‘We like to have girls’ nights. Who understands the struggles of parenting better than Beckham’s OTHER mom?!’: Mom and stepmom detail journey to cooperative co-parenting

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“Taylor’s Story:

My name is Taylor, and I am Beckham’s biological mom. Beckham’s dad (Gentry) and I met in college and dated for two-and-half to three years. At that time, when I was 22 years old, I became unexpectedly pregnant. I went through every emotion you could imagine. I was young, and neither his dad or I were prepared. We knew this was going to change our lives. After discussions, Gentry and I ultimately decided we weren’t for each other. We wouldn’t be happy, and neither of us wanted to live like that, let alone raise our child in an unhappy home. So, we split when I was about halfway pregnant.

With that came so many emotions and decisions for us and for Beckham. Hard ones. We fought, we went to court, and we really despised each other. We were at a point where we couldn’t even coexist with each other—as you can imagine, this was a high emotion situation. We both loved and wanted our son. And ultimately wanted the best for him, but were not able to see the situation from the other’s perspective. Beckham was born in early August and Gentry and I were cordial, but still not in a very good place.

Four months later I met my stellar husband, Cameron, who immediately took on a step-dad role. We married that next August and he helped ease a lot of the situation. He offered a new outlook to me as a fellow dad in Beckham’s life and helped both Gentry and I see the situation from an outside perspective. Cameron pitched the idea for us three to create a group chat—something that would keep us all in the loop, and help ease some of our tension. This aided in giving us the ability to better understand each other.

Madison’s story:

My name is Madison and I am Beckham’s stepmom. Growing up in a blended family I always told myself I would do whatever possible to avoid putting my own children through what I went through. But, life never turns out how we expected it would. Suddenly, as a 19-year-old, I found myself dating a man with a 10 month old child and putting myself in the same situation I always thought I would avoid. Gentry and I dated for a few months before I met his perfect little boy, Beckham. And from that moment on, I was all in. My parents had a very toxic relationship after separating when I was young, which brought a lot of hardship and trials to my brother and I. Knowing how I felt as a child, I decided to do everything in my power to change that narrative for Beckham. I began researching how to be the best stepmom and co-parent I possibly could be. After not finding anything online, I felt defeated, and as if having a positive co-parenting relationship was impossible. However, I had already fallen in love with both Gentry and Beckham, so I knew that I couldn’t just walk away. Learning to be a parental figure so young was difficult. I had to shift my priorities and learn what it meant to be another mom figure to a child that I didn’t give birth to. I had to build a relationship with Beckham while trying not to step on Taylor’s or my now husband’s toes.

After dating for a year, Gentry proposed and we were engaged. While planning the wedding, we decided to take a leap of faith and invite Beckham’s mom and stepdad to our intimate wedding ceremony as a way to refresh our co-parenting relationship and turn it into something positive. They also took a leap of faith in coming, and that is one reason we are where we are today. After we married, I was added to the group chat, which is now one of the staples in our parenting and friendship. It was a while before the two of us met, and when we did finally meet we didn’t really talk. Neither of us made an effort to get to know each other, and we avoided the other when possible. Both of us made assumptions about the other solely because of the situation we were in. With time, we’ve come to realize how similar we are in so many ways. With patience and a lot of communication we have become great friends. Our relationship is the type where we are able to lean on the other for support and love. And what a shame it would have been to never have the relationship we do now because of past assumptions we had about each other.

We started coparenting immediately, but it wasn’t the type of coparenting we do now. It wasn’t always sunshine and roses. We had to go through some tough times, and learned to have a lot of humility and compassion towards ourselves and each other. No parent wants to split time with their kids. No parent wants to feel as if they have no control over what happens to their children on their days away. Co-parenting isn’t ideal. In fact, it’s hard and we won’t pretend that it’s not. But that doesn’t mean you have to live an unhappy life, or that there is no other way besides the negative stigma that society has deemed to be true after bio parents separate.The fact is that we have to co-parent. We don’t have a choice whether or not we want to split time with our child. Because of this, we had the choice of either keeping ourselves miserable, or changing our story to become something positive and full of hope. We chose the latter.

mom and stepmom hugging
Kalli Photography

Before we made the choice to get to know each other, Beckham was our one commonality. All four of us love and adore Beckham, which made it easy to focus on him from the very beginning. All of us wanted what was best for our little boy, and we had to put in the effort necessary to realize that positive co-parenting was what he needed. He needed all of his family, which meant us having to work together successfully to raise him. Here are some tips that have helped us coparent more successfully:

1. Talk through our group chat about anything related to Beckham. By doing this, everyone is involved, no parent feels slighted, and there is less room for miscommunication. When there is less stress about your child’s well-being, there is more room to build a relationship with the other coparents.

2. Make an effort to spend time all together as a big blended family. It may be uncomfortable for you in the beginning like it was for us, but it’s worth it to see the smile on your child’s face as they notice everyone that they love in the same room getting along. This is a good way to gain an understanding of your co-parents on a personal level instead of the parental level. You may even find that you have more in common than you ever imagined.

3. One of the most important steps in having a successful co parenting relationship is practicing empathy. Co-parenting is a lot of sacrifice on all sides. If you can put yourself in the other parents shoes and have compassion towards them, you may begin to forgive and forget. This step may aid in creating a space where positive co-parenting is an option. All that it takes is baby steps to plant the positive seed of showing the other set of parents that you are willing to set aside differences for the sake of the child. When there is an absence of hate, friendships can grow, and massive loads of stress and weight is lifted from your shoulders. An example of this is altering the child’s schedule for a night so that your child can attend an important event for the other parent.

