The Truth About Co-Parenting

I’m in a lot of groups on co-parenting, taking co-parenting classes and reading everything under the sun to learn how to co-parent. Is it working? Umm, not yet. But, that is not to say that I’ve given up. I’m prayerful that God is working it out.

I understand that most co-parenting situations take 5 to 7 years to work out and that will put Munch between 13 to 15. Okay, whatever! It takes a village and I’m okay with that. However, one of the things that I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot lately is the concern that step moms have that the birth mom’s hate them.

Let me pause and offer my two cents on this belief. This is not true in all cases. If you broke up a home through infidelity, then the birth mother may hate you. But, you should know that. If you didn’t and you both just moved on with your lives and met and married new people then I’m sure that the birth mother doesn’t hate you.

Neither do the kids. They just need to get to know you. The thing is that you fall in love with the man not knowing the history of what he did to that woman or vice versa.  As much as everyone would like to place the foolishness on the birth mom’s shoulder I invite you to take a step back and look at it from another point of view.

As a birth mom to only one child, I only want the best for my child. I believe that his dad wants the best for him. If I don’t know you then how can I know what you want with our son? Does that make you a bad person? Nope, not at all. But, that doesn’t meant that I like you or hate you. I don’t know you.

Does that mean that I’m jealous of you? Not at all. Again, I don’t know you. I don’t trust people I don’t know. Do you trust people that you don’t know? Probably not. It means that we are starting at a point of figuring each other out. We are not sitting here creating voodoo dolls of you and wishing bad things on you. We have a life. We have a child or children. We may have careers.

Every relationship whether friend or intimate has boundaries. When you are getting to know someone intimately they are learning your boundaries and you are learning theirs. When do you learn the birth mother’s boundaries? Do you believe there are boundaries? Do you care?

If not, then think about the relationship that you are creating with those boundaries. When we don’t respect boundaries from the birth parents and do what they heck we want in the name of love, then you will be met with resistance and anger. Probably both. Issues from the marriage or relationship carry over into co-parenting when boundaries aren’t respected. Both men and women are guilty of this.  This doesn’t mean that the woman is bitter or jealous of you. You just crossed her boundary.

Let me give you an example, maybe the ex gave her a sexually transmitted disease (STD), was violent to her, stole from her, etc. Maybe the man didn’t want the child to begin with and now wants to be father of the year with you on his arms. Who knows? You only know his side of the story.  The one that your new partner told you. Maybe the issues are deeper than you want to admit. There are many reasons relationships fail.

And when they do fail, what remains is that there are two parents that have a child to care for. Two. Mom and dad. The parents who created the child, carried the child and the mother who birthed the child left to figure out how to raise this little human being without emotionally stunting him/her. Their children will be raised in two homes, with two different parenting styles and two people who love them immensely. Does that mean that you can’t be a partner in the child’s life with your new man or woman? Not at all.

It just means that you have to recognize that their are other participants in this co-parenting relationship. The parents. Both parents. They need to work together for their child. It may be a lot of residual issues, but your job is not get involved in the BS. To respect the boundaries and love and be a supporting partner to your significant other and a supporter of the child.

Children need the love and support of their parents. If more parents are added to the mix, that’s more love to go around. Their village will expand. Birth mothers don’t go around hating their exe’s new partner. If you’re feeling hated, ask yourself whether or not you did anything to overstep your boundaries. Talk it out.

This is not a birth mother vs. step mother reality. Women have to stop being pitted against each other. We are our sister keeper’s. We are all part of the village.

 

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

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The Truth About Custody

Today’s post was inspired by news of Pillar Sander’s middle son finally getting to live with her. Not sure if you remember their divorce or not, but in a nutshell Deion Sanders got primary custody of his two boys and she got shared custody of their daughter who was the youngest at the time. Here’s what his middle son just shared:

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The children are caught in the middle of a divorce. I want to share a story with you. I want you to think about something before you go to war in custody…

I have a lot of friends who have gone through a divorce and custody battle with their children. All but two have had to battle it out in the courts for custody. As sad as it is, it didn’t have to be that way.

