The relationship between my son’s father and I couldn’t withstand the trials of life. We were too young, and impulsive. Neither one of us knew what we wanted out of life or even each other. We were truly winging it, living carefree, careless, reckless and going with whatever flow life presented us until I got pregnant. Seeing those two lines pop up on the home pregnancy test was like walking through a dream from which I couldn’t awaken. I knew that everything I thought I was, up until that point was about to be tested in a very real way.
My son’s father loves his little boy. While I can’t say we had the emotional and psychological maturity to see the relationship through, he remains a staple in his son’s life. However, the single most difficult event in my life thus far was facing the inevitable new woman in his life. Very early in my son’s life, his father committed himself to another woman and she soon became my son’s step mother. I didn’t know how to handle this initially. The term “baby mama” has its own implications, which took some time to overcome. I thought I was just too damn smart to fall into that trap. This generation of millennials seem to see nothing shameful about having children out of wedlock. Some even do it deliberately, chasing dreams and ambition over traditional family values. Some have gotten addicted to the sympathy single mothers get from society as a whole. And some of us, (myself included) just didn’t choose wisely. With the knowledge of world at my fingertips, I did what 21st century career minded women do when it’s time to learn something new, I went searching the internet for answers. To my surprise, there was very little information published about the relationship between the biological parent and the step parent. I did, however, find plenty of information on the relationship between step parents and their step children. But few have written on the relationship between the coparent’s ex and the new partner. From my observation, this relationship is handled in one of two extremes. It’s either completely hands off, or full of drama. However, this relationship while is extremely important to the family structure as a whole, it may not be that deep or involved. The relationship is still a very delicate dynamic that requires skill, finesse, respect and most importantly, maturity to navigate. With the divorce rate among black people surpassing 70%, we are doing our children a disservice by not learning a healthier way to conduct ourselves in the dynamic of these sometimes awkward situations. Some of us, as parents, nurture relationships with our children’s friends, teachers, and are even cautious about family that we expose them too. Failing to maintain a healthy relationship with our ex’s current partner seems hypocritical in that context.
I will never forget the day that I invited her to have “a talk.” They had announced that she was having a baby. Our boys would be brothers for life, so I knew at that moment I had to put my big girl panties on, woman up, and create an open channel of communication between us. My concern was not about her relationship with my son’s father,It was truly about my so. I learned how to navigate this type of relationship through trial and error. I made enough mistakes for a lifetime but through perseverance and commitment to my son, the family has come to a place that works. I gathered resources both from other women and men who have gone through this, as well as others who have written on the subject of blended families. Here are four pillars of understanding when dealing with your ex’s new mate. Children imitate what they see adults do. The following pillars of understanding are designed to help you navigate the complexity dealing with your ex’s new mate.
1. (For the baby mama) Get over yourself: Please recognize this paradox. It’s not about you anymore, but everything good, bad ugly or indifferent, starts and ends with you. Your relationship to your emotions, and to your experiences set the precedent for your child’s experience. The first step in cultivating a positive perception for your child is first understanding the importance of doing your own inner work, (i.e. dying to ego, getting over insecurities, being cognizant of your own weaknesses and limitations, while not being afraid to ask for help). This “work” is an on-going process that any enlightened being does anyway. When you have children in the context of a blended family, the process becomes vital to your peace of mind and the health of the family.
2. (For the baby mama) Do everything in love. The word love is taken out of context way too often. Love is a verb, rather than a romanticized idea that produces temporal feelings. Those feelings will pass and when they do, what are you left with? The consequences for your decisions. The law of attraction states, like attracts like. If you hold on to resentment, bitterness and victim thinking, you will attract those experiences in your life. This journey called life is tough. You only add to your angst by harboring negative emotions for anybody including your former partner. Forgive self and let it go. There are more beautiful experiences waiting for you when you operate out of love. This includes finding a sincere place in your heart that you can honestly express genuine happiness your partner found love again. When you start with love, it sets the foundation for a stable relationship from which to build. Allow love to flow though you and it will transform any situation
3.(For the step-parent) The biological parent matters. Let’s deal in reality. At some point that man and woman had sex, and created a child. Failure to acknowledge the child’s parent is disrespectful to the spirit of the child. African spirituality teaches us that the child chooses its parents, its path and its purpose before being conceived. Even though one or both parents found new mates, the child chose its biological parents for reasons only the child’s spirit can understand.
4. (For the baby mama) Know your role and play YOUR part: You are the child’s biological parent…PERIOD. You are not a dumping ground for problems in your co-parent’s relationship. You are not a source of information for the male or female in relationship with your ex. The purpose for the relationship is to keep an open line of communication for the child, anything outside of those perimeters is setting up a messy, drama filled dynamic that will surely backfire. Remember the purpose stay focused and most importantly, stay mature and grounded.
In a perfect world, where no one makes mistakes, and life turns out exactly the way you plan, there would be no need for these types of conversations. The truth is, we create our world of perfection from our perspective. Sometimes we act proactively, sometimes we do damage control, and sometimes we have to face the truth in order to grow into the best versions of ourselves. The birth of a child will definitely act as a catalyst for growth and maturity. As effective parents we want our children to be wiser and smarter than the previous generation. However, if we do not elevate, neither will they.