I brought in one of my best friends, Rikki Garlick, to talk about co-parenting after divorce. She’s the one I did the narcissist podcast with and we have gone through divorce and we both have kids. We both co-parent. For that reason, we get a lot of questions from you guys asking how to get along with your ex better, how to co-parent, or what the process looks like if you’re going through a divorce and you’re not sure what this is going to look like. Here, we are examining all of that!

On the last podcast I did with Rikki, we got a lot of feedback about how much you loved it and how you want me to bring my girlfriends back. So Rikki agreed to meet with me to talk about co-parenting. Rikki and I got divorced about the same time. We also have kids almost the exact same age. Lincoln is like a month older than her daughter Charlotte. We also both have really good relationships with our ex husbands, so we have great co-parenting relationships. So we thought we’d talk about some of the things that we did that didn’t work well and some of the things that we did that did work really well. And then some of the advice that we give our own girlfriends when they come to us. 

My Experience with Divorce and Co-Parenting 

The first thing I’ll say is that it was rough at the beginning. And I think for most people that first year is just really, really hard because one or both people feel really hurt. There’s hard feelings. I know for my ex and I, the first year was just really, really hard. You’re just navigating. I had been a stay at home mom, so I was used to having my kids all the time and then I had to get used to not having them all the time. So there’s that part of the emotion in there. 

My ex and I didn’t get along very well the first year just cause it was just hurtful and hard. I’ll never forget, my friend Lynn gave me a piece of advice and she said, “The number one thing is that the kids see that you guys can get along.” Because some parents just drop the kids off on the curb when they drop them off to see their other parent. But when you drop the kids off on the curb, it can actually make the kids feel like trash that you drop on the curb. And so she told me, even at the beginning, to walk the kids up, even if you don’t like each other, for their sake.

We actually had to do drop off at a public place for the first year. We met at Chick-Fil-A. Then, as we just got used to having shared custody, it kind of became our new normal. Rikki and I are actually on the same kid schedule, which is actually really fun cause then on the weeks you don’t have the kids, we do our own stuff. So it’s nice when you have girlfriends who have their kids on the same days that you have yours. Rikki and I have different situations in that her ex husband hasn’t remarried. But, mine and my ex’s co-parenting relationship actually got better because I really like his wife. I actually communicate a lot better with her than I do with my ex. So for us that actually helped the relationships. 

Rikki’s Experience with Divorce and Co-Parenting

Rikki: It was hell in the beginning. It was awful, and it made me question if I even go through with the divorce. I would rather be miserable and married than divorced and have this hell because it was so painful. It was awful. I initiated the divorce. You mentioned earlier that co-parenting can be tense and painful because someone’s hurting and someone’s angry. He was very angry and he was very hurt. So he was working against a cooperative relationship. I fed into that and he would make me mad and I would react and I would try to get him back. And it was awful. Probably after the first six month mark, it started to get a tiny bit easier. But the first year, if I had to relive that again, yeah, I would probably just be married forever.

If anybody’s listening and you’re in that phase just to know that well it doesn’t always get better. I don’t want to give false hope, but at least for us it got much, much better after probably about a year. 

Rikki: We just get into a rhythm and cadence. Really, I just had the wrong mindset from the beginning. I just assumed, and I don’t know if this is just old fashioned thinking or what I had seen modeled from other people… But, I just figured I would get the kids. They were super young. They were two and three and I just thought the kids will just live with me and maybe he’ll get them on the weekends or something. I had a really good friend from high school who had been divorced for a couple years and he told me, “No, you’re going to give him 50%.” I said, “Why? Why would he get 50%?” He said, “Rikki, look at me, I get 50%. The relationship with the dad is just as important as a relationship with a mother.” Well, it kind of shook me. 

I didn’t know that that was the default. It’s 50/50 unless there’s something really horrible. So I went to my lawyer and in our first meeting he asked how I wanted to do custody. If I wanted to do one week on, one week off. I said, “Well, I want the kids.” He was an older man, like a heartbeat away from retirement, and he was always really fatherly and wise. He looked at me and he said, “Is your husband a drug addict? Does he beat you? Does he beat the kids? Is he a criminal?” I answered no to all of them and told him he’s a great dad. He looked at me and he says, “He’s getting 50/50 custody.”