Marriages start off great. You fall in love. You create a life. You have children. Your career changes. Life changes. You have children. You raise your children. Life goes on. Then there is a shift in your marriage. It could be mental health, infidelity, loss of love and/or communication. But, something is wrong.

You try to fix it. You try counseling. You try to make your marriage work. You didn’t get married to get divorced. Sex becomes non-existent. You don’t understand what is happening. Why can’t you get back on track?

But, you can’t.

Months pass. Sometimes years. You grow distant. You become roommates. You live separate lives. You even fake it for family in friends. You begin to lose yourself in the hell that is your marriage.

Until one day.

One of you decides that you can’t go on like this. You can’t live this fake life for everyone including your children. You want them to see two happy people than grow up with a false sense of family. You decide it would be best to split and divorce.

What happens to the children?

You believe that your children need both parents. You’ve read the stories of children that do better with both parents in their lives. You will make it work. They will have two homes with two beds, but they will have two active parents. 

Then one person changes their mind. They want to take their chances in court. Battle it out. It could be for a number of reasons, but money or vengeance are probably the top. They don’t want to share. They want the children in their homes and in their lives full-time. You can see them occasionally.

You struggle to breathe. You’ve lived with your children 365 days. You’ve woken up with them. You’ve fed them breakfast, bathed them and taken them to school. You’re a full-time parent. They are the most important people in your life.

You look up at the person that claimed to love you and see that this person doesn’t care. They don’t care about what you did or who you are to the children. They are grieving. You fight it out and go to court.

Your children may be old enough to talk to the judge, but no one is listening. Lawyers, courts and money spent becomes your life. You didn’t plan this. You can’t understand how one person is being given your children and you are being regulated to seeing your child 48 days a year with two weeks vacation in the summer.

It’s not fair. 

But, you accept it. You accept the terms you were given determined to make the best of it. You show up at every recital, baseball game and school program. You are going to be an active parent no matter the circumstances dealt.

Your ex who got the kids can’t let it go. They play games. Wreak havoc in your life. Destroy you with their lies. But, you make it a point to keep your head in the game. Live your life above water. This divorce has already cost you too much. You move on.

Then something happens. Your ex is blocking your visitation. Back and forth to court you go. The system doesn’t budge. They tell her/him to stop and they continue. They tell her/him they can’t deny your visitation and they do it anyway. The courts do nothing.

The light in your children’s eyes diminish. They miss you. You miss them. You get another lawyer. Back to court you’ll go. You request a modification to the child custody. You want a 50% shared custody schedule with a 50% schedule. 

Your lawyers try to advise you both in mediation to split up the children. You can get the boys and she can get the girls. You are both shocked. You both are adamant that the children not be split up. They are siblings. They need each other. You need them.

Your lawyer advises you separately saying that you could win custody of your sons based off your ex’s antics. You get to have them the majority of the time. No more blocked visitations. But, what about your daughter?

You agree to move forward believing something is better than nothing. You can’t be without your children anymore. They need you. Your daughter will be fine you think.

You win.

You smile. You thank God. You thank your lawyers. You’ve finally won.

But, your daughter loss.

Your children are now split between two homes. She has no brothers there to defend her. She is now alone. 

Note: This is the reality in many broken families. Going through a divorce and custody can be both brutal and painful for the children. If you’re battling it out with your former partner, think about the children. Don’t split them up. They need both of you. Let them decide who they want to live with. Listen to them. Respect their decision or let them go. Don’t separate them. Remember the story from the Bible of King Solomon who wanted to split the child in half because both women were fighting over him? The real mother said “Please don’t kill my son,” the baby’s mother screamed. “Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don’t kill him.” She was willing to lose her son than see him die. Which woman are you?

 

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Motivational Monday Moment– 7.24.17

Today’s Motivational Monday Moment is about finding your joy in the midst of your storm. I know it’s hard. I know that life can be overwhelming sometimes. I get it. You may be in a transition, a storm or a dang hurricane, but hold on love.

