Jenny C posted the below on The real reason your ex doesn't see the kids, which is one of the most shared and commented-on posts I have ever written. I appreciate that her advice comes from all angles, and is wise, practical and loving.
Jenny C has four children from her first marriage, one together with her current husband, who has two from his first marriage (that's 7 KIDS!! Ages 5 to 15.). She is the maintenance purchaser for a food manufacturer and lives in Peck, Mich.
Advice on blended families from a step-mom, bio-mom, and step-daughter
First let me tell you that I was a step child, I am a step parent, and I do have children from a previous marriage. Co-parenting sucks, but being co parented sucks more. I can’t even explain to you the amount of trauma that my parents and step-parents caused me growing up by constantly fighting over everything in my life. I refuse to ever put my children or step-children through that. Over the years I have learned a few things.
On blended families and child support
I am proud to say that I do NOT get child support for my children because my parents raised a strong independent woman who can support my children on my own. I do not ask their dad for money because to put it simply: I wouldn’t get it. He only works occasionally as it is and if I were to ever ask for money he assures me he would promptly quit his job. However, some people need child support and that is fine, but no need to bend the other parent over to the point that they themselves can’t live. My kids' dad usually asks me — the custodial parent — for money to “feed” or “transport” them for his visitation. He never takes the kids for his scheduled time if he has to work because, hello? Why worry about day care when they can just be at their mom's? For this reason he has never taken his summer visitation, but still acts like I’m killing him if I ask him to watch the kids for a few hours twice a week. I work 60 hours a week.
Now, as a step-parent: We have joint custody of my step-children with each of parent getting 50/50 time. You got it, we have them half the time, pay for all their insurances, and still pay child support. Heck, we even paid for years of day care that they never even went to. That’s OK. Could we hire a lawyer and fight it? Of course we could, but the truth is I’ll pay it to their mom because the peace vs. war is priceless. Do I like her? Not at all. I hate how she parents (or doesn't parent, I should say), but that doesn’t matter. Of all the issues that co-parenting brings, money is not the battle I choose to stress over.
New wife or girlfriend's fault dad doesn't see his kids?
For moms whose ex does not see the kids: Stop blaming the new girlfriend/wife. She doesn’t have the power you give her credit for. She can’t actually stop him from being a decent parent. He is making that choice. Try your best to see the value that that extra set of hands can bring to the table. Maybe she is a person who can help with home work, and sick children. If you make her feel like she has an important role, she will actually start acting like she does have one. No kid has ever been damaged by having too many loving parents. Your ego may hate it, but your child won’t suffer from it.
How to talk to your husband's ex
My husband's ex wife was being completely irrational over money insisting that the $2,000 a month in child support she got for having the kids half of the time wasn’t possibly enough to support them. That of course seemed nuts to me (I have twice as many kids and don’t get child support from their dad ). I found out accidentally in a conversation that she and I had months later the real reason for her complaints was that my kids had expensive shoes. All she wanted was me to buy them name brand shoes. Had she just told me that she felt my kids had better shoes then hers we could have saved a lot of trouble and hurt feelings. Best part, I am an amazing shopper. So for about $400 per year we save thousands in court fees, and have gained a better understanding, and even empathy for each other. What to tell your kid when their dad is not involved
Blended family advice
Takeaway: always always be the bigger person. When you feel the rage coming on STOP because it’s not about you. Save your energy for the battles that really matter in the long-term. You can’t force the other parent to be rational, but your life will be a lot more peaceful if you quit trying to make them. It’s horrible to see your children hurt, but you can only be the best parent you can. You don’t want them to grow up remembering that you constantly fought the other parent — that could translate to the deadbeat getting their sympathy. They might actually think that parent didn’t come around more because your b***ching chased them away. Hang in there. They will grow up some day to be people you are proud to have raised, and you will know that you get all the credit for it, at least from them. More advice on how to co-parent with an ex.
What have you learned about co-parenting? What mistakes have you made? Successes? Advice to others? Share in the comments!
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.