I didn’t know why I was being so irrational, and it was because I assumed, a) I was a better parent and, b) that the kids needed me more than they needed their dad. I just assumed that the kids needed to be with her mom. So that whole mindset of “the kids are better off with me” might be wrong. And you have to keep reminding yourself. Friends will tell you this, and judges will tell you this, and lawyers, and mediators, will all ask you, “Is it in the best interests of the children?” So was it in the best interest of the children to be with me 80% of the time and their dad 20% of the time? No. My husband was actually a stay at home dad when we got divorced. So opposite of Natalie. Natalie was a stay at home mom while my ex was a stay at home husband. And so, his entire world changed. He had to get a job, he had to find a new place to live. It was really rough for him. So can you imagine taking away the kids from him? How devastating that would be to him and the kids? So I just had a really good friend and I had a good lawyer that set me straight.

I needed those two good positive male influences who told me that he’s going to get the kids and he’s going to be fine. Believe it or not, they don’t need their wives hovering over them and helping them parent. That’s what we think because we tend to be kind of controlling with our children. That’s when I realized how many control issues I had with the children. Like what they eat, what they wear to bed, how often they bathed, etc. I would even buy all these natural organic bath products, and natural toothpaste, and fragrance-free laundry detergent, and I would bring it over to my ex’s house. I would give him this little care package like I was just trying to be nice. But really it was a control issue. I didn’t want my kids exposed, like he doesn’t know about chemicals and I have to teach him and I have to keep giving my influence.

To this day that still causes some tension. Every now and then he’s like, “I know Rikki, I know how to do this. I know what products to buy.” Sometimes he will even call me or text me from a store or send me a picture of a product and he’s like, “Is this hippie enough for you?” So it’s turned into a really good relationship and I’m way less controlling than I was five years ago. Now I know the kids are in good hands. 

Butting Heads With Parenting Styles 

It’s really common for exes to get frustrated when the other parent doesn’t parent in the same way that you do. Like, if they don’t have the same rules, or they don’t feed them the same things, or they let them go to school without brushed hair. How do you handle that? 

Rikki: Out of your control. I was telling Natalie, I got two really awesome pieces of advice from men in my life. They’re so simple and you’ll hear these phrases and you’ll think that’s stupid. That doesn’t help me. Just keep repeating it over and over and I promise you it will help you. At one point I mentioned something about my boyfriend’s co-parenting, and I asked him if it bothered him when his ex did X, Y, and Z. He said, “Out of my control, bro.” That’s it. “Out of my control, bro.” He told me that years ago and I thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s life changing.” Out of control, out of my control. You just have to keep repeating that to yourself. 

Are your kids going to die if they eat a grilled cheese sandwich on white bread with Kraft American cheese? No. Is it gonna drive you crazy? Are they not going to get that food at Mommy’s house? Yeah, that’s fine. My kids came home one time and they’re like, “Ooh, I got the, I had the best lunch at grandma’s house!” This is my co-parents, mother’s house. And my son was trying to describe it to me and it turns out he was describing ramen noodles, which I would never buy. Did it kind of burn my blood a little bit, knowing that they’re eating ramen noodles? Yeah. But out of my control, out of my control. 

I know they’re being loved. I know they’re being taken care of. That’s what matters. So focus on what actually matters. Is their health or safety at risk? Those are the only things you should intervene in. I think it’s unhealthy to eat ramen noodles, but it’s out of my control. I lived on it during college and I’m fine. I survived! So yeah, out of your control. 

Another comment that another male friend told me is that life is just easier when you get along. I think we were having lunch or something with my friend while I was going through my divorce and he was communicating with his ex wife. He had been divorced for a few years and they had one child together and they were texting back and forth. Then he put down his phone and I was amazed by this back and forth interaction. They were so nice, and they were even joking around with each other. It was so effortless. I looked at him, I said, “Wow, you guys are really nice to each other. Is it always like that?” And he said, “No, we fight every now and then.” But I couldn’t believe the relationship they had. He looked at me and goes, “Life’s a whole lot easier if we just get along.” That’s it, just get along. It’s so simple, but I keep reminding myself of that. Every time I feel anger starting to boil in my brain a little bit I remember “just get along, just get along.” If their health and safety isn’t involved or harmed, I don’t intervene and I try not to get mad.

