S3 E9, Coparenting Roles and Revelations on Growth with Erica Bennett

children of divorce coparenting divorce advice divorce podcast single mom the crazy ex-wives club podcast Mar 06, 2024
Season 3 Episode 9 of The Crazy Ex-Wives Club Podcast, Coparenting Roles and Revelations on Growth with Erica Bennett

In this episode of "The Crazy Ex-Wives Club," host Erica Bennett dives deep into the complexities of coparenting roles, from solo journeys to blended family dynamics. Erica shares personal anecdotes, uncovering the challenges and growth that come with navigating relationships with exes, new partners, and their children. She offers insights on the importance of emotional healing, setting boundaries, and creating a united parenting approach with respect and understanding.

Tune in as Erica discusses the transformation from contention to cooperation, demonstrates how to choose happiness over being right, and presents her coparenting class as a valuable resource for listeners facing similar situations. Join us for an episode full of honest reflections and practical advice for a smoother coparenting experience.

The Emotions of Co-Parenting - Digital Program

Stressed over dealing with your Ex? Constantly arguing about how you want your Ex to parent your kids? You are are not alone. Co-Parenting can be one of the hardest parts about life after divorce. Learn how to handle your Ex and the emotions of co-parenting in this digital class. 



Coparenting Roles and Revelations on Growth FULL TRANSCRIPTS

Erica Bennett [00:00:00]:

It's time to talk about my own co-parenting journey. I hope you're enjoying this season. This is all about helping you thrive in your new normal. Today, we're going to dig deep into the three types of co-parenting roles and responsibilities 've had since divorce and what I've learned. Let's get started. Welcome to The Crazy Ex-Wives Club, a podcast dedicated to helping women navigate the emotional journey that is divorce. I'm your host, Erica. And if you're trying to figure out life after the big d, welcome to the club.

Erica Bennett [00:00:41]:

Whether you're contemplating divorce or dealing with the aftermath or any of the many phases in between, the club has got you covered. Each week, you'll hear stories from women who have been in your shoes. This isn't about spilling tea on divorce details. This is about giving you the tools to take control of your healing journey. Listen in weekly for advice, tips, and tools to help you move through each stage of the process. Hello. Welcome back to another episode of The Crazy Ex-Wives Club. I'm your host, Erica Bennett, and today is a little solo therapy for you.

Erica Bennett [00:01:19]:

This is all about co-parenting. We've had some great guests on, we've looked at conflict, we've looked at navigating the conversations, and we're about to look at the role of the bio and the stepmom and a few other resources to help you navigate these new hats that you're now wearing since divorce. And today, I really wanted to dig into the three different times or types of co-parenting roles I've had since getting divorced. We all realize that when you get divorced, you're going to be co-parenting with your ex. You now have a different type of relationship that you need to navigate. You've got to collaborate. You've got to figure out how you guys are going to work on your shared child in the middle. And sometimes it goes really well.

Erica Bennett [00:02:17]:

Sometimes, you're able to move right into more of a friendly business relationship with a shared personal interest in the middle, and sometimes, it doesn't. You might have heard the term parallel parenting, where you're not collaborating, you're really not working together, but you've come to an understanding that what's at his house is his house, and what's at my house is my house. We really first had a much more contentious co-parenting. My intention of becoming the best co-parents, just co-vacationing and just a big old happy extended family with new partners got thrown out the window pretty quickly. It was disappointing. I had to grieve the loss of what I thought my co-parenting relationship was going to look like with my ex, and it's continued to evolve. So, just because the way that you are working with your ex is the way it is right now doesn't mean it's going to be the way it is forever. So, give yourself that opportunity to continue to redefine it. We're currently in a new phase of redefining it, learning how to get to be in a neutral, collaborative space.

Erica Bennett [00:03:26]:

I would say we're tiptoeing through that, and you kind of figure out when you have stepped too far. For example, I don't want to be on a joking type relationship with my ex, but I want it to be comfortable. I do want to be able to show up in a space. Like last night, we had a band concert, and it was me, our son in the middle, and then my ex. And I want that to be okay because there's nothing worse than putting your kid in the middle and having him feel like it's uncomfortable. So today, I wanted to talk about the three roles of co-parenting that were outside of the one with my ex because that one's a given, that one is going to happen, and that one you're going to be navigating through because you're learning how to deal with somebody who you once were in love with, who then you probably kind of sort of hate and need to get back to being neutral with. But there are three other types of co-parenting that we don't talk about that often. And these were the three that were the hardest for me to be able to understand, to find my place in, and to learn and grow through.