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I need you to hold on and anchor yourself. You need to remember that you can’t control the storm, but don’t let it take your joy. You have to hold on.

I remember going through a rough period four years ago when I ended my marriage. We were in a bad space. I was hurting. He was hurting. I was literally being engulfed in a sea of pain and anger. I was drowning. I had let go of my joy.

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Have you ever literally fallen because of the emotional pain you were experiencing? There was nothing physically wrong with you, but the emotional pain was overwhelming? I have. It is unbelievable.

I would be walking and fall out and start crying. My son was holding my head begging me not to cry. He said “Mommy, don’t cry. I’ll protect you. Mommy, please don’t cry.” I’ll never forget that.

It took everything in me to get beyond the grief that I was experiencing. I was dealing with so much pain and grief at the dissolution of my family structure and how we were treating each other that I thought I was going to lose my mind.

I couldn’t hold on to my joy. It was slipping through my fingers. Until one day…

I literally heard God speak to me and say “Get up! It is done.” 

And just like that I had regained the strength to keep on fighting. To keep on moving forward despite the pain that I found myself in. I was not alone. God reminded me of that. That remembrance of his love and mercy helped me to regain my joy.

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You see God had given me back my joy. But, I’ve strayed. I’ve let life and situations that I find myself in overwhelm me. I allow the hopelessness and pain of my situations choke the joy out of me. Until now.

I am reading everything lately. Nothing is one sided. Where there is darkness there is light. Where there is pain there is joy. The good and bad exist on the same plane. I can take the good, but not the bad, but is that fair?

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Nope. I need to remember re-frame a situation, re-establish boundaries and restructure my outlook on life. My joy doesn’t disappear when there is pain. When there is despair, joy is still there. I have to remember that.

And I want you to remember it too. There is nothing that you are going through that you can’t find and hold on to your joy. You are a vessel of positive light and you are loved. No matter what the situation you find yourself in, please know that you are of value and joy is within you. Don’t despair my friend.

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Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Co-Parenting: I Never Thought

I never thought that it mattered to Munch that his dad and I weren’t together. He had turned 5 and we waited until he graduated from day care and had his birthday party. We didn’t want his 5th birthday to be scarred in any way. However, looking back on it…he probably was scarred in spite of our best intentions.

Munch’s life has always been a life where he’s experienced being an only child with two parents that love him tremendously. When we explained that we were divorcing and that he would live in two homes with two rooms, he said “But, you two are my parents.” We explained that we would always be his parents and that we love him more than life itself.

We probably should have put him in therapy. We probably should have gone to family counseling. We probably shouldn’t have done a lot of things. But, we did. None of which Munch had a choice in.

Life has a way of getting you to reflect on your choices when you’re divorced and try to co-parent. That moment came for me a few weeks ago. Munch was crying after a conversation with his dad. I asked him to come here and sit down and talk. He did. We talked. My heart broke.

My son felt like he was in the middle of his parent’s mess. Truthfully, he was. He sat with me and talked to me openly and honestly about what he was feeling. My little man child was expressing how he felt about everything. I just listened. I cried.

I asked him “Munch, what is it that you want?” We spend so much time telling Munch what he has to do that we probably don’t ask him how he feels about things. Forgetting that he’s the one that has to adapt to it. Do you know what my little boy said? He looked at me with tears falling down his face and said “I want you and Daddy to get back together.” 

This hit me like a ton of bricks. What? Why? I had so many questions. I couldn’t bombard this little boy. I asked him “Why?” He said “Because I’m the only kid in after care with divorced parents.” I explained that he’s probably not and some kids may have parents that never married. But, I had to go deeper.

I explained to him that I knew that he felt caught in the middle and I apologized for my part in it. I told him that his dad and I hadn’t been together in over four years and that we love him immensely. I explained that I know that he didn’t ask for any of this and he’s having to adjust to our choices.

We prayed. I kissed his tears. I held my son until he wanted to get up and go play.