Being Understanding and the Importance of Communication

That’s been key for us too. One of the pieces of advice that I give, and it sounds so stupid, but it is the number one thing that seriously helped our co-parenting, but it’s to start a group text with your ex and their spouse. When my ex and I got divorced and then he got remarried a year and a half later or something like that, we’d text all the time about the kids. It’s only ever about the kids. I don’t know if that was creating tension with his new wife because she was always seeing texts from me, but it was always just about the kids. So we started a three way group text and that one thing I swear made a world of difference. That’s the advice I give everybody. 

Sometimes when the new person can come in, there can be weird jealousy issues or they can think, “Why is she always texting you?” And so that’s how we all communicate now with the group texts and it’s awesome. I honestly communicate better with his wife than I do with him just because I think women in general are better communicators. I look at the way I text with her and the way I text with him in the group text and I’m way nicer when I talk to her it seems like. With her I always use smiley faces and stuff, but it’s a big help. 

Even just saying thank you can do a lot. I recently took this extra position this year where I’m traveling a lot and speaking at these events and I was really nervous about that. I say no to events if they’re on the weeks with the kids, but sometimes there’s a day of travel that overlaps. Because of an experience I had where the kids got left at school one day and it was my fault because I didn’t communicate well enough (read that whole story here), I over communicate with my ex and his wife now. So if I’m going to be out of town, I write up a Google doc where I have the flight number, the hotel I’m staying at, exactly what days I’m gone, what conference I’m going to be at, etc. That way everybody’s on the same page. So if there’s a flight that gets delayed or something, they can look up the flight number and see.

They have been wonderful working with me. Just remember, we’re five or six years in our co-parenting now. So we might be a couple of years ahead of you. But if you’re in the early phases, just know that regular communication and then working with the other parent helps. That’s one thing Rikki and I both do really well. If our exes call and they say, “Hey, you know, I can’t get the kids from school today, can you go pick them up?” As long as I’m home I always say yes. And don’t hold that over their head and say, well I took the kids this day so you need to take the kids for me now. Try to be an adult about it, you know? And I think that makes a big difference because we haven’t had an issue with our schedule in a long, long time because we both just kind of work with each other. And sometimes if one parent forgets the kids, I don’t freak out. It’s okay. It’s not a big deal. I’m home. I can just go get them, you know? I think that’s just good communication in general.

How You Speak About Your Ex Around the Kids

I had a therapist tell me one time that you should never say anything bad about your ex in front of your kids. It might work at the beginning, to put negative thoughts in their mind about their other parent. But the older your kids get, the more likely it is that they will start to resent the parent that withheld the other parent or talked bad about the other parent. 

Rikki: Oh yeah, I lived that with my parents. My parents had a very volatile divorce. I was 13 and I was the youngest of three and they talked to us like we were adults. They both talked so badly about the other one. And I really resent that. I think, uh, you know, I do too. That’s a whole other topic, healing from your childhood divorce. 

And it’s important to also be careful about what you can say to your girlfriends when your kids are in earshot. Kids are smarter than you think. 

Rikki: It’s in your best interest and it’s in the child’s best interest, to have a positive image of your co-parent, of their daddy, of their mommy. And what good am I doing if I poison the well against their father? What’s the point of that? They’re not going to want to go to his house anymore. That’s not going to do us any good. Um, cause then they’re going to be miserable 50% of the time. It’s going to create tension between you and your ex. There’s no winning from that. And then once they get older, they’re going to be absolutely resentful that all their mom did was bad mouth their dad, so it makes birthdays or weddings weird, or whatever. If you talk to any of the siblings in my family, every birthday, every graduation, every wedding, was absolutely miserable. 