Erica Bennett [00:04:36]:

Let’s talk about those. So, my first experience in these new roles of co-parenting was when my divorce was only a few weeks old. Relatively quickly after deciding to get through the divorce, after it was processed in the court system, I found myself at a Starbucks table with my ex and his new girlfriend. And here we were, the three of us, trying to figure out how we were going to navigate this. In my first run at co-parenting, it felt like two against one. It felt like it was them against me. And, of course, they were aligned on all the decisions. And then it was a lot of pressure about why I'm not just siding with them.

Erica Bennett [00:05:24]:

It hit all of my fears and all my insecurities about how divorce would affect my child. And I had very little control over what was happening at their house or when my child was with the girlfriend turned fiancé. And it activated my mama bear instincts like no other. It was an opportunity that I had to call myself out in places when I was choosing to fight and when I was choosing to establish a boundary. My goal was still to find a way to operate peacefully. I had let go of the goal of wanting to be best friends because the situation was just too ridiculous in my mind. There were too many pains that had been layered on top of each other. And when too many things had hurt, there wasn't an opportunity in my mind at that point to go and build a positive working relationship. But we could become respectful, and we could become neutral, and we could collaborate for the hopes of the little shared munchkin in the middle.

Erica Bennett [00:06:28]:

So, I learned to live in a space of creating boundaries while remaining calm and respectful. It was so important not to react, to not overreact, to remain calm while still stating what my expectations were, how I expected us to work together, and being open to some of those things changing, but knowing when that wasn't an option. My second run-in with co-parenting was working with my current partner in regard to his three boys. Now I landed on the other side of parenting, right? I was the extra who was maybe not so welcome. I was the one who was I stepping on that mama Bear's toes? And I knew very clearly what my role was not. And I tried hard to stay in my lane, having had the experience I had first of my ex moving on to a new partner and hitting all those spots of was she stepping on my toes? I knew exactly how I wanted to work with another mama in this space. I knew where my role was, and where her role was, and how I saw us able to collaborate and work together. And that was also a very interesting journey. And then the third run was learning how to work with my partner to parent my own child.

Erica Bennett [00:07:43]:

This is one we're still working on because now it's me and my parenting and my little munchkin, who is now my very grown-up teenager. But having those same places get triggered, right? Does my current partner? It's not his child. So, is he loving my child as much as he loves his other kids? Is it even possible? I don't really think it is. I think it's a different type of love. Right. But is he being fair? Is he being the way I want him to be and having the space to understand that I might not always be right in what's happening? It just brought in a whole host of all these new internal feelings from the other side because now I was the one who was the lead. I'd say lead loosely, but I was the main parent, right, because it's my kid. But now I'm learning how to co-parent with my partner, with the masculine side of the relationship that was missing and who takes the lead in that.

Erica Bennett [00:08:38]:

Each of these facets of co-parenting brought about new lessons, new challenges, new hurt, new growth. Let's dive into each one of them and talk about the key lesson that I learned and how to get through it. If you find yourself in these spaces as well, you're a little more equipped to understand what's your drama, what's their drama, and what's your responsibility to figure out in the middle. All right, so my first co-parenting lesson was when my ex had a new fiancé. The new fiancé, very early on, declared that she did not sign the divorce decree. She did not agree to what was in the divorce decree. She is going to write her own rules. And that was humorous.

Erica Bennett [00:09:24]:

Now it's humorous. Back then- it was really, really frustrating because my ex-husband had made legal agreements with me. We wrote our own terms of the divorce decree. There was nothing that he was forced to do. There was nothing that was mandated by the state. We wrote all of our own agreements so to be in a space where there is a new person who's like that doesn't really work for me, and I'm not going to do it, was really, really difficult. Now, the other piece that was really, really difficult is that she was quite a bit younger.

Erica Bennett [00:09:57]:

She didn't have her own kids and she had a lot of her own hopes and dreams of how her life was going to go. And my guess is she didn't really plan on it being falling in love with a married man who had a kid. The black-and-white truth is, she chose it. Right. You know what you're getting into. And I'll repeat that same lesson. When it comes to me working with my partner and his three kids, I know what I'm getting into.

Erica Bennett [00:10:24]:

I chose it. And if it's not what I want, then it's my responsibility to choose something different. It's not my responsibility to try and show up and change all the things that are going on. And that was a lot of what was happening. There were so many instances where I felt pitted against this other woman, not only in terms of the fact that there was probably, on some level, some leftover, he chose her over me. I think most of that was let go. But when you have to now find yourself in a working relationship with the last "other woman" that brought the marriage down, there were so many other.

Erica Bennett [00:11:02]:

So many other pieces that were wrong. I wouldn't even say she was to blame. I would just say she was the final straw on top of a pile of things that had gone wrong for a lot, a lot of years, but it still created a lot of hurt. Right? And so now I've got this other woman showing up who's super excited. It's like Disney parent. It is super exciting to step into the role of parenting someone else's kids. It's so interesting because when it comes to our own kids, who deserve our best energy, I think because we think they're always around, that sometimes you're just tired, which is fine, and you're just short, which is fine, and you're going to repair those relationships. Right. There is something about when I show up with my nieces and my nephews.

