I would be willing to bet that every stepmom and her husband have had at least one frustrating communication experience with the kids’ mom. If your situation is like ours, 75% of your conversations with the ex are frustrating.
If you are in the early years of being a stepmom let me tell you things will get easier! You may never be best friends with your kids’ mom but communication will improve simply because you will both know neither is going anywhere and no one wants to have those issues forever!
Stepmom, you can lead the change. Lead by example to help make communication less frustrating between all the parents. Here are three tips to help you.
1. Who should do the communicating? Me or my husband?
Let the least conflict-inducing person do the communicating. Early on, my husband and I figured out that it was best for me to handle the communication with the ex because they were not able to have a conversation without it turning into a two hour fight complete with yelling. Somewhere along the way something changed and it was no longer working to have me communicate with the ex. If I would try to reach out to her it would just cause all kinds of problems. So, figure out which one of you should do the communicating based on who causes the least amount of conflict. That’s the first thing to do.
2. What form of communication should we use?
Next decide how to communicate. I am a huge fan of email. Email ensures you have a written record of your conversations. However, it is so easy to take emails out of context or assume a negative tone is being used when it isn’t. It might work for you or your husband to make a phone call first and then follow up with an email. If talking on the phone causes arguments, the just email as much as possible. If emails are constantly vicious and unproductive, then maybe phone calls are better for you. Just be sure you and your hubby always stick to the facts and do not attack the ex. We also text information which is better than talking on the phone and gets a better response rate than email but we find it useful to have details and agreements via email.
3. How much do we need to communicate?
Honestly, my husband and I disagree on this a bit. It is such a chore at times to communicate with the ex that he chooses to do as little as possible. Oh, if there are dates that she needs or something happens at school, he makes sure she knows. At one point, with the encouragement of a counselor, I was sending an update to her every week that T was with us. She didn’t send one to us. It’s not her thing. For me, I would love if we each sent weekly updates to each other. You know, he had this project this week, we had to talk abut this, he wasn’t feeling great this day, he’s hanging out with this kid. Maybe it’s too much but I feel like that would help everyone feel involved in his life instead of just on the weeks he is with us. Because, that’s how it feels… like when he’s not with us we are not supposed to be a part of his life.
Anyway, decide with your husband what you feel is the right amount of communication. Make sure the ex has any important dates of meetings and activities, phone numbers of friends or coaches, knowledge of any major school assignments and incidence of illness or injury, as well as is involved in any important conversations that need to take place (the birds and the bees, anyone?). It’s is important for your child that you provide this information even if you don’t feel like you are getting the same information back. You should always do what is right for your kid even if you feel the ex isn’t.
I hope that helps. Things are still a challenge even 10 years after the divorce but it is not early as bad as it was even five years ago. And believe me, I never thought it would get better! I pray that gives you hope, stepmama!