So I made a vow. My Ex’s parents are not divorced. They’d been married for 45 years and my parents divorced when I was in middle school. I vowed that my kids would never have to have separate graduation parties, separate birthday parties. So we committed to having every birthday together. We spent Halloween together, we spend Christmas morning together. He’ll come over to my house Christmas morning and we open up presents together. I don’t know if it would be the same if either of us got remarried. I think sometimes, like in Natalie’s case, a new spouse can bring a lot of stability and strength to the family because cooler heads will prevail sometimes. And so it’s in our best interest to have a good relationship with her. Maybe she brought some sanity to  the situation. But I’ve heard so many horror stories of remarried spouses and jealousy. I don’t know how things would change if either of us got remarried. 

I mean, there’s always going to be jealousy there. If you marry someone who has an ex, you’re going to check them out. You’re going to compare yourself to them and you’re going to see old pictures of them and how happy they used to be and wonder how you compare, wonder if they were happier with the other one. I don’t know if we would have Christmas morning, I highly doubt that would continue if he had a spouse. You don’t have to do all of that to have a good relationship, but you have to have a lot of empathy. Just think, how would you feel if you didn’t get to see your kids on Christmas? How would you feel missing all these family traditions of putting cookies out on Christmas Eve and, or maybe Easter is really big to you. For me, I don’t celebrate Easter at all. It means nothing to me, so I let my ex have the kids for Easter every year. He’s from Germany, and Easter is really big in Germany. 

Boundaries with Exes, Spouses, and Family

The other thing I’ll say is that my ex and I are not friends. I don’t call him and say, “Hey, guess what, this cool thing happened?” But we get along with the kids. We don’t talk about much other than just the kids. We don’t really talk business. We don’t talk. And that makes it easier for us. For me, it got really weird when I felt like my family was still friends with him. Like I remember my dad would never “like” anything that I  put on Facebook, but he would “like” every single thing that my ex husband put up. And it bugged me. Well, actually I unfriended my ex from Facebook just because it was too weird, but I had to have a conversation with my dad and said, “Look, you’re on my team.” Not that he has to think he’s a terrible guy, but my family was kind of counseling him through the divorce. And I was like, I’m your daughter. You need to be on my team here. And I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend that, but I got really hurt by some of those things that happened. 

Rikki: My ex and I are definitely more on a friendship level than you in your ex. We don’t go and hang out together, but we will chat and we’ll text about non kid related things sometimes. But my brother and him were really tight. They are both sports fanatics and they both love to go rafting. So my brother has a big raft and there’s a lot of white water rafting in Idaho. My brother goes rafting two or three times a week. And I remember last summer, it was my birthday in July and I had been so busy that I hadn’t gone rafting all summer. And I texted my brother and I said, “Hey, how about a birthday rafting trip?” And he’s like, “Absolutely!” So I texted my ex and asked if he could take the kids for my birthday because my brother’s gonna take me rafting. And he said, “Oh, the water is so great, he’s taken me up like five times this summer!”

I was like, “WHAT?!” I felt this jealousy and this possessiveness. He’s my brother. He’s not your buddy! I had to remind myself it’s out of my control, it has nothing to do with the kids, calm down. It really ticked me off. That was just last summer and we’ve been divorced for six years now. So him and my brother are really good friends and it’s fine. I mean he’s still a part of the family. He comes to family events. 

Everyone’s Situation is Different

Rikki: So, if there are people out there who have a reality SO far from ours, where maybe you and your ex hate each other. You can’t get along, you can’t talk unless it’s in a courtroom, etc. Just know, I don’t think either of us are qualified to give any advice for someone who’s co-parenting with someone who’s mentally ill, someone who’s an addict, someone who disappears, someone who’s completely irrational, etc. I don’t have a lot of advice for the mentally ill and addiction other than to try and get full custody. That’s it. Get a good lawyer and see a counselor. But if you and your ex are mentally healthy people without addiction issues, there’s no reason you can’t get along. I don’t care if he cheated on you. I don’t care if they threw all your clothes out on the front yard. It doesn’t matter why someone’s divorcing you. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the wrong, if he’s in the wrong. It has nothing to do with the children. You have to stay singularly focused on what is in the best interest of the children and to want what’s best for the children and to want them to have a normal happy childhood as much as they can without their mother and father being in the same home. 