Erica Bennett [00:11:47]:

Auntie can be on 110% all day, every day, because it's a short period of time. And this was similar for the fiancé. Right? They only had our son two days a week. She just had to be the fun one. And she was. And it was such an important role, and it got a little bit blurry. Right. She loved roller coaster rides.

Erica Bennett [00:12:10]:

Great. I hate them. Have at it. Take my child anytime you want to go. There were ways that I could see that this was beneficial, and then there were ways, things that hurt that I didn't even expect. She was cleaning out all of her books. Her parents were moving, and they were downsizing. She was going through all of her books, and she had the Harry Potter set, and she wanted to give it, or she did give it to my son.

Erica Bennett [00:12:31]:

I don't remember. But anyways, I lost my shit. And I lost my shit because I loved the Harry Potter books. They came out when I was in college. I was waiting at midnight for the bookstore to do a book release and you'd all be there. I was not dressed up in costume. Other people were, but I was still going to get the books the moment that they were released and read through the whole series.  I had bought them all in hardcover, and I had preserved this beautiful set. And it was something that I wanted to hand down to my son.

Erica Bennett [00:12:58]:

It is not anything that I would have ever foreseen as like, ooh, this is a big tradition that I want to hand down to my son. But in the moment when she gave her set to him, I felt so hurt, so betrayed. I felt like she had overstepped a boundary, and I was livid. How dare she take this thing from me? And so, in this first role of co-parenting, there was a lot of navigating those feelings, and it's okay to be hurt by that. It was absolutely fine for me to then reach out and say, I would prefer you not. This is something I wanted to share with my son. This is something I wanted to take him to, well, read with him for the first time. This was important to me, and so it's okay to find those pieces and to ask for things to be different.

Erica Bennett [00:13:42]:

And I had my own personal healing that I needed to do on it. I needed to look at it. Why was I so upset? It's just a book. It's just a story. And the funny part is, my kid doesn't even like Harry Potter that much. It probably was one of the mommy moments that I was so disappointed about because I really wanted him to be obsessed with it, and he liked it, but he wasn't obsessed with it. And so here we have a perfect example of this thing that I was so worked up about, and how dare she? And who does she think she is? And all of my own internal trauma activated around the role that I wanted to have with my child that nobody else was allowed to have. And it turns out, the thing that was stuck in the middle didn't even really matter to him.

Erica Bennett [00:14:24]:

There were so many lessons in that, right. That gives everyone grace. I spent a lot of time when these sorts of things came up, and my first reaction was, how can I see this from her side? This is not what she had planned for her life. This is a super complicated scenario that she has to deal with. This brings about a lot more emotions than she's ever had to navigate, and that's probably really hard. When people are overwhelmed with their emotions, they do things that are not so nice. So, I started by extending a lot of grace. I made her human. It was really easy to villainize.

Erica Bennett [00:14:55]:

Is villainize a word? I think so. I don't know. To make her the villain. It was really easy to not think of her as a human with human emotions and human hopes and dreams for what she thought was the love of her life and to just make her evil, to make her out, to get me to make her try to steal something else from my life, right? How dare this woman. I had to call myself out on that and be like, hold on. She's not doing these things just to make your life miserable. She is trying to live her life. And there are these places that it overlaps that we're struggling with because we each want to be happy or to do the right thing, but it's hurting the other person.

Erica Bennett [00:15:31]:

And I had to learn how to work respectfully but strongly. So. Most times, when some sort of an issue or a behavior came up, I had to look at it, and I had to try to see it from her side, extend a little grace that we're human, having a human experience, and we're having a hard time navigating through it, and then choose what was the respectful way to ask for what I was looking for. And I put the word strongly in there because she didn't want to. There were a lot of pieces of her own inner wounds and her own healing that were also activated. We forget that everybody has their own demons. When somebody's showing up and making your life really difficult, you think that they're so happy all the time, and they're just doing this to be a pain in your ass. But the reality is their demons probably have a hold of them.

Erica Bennett [00:16:19]:

For example, after our first run in at Starbucks, which did not go very well, I asked that all communication regarding our child be directly with his dad. Now, I had reasons for this. This was the boundary of he and I need to figure out how to work together before a third party interjects in the middle, before a third set of wishes. And whatever she and him wanted was their deal, not mine. It was his responsibility, in my opinion, to be able to bring that to the table. And he didn't want to or couldn't. Who knows? But it wasn't happening. He was dropping communication.

