What I've learned about co-parenting with my ex

I feel compelled to focus not on the disastrous, negative effects my divorce may be having on my children, but rather on how it might be serving them well.

What I've learned about co-parenting with my ex

It's a painful memory that still sends a chill down my spine every time it crosses my mind: the night my husband and I told our boys, ages nine and 11 at the time, that we'd be divorcing. It was horrible – the sheer devastation on their innocent little faces, the tears they cried as they begged us to reconsider, the continuous questions of “why?" as they tried to process the news; every last second of it was torture.

Divorce is not something anyone plans for. No one walks down the aisle thinking,

This will probably end. No, you confidently say your I-dos, settle down in suburbia, and fill your home with little people as you work your way towards happily ever after.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the marriage ends. The vision you had for your life – for your kids – has been incinerated.

At least, that's how it happened for me.

In the early days of my divorce, I was hyper-focused on my kids: Were they okay? Were they acting out? Were they repressing anger, depression or anxiety? Were they scarred for life? Would this divorce damage them, irreparably?

I did not come from a divorced home. All I knew was that picture of a complete, intact family – not one with shared parenting time, alimony payments, or step-anything. My parents got married and stayed married. Divorce was simply a foreign concept to me.

Yet here I was, divorced.

As I near the three-year anniversary of that horrible, rotten conversation that changed the course of my children's lives, I find myself pleasantly surprised at just how well they've adjusted. In fact, as I look for the sliver lining of the whole situation, I feel compelled to focus not on the disastrous, negative effects my divorce may be having on my children, but rather on how the divorce might actually be serving them well.

They're no longer witness to an unhealthy marriage

Full disclosure: on the surface, my marriage looked fine. We didn't fight all that much – no yelling, no disparaging remarks, and we still slept in the same bed – but it was flawed, nonetheless. We didn't communicate effectively, we pretty much went our separate ways when we were home together and we didn't exactly consider each other's feelings or needs on any kind of consistent basis. There were many more problems than those that existed behind the scenes, but looking at the relationship through the eyes of my children, I now realize this was not one I was proud to be role-modeling for my kids.

Though I never supplied them with the specific details that led to the final plug-pull on the marriage, they are aware that it ended because it was not a healthy situation. I never wanted this for them, or for me – but at the end of the day, at least I know they're no longer growing up in a household thinking the relationship they were witnessing was in any way something they should aspire to. They deserve better.

They see that it's possible to get along with someone despite disagreements and past hurts

My ex-husband and I don't just have an amicable relationship; we have a friendly one. We sit at baseball games together, discuss and decide on important events in our children's lives, and even swap recipes on occasion. My kids have witnessed a few divorce-gone-bad scenarios in their friends' parents – and in the beginning, they feared their father and I would succumb to the same fate: firing spews of venomous rage at each other as we fought over money, the children, or the color of the sky.

Instead, what they've observed over the last three years is two no-longer-married people – with vastly different personalities who don't agree on everything – finding a way to get along for the sake of a common interest: the children. They see that in spite of past hurts, crushed egos, and financial complexities, we've been able to make a co-parenting relationship work. While I was not proud of the relationship we were role modeling when we were married, I am proud of the one we're role-modeling today.

They spend more time with each of us

Strangely, they spend more time with their dad now that he's out of the house than when he lived at home. The fact is, prior to the divorce they spent most of their time with me. He traveled a lot, so we got used to it just being the three of us most of the time. When he was home, that didn't really change much. Whenever they needed something, they came to me. When they wanted to play a game, watch a movie, or go to the park, I was their go-to. It was the three of us, most of the time. I'm not tooting my own horn, here; it's just how it worked out – and we were all content with those roles.

Now when they see their dad, as per the parenting schedule, the time they spend with him is quality. They go out for dinner, hit the batting cages, and even go on weekend trips together – all things they never did before. It's not just the fun stuff, either: when they're with him, it is he who makes their breakfast, enforces bedtimes and removes the occasional splinter. Now they see both parents as their caretakers – not just the one they see more often.

Divorce is an incredibly painful life event – and when kids are in the picture, we need to protect not only our own hearts, but theirs as well. That's exactly what my ex-husband and I set out to do. Despite being raised in what many would consider a “broken home," my children have adjusted beautifully. Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning or encouraging divorce in any way – but finding the positives in a less-than-ideal situation has been a saving grace to this divorced mom and her impressionable children.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Talking to kids can come so easily. They have thoughts about everything and stories for miles. They see the world in a completely different light, and could ask enough questions to fill an afternoon.

But sometimes finding the right words for talking to kids can be really, really challenging. When choosing how to respond to the marker on the wall, or the seemingly unending why-can't-I battle, or in simply keeping healthy communication open with kids who don't want to talk, the words don't seem to come so easily.

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