I’ve lived that those first few months where my ex and I hated each other and couldn’t communicate. I thought this is the rest of my life, us arguing and us not being able to talk to one another and us fighting and screaming at each other and blocking each other from our phones. Where you type everything out in all caps and call each other awful names. We lived that. I never could’ve telescoped the future and saw us communicating the way we do now. So I think you have to have empathy for the other person. You have to understand, if there was infidelity, that person is really hurt and angry still and they just have to go through their own therapy, their own self care and their own healing to get over that. You can’t control their healing. You can’t control how long it takes them to accept everything. 

You can’t control what they say either. I’ve never run into this because my ex is great. I really believe he’s never said anything bad about me to the kids. But I have heard other girlfriends say that their ex talks all this trash about them to the kids. It’s so tempting in that moment to want to say bad things back because it triggers you. But you have to remember, even if your kids are teenagers, they’re still kids. I remember my mom having so many inappropriate conversations with me about stuff she just never should have told me because I was still a kid. It’s easy to think your kids are teenagers or they’re grown enough to talk about it, but it’s just never right. The one thing I would say is just bite your tongue. Even if the ex is saying all kinds of bad stuff about you, the kids will figure it out eventually. It doesn’t help them, and even if it feels better in the moment for a second, all it does is make kids feel like they are in the middle. 

I remember one time hearing that the impression a child has of their parents is what molds the impression they have of themselves. So if you’re talking all the smack about your ex, that starts to shape their own belief about themselves. I remember feeling that way sometimes. In fact, I still feel that way as an adult. My mom made all these mistakes and I still ask myself if I’m turning out like my mom. So I just think it’s important to use extreme caution when talking about your ex. Even if your divorce isn’t like mine or Rikki’s. 

Rikki: Even just your language of how you refer to your ex. I think even just saying ex husband has such a negative connotation to it cause who thinks of the word “ex” and puts a smiley face on it, you know? And so I try to stay co-parent as often as possible. If I’m talking to the kids, I say daddy. If I’m telling stories about the kids, I’ll say, “Well they went to daddy’s this weekend.” Even just using different language sort of changes your behavior or your feelings towards it because behavior comes first and then the feelings will eventually come. So if you’re still feeling hurt and angry at this POS, who’s in your kids’ lives, behave like someone who has a good co-parenting relationship and the feelings will eventually start to come. 

If you’re the hurt one in the relationship and you find yourself actively working against a good co-parenting relationship by bad mouthing or having angry control issues, I suggest you work on that from your end. Do it for yourself and for the kids because you don’t want to be that classic, bitter, angry ex wife or ex husband. Who wants to be around that? Nobody wants to go out for drinks with their girlfriends and listen to them bitch about their ex husband for two hours. Who wants to talk about that? That’s fine in the early battle stages when you’re going through divorce, but it gets old and so you gotta heal from that. 

That’s also true for dating! I’ve dated people and all they do is talk about their ex wife, and it’s just a turn off. I’m not your therapist, bro. Though, speaking of therapy,  I feel like that’s my default answer for everything, but I wish I would have dropped my ego years sooner and gone to therapy a lot sooner because it would have helped me with co-parenting. It would have helped me with finding new relationships. It just would’ve helped me all around. So I would definitely suggest finding a really good therapist. 

Dealing with Money and Expenses 

Let’s talk money for a minute. When I got divorced, we just split. We just said no child support, no alimony, we’ll just do 50/50 on all expenses. And so at the beginning I would track what I spent money on, and we’d each pack a suitcase and the kids’ clothes would go back and forth from house to house. Then we got to the point where we just buy clothes that we keep at each other’s houses. At first it would bug me cause I’m like, “I bought that cute shirt, now it’s in their dad’s house.” So I had to get to the mindset that my kids just are well dressed no matter what house they’re at. And that’s fine. With other stuff, he pays for their insurance premium. I was paying for kindergarten tuition. We just worked it out so that it feels pretty even and it doesn’t feel like a big fight. Then we stopped packing the suitcase mostly because it was just a pain in the ass and I didn’t like doing it and I was like, the kids are just here for seven days. They can have a couple outfits here and a couple outfits there. So that’s kind of how we do it now. 

