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Episode 113: How to Make Co-Parenting Work for Everyone with Mikki Gardner

Brief summary of show:

In this episode, Mikki Gardner shares her personal struggles with divorce and co-parenting, discussing the challenges she faced and offering insights on how to navigate them. She emphasizes the importance of overcoming hardships to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Mikki outlines three essential steps for conscious co-parenting and highlights the detrimental effects of toxic communication patterns. She also addresses the impact of co-parenting dynamics on children and provides advice on handling uncooperative co-parents. Additionally, Mikki offers practical tips for managing difficult moments that may arise during the co-parenting journey.

Mikki Gardner is a Certified Life + Conscious Parenting Coach, the host of the Co-Parenting With Confidence Podcast and a mom of 3 (her son and 2 bonus sons)!

Driven by her own struggles of learning how to rise above the challenges of divorce, she now combines experience with her academic background & helps moms move past the divorce & co-parenting drama to become calm, confident co-parents, even without their ex's participation. Mikki is on a mission to help women navigate the emotional and practical difficulties of divorce and co-parenting, while creating an intentional, joy + ease-filled life after divorce.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:15] Mikki's own struggles with divorce and co-parenting

  • [3:30] How to get through hardship to even begin co-parenting

  • [6:25] Three steps of conscious co-parenting

  • [10:00] The toxic cycle of communication

  • [11:25] How kids fall into co-parenting

  • [14:40] Handling a co-parent that doesn't pull their weight

  • [18:05] Tips for moments that feel really difficult

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Mike

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

Natalie: Finding common ground. How to make co-parenting work for everyone.

Natalie: Hi everyone. It's Natalie. You know what? Parenting is hard as if I have to tell you that parenting when you don't agree or when you're separated or divorced, that's even harder.

But like everything we talk about here on this podcast, there are ways to navigate and find success. In this situation or in co-parenting, my guest is Mickey Gardner. She's a certified life and conscious parenting coach, and she's the host of the Co-Parenting with Confidence podcast. She's also a mom of three, her son and two bonus sons, driven by her own struggles of learning how to rise above the challenges of divorce.

She now combines her experience with her academic background and helps moms move past the divorce and co-parenting drama. To become calm, confident co-parents, Mickey has excellent advice today for all parents dealing with the struggles of a disagreeing or unengaged spouse. Most importantly, she's gonna talk about helping your kids navigate the hardship and feel loved throughout the process.

Thanks so much for being here today. You know how much I appreciate you, at least I hope you do. You also know that I don't waste any time getting right into these episodes, but please take just a moment to share this episode with someone and hit subscribe so that you get updates on new episodes so here we go. Today with Mickey Gardner.

Mickey in my two years of podcasting, this is the first time that I've broached this topic, and I don't know why, because it is such a needed topic and so many families deal with co-parenting and with divorce situations, and it's a struggle. And I know

that you got into this. Because it was what happened in your own life, right?

Mikki: It is, yeah. Thank you for having this topic in this, in this conversation on your podcast cuz it is so needed and I wanna just sort of throw it out here at the very beginning, even if you're not divorced, I personally define co-parenting as parenting with anyone you don't agree with a hundred percent of the time.

Mm. So I think we're all co-parenting, right? Yeah. It's really about how are we. Parenting and showing up sort of as a team. I do specifically help divorced women because that is sort of the, the group that's super near and dear to my heart from my own experience. But I think co-parenting is really about how can we do this when we are blending all of the experiences together.

Yeah. Yeah,

Natalie: parenting is so hard. Mm-hmm. I mean, it's just hard. It is. I've got three at different levels and at one time I had a college kid, a high school kid, and a middle school. And middle school I think is the hardest of the hard. Absolutely. But it's just hard to begin with. And then when you throw in life challenges, including.

Separation or divorce, or just as you said, I think it's really important that we point out. You're not always going to agree. Mm-hmm. That's, that's just part of life too.

How do you get people kind of balanced enough to be able to see through the hardship to do this co-parenting thing?

