Better Not Bitter:
Parenting After Divorce..
Be A She-ro, Hero or Zero

It’s done. You’ve separated for the last time and you’re not going back. You can’t stand one another. The decision has been made and moving toward divorce is now the only option. But you have these kids together. One of the first things you have to deal with post-separation is also one of the most difficult: How will you co-parent?

Lately there have been a lot of celebrity parents in the news and their challenges in this area (Usher Raymond/Tameka Foster and Eddie Cibrian/Brandi Glanville, most recently). Even more sad  perhaps, is the fact that almost everyone knows someone personally who has had to deal with this issue.

I remember when my ex and I finally separated and he came over to see the boys for the first time. I handled it horribly. Raised all kinds of issues that should have been addressed privately when the children weren’t around. I made the situation tense, difficult and unpleasant. And to be honest with you, that was my intent. I was so hurt that I wanted everyone else to be hurt, too.

So I get exactly what those celebrities feel and I am glad that I didn’t have all of America passing judgment on my decisions during that time. But sooner or later – and hopefully sooner, you realize how damaging that behavior is for your children. My older son explained how my words, even the tone of my voice when speaking to his father made him feel. I decided then and there to try to be a better mom.

Later, when I was doing research for my book, Living Happier After: 20 Women Talk About Life After Divorce,” I surveyed and interviewed a lot of women. When discussing the subject of co-parenting after divorce one of them told me, “At some point the realization hits you that you were the one who picked him. You made the decision to start a family with this person, who at one time was the center of your life.” Those wise words continue to come to mind, even now years later when I hear about other people trying to determine how to successfully co-parent.

I get that it’s hard to be the custodial parent. Some people are lucky and/or blessed. Their former spouses are excellent co-parents and they don’t have any of these issues to deal with. But for the rest of us out here trying to raise our children with the lowest level of dysfunction possible, I have a few suggestions from the wise and happy women who are living happier after divorce.


Portrait of businesswoman in white shirt pronouncing shhhh 

This is a huge one – don’t tell everyone in your circle what is going on between you and your ex. It’s really hard for people who care about you to keep cool when they see you hurting. And often those are the things that create drama when your ex is around. The fewer people that know your business, the better.

Read more: What’s Love Got To Do With It? 19 Lessons In 19 Years Of Marriage 


Support Letters on beautiful blue backround

Hilary Clinton said, “It takes a village.” Well, I call them my tribe and when you’re the custodial parent you need at least a small group of people you can depend on. The only criteria are they love your child and they’re able to support. They are there for you on the regular. They are also the people who will show up to help celebrate small accomplishments, you know that great report card, or the end of the little league season. Have those celebrations regularly and invite your ex. Let your children see that their world has not changed that much. You can serve hotdogs and chips and hold it in your tiny apartment. What’s important is bringing together the people who love your child, and that includes your ex.

Read more: The GEM Debate: Is Marriage A Private Matter?





This is the hardest one of all. One of you may be resentful of the other. Disappointment, hurt, and even revenge may be a part of the mix between you two. But the question is, do you become a “toxic parent;” you know, that bitter, nasty person who makes every interaction totally unpleasant? Maybe it’s your ex who starts the confrontation. Or maybe he or she just doesn’t show and isn’t involved. Whatever the situation, if the kids are physically with you it’s important that you put them first. I read a story about another celebrity, actress Mayim Bialik who discussed the difficulty of divorce and the importance of successful co-parenting. And she’s absolutely right. Divorce is extremely hard. It’s painful and there is no way around it.

Read more: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: An Unvarnished Look Inside A Real Marriage


That’s why those of us who have done it, understand that it’s not something you do with ease. But when you still have children to raise you have another big decision to make. Co-parenting is hard but doing it right is critically important. You can be the hero or she-ro in your children’s lives. You know, someone they can always depend on, someone who puts them first. Or you can be the zero – the undependable no show, the disappointer.

What are your strategies for successful co-parenting? I’d love to discuss with you in the comments!

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Wilma Jones - GEM Pic 2

Wilma Jones lives in Arlington, VA with her teenage son. Her oldest son who is a senior in a nearby college, stops by with laundry and an empty stomach a few times a month. She is divorced after 19 years of marriage. Wilma is a speaker and the author of Living Happier After: 20 Women Talk About Life After Divorce.”