Erica Bennett [00:16:55]:

He wasn't communicating very clearly. I was getting angry and getting frustrated. The third party wanted to try and step in, and in some ways, a third party can really help to alleviate some of that tension if they know what their role is. It's also, it wasn't her job to do the work for him, and she was trying to help him and do the work. She was trying to pick up the responsibility of having to work with me, and it didn't go well because that wasn't her role. When I asked for all communication to only be between my ex and I, she was livid. She had her own insecurities about the infidelity, about the communication, about what we were trying to do. If we were texting each other, I could not repeat enough, girl, he is yours.

Erica Bennett [00:17:41]:

Take him. We've had our run. I'm good. But it didn't matter. Her own insecurities and doubt had gotten the best of her, which meant that we had an instance where she didn't want to bring my child back unless I text her directly. So, respectfully, but strongly understanding what my boundary around this is, I've communicated with my ex. He is to update me when you're on your way. And reassuring her, this has nothing to do with you.

Erica Bennett [00:18:07]:

This is something that my ex and I need to work out. At the very end, what I had to line up to and be reminded of is, did I want to be right, or did I want to be happy? For a long time, I just fought her trying to influence what was happening or how was happening. I hired new lawyers. We went back for another round of mediation because the communication had become so contentious, and every single conversation, I showed up with the intention of proving that I was right. And in some respects, I was. We had a legal, binding agreement that he signed on how we were operating on what was happening. At that point, we had a dog. The dog was written into the agreement.

Erica Bennett [00:18:48]:

The dog was to go back and forth between houses. She didn't like the dog. She bought her own dog. The dog was no longer welcome. Right. I was right to enforce that. He was supposed to be splitting those bills and sharing the dog with me, or did I want to be happy? My dog wasn't happy being over there anymore. It was creating a lot of stress on Owen.

Erica Bennett [00:19:05]:

It was easier for me to say, you know what? This is one of those things I can let go of. This is one of those things that, yeah, you know what? This was not what we agreed to, but I'd rather be happy than write. Now, there were other times, there were other instances where things that she wanted to do or how she wanted to parent were not okay, where they did affect the mental health or the emotions of my child. And in those instances, we had a much different conversation, but it still was respectful but strong. And the only way you can get to a respectful but strong conversation is if you remove the emotion. To remove the emotion, you have to heal the emotion. In this first coparenting role, where I felt my role as mother was being challenged, I had to do a lot of the healing work around the fact that my child is going to have other adult influence in his life, but I'm still the mom. I'm still the place that he goes, that role, that relationship with my child will never change, no matter who else comes in, as long as I take the time to invest in the relationship with my child.

Erica Bennett [00:20:15]:

Are you at a crossroads? Contemplating whether to stay or go in your marriage? It's okay to feel lost, to feel scared and even uncertain. Hey guys, this is Erica. And I get it. I felt the same way. I was afraid to make the wrong choice. But I also knew that I wanted more. I want to invite you to join the crazy ex-wives club cohort. It's not just for divorced women, but it's also for those who are trying to find clarity on whether or not they should stay.

Erica Bennett [00:20:42]:

In this twelve-week program, you'll be guided from confusion to clarity. We'll move you from fear to confidence. It's all about helping you identify what you want, who you are, and how you want to thrive. Moving forward, it's time to capture what you truly want in life. Join us on this transformational journey. Visit thecrazyxwivesclub.com because your path forward starts here. My second coparenting run in now, this was with my partner. He's got three boys.

Erica Bennett [00:21:16]:

I literally found myself on the other side of my first coparenting experience. And I was really grateful at that point for all the drama that I had gone through in the first five years. I could see how the stress, the frustration, the issues that I had in trying to co-parent with my ex's fiancé had actually set me up for success. I had had those years to get really clear on how I wanted to show up for somebody else's kids because I didn't want to make anybody else feel like I had felt. I didn't want to make anybody else feel like I was trying to take the mom role. I will never be their mom. I will be an adult who's available to them, who cares about them, who loves them, who's willing to help them. But I won't ever try and fill the role of being their mom in co-parenting.

Erica Bennett [00:22:04]:

Lesson number two, I showed up with that intention that I was really clear about. Hey, you're the mom. You're the mom in this and you guys are going to work it out and you guys will get through it. And I'm just here as extra support. What came out of it is that I still was unable to control the other person and how they chose to see it. So, even though my intention and my energy were to be supportive and collaborative what can I do to help? Because when your kids are with their dad, they're with me. And so together, I treat them well, love them, I enjoy doing things with them, and I didn't want to repeat a lot of the same mistakes, so I didn't want to be the Disney parent. I balance the times that it's really easy when you're trying to get somebody else's kids to like you, to want to bring candy and treats and experiences and take them places.