His words stuck with me. In my mind and in my spirit. So much of what you do when you divorce and try to rebuild your life after the divorce affects your kids but do you ever stop to think how they’re coping? Probably not. There are a lot of things that Munch had no control over: his parents divorcing, his shared custody arrangement, his dad’s significant other, his dad getting engaged, his dad sharing spaces with someone else outside of him, me moving, his schools changing, me sharing my space with my mom, my dating Mr. C. and probably a whole heck of a lot more things. He’s had significant change.

We adults made the decision to move forward with our lives and he had no choice. We didn’t stop to think how our choices are affecting him not just in a once in a while conversation, but on a consistent basis. We didn’t stop to ask him what things he needs from us to make sure the transitions are working well for him. We just lived our lives believing that our choices were best for Munch.

Are they? I’m going to say in many ways yes. We are good at mapping out our lives and adulting, but we’re not good at co-parenting. We are good at telling him this is going to happen, but not at giving him a vote on our choices. We may not have a choice in what we do, but be cognizant of the fact that he’ll be the one to suffer the consequences.

Our married life is over. Whatever messes we created we have to remember that the most beautiful thing in all of this was Munch. He is our lifeline no matter how much fire I have to walk through I have to keep telling myself this. No greater joy than motherhood. Than what God has granted.

Next stop is to get Munch paired up with a therapist. Let him talk about what is affecting him. Let him sort through the mess we adults created with a professional. Get the tools and techniques on helping him adjust and be the best kid ever. We don’t have all the answers, but we can start by making the right choices to help Munch.

 

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

My IVF Journey: Great Expectations

It didn’t work. The first attempt at IVF yielded no positive pregnancy test. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted my baby. I wanted our baby.

Our baby wasn’t growing in my womb. The nurse said “I’m sorry”. I said “Its’ okay.” It wasn’t okay. I should’ve been pregnant. I cried.

I cursed God. I was angry. I was in hell.

Why couldn’t God allow me to get pregnant? Didn’t he know that I wanted a baby? I felt barren and unfit. Unfit to carry a baby.

I withdrew from my marriage. I pushed my feelings inside and threw myself into my work. I needed something to take my mind off not having a baby and I needed to see value in this barren life.

The fertility doctor kept calling to talk to me. I wouldn’t do it. I refused to do it. My husband said “Kee, you need to call the doctor back before he recommends therapy.” Hell, he should have. He did. I was hurting.

After a few weeks of feeling like a failure as a woman because I couldn’t conceive I called the doctor back. He wasn’t available. Oh well. I really didn’t want to talk anyway. He called me right back. He apologized for being in with a patient. He said “I’m sorry.” I shrugged my shoulders and said “I know. It’s part of the process. I knew that there was a probability that it wouldn’t work.” He said, “I think you should do it again. I know that I can get you pregnant.”

I sighed. I couldn’t go through this again. My hair was falling out from the drugs. The bruising on my body. The emotional hell of not hearing that I’m pregnant. I wasn’t ready to be disappointed anymore. I needed to breathe.

“Maybe” I replied.

We hung up. I told my husband what he said. He didn’t respond. I asked him what he thought about it. He said “I think you should do it again. He said that he can get us pregnant.” I walked away.

Silence.

Silence loomed in our house because I felt alone. My body had betrayed me and my husband believed that somehow it was us getting pregnant. It wasn’t. It was me. It was me going through the blood draws, egg retrievals, shots and pills. You can’t understand my pain.

My pain was enveloping me like a thick smoke. I was suffocating. Suffocating in my marriage and in my desire to give him something that I couldn’t give. My womb was broken. I was broken. I was cracking the hell up.

-To be continued-

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

Five Years Later

This popped up on Facebook today:

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It was a picture of a luau. Five years ago my ex and I were celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Munch was four years old.

We spent nine beautiful days in Hawaii. This was the first of two luaus that we would attend on a beautiful island. Hawaii was perfect. We needed that trip. It was designed to give us time to reflect and strengthen our marriage knowing that we made it this far.