Mikki: Yeah. So that's really where the conscious part of, I call myself a conscious co-parenting coach. And the one thing that I think I see more than anything else, just it's a society at large, but definitely in the women that I work with and the people that I work with every day, is this sense of reactivity.

We are just reacting to life. We're trying to, it's like living in a pinball machine, just trying to avoid all the shiny balls and the flippers and all the things coming at us and all the bright lights. And when we're like that, it's this feeling of being untethered as if we could just blow away. Right.

Or be attacked or whatever. Mm-hmm. And it's this really awful way to live, but I think when we are super, super reactive and living in this state of reactivity, which comes from stress, Which comes from overwhelm. Yeah. Which comes from trauma, which comes from, I mean, let, let's not even talk about all the things happening in the world, the uncertainty, the sadness, the violence, all of it.

So there is an innate amount of stress when we are reactive and living in that state of activity without the antidote. We're just sort of flying blind and we're just dealing with it. What I find and what I've learned and I teach now is the antidote to that is what I call taking responsibility for life and responsibility.

I define as response, hyphen ability. It is your ability. Mm-hmm. To respond to life. And to do that, we have to be conscious. We have to learn how to ground ourselves, how to manage our emotions. So that we can settle ourselves down, get ourselves out of those innate stress responses that we have, the fight or flight or freeze, or faw that we hear so much about.

Now we have to learn how to actually take our nervous system and calm it down so that we're able to respond to what's actually going on. Versus just all the shiny objects that are flying at us. Yeah. And so to start with the healing, to start learning how to be a good co-parent, a good parent, a good adult, a good human, whatever it is, it's really this ability to respond to life and learning how to ground yourself, take care of yourself.

And in doing that, we're able to heal. We're able to see clearly, and we're able to make choices. That will actually serve us and get us in the direction we wanna go versus just cleaning up messes all the time. Yeah. Yeah.

Natalie: Well, and we're also, we're setting examples. We know that, I mean, we are walking examples to our children of how they should respond to things.

Mm-hmm. So if we're always in that fight, flight, freeze, fun, whatever it is we're showing them this is how you react to stress. Yes.

let's talk about when, when there are other people in the picture, so of course divorce remarriage and say, I know you help a lot of moms, so as the mom, you don't like the stepmom or you don't agree with their values or their rules are different in that household.

How do you deal with that?

Mikki: I. Oh, well, you just hit a big topic of, you know, stepparents and other people. I mean, if there is one thing that will bring you to your knees if you didn't think you got brought to your knees during the divorce, right? Adding a new person in who is now in the house with your children when you are not, I mean, this is like ninja level co-parenting skills here.

So, But it's like everything else. We just have to pull it down to the basics. And that's why I always teach the three steps, the three A's of co-parenting, which are awareness agency, and aligned action. Because we have to really set ourselves up for a framework to know where we're going. We don't wanna just be flying blind, like I said before.

And so when there is someone else in the picture, And you are feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you're really triggered, maybe you're super angry. There's a lot of emotion going on. So as soon as you are aware of that, that you're having a lot of emotions, the first step is to stop and pause so that you can.

calm yourself down. Mm-hmm. Calm your nervous system, get your thinking brain back online so that you can then move to step two, which is agency. Mm-hmm. We always have agency. There are always choices available in life. Mm-hmm. You might not like 'em, they might not be awesome. Mm-hmm.

But there are choices. But so often what we're doing is trying to control other people. Or the, you know, what the other person is doing, saying, or thinking, which we have no control over. Yeah. And so what I like to always start with my, with my clients is to understand what you do have control over and what are your choices.

And the amazing thing is, is the universe made it super easy for us, cuz there's only three. We can accept something, we can change or we can leave. I mean if, and the, there's a fourth, please. Someone tell me, I just haven't found it yet. So, and so, you know, I was just on the phone with a client the other day and we are talking through this because she's in, yet another battle where they're head-to-head battle arguing about values, things going on with the kid.