Erica Bennett [00:22:55]:

We naturally do it. This actually really helped me forgive my ex's fiancé in terms of, I understood why she just naturally did those things because I was naturally wanting to do them. And I had to remind myself that those things, those Disney parent things, are not the thing that makes a kid respect you or like you. It's just a quick fix. Because every kid likes getting candy, right? Every kid likes going on adventures. But in this co-parenting number two, I got to experience. In this co-parenting number two, I found myself in a place where I had to intimately deal with someone who I would have never chosen to have in my life. I came face to face with the fact that if I was choosing this partner and these kids, it meant that I was also choosing that their mom was going to be a part of the picture, to whatever extent that is, but that it's a package deal, right? You don't get to untangle that.

Erica Bennett [00:23:49]:

And I struggled with the fact that how she was showing up or her behaviors or her approach to things. Who she is right now is not somebody who I'd ever allow to be in my life, ever. It is an energy that is so toxic for me. For other people, it might not be, but for me, it is something that is unacceptable. It is not allowed, and I can't really do a darn thing about it. She's still their mom. They still love her. I can't control what happens at her house or with those kids or how things go.

Erica Bennett [00:24:25]:

And the first run at co-parenting. In this version, we tried, my partner and I, probably 90% me, because you know me, always about learning and growing and changing behaviors, tried to bring in a lot of the social and the emotional development that the boys, that I felt the boys needed, that they had missed and did at their dad's house. And I was making my life really, really hard. I was requiring, not requiring. I wanted. I was asking for reading time every day. So now I was buying books and bringing books to the house or getting everybody to go to the library. And all of these things were a huge fight because it wasn't something that was normal in their life.

Erica Bennett [00:25:04]:

Now, did it help them? Do we know that it's good for child development? Absolutely. But I was the only one who was trying to make it happen, so I wasn't trying to be their parent. But I was saying, gosh, we're really struggling with them getting bored and not being able to self-entertain. We should work on 20 minutes of reading a day, because that's quiet time to decompress, and its self-contained, and this is a skill they need to learn. We can work on this. But it became very clear that I was still trying to parent them in a role that was outside of my responsibility. Now, if my partner had agreed that these things were super important for them and that he, too, was 100% in on getting 20 minutes of reading every day, it'd be a different story. But he was not so bought in.

Erica Bennett [00:25:49]:

Right. We have them for a couple of weekends every month, spending our whole weekend fighting them for things that we know would help them. But don't really move the marker because they go to their mom's house, and it's not enforced. Why are we making our life harder? And I think that question, that having to step back was really important because I knew that I could co create with my partner. I knew that we parent really well together. We have great conversations about it. We're able to get clear on what the core value is, and then we're able to get clear on what we want to do or not want to do. And I was trying to show up and teach him, quote unquote, teach him how to be the best parent, because I had done it with my son.

Erica Bennett [00:26:29]:

Right. I'm seeing how he's growing and thriving. I had done all this research. That's my M.O., that I do the research and learn how to be the best, and then we apply the behaviors. In this co-parenting, number two, I learned some big lessons around acceptance. What can I control, and what can I not control? And when there are things that I cannot control, how do I accept that that answer is okay as well? I couldn't control the reading time. It was making everyone miserable. They were fighting me the whole time.

Erica Bennett [00:26:57]:

And yet, it was really, really a need. At the point. When we started this, the youngest one was two or three years behind in reading level, because it just wasn't happening. And he needed the help. And so, yes, we could make all the arguments. It was not something I could control. It was making us all miserable. I leaned into, how can I let it go? How can I stop trying to make this time about helping them catch up on the areas they're struggling in and accept that that's not part of their parenting journey?

Erica Bennett [00:27:25]:

And it was hard to let those things go because, again, do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy? I had all the data, I had all the research, I had all the tools, and I had the skills to be able to help these kids learn these behaviors. But at the end of the day, their mom and dad didn't have the same intention around it. They didn't have the same drive, and so I had to set it aside. Learning as the coparent on the other side where they're not your kids, but you do still have wishes and you do still have dreams and you do still have expectations. How can you learn to accept that things are not going to go the way you want? And I hear it all the time. I'm in stepparent groups and they're like, well, I want the kids to do this. And I was like, it's not really yours to expect. You can recommend, you can suggest, you can show them how much better it is.

Erica Bennett [00:28:13]:

How great does it feel to read a book? But at the end of the day, if that kid doesn't want to do it and the other parents don't want to do it, let it go. Let it go because it will make your life miserable. And at the end of the day, unless there is some sort of safety issue, it doesn't really make that big of a difference in the kids’ lives. It is better for you to be calm and happy and excited to see them. And that same word again, boundaries. This doesn't mean that kids are allowed to have horrendous behaviors. There were clear expectations that their dad and I decided on of what was acceptable behavior, how we treat each other, how we treat our stuff, how we act in the house. That had to be maintained.