But, it was a short trip down memory lane. Seven months after our Hawaii trip, I was asking for a divorce. I was exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. There were many reasons why, but ultimately I wanted each of us to find happiness because we were making each other miserable.

Five years later we’ve both found happiness. At least I believe we have. But, there are still things that aren’t working. Mainly our ability to co-parent.  I have many wishes or as my friends say expectations of how I want things to work. However, I’m an eternal optimist and I like the word “wish”. It brings sincere hope for something better. So, here are my three wishes five years later:

3 Wishes – 5 Years Later

  1. I wish that we would talk to each other about our son. I mean truly talk. Not forceful or accusatory conversation but a conversation designed to help lead our child down the right path. Really listening and respecting the other person’s point of view.
  2. I wish that we could co-parent Munch. You see many people tell you how you should co-parent, but don’t tell you the tools required to do so. The judge believes we can, others pray for it.  But, we’re not co-parenting. Until we can respect each other it will always be a wish. We begin to parallel parent. That kind of parenting hurts Munch.
  3. I wish that we could remember that Munch is watching us. Munch will never forget how we act towards each other and it will sit with him forever. He is watching and observing our behavior and he will craft his own perception of how things are and were during his younger years.

I’m not perfect. I’m an alpha female. I’ve always been that way. I won’t change. I don’t expect you to change. But, we’ve got to do better. I know that you want the best for Munch. I want the best for Munch, but the more that we continue to have painful conversations, lengthy emails or text messages that don’t have anything to do with Munch. The more time is wasted on bulls*it rather than focusing on Munch.

We have to proceed in these next few years as a unit committed to loving and raising our son. It’s five years later. Time has passed quickly and pretty soon Munch will be leaving our home and going to college where he will be responsible for creating his own destiny. What lessons would Munch have learned from us?

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

My IVF Journey: Fertility Window

We were hurting. I was hurting and probably caused a lot of the pain. I didn’t want to discuss the failure of our first IVF attempt. I was embarrassed. Something must have been wrong on my end. Why couldn’t the eggs latch onto my uterine lining?

I felt alone and frustrated. Feelings of inadequacy constantly flooded my mind. I threw myself into work. I was travelling a lot. Meetings. It was good. The anniversary dinner was a starting point towards talking and acting like a couple. But, a couple of days later I was given the news that no woman in her prime wants to hear. Especially at the age of 32.

I was having my annual check-up and my ob/gyn wanted me to get up and have a talk. She explained that my fertility window was limiting. I had to make a choice if I wanted to have children. My fibroids had returned and I didn’t have as much time as I thought I would to have children. I thought I had more time than 5 months since my first failed attempt at IVF. I told her that we had tried IVF and that it had failed. She asked where did we go for treatment. I told her. She said she knew the practice.

“Who is your doctor?” she asked. “Dr. S” I replied. “I know him” she said. “He’s a great doctor. What did he say?” she inquired. “He told me to try it again. He said that he knows he can get me pregnant” I sighed. I didn’t want to be having this conversation again. Not with someone else. It didn’t work. I get it. I wasn’t meant to have children.

I had begun to accept that fact. “Well, if he said he can do it then he can do it. You should try it again” she said. Just like that. Final. I listened and stuttered “We’re in a bad place. We’ve been married 5 years and I don’t know if we’ll make it.” She listened. “Okay, just know that you can’t wait forever.” I shook my head in understanding and got dressed.

I had never felt so alone.

I headed to the car. On the drive home I kept replaying her conversation in my mind. I never wanted children so why the hell was this stressing me out? Was it our marriage holding on by a thread or was it the fact that at that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a mother?

That was it.

I wanted to be a mother. If not with my husband, then someone else. I wanted a baby. I was going to have a baby. I wasn’t going to stay in this perpetual middle zone relationship wondering if he or I should pull the plug on it. Someone needed to make a decision and it needed to happen now. Definitely before my fertility window closed. No more excuses. It was time to woman up!

-To be continued-

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.