And so we have to constantly stop. Right. I'm always saying, okay, let's stop. We calm down and now we step into agency. So what can you do about this, right? Can you accept him, the other parent or the stepmom in your example? Can you accept them as they are and move on without any anger or resentment? If you can, amazing.

Except, and off you go. But that's really not usually the case, right? Mm-hmm. If you're having a lot of turmoil. So the next thing is, can you change it? Now, this is the tricky one because it's not, can you change the other person? Right. Can you change their mind? Can you change something to shift the situation?

Yeah. Sometimes we can and sometimes we

Natalie: can't. And when you can't, do you then advise you have to accept that?

Mikki: Or do you advice keep fighting? Well, so here's the golden one. Leave. Okay. Now leaving is not always physically leaving. Sometimes leaving means leaving a conversation. Okay? Literally or figuratively leaving.

But so many times I see people in these, I call it the toxic cycle of communication, right? Mm-hmm. One co-parent will send a note, something sim like maybe I send a note. Do you have the black pants that he needs for mouse on Friday? Right. The other co-parent sends a note back, how dare you say that? I don't have the pants, whatever, you know?

And then, oh my gosh, can you believe he said that? Boom. And I go, right, like, you're always doing this. Mm-hmm. And then round and round and round and round we go in the spiral of toxic communication. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So when we're in that again, we can't accept it. Right. I don't wanna be in here. I can't change necessarily, but can I leave the conversation?

Absolutely. And this is when a lot of my clients will push back and say, well, if I don't say anything, then they win. Mm-hmm. What are they winning? Right? They're winning the toxic battle of who can say the worst thing. Okay. Yeah. Win. I don't, you know, does that really matter? Yeah. So I think it's understanding I can't change the other person.

But I have complete control over me, how I show up and what my experience is. And so what am I gonna do with that agency? And then that leads us to the third thing, which is aligned action. Really. Taking the action towards who you wanna be and how you wanna be showing up in the world. Yeah. I think that is so important.

And so what is the next right step to get me there? Yeah.

Natalie: Where do the kids come in to this? Yeah. I mean, you're having the battle with mm-hmm. The other person, the co-parent. But the kids get in the middle, the kids hear it, they oversee it, they see the text, they hear the comments, they, you know, where do they come in and how do you communicate with them when it comes to conflict?

Mikki: Absolutely. So there's two things. I think there's the centered approach, which is really important. And then going back to something that you said earlier, which is that you are always the example of what it looks like to be a mom, to be a woman, to be a human, to be, you know, whatever. Mm-hmm. And I think that's a really important thing to remember that, you know, in the wise words of Michelle Obama, when they go low, we go high and it really is.

A commitment and you will fall and you will fail, and you will make mistakes. And it is okay, but a commitment to say, I am going to show up in the way that I truly want to. And part of this is learning how to look at co-parenting from a child-centered approach. When kids are in the middle, it's like a tug of war.

Yeah, right. This is when we're pulling them back and forth and we're really affecting their experience. They've been affected enough, and by the way, they didn't choose this. They didn't vote for this. This isn't what they asked for. And so what I like to think of is our children are really meant to be center, right?

They're the son that we revolve around. And so it's keeping your orbit really level so that it doesn't bump into the other co-parents orbit. Right. And so if we can do that and revolve around the children, it's sort of a mindset or a belief that they can be okay as we revolve around them, right? Yeah.

They, we can hold them safe and secure and Okay, within this experience, by the way that we show up. Yeah. And granted, the other co-parent may not. Agree. Right. They might try to continually put them in the middle and you have every opportunity not to, not to engage in that and not to meet them there. Yeah.

Right. To really stay grounded in who you wanna be and how you wanna be. And I think the great byproduct is eventually with half normal people is It's really not fun to fight alone. Right.

Natalie: Some people just insist on fighting and they end up fighting alone. And then that gets old. Yeah. Yeah. It

Mikki: eventually gets old when you don't fight back.

