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When you aren't partners, but you are co-parents: How to find peace for all

How one mom dealt with a surprising decision from her son's father.

When you aren't partners, but you are co-parents: How to find peace for all

I had been divorced for a couple years when my former husband called with a surprise. Thankfully, it wasn't the type of surprise he delivered the night he sat me at the table and told me he had been unfaithful for more than a decade and was leaving me for someone he met in Las Vegas.

No, this surprise had to do with our 12-year-old son. He said he was taking him to China for a vacation. I got that feeling you get when you walk in on a conversation and everyone is laughing and looking at you like you know what they're talking about.

China?

How had this come about? I searched my memory for some mention of anything remotely Chinese on my son's wish list. Had the two of them been to see the First Emperor's Terracotta Warriors on display at the Field Museum? Or taken a school field trip to Chinatown that I didn't know about?

"Um… that would be cool, I guess," I said, still processing the random nature of his declaration. By the time I gathered my thoughts enough to pose some questions and concerns, he announced that he had bought tickets to travel during a school week and over days that were technically mine on the parenting schedule.

"I can't change it," he said. "If I do, I'll have to pay $1,000 and I know you don't want that."

What I didn't want was to be told what to think or how to feel. An immediate, familiar pressure gripped my chest as I recalled all the activities and decisions that had already occurred behind my back. That he would plan something so extravagant for our son without discussing it with me felt too unfair. I was already struggling with the realities of co-parenting our three children, still getting used to the myriad ways a divorced mom must learn to let go as she is eased out of her job.

After college, I worked as a secretary in London for a few months and learned that, rather than firing people, workers are "made redundant." It means the same thing, but sounds so much nicer. I've been made redundant as a mother—no longer needed or useful in all the ways I once was.

This shows up in small ways:

Tell me about your science project. I don't want to talk about it. I told dad all about it.

Want to see the new Marvel movie? Sorry, mom, we saw it with dad.

Guess what? I got pizza for dinner! (A chorus of groans.) We had pizza two nights in a row with dad!

And in big ways, like feeling helpless and broken during that stretch when my daughter called, in tears, begging to come home every time she was at her dad's. Or having no words of comfort when my boys expressed their anger about their dad's girlfriend moving in.

All of those impotent moments were triggered again by the thought of my son flying halfway around the world without me. I imagined him sleep-deprived and anxious from the long flight, wandering lost in a crowded street market, even starving, thanks to his finicky diet.

Overprotective? Maybe. But once your trust in someone is so completely shattered, how do you patch enough of it together to cover some areas and not others? I believe my kids' dad is, as a parent, loving and devoted. But I believed that about him as a husband, too, and I was wrong.

I don't blame myself for being guarded. I believe that any mother who has ever experienced betrayal would likely volunteer to go through it again rather than see her kids suffer a similar disappointment. At the same time, I have to be careful not to color my kids' experiences with my disappointments. For me, this meant smiling while I packed a suitcase and waved bon voyage to my baby. It also meant feeling genuine happiness when my baby returned unscathed, unperturbed and a little more worldly.

Yes, I have learned some wonderful lessons on this road back from betrayal.

Here are the big three:

1. Respond rather than react

One of the best decisions I made, early in the divorce process, was to treat negotiations as business agreements and relegate them to emails rather than phone calls. That way I can take my time and formulate a clear-headed answer on my timeline. Reacting equals losing power. Responding equals reclaiming power.

2. Have your facts straight

In the case of the China trip, I assumed that my son couldn't be taken out of the country without my permission. But when I checked our parenting agreement, I saw that my former husband only needed written permission from me the first 24 months following the divorce. Wow. That shocked me, but there it was, in black and white. Gathering the facts gave me time to gather my thoughts enough to get clear about my objections and whether they were ones I had a right to make. As galling as it is to have to follow rules with a rule-breaker who broke your heart, do it anyway.

3. Come from a "well-fed" place

This is the juicy center, the meat inside the sandwich. Everything revolves around my ability to get quiet, tune into and take responsibility for my inner world. What are my motivations? Is this about me or my kids? Am I fighting for the sake of fighting? Am I settling an old score? Am I bored, lonely or craving drama? I need to look at whether I'm feeding myself what I need rather than entering into a "hungry" exchange with my former husband.

Of course life, in its perfection, always provides us with opportunities to practice these skills. I had another chance when our daughter turned 13 and her dad decided it was her turn for an extravagant trip—to Thailand. This time I was prepared.

My response? Don't forget your sunscreen. Oh, and bring me back a Buddha.

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We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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