Nineteen years ago I became a Divorced Mom to one. Four years later I married my Hubby Raylan and walked into the life of five kids in progress ranging in age from 2 -19 from TWO different mothers. With that entrance I gained another view in the divorce equation as the Third Wife/Step Mom.
Eight Lessons I Learned From My Hubby’s TWO Ex Wives:
1. Your Ex is not your Husband anymore. It doesn’t matter whether your union lasted four days, four months or forty years – your marriage ended. Yes you will always share a child, but your Ex no longer belongs to you. Accepting this new boundary will give you, your Ex and your children the freedom to move forward following a divorce.
2. Divorce details are not for the ears of your children. Ultimately every divorce boils down to Mom and Dad choosing to live their lives apart. Assessing blame for the divorce solely on one parents shoulder forces children to choose sides between the two people they love most in the world. Ultimately robbing them of a relationship independent of your needs with the blamed parent. The marriage of your kids parents ended don’t make it worse my ending a parental relationship as well.
3. Refrain from trash talking about your Ex. Kids share DNA with BOTH parents. When you label your Ex a bad guy at that some level you’ve told your kids – you’re a bad guy. When you feel the inclination to send a bullet – stop – reload - share a positive thought instead.
4. Your kids are not your confidants. A kid is just a kid no matter how grown up they may look and sound. Sharing financial struggles - marital problems or other adult problems places a tremendous burden on children. They have limited life experience to offer any meaningful advice. The result is your kids become consumed with worry for you. Share your troubles with an adult or therapist.
5. Give kids control over their relationship with Dad. It’s not your duty to let the kids know “Your Truth” about their Dad. Your Ex may have been a lot of things during your marriage, but remember that was in his role as a Husband to you not a Father to them. You had the opportunity to get to know your Ex – allow your kids the same. If they meet the person you knew – still give them the freedom to determine how it affects their relationship.
6. It’s not a competition to be the parent your kid likes best. Kids go through phases in their life where they favor one parent over the other. It happens whether you’re married or divorced. Don’t take it personally and/or make your kids feel guilty if you’re not the parent of choice. Guilt makes them feel constantly pulled between their parents. Instead focus your energy on giving kids the gift of your time and attention when you are together. It’s the only gift they really want from you.
7. Step Mom to your child deserves basic respect whether you personally like her or not. Teaching your children to selectively disrespect others based on A, C and Z will ultimately lead them disrespecting everyone including you. Give Step Mom at a minimum the same respect you would bestow on a neighbor that helps you out from time to time.
8. Divorced Moms have a lot of influence – use it wisely. Your kids are watching and will take your lead. If you’re crumbling years later over the divorce – your kids will learn that you crumble whenever life throws you a curve ball. Show them how to embrace curve balls and use them as an opportunity to grow – becoming stronger and wiser.
I had the unique opportunity to see how the choices of my Hubby’s Two Ex Wives made prior to my entrance, as well as, future decisions affected their children. The intersection of these two women in my life significantly shaped and continues to shape my role as a Divorced Mom to one. I hope you can learn from what we all learned the hard way.