When it comes to our time with Beckham, we split weekends and holidays. Being separated from your child during those times, especially holidays, can be excruciating. We all want to experience those moments with him. But, since we have made the choice to spend more time together for Beckham’s sake, it has made situations like these easier on us as his parents. Since one household always has to miss Christmas with Beckham, we decided that we would have our own Christmas party every year on December 23. During this party we all get together, make cookies and gingerbread houses, watch Christmas movies and exchange our gifts for each other. That way each parent feels like they never have to completely miss out on the Christmas spirit and Beckham gets to celebrate with all of his family every year. We have the same mentality when it comes to other holidays as well. This past year we’ve spent the Fourth of July, New Years, Halloween, and Beckham’s birthday together. Each year Beckham’s birthday switches off between Taylor and Gentry. We have decided to plan a party together regardless of whose year it is. Being there for him all together on his special day is one of our favorite perks of positive co-parenting. He never has to feel split between two families, instead he knows that he is loved and accepted by all four sides of his big family. Not only do we constantly show up for Beckham, but all four of our families show up for him as well. Planning a birthday party together is a great way to begin a positive co-parenting journey.

Now that our friendship has extended beyond Beckham, we like to have our own girls nights. Who understands the struggles of parenting better than Beckham’s other mom! Some of our favorite activities have been attending a flower arrangement class and having a spa night that consisted of massages and dinner. The dads frequently go golfing, and also joined an adult league baseball team together. All of us get to go cheer them on as a blended family. Ledger, Taylor’s other son, also knows and loves both Madison and Gentry because of these scenarios. Not only are these holidays and occasions together good for Beckham and all four of his parents, but by having this type of co-parenting relationship we hope that Ledger and our future kids will have an easier time understanding why their brother has to share time between both homes.

mom and stepmom posing together
Kalli Photography

One of our favorite quotes is: ‘When women celebrate each other instead of rooting against each other, together they rise.’ We have taken that mentality when it comes to being moms in Beckham’s life, and as friends. We have created this relationship by becoming friends and getting to know each other as individuals rather than just ‘the other mom.’ We started out with tunnel vision when it came to each other. We didn’t want to get to know each other and it’s easy to feel as if coparenting is a competition when you’re focused on looks and materialistic things rather than the intention behind the person. An example of this would be feeling as if your co-parent is always trying to be better than you because they’re constantly taking the children on trips versus seeing that they’re just wanting to allow your child to gain experiences around different parts of the world. As soon as we dropped that mentality and started truly getting to know each other, we realized that we had more in common than we previously thought. From those baby steps on, it was easy to create our friendship on a personal level.

What we want people to know and take away from our story is no matter how lost, difficult or heartbreaking your co-parenting situation might be, it can be changed. There is another way. Society portrays step parents and co-parents negatively. We want to show others how freeing it is as a co-parent when you are able to work as a team rather than enemies, and most importantly the joy that it’ll bring your child when everyone comes together. It won’t happen right away. But the baby steps you take will be the start of a healthier environment for all of the parents and children involved.  Over time, you can grow from despising each other, to tolerating each other, then finally to becoming a team and changing your child’s life. There is another way to co-parent. It doesn’t have to be filled with hate and resentment. Things may be hard now, but don’t give up. Keep going, keep trying! Your child will know at the end of the day who put in the effort for their happiness and well-being. Making a conscious effort to improve your child’s family system will create peace on your end regardless of what the other parent does with it.

mom and stepmom holding their son
Kalli Photography

Here’s advice as a biological mom:

There is pain, and heartbreak that comes with your child having another mom figure. There is pain with having to share your child, and hoping emotional trauma doesn’t follow. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Madison makes me a better mom. She is my support, my friend and helps me rise to the woman, friend, and mom I want to be. And I hope to be that for her as well. It’s a blessing that your child gets someone to hold their heart, kiss their owies and always be there for your child’s heart and mind when you are absent. I would choose this 100 times over than a stepmom who neglects and doesn’t love my son. Most of the time they aren’t trying to replace you as a mom, but fill in the gaps and be another person to love your child. I want Madison to be the best stepmom for Beckham. So why would I want to tear her down? It only negatively impacts my son, my character, and me as a mom. When we both lift each other up, we both succeed. And Beckham’s happiness is what is most important. All the rest was a domino effect of positive outcomes after we made the decision all together, to change our lives in a positive way.

Here is some advice from a stepmom:

Being a stepmom isn’t easy. Finding your place in your new family system is not easy. Instead of trying to be a mom figure from the very beginning, work on creating a friendship with the children. By doing so, you will eventually be able to shift into the parental role without feeling as if you are stepping on the biological parent’s toes or upsetting the children. When things get hard and you feel as if you aren’t appreciated or accepted within the family or by the bio mom, spend special time with the kids. This is a great tool in reminding us why we have made the decision to be a step parent. Send bio mom a nice text or help your children create a fun craft that they can give to her. Doing little things like this will help her understand that you’re not trying to replace her as mom, but instead just here to love and support her children. Lastly, do everything in your power to begin the process of positive co-parenting. More often than not, stepparents enter into the co-parent system with less hurt and history than the biological parents. You may be just what they need to spark a change and make a difference.”

big family photo of two couples and children
Kalli Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Taylor Anne Cole and Madison Hatch from Utah. You can follow them on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here.

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