Right? They're like, well, that's not fun. That's not working. It's not working anymore. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So does it take a little while? It does, but that's where I think we have to really be focused on, you know, everybody wants to be an influencer now these days. I say, be the most amazing influencer in your own family.

Mm-hmm. Right. Really show up and decide who you wanna be and stand for that. Commit for that, and learn the skills that you need to be able to really take control over your life and how you show up. Yeah. And it doesn't matter what the other person is doing, let them have their shenanigans, but don't let it really affect you and how you show up for your children.

Natalie: Yeah.

Let's, um, switch gears a little bit. Mm-hmm. What if it's not conflict mm-hmm. But lack of participation. Mm. And I'm sure that happens often where one parents carrying all the weight and one's just not, and how sad that is for the kids. But that's a totally different scenario.

Mikki: It is. This is one that I see certainly, I know about this, but I, I see so many moms who just can't. It's a hard thing to wrap your head around when the other parent doesn't show up. Yeah. Right. How can, how can they do that? And we get really lost in that. How could this be happening? Part of that is learning how to process the sadness. Mm-hmm.

And you learning how to process and heal from it so that you can be there for our children. Mm-hmm. All too often I think when our kids are struggling or when they're sad or when they're acting like it doesn't matter, but you know that it really is affecting them. That dad is not showing up to their soccer games Yeah.

Or whatever it is. They don't need us to fall apart with them. They don't need you to meet them in their sadness and their pain. They need you just to be able to listen and to witness what's happening and to love them through it. And so for us to be able to do that as moms, we have to be taking care of ourselves.

Hmm. And learning how to manage our own emotions so that we don't fall apart in those moments because it's sad and I. I'm always one for being honest, never throwing the other person under the bus. You know, I, my ex and I made a commitment that we are, we are always going to speak well of one another even when we're ha, you know, not happy.

And my son will say, well, you're not happy with dad. That's okay. I can still love your dad and not be happy with him right now. Yeah. You know? Yeah. But I can do both at the same time. And so I think that's part of it is learning, really staying committed to not, not throwing the other person under the bus, but also being able to say to your kid, I know this is really hard.

I know it, you really must wish that they were there, but you can't make the other parent show up. Yeah, yeah. And sometimes what I see is so many people will continue to try. Moms will, you know, if I just say it this way or if I just say it this way. And they really get, they lose so much energy trying to change the other person.

Versus pour that energy into your children. Yeah. Pour that energy into making it the best that you can make it. And being there for them every step of the way. Cuz a kid only needs one parent who is safe and accountable and consistent and loving.

Natalie: Yeah. Not the, that the ideal situation, but my goodness, they, they've gotta have at least

Mikki: that.

But most kids don't even get that. Natalie. I mean, I think we are seeing that across the board, and so I think it is uplifting and inspirational to know they only need one. Two is amazing, right? Mm-hmm. If you get two all amazing mm-hmm. But mm-hmm. They just need one. So be that one for them. Yeah.

Natalie: other things that you've encountered in this journey in helping parents?

What, what are some other tips and other things that you can give us that would give people inspiration to continue on the journey? It doesn't last forever, or maybe it does, you know, I mean, the young years are the hardest, but I can't imagine that it's easier then when they go off and get married or graduation.

And it's always gonna be hard when your parents are together. But what, what have, what have you found that you can help us with? Yeah,

Mikki: I think part of it is really creating a vision. That's where I start with all of my clients, and the reason that we do this is to really decide who you wanna be and where you wanna go.

I mean, that's the thing about divorce. Nobody gets married. Thinking that they're gonna get divorced. Right. And they certainly don't

Natalie: often, I wouldn't think, have kids thinking we're not

Mikki: gonna be together. Yeah, of course. Right. So we have to sort of understand that everything that you believed, everything that you dreamed of, all of those amazing things.

they've got a shift now. Mm-hmm. And so we have to grieve that. We have to grieve the loss of all of those dreams and all of that. And we can also set a new vision. Who do I wanna be as the mom? Right? Who, how do I wanna show up for my children in the situation that we have today? And by setting your vision and really deciding what are my values, what we end up doing is creating almost like a little funnel system.

