This one is for my fellow stepmoms out there. Learning how to develop a working relationship with my stepdaughter’s mother is a huge part of my Sanity Plan. This is one aspect of my life that can get pretty strained in a hurry if I don’t steer it in a healthy direction.
It can be tremendously complicated to navigate the relationship with your partner’s ex (I have only heard of a few rare exceptions).
Here is an unusual situation where you are forced into a fairly close relationship with a person that you:
- might never have chosen to associate with otherwise
- might have an emotionally volatile history with due to your relationship with your partner
One of the things that may occur when you become a stepparent is the potential obligation to host joint events on behalf of the shared child(ren). As you can imagine, there are so many factors that can affect the outcomes of such events. These may include the status of the parental relationship, age of child(ren), personalities involved, and financial and living situations.
WHY HAVE A JOINT EVENT?
Wouldn’t it just be easier to keep everything separate? Yes, I would have to agree that this would be easier, but this is not necessarily ideal for the child. It can also be impractical because of doubled expenses or it may mean that one party will not be able to celebrate the occasion.
We’ve actually done this both ways and each option has its pluses and minuses. I would say that if the relationship with your ex is too strained or fragile, then it is best to keep it separate. But, if the relationship is in a decent place, I think it is great for the kid to see all family members come together. This helps to solidify the joint support network that exists for the child even though the parents are not together.
Two factors that changed recently helped convince us to attempt a co-hosted party. One is that my stepdaughter lives with us full time and the second is that we live closer to the majority of her extended family. And, while we have had our share of troubles with my stepdaughter’s mother, in general, things are very good right now.
So, when she asked my husband if we could host my stepdaughter’s 8th grade graduation party at our house, he and I decided it was the best thing. It would be less expensive than finding a venue and it was a great show of support for our child.
Note: it was super important to me that my husband gave me a say in this decision.
PLANNING THE PARTY
Once the initial ask was out of the way, my husband stepped aside and let us moms handle the rest of the details. The planning phase was a bit sticky because she and I do not tend to get on the phone with each other, instead relying on texting. And texting can so easily lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. My feathers were ruffled initially when she offered to pay for the food but then “tasked” me with researching and planning the menu. I respectfully pushed back and provided as much information about the caterer as possible so we were able to clear that hurdle.
Division of labor and flexibility were key. She took care of the invites (with some input from us) and the food. We took care of the drinks and decorations. Neither of us had to have things any special way so very little input was needed for the other person’s tasks.
My husband and I were also cognizant of who to invite from our side. We mostly kept it to family with the exception of a couple of close friends that we knew could blend well no matter what the situation was. Despite how mature you might think people are if there has been any public friction or even friction shared privately among friends, people do form lasting opinions and may act accordingly. And while that is understandable, it is not healthy to bring the past up when everyone is trying to move on and work together. This ended up being very important because all of the guests mingled very well. In this case, our mix of guests turned out to be just right.
On party day, everything went surprisingly well. Her parents came over early and took over my kitchen with food prep. I didn’t mind whatsoever. We had spent the prior days cleaning and preparing the house and that morning had decorated in addition to the girls having a dance recital. So, when they swooped in and got everything handled, I was grateful to just be able to focus on handling my own kids.
THE REASON FOR IT ALL
What made it totally worth it was seeing my stepdaughter just bloom. At a mature 14, she was an excellent hostess, interacting with every single guest. I could see how happy she was from beginning to end, showered with special attention and compliments from all of the people who care about her. It served as a reminder that no matter how hard things have been, we can all put our differences aside and come together for the purpose of raising up a wonderful child. Because that’s what truly matters.
To sum it all up, these are the things that made co-hosting a party with my husband’s ex successful:
- Dividing up tasks
- Being flexible
- Not being territorial
- Remembering the reason for it all – the child!
Sara Mann is both a stepdaughter and a stepmom, desperately trying to keep the peace in a household of five on overdrive. She writes about her strategies for keeping sane (mostly) at The Sanity Plan and on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.