Erica Bennett [00:28:53]:

But all the extras about, we should be outside walking to the park, or we should be reading a book, or we should be doing some sort of development. Those extras could go away. Stay in your lane, which is super hard. You're going to want to be a fixer. You're going to want to step into it. You're going to want to show your partner all the ways that it could be better. And you can tell them, but if they choose not to join you in that belief, it's your job to let it go. It's your job to accept the current reality of what you can influence and what you can't, and being able to stay in that lane is so important.

Erica Bennett [00:29:27]:

I saw, too, there were a lot of places where I also wanted to step in. The relationship between my partner and his ex is even more contentious than mine was. Mine, at least was cordial. Theirs is really unproductive in most conversations. And I felt if I could do two things, if I could help him clearly communicate right, exactly what he's wanting and get the emotion out of it and get down to the facts. It's very like A-B-C, do you agree? Type conversation. I was like, oh, my gosh, we're going to get this moving forward. We're going to fix this, because right now there's just a lot of emotions flying on both sides.

Erica Bennett [00:30:03]:

I took on that role, and it was exhausting, and I started to resent my partner. And I was so irritated that things still weren't changing with his ex. And that's when I realized that I was way out of my lane, that my job is not to fix their coparenting. My job was to support him as he chooses how to navigate their coparenting. I unwound myself from being in that lane. I unwound myself from being available to share with their mom what's working or not working while they're at their dad's house if she asks. Happy to share. I am always willing to share updates or things that are going on, but it's not my job to help their mom learn how to handle their emotions because they were having a lot of big emotions.

Erica Bennett [00:30:43]:

And we applied some very simple things at their dad's house and saw a complete shift in their behavior. They within a day, became happy and conversing with each other. And the dynamic completely shifted from being constantly tense to being calm. And again, it was a decision and an approach that both their dad and I agreed on. It was something I saw. It was an opportunity that I was like, can we try this? Let me model it and show you what it looks like. He liked it. He took it on.

Erica Bennett [00:31:13]:

He made it his own. He applied it with the kids. The kids changed. I tried to share it with the mom. Didn't go so well. She didn't want to hear it. So that's okay then. My job is just to help their dad.

Erica Bennett [00:31:23]:

My role in this coparenting is to help him be as happy and supported as he can, so that he can fully show up to be the parent he wants to be to his kids and how he wants to work with his ex. And then we have my last coparenting growth phase, which was now learning how to coparent my child with my partner. In all honesty, I found it way easier to co-parent with him on his child, his children, the three, because I didn't have all my mama bear feelings, I didn't have all my mommy guilt. I could approach it very logically. I could approach it with my 20 years of behavior training. I could approach it with all the knowledge of understanding how a behavior leads to another behavior, how if we want to get to being able to socialize and build friendship, we first have to be able to learn these things. And I knew how to train them. I mean, that's my jam.

Erica Bennett [00:32:14]:

That's what I've done. But when it came to parenting my child, I found that it felt completely different than parenting with his kids. When it came to parenting with my child, now we have the situation where it feels like it's my sole responsibility to understand and to communicate how to parent him. At this point, I had been doing the best that I could do, and I'm really proud of how my son and I navigated through it. We got help when we needed help. We did all of those social, emotional, physical development pieces. We were clear on what we could take on or not take on. And I think that where we're at now, it's worked well.

Erica Bennett [00:32:53]:

And there were things that I didn't even know were missing. I had spent my divorce years as a single parent, parallel parenting with his dad, believing that as the mom, I would do my best to show up for both roles. I'd do my best to show up in a role that typically would have been the dad role. When his bike tire popped off, we went to the store, and I changed the tire. And I remember him being like, you can change a bike tire? Yeah, I can. I can change a car tire, too. And then the garbage disposal broke, and I installed an entire new sink and a new garbage disposal. Right.

Erica Bennett [00:33:27]:

I would do all these things that would have been historically the man's role in the house. And I thought that that was showing him or giving him enough of the masculine influence. Right. If he wanted to play baseball or wanted to play catch, I was the one that was out there with him. I was doing all these things. But the reality is that there were nuances that I didn't even realize about how we handle problems and overwhelms that are so completely different when it comes to men and women. What I had taught him was okay, you're feeling overwhelmed, the emotions are building. You've just got to let it out.

Erica Bennett [00:34:00]:

Now, my way to let it out is to cry it out, right? I'd be like, push, push, push until it gets there and then let it out and move on. And that works when you're a little kid, it doesn't work as you get older, you can't be crying in class, right. And what I learned was that when you have both dynamics, the masculine, and the feminine dynamics, when raising children, the masculine dynamic is the one that, when overwhelmed, pushes to frustration, pushes to anger, which motivates somebody to take action. The female, when overwhelmed, when pushed to the limit, moves towards crying and reflecting and going internal, right. Slowing down, calming down, finding your grounded space. They're very different, and we all have both. You can think about the times when you get angry, and it motivates you to go take action, and you can think about the times when you just need to cry it out or take a bubble bath or be alone for a little bit, and that's what helps you feel better. Well, when it came to raising my son, I had only been able to show him one side because anger hadn't served me.