So that every decision gets filtered through this funnel of what are my values? How do I wanna show up? And it really helps you constrain and not get lost in all of this stuff, but just stay focused on where I wanna go. One step at a time. Yeah. Because there's, again, we live in this world where there's just so many shiny objects and you know, everyone's putting their best foot forward on, on social media.

But we lose sight of really, how can I feel good today? Yeah. How can I find gratitude for what I have in this moment? It might not be perfect, it might not be what I want, but how can I find gratitude today? Yeah. And so I do think gratitude is a huge, huge thing and self-care. Not bubble bassa manicures, but Which are fine, but not enough.

Exactly. I still want 'em. Yeah, no, absolutely. We should all still do those things. I get you. Yeah. You know, but I think self-care is for me, you know, meditation, it's walks, it's drinking enough water, it's going to sleep, it's, you know, making my bed. Because when I make my bed, I, there's nothing better than you.

You go to a hotel, a nice hotel, and there's that beautiful bed and you just wanna get in it, right? And then you come back and someone's made it for you again. It's like the greatest thing in the world. Yeah. And that's what's

Natalie: coming home to a made bed after, after a

Mikki: hard day. So abs are a really long day.

Yeah. You come home to that beautiful bed. It's like your future self. Your past self is saying, I got you. Yeah. And that to me is self-care in the little moments of just saying, I got you. Yeah, I know it's hard, but we're gonna go on a walk. We're gonna put our feet in the grass for five minutes. Right.

We're gonna just be quiet for a moment. And connect with, with you and with source and learning how to calm yourself down so that you are not a pinball or a balloon flying in the air. Yeah. But you're really grounded on this earth with your kids doing the best that you can do.

Natalie: And that's where you can have an impact on them, is teaching them those things.

Mm-hmm. Because that resilience, you may not realize when they're young, is what will carry them in their older years through hardships, be it divorce. Yes. Or. Anything. Yeah. Yeah. I love your tips. Thank you so much for this. I can't believe I haven't broached this topic before. And for everyone listening who is going through a hardship or divorce, or you are parenting in a difficult in, in just a different difficult journey right now you can do it.

You absolutely can do it day by day. You can do it. Awesome.

Mikki: Absolutely. And I think you know, there, there's so much help out there. I know that when I, I got divorced about 10 years ago and there wasn't much, right? There was no Gwyneth Paltro uncoupling. There was no fancy anything happening out there about divorce.

And so I really felt alone. And I made a lot of mistakes because I really turned inward and not in the good way, but in the shame, in the embarrassment of the not wanting to talk about it. And that really prolonged my suffering. It prolonged my growth. It, it sort of made everything just a little bit harder.

And so what I wanna say is that there is so much help out there and there are so many good resources and I know that. For any mom who wants to really start feeling more calm and confident, no matter what shenanigans her ex might be doing, you know, I created a little conscious Co-Parenting Masterclass.

It's 20 minutes long and it gives you just these tools with some really actionable steps to be able to start to do that today because, You can do this a hundred percent on your own. You have everything you need already within you to be the exact person and that your children need you to be. It's just learning how to take one step at a time.

Yeah. And so um, yeah,

Natalie: put that link in the show notes. Oh, thank you for that masterclass. And I encourage anyone who's going through a hard time to. Take advantage of that. And where can we find you? I know people who are on social media who might want the inspiration and tips and just your reminders.

Give them that information.

Mikki: Oh, thank you. I can be found on Instagram and Facebook. At Mickey Gardner, which is my name, M as in Mary, I k k i g a r d n e r. And that's my website too. So it's all the same. You can find me there. And I also have a podcast co-parenting with confidence uh, where I talk about all things co-parenting and learning how to do this in a conscious, loving, respectful, kind way.

Natalie: Wonderful, Mickey, thank you so much. Thank you, Natalie, and I look forward to talking to you again soon. It's been a

Mikki: pleasure. It has. Thank you so much. Mm-hmm.

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