It has been 1,284 days since I met my now-husband (but who’s counting?). In that time, I have been introduced to my now-stepdaughter, met her mom, been blindsided by my husband being served paperwork to modify the custody agreement, fought a bitter custody battle, had a literal come-to-Jesus revelation, made up with her mom, become business partners with her mom, become best friends with her mom, and even shared a house with her mom.
How I Became (and Stay!) Best Friends with my Stepchild's Mom
What a crazy adventure the last 1,284 days have been. It’s been a rollercoaster: full of peaks and valleys. If there’s one universal truth about shared parenting after divorce, it’s that it’s constantly changing. Balance in these types of relationships is a constant journey, not a destination. You don’t find peace and then you’re set for life; it takes persistence and work to maintain that relationship.
I’ve learned my fair share of difficult lessons along this journey, but they all come down to these 4 main lessons.
1: You Must Communicate Effectively
In my journey to become a stepmom, I learned the true power of communication. You’re coming from opposite sides of the tug-of-war rope, so you are bound to misinterpret the intention, the tone, or the entire message altogether, when you’re sharing parenting.
It is imperative that you keep an open mind and open heart when you communicate with your stepchild’s mom, or else you and Dad are going to be upset All. The. Time.
My favorite saying is to assume positive intent; don’t read that text with a snarky tone, don’t assume that email was sent maliciously, and don’t read between the lines.
2: Stop Comparing Yourself
My second lesson was actually a harder pill to swallow. I drove myself crazy comparing myself to her. Did I keep as clean of a home as she had? Am I as pretty as she is? Am I as good of a parent as she is?
But here’s the harsh reality: I was the only one comparing. The whole world didn't revolve around me.
She didn’t give me a second thought, and my husband definitely wasn’t comparing me. All of that drama and heartache for nothing. A lesson I had to learn the hard way: comparison is the killer of joy.
3: Perception is Reality
Another doozie of a lesson – and really, the catalyst for our transformed relationship – was understanding her perspective. She and I sat down over a bottle of wine (or 2) and talked through our emotions. We discussed what hurt and confused us, and provided clarification and advice for future disagreements.
I began to understand how difficult it was for her to share her daughter with another woman. I sought closure for the hurt caused by the unanticipated custody and support modification. I confided in her about the insecurities and jealousy I had experienced and was completely taken aback when she revealed some of her own insecurities.
Once we understood where the other was coming from, we were able to move forward in a more respectful manner. If we hadn't resolved that pain, it wouldn't have allowed for a seamless transition forward.
4: Trust Begets Trust
The final and likely most difficult lesson to learn? To trust. I had to learn to trust my stepdaughter’s mom to not take us back to court again. A friendship wouldn’t have been possible if I was always looking over my shoulder or waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I also had to trust that my position as stepmom wouldn’t be minimized, which can be a very real fear for women marrying parents. You don’t expect to take mom’s place, but you do expect respect for your own special role.
It’s been a wild ride without a doubt, but once I learned these 4 pillars of effective co-parenting with my stepdaughter’s mom, I felt adequately prepared for whatever the future may hold.
In my first 1,284 days I became best friends with my stepdaughter’s mom. I wonder what the next 1,284 days have in store!