Erica Bennett [00:34:57]:

My anger prior to my divorce had gotten out of control. I was constantly frustrated and angry and cross and short and just not fun to be around. I worked very hard to make sure that I never stepped back into anger. It was not an emotion. Like, we just moved through it. It wasn't that it wasn't accepted. But when anger showed up, we looked at the fear, we looked at the sadness, we looked at the insecurity underneath it, and we dealt with those. When my partner showed up and started parenting my child, it hit all my fears that, oh, my gosh, my son.

Erica Bennett [00:35:26]:

It's too hard on my son. He's too mean to my son. He's too this, right? And it was so beautiful to watch in the manner of just a few months of hanging out or like a summer, watch my son transform, watch my son no longer run and hide, no longer collapse into, like, this is too much and take off and instead show up, build the perseverance, get a thicker skin when it comes to lovingly teasing somebody, right? He absolutely transformed. But it was a really hard at the moment. I remember so many conversations where I'd go to talk to my partner and be like, well, I just think that that was a little bit too hard on him. And my partner would be like, he's got to learn because the world is going to be hard on him. And his friends are going to be hard on him, and he can't always be running away and then coming back later. I was super triggered.

Erica Bennett [00:36:14]:

I was really triggered that this was too much for my son. And here my son teaches me another lesson, moves through it beautifully, and comes out on the other side a much more well-rounded person. He handles emotions so differently now and in such a beautiful and healthy manner. Both were really beautiful ways. Right? Being in touch with your feelings and being able to identify it and move through it was healthy and it was getting to a place where it was holding him back and he needed to be able to learn how to deal with it differently. When you have to start co-parenting your kids with your new partner, you're going to be triggered. Those mama bear feelings are going to come up, but it's your job to unwind what is a real problem in how your partner is parenting and what is your reaction to a fear or a concern that you have. You've got to be able to figure out what's an old wound that's being triggered by a new opportunity and then get that clarity right around your concerns in a proactive way.

Erica Bennett [00:37:08]:

When something would happen, so you're like, great, that's fantastic, Erica, what the hell does that mean? Okay, so when something would happen, I'd watch my partner parent my child and I'd be, oh, I can feel it. My heart hurts. Oh, my gosh, is this okay? Is this okay? Is this going to hurt my son? Is he going to move through it? In those moments, I would have to reflect and ask myself, what am I afraid of happening? Oh, I'm afraid my son's not going to feel loved. Okay. Why am I afraid of that? Well, he's had a lot of hard experiences. Okay, and what am I fearing? Well, I'm afraid that he's not going to be able to move through it. I had to dig, peel the layers back. But why? But why? But why? What is the underlying thing that is showing up? That is surface level reacting to something, but what's the underlying thing? And then having a conversation around that.

Erica Bennett [00:37:50]:

We have had a lot of conversations. One of my big points is fairness. A middle child, that's probably why. But from little kid, I have wanted everything to be fair. In fact, my mom always tells everyone who will listen that as a little kid, I used to count how many Christmas presents everybody got between my brother, my sister and I because we all needed to have the same number. Because that was fair. Even if somebody's present costs more, so they got less. Right.

Erica Bennett [00:38:14]:

Like, my mom would spend the same amount, but as a little child, dollar amounts don't matter. I was counting the number of presents, so my mom always made sure that it was always equal. Right. Fairness is such a core value to me, and so I would get to the place I could find. The fact that the reason I was concerned about how my partner was parenting my child is I didn't feel it was fair. Okay, well, then we could have a conversation. What's not fair about it? What would be fair? How could we approach it differently? What would make me feel okay about it? And guess what? My partner had opinions on what works or doesn't work or how he wanted to approach it, and it was about creating something new. There is no going back to how you would have parented if you were still married to the father of your child.

Erica Bennett [00:38:55]:

That's a different type of parenting, because that is a little being that is created from both of you. And the type of love that you have for that little being is a different type of love than you have for a stepchild. I love my three stepchildren. They are so unique and so funny and so completely different than my own child. And there is a different type of innate protective mechanism that happens around my child. That is my own inner issues to be able to work through. The fact that I'm trying to parent with somebody who doesn't have that innate built in DNA to protect means that we got to create a new way to parent. We got to create a new way to have the conversation.