Rikki: The outfits thing drives me crazy. We do not have enough clothes. Well, let me rephrase that, we don’t have enough clothes that the kids like in order to split because they wear the same four things over and over and over again. And so we could split up their clothes 50/50, but inevitably my nine year old would probably tell my ex to text mommy to bring her favorite dress or jumpsuit or whatever her favorite outfit is of the week. So we do pack backpacks and trade them back and forth. And it’s a little annoying. But if that’s the most annoying thing I deal with I’m pretty good.

As for expenses, without airing too much dirty laundry, I pretty much pay for everything. In the beginning, I think I just felt guilty. He didn’t make me feel guilty. I chose to feel guilty because he was a stay at home dad and I was the breadwinner. And so I kind of felt like I needed to take care of them, that it’s my fault we’re getting divorced because I’m the one who wanted it. So now I have to pay the piper, so I have to pay child support and I have to pay for their insurance premiums. I’ve just always done it. And so I just continued to do it. Now we have such a good relationship. Do I want to start a battle or cause a fight over something like money if I can afford it? Why not just do it and keep the peace?

Some people freak out when they hear I’m paying child support but it’s really not a big deal. He’s not a bad person. He’s not spending it on stupid things. And so I know the kids are being taken care of and he helps me out whenever he can with daycare, childcare. We’ll split fun expenses. Like if the kids wanted to go do karate or my daughter wanted to go do cheerleading camp, we split it 50/50. Sometimes, just like you guys, he’ll pay for something, I’ll pay for something. When he has the money, he gives it to me. We try to talk about money as little as possible. If there’s something big, like Roaring Springs season passes (a water park in Boise) we split it. He helps me out when he can. Money is really tough. So I say if you can afford it, just do it. I would rather just keep the peace.

If You’re Considering Divorce 

Rikki: If you’re in the early stages and you’re even just thinking about divorce, you don’t realize how many people are pondering divorce until you get divorced. Then all these friends come out of the woodwork and they want to have lunch and they tell you they are thinking about leaving their husband, and they want divorce advice. Not all of them ended up getting divorced, but a lot of people came out of the woodwork who you thought had the perfect marriage. So anyway, if you’re in the early stages and you haven’t even begun the divorce talk yet, I think the best advice is to go talk to a lawyer. You feel so much better. You can poll a hundred friends and they could all have different experiences. And there’s different laws in every state. Everybody told me since I’m in Idaho, judges hate men, so I was going to get the kids. Then you talk to a lawyer or some divorced dads and find out no, it’s going to be 50/50. No judge is going to give you full custody unless there’s a reason why. So talk to a lawyer, it makes you feel so much better. 

You just feel empowered with knowledge. Don’t weaponize the use of a lawyer. I did this and I think every divorce wars person I know did this, they’ll drop the line, “I’m seeing a lawyer!” They’ll say that via text or in the heat of a battle. Don’t weaponize it. Go privately, go quietly talk to a lawyer just to get advice. You feel so much more empowered. I left the lawyer feeling so calm and knowing that a really experienced lawyer is gonna take care of everything. 

A good lawyer will give you really sound advice. They’ve done it so much. I remember when we were trying to go through our divorce, we had written up this long list of things to put in the divorce decree. We’re going to meet for lunch every other week to talk about what is going on in the kids’ lives. And the lawyer said, “You do not want that in your divorce decree.” She told us we can verbally agree to it if we want, but this is what you’re bound to. Their dad wanted to teach the kids how to go hunting for the first time or fishing or something like that. And she just told me that this does not belong in your divorce decree. So she helped me see that. There’s things that you guys can verbally talk about and then there’s things that should be in the actual decree and they help you understand because I didn’t know what it meant to have primary custody or shared primary custody. She helped me understand that if there’s an emergency decision, if you have primary custody, then you get to be the one that makes the decision even if you’re 50/50. 

