This past Sunday I spent the day with Brayden, my stepdaughter (hate that word but more on that another time), my newborn baby girl, Keaton Radley, and Brayden’s mom. It was just the girls that day. We left our respective partners at home, and spent the day getting Brayden’s hair cut, followed by lunch and a trip to the dollar store. This was a rare occasion. Most of the time Brayden is either at mommy’s house or daddy’s house. The homes seldom collide with the exception of drop-offs and pick-ups, but rarely if ever do we intentionally make plans to all be together as a family, which is what we are. It’s not the traditional ‘family’, but it’s 2018, and the term ‘family’ has changed significantly.
We could’ve fallen into the stereotypical divorced family, in which the parents fight, the stepparents do not communicate with the other parent, and the children’s family that they know is disconnected. However, from everything I’ve learned as a psychotherapist specializing in stress, anxiety, depression, weight loss and couples-related issues like communication, conflict resolution, separation and divorce, struggles begin with #disconnection. As a parent, my goal was to contribute to raising healthy, happy and connected children. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The kids.
'Struggles begin with Disconnection'
Easier said than done of course. We didn’t all magically love each other at the beginning. There was the pain of a broken marriage, loss, fear, failure, lack of control. All the elements that accompany the breakdown of a marriage. When there is pain involved in a situation, people often react to emotion rather than what’s right, logical, or most importantly, in the best interest of the children. This is why a major component of the work I do with couples centers around working through their individual pain so that decisions can be made that reflect the best quality of care for the kids. Again, not an easy task. Pain can be blinding. And it takes time to heal. Some feed off the negative energy of pain and remain there, causing more disconnection and pain.
Then new partners come onto the scene, and the wounds are reopened. Pain all over again. Whether it’s the experience of someone new taking your family, building bonds with your children, or the pain of them moving on before you, it’s #pain. When I first entered the scene, I’m sure I was called an abundance of colourful names and gossiped about by some. Did it suck? Yes. But I also recognized that it came from a place of pain, and was not personal. I was in it for the long haul, and I knew that compassion, respect and patience was the only answer.
'I'm sure I was called an abundance of colourful names.'
Compassion, respect and patience was my strategy. My kids mother is an incredible woman. She loves her kids big time and would do anything for them. She works her butt off to provide for them and consistently demonstrates the value of hard work. I am in awe of her. She is a kind person and continuously works on herself for the kids. I am beyond lucky that I am on this journey with her not only because she has a huge heart but because she is so open to me and us working together as a team. Was it always this way? No. But we’ve worked at it over the years. We work through our individual stuff so that we can come together for the kids. We all bring different skills and values that make us better as a #team.
Is it smooth sailing all the time? I would be a big fat liar if I said it was. There are bumps that hurt and bruise. But the bumps provide an opportunity for us to continue growing and becoming stronger.
People say to me, “You’re so lucky," with respect to my family. But the truth is, while luck is a component in that all parties need to be open, it takes a whole lot more than luck. It requires opportunity to #grow and work together, along with hours of practice in the areas of #compassion, #respect, #patience and #humility. This is the formula that has worked for us. First and foremost, we put the needs of the children first. We work on our own hot buttons and #triggers that may contribute to conflict and hurt. And we work on actively practicing compassion, respect, patience and humility towards all of the children’s family. But make no mistake. It requires hard work. Work that results in the health and wellbeing of the children. Isn’t that what we’re all aiming for?