Erica Bennett [00:39:39]:

It truly is now cocreating, because when I can get to what that core value is, hey, this is a core value I believe in. This is how I've always enforced it. I feel like what you're doing right now doesn't align with that core value. Can we talk about it? Help me understand why you're doing what you're doing and what you hope it will teach my child. From there, when I can get to his core value of why he's doing what he's doing, we can see if those core values line up. And if they line up, it's a beautiful answer just that there is more than one way to get it done. You are not always going to be right. And if you have been the primary provider for your kids through the separation and through the divorce, and you've really become what I would call the lead parent, even if your ex is still really in the situation, if you are the lead parent who's really driving and deciding what's happening.

Erica Bennett [00:40:29]:

It's a hard lesson to learn. You're not always right because you haven't ever had to answer anybody for a lot of years. It's only been your way to parent. And so when you hit this third level of co-parenting where now you're learning to co-parent with somebody else for your own kids, one of those big lessons is that you've got to understand that just because that's the way you've always done it doesn't mean that, one, it's the only way or two, that it's the right way, that there are other options. It's creating this new third alternative. If you look at parenting, you have parenting when it's the biological mother and father. That's like parenting type number one. And then parenting type number two is it's just you parenting.

Erica Bennett [00:41:06]:

Whether that's parallel parenting, what's that? Collaborative parenting. Whether it's single parenting. Now you're leading the bus. And then there's this third alternative, which is now I truly am going to collaborate with somebody to discuss the issues, not just try and push an agenda forward or manipulate things or decide it's my way or the highway, because this is my child. That's not going to set you up for success, and it's not going to set your child up for success. Super complex, beautiful growth, right? Beautiful growth unfolding before you. And these are all layers and steps that you are going to go through and you're going to learn in each of these what's important to me. How do I want to approach this situation? And most importantly, how do I want to approach the situation that everybody wins?

Erica Bennett [00:41:49]:

You are always looking for a win/ win. A win lose - It never works. It never works. Even if you're the one who's winning. It breeds resentment, it breeds retaliation, it destroys trust and collaboration. You also don't want to be the one that's always overextending. If you're always giving up on what you really want, you're going to breed those things in you. You're going to become overwhelmed and exhausted and resentful and not want to work on anything anymore.

Erica Bennett [00:42:15]:

You’ve got to look for the way of the win-win. And I always call it the third alternative. It is neither all one way nor all the other way. Call in the third alternative. There is always a third alternative. Co-parenting is such an interesting role. I am excited to see how this changes society as well. You think about the big micro and macro trends, things that will continue to change, how we show up as a culture.

Erica Bennett [00:42:43]:

And I think that co-parenting is going to be one of those big changes. You have people that are outside of the traditional family dynamic that have to figure out a way to work together. And if they don't, everybody suffers. The kids suffer. That bleeds into the next generation. They learn those habits, right? We are constantly learning from the people who have come before us. And coparenting, if you can own your shit in the matter and show up in the neutral space to want to figure out what's the best option for the kids in the middle, you are absolutely changing the way that this society runs because you're breeding kids that understand that you can work together, you can find common ground, and that things can work out. Even if love is broken, even if that romantic love that supposedly is the glue that binds us together isn't there anymore.

Erica Bennett [00:43:35]:

I hope that this session on parenting helped you explore some of the options that maybe you're dealing with right now or some of the things that you are going to be dealing with in the future. If you're looking for more help on figuring out what coparenting looks like for you, I do have a coparenting class. This coparenting class is not like the ones that you would do through therapists or through mediators. This is the class for you to get clear on what your vision of coparenting looks like. You learn how to define what do you want your coparenting relationship to look like? How do you want it to feel, what does it look like in terms of communication and interactions? You get clear on what you can and cannot control and learn tools and techniques to be able to release the anxiety and the stress. When you're put in one of those places of things that you can't control, you learn healing dynamics to be able to uncover the root cause of what's driving your reactions and how you can regain control over your emotions. I've got the link for the coparenting class in the show notes. It's also on thecrazyxwivesclub.com, and it is something that you can download and do on your own.

Erica Bennett [00:44:46]:

It's self-guided. It’s a super beautiful tool to just help you create a plan, a co-parenting plan, so that you're set up for success. I hope you guys enjoyed this week's episode of the Crazy Ex Wives Club. As always, if you are loving the show, I have a favor. I have a favor to ask. Can you please leave a review? All of your reviews. Your five stars. It's super easy to do.

Erica Bennett [00:45:10]:

You just in your little app, you can scroll down and leave the review. Some of the platforms are just stars. Some of them you're able to actually write a comment. It would be amazing to get you guys to pop in there and to leave some comments. This helps the podcast reach more people. It helps people understand if it's right for them, and it really helps to share the goodness. We'd love to continue to spread this awareness to support as many divorcing or divorced or separating or confused married women as possible. Because together, if we can do the healing work, we can lead the life we want to live, no matter what the conditions are.

Erica Bennett [00:45:47]:

So please pub over on the podcast platform you're on right it now go leave a review and then I will talk to you again next week.



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