There’s things that you should think about. For instance, you can’t move outside of a certain mileage of the kid’s school. Those are things that you really need to consider because what if later you end up dating somebody out of town and it’s in your divorce decree that you can’t move. There’s one guy I dated that lived four hours away and I just said my kids come first and I’m never going to be able to move up there. Obviously that was in the best interest of the kids because they wouldn’t have seen their dad if I would have moved up there or I wouldn’t have been able to take them. So there’s just a lot of those things that you don’t think about. 

If you guys are in that situation where you’re thinking about divorce, I did a podcast called the unglamorous side of divorce and I talk about all of the things that there were that I didn’t think about. And it is hard. I remember when we sat down and told the kids who were getting divorced, Lincoln just start crying and he said, “No, I don’t want this.” And that was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had in my life. We don’t share these stories, but there’s days where the kids are crying because they don’t want to go to their dads or because they don’t want to come back to my house. Those are things that are hard. It’s not all sunshine and roses. There’s hard times. The kids might come home and say “daddy lets us do this or that.” Or they’re just monsters that day because I didn’t get sleep the night before. And on the first day, they are always monsters. The first day has gotten better as my kids have gotten older. But the first day you get your kids back is hard. Not because of the other parent, it just them getting used to the transition. 

Rikki: Not to get too into gender stereotypes or anything, but generally speaking, kids are more comfortable in front of their mom. It’s like their safe space, their emotional outlet. So when they finally get back to their moms, they unleash seven days of emotions. With one parent, they might try to be that perfect child and kind of stay under the radar and maybe they have more chores or maybe their other parent is stricter and then they come home to mom or the other parent. You get this download of seven days of emotions and so the first couple of days are a little bumpy. You gotta be patient and empathetic. 

The main thing I’d like to say about this, especially for the women out there, the dads will figure it out. At first you think they’re not gonna know how to do this, they’re not going to know. But they figure it out. Honestly, the thing I’ll say to everybody is that my kids’ dad is a really good dad. I don’t want to take that from him and I don’t want to take that from my kids. It was really hard at first to get used to shared custody. But now that’s our new normal. And I do know it’s better for the kids to have their mom and their dad. 

Rikki: You have to honor that father child relationship, even though the world might tell us different. The moms and dads are equally important. I know I was a very controlling spouse with the children. I did everything. I put them to bed, I fed them, I bathed them. And so when we first got divorced, he didn’t know how to do that. I remember one time right after we got divorced, my daughter pooped in the tub. He called me and he was so angry and he was saying something like, you should come over here and clean this up. I was like, “Why is it my fault she pooped in the tub?! So it was a turning point for us that we realized he could do this. 

I also give this advice to people thinking about divorce, ask yourself if your partner is going to be a better ex or a better spouse? You lose all control when you get divorced. So if you are not in an abusive relationship, can you stay with your spouse until your children are much older? Because once you get divorced, you have no control. You have no control over what happens 50% of the time. 

Well, and I wasn’t in abusive relationship at all. I mean, my ex was not abusive at all. But I do believe now that we’re both happier and separated.

Rikki: And we get along better now that we’re divorced, we have great conversations and we laugh. I mean my kids were really young when we got divorced, but the holidays were so stressful when I was married because I felt like I was just doing everything, you know, overworked wife syndrome. And so I had to do everything. I had to prepare everything. And holidays I remember were just stressful and I was angry and I was bitter and I didn’t even enjoy them. I actually enjoy holidays now. We see each other for a few hours and that’s it. And it’s fun. It’s lighthearted and I don’t expect him to do anything because we don’t have that husband wife relationship, so it’s just made things better. 

So, that is our experience with co-parenting and divorce, and how we do our part to have great co-parenting relationships with our exes. 

If you have any more questions, or you want advice on things we didn’t bring up, leave us a comment. 

To get in touch with Rikki, find her on Instagram!

If you’d rather listen to this topic, there’s an episode about it on my podcast here

Whether you’re thinking about divorce or you’re navigating a co-parenting relationship, you’re not alone!

Talk to you soon,

xo Natalie