Sheree Fletcher is the star of VH1's "Hollywood Exes" and the former Mrs. Will Smith.
The marriage didn't work out and now you are in full-fledged Plan B mode: co-parenting with your ex. Here are a few things I had to do in order to get to a place where I could be the most effective mother and co-parent possible. The goal: to have happy, healthy, confident and secure children.
From the Ex-box to the In-box
My first initial transition was to take my ex out of my past and put him into my son's present and future. Meaning, I began to first and foremost see him not from a place of hurt and pain but from my son's hope and gain. Whenever I introduced Trey's dad, I never said, "This is my ex," but rather, "This is Trey's dad." Your identity now has to align with your child versus your ex.
Let the games begin!
As co-parents, there is a natural proclivity (and you will find yourself in this place more than once!) toward wanting to be the better parent. In the aftermath of a divorce or breakup, we subconsciously start the "co-mpetition" when we should instead be co-operating for the sake of our children. The question that you really have to ask yourself is, "Do I really want my child to have a bad parent?" Absolutely not! You are both on the same team with the same goals, and you really have to believe this in your heart. Learn to identify the signs of being in "co-mpetiton" mode instead of a co-parenting mode. This game is played in your head before it ever sees the light of day. When we highlight the flaws of the other parent, we are in so many words saying, "I am the good one and you are the bad one." We must cover the other parent for the sake of the child. Even if we feel that they are not up to par and don't deserve our allegiance, know that your child does! We have to get our priorities straight; who is most important to you? Put your child's father in the best possible position to succeed. Keep the other parent informed about the child's activities, accomplishments, sporting events -- anything that encourages parents to participate and/or share in. Don't sit in the stands hoping he won't show up so you can shine in your child's eyes and take the MVP (Most Valuable Parent) award home that evening. That award guarantees your child's loss -- 0 to 1. It's much better for your children if they had both of you side-by-side in the stands cheering them on. I'm praying that you get to that place; it's a reach, but it can happen. I'm living proof! Remember who we're rooting for.
Find a friend
We have to work through, come to grips with and get past the disappointment of our failed marriages. We can't allow it to overshadow or hinder our parental obligations and responsibilities. But we're still hurting and trying to settle in on the other side of divorce. You need a friend! Someone that will allow you the opportunity and space to be totally candid, unreasonable, childish and vulnerable. Your child is not that person.
I understand that not all breakups are created equally and you may have a great deal of healing to do -- you may even need to seek professional help. The key is getting what you need separately from raising your child. As a parent, we don't have the luxury of always "keeping it real" 24/7; we have an obligation to protect our children -- even from us. Especially from us!
As the saying goes, don't point out the speck in your ex's eye when you have a plank sticking out of yours. You know that list you have -- the one in your head that you pull up every time you're angry or frustrated -- that keeps a record of everything that your ex has ever done wrong? I call it the "hit list." Tear it up! Avoid the temptation to tape it back together and reread. Give a little grace; don't make him earn it -- this is something that isn't deserved but rather is freely given. Remember, it's for your child's sake. Realize that you are both flawed human beings, each making good and bad choices along the way. We all fall short. Always remember what your ex gave you -- your child -- and for that reason alone, you will find the strength and grace to be the absolute best co-parent you can be!
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