a funny thing happened, an old neighbor of mine on Facebook posted this picture. It went viral. Holy crap, their family looked just like mine.

As with anything that goes viral, you get the haters. Of the almost 8,000 comments, so many judged it, thought it a lie or boldly claimed that this could never happen in their family. Instead of believing that this is how grown up responsible adults should act, people just could not wrap their minds around it.

Here is the post:

The 3 boys come from the two past marriages. My ex wife's new husband and his ex wife have a son. #kidscomefirst #parentingdoneright #coparenting

Posted by Ryan Martinek on Friday, November 27, 2015

My neighbor and I had a chat about it and she told me that she also started a blog, because she takes her role not just seriously, but with loving intentions.

An excerpt:

When people first find out that I am a step-mom, they ask me how I "deal" with having my husband's ex-wife in my life. They usually joke about how I am going to have to "put up with her" until the youngest is 18. People are shocked by my response. I do not have to "put up with" his ex-wife. I like her. She is a great person, and an amazing mom. I know that most step-moms are not as lucky as I am when it comes to that. It was not always easy, and her and I had to develop a relationship over time.

People are shocked that she cares enough about these kids to not have holidays, birthdays, school events be a tug-of-war? She sounds awful, doesn't she? Hide your kids immediately!

For every Paige and I out there, I want to say to these step and co-parents that I admire your humanity and the love you have for 100 percent putting the children first.

For the "other siders," I challenge you to do better for your kids. Like it or not, you are bound to this family for life. By showing disdain openly for something you asked for and created only shows your children that you choose some hurt or pain over their happiness.

While I don't believe that we ought to forsake every last thing or martyr ourselves because we are parents; I do believe that we are who has the power to show them love over hate, family over dysfunction and just because a divorce happened, we won't alienate them from the people they love.

Lisa Schmidt is a Post-Divorce Catalyst for Women in Detroit and the author of her own blog. Questions can also be sent to her directly Ask Lisa Here Or, pick up a copy of her free eBook "Overcoming the Overwhelm - Navigating Your Post-Divorce World" HERE

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