FULL TRANSCRIPT – SEASON 3, EPISODE 24
Jessica: Does co-parenting stress you out? Are you wondering the best tips for getting through Father’s Day? Trying to deal with an ex that you don’t like and navigating the struggles that go along with all of that is not always easy. Lucky for you, that’s exactly what we’re talking about in today’s episode of the Divorce etc… podcast. We are the exEXPERTS, Jessica and T.H. We focus on helping you navigate your divorce and successfully move on with your life. Please follow us on all social media at exEXPERTS and check out www.exexperts.com for tons of free divorce related resources. Let’s bring in today’s guest.
T.H.: Hey everybody, I’m T.H., and we are thrilled to have you here. We are also really excited to have Jay Skibbens here. He is co-parenting coach extraordinaire. If you have seen any of his stuff on Instagram, it’s pretty addictive, like what’s Jay going to say today? All of the tips, no matter where you are in terms of whether you’re divorced, or you’ve just broke up, or you’re just co-parents, or whatever it is, are relevant. They’re all relevant to you, regardless if you have to co-parent with someone. Welcome to our show today, Jay.
Jay: Yeah, thank you. I’ve been excited to really sit down and talk with both of you and just explore what this is going to be like.
Jessica: Well, we really appreciate you taking the time. Honestly, I feel like your whole thing about helping co-parents not be stressed out in the process is what everybody wants and needs. Can you just start us off with one of your best tips to help de-stress a situation of co-parenting, when you’re talking about two people who just do not get along?
Jay: Yeah, so I think the one thing that I can claim as mine is the raw hamburger idea. To me, it’s the simple fact that your co-parent, believe it or not, is also going through a divorce or going through co-parenting. They will have emotions too. Their emotions are about them. If they blame you, or they make you feel guilty, or they tell the kids it was your fault that the divorce or co-parenting is happening, that is them going through their emotions. They’re feeling insecure. They’re scared of the future. They’re scared they’re going to have to do this without you. They’re not going to tell you, “Hey, I’m scared I’m going to have to do this without you.” What they’ll do is say, “You’re the terrible one. You’re the problem.” What I like to say is that is them giving you raw hamburger. Every single time that they blame you, that they try to make you feel guilty, or they give you their raw emotions, it’s like they’ve handed you a pink hamburger. You will have the choice to look at it and say, “Oh, this is raw.” But then what happens is that you take a bite, and you eat that raw hamburger, and you swallow it. Then you keep eating it. You’re reading the messages. You’re taking what they say personally. You’re making their emotions about you. Then you get sick, or you spiral, or you doubt yourself, or you worry that you’re ruining the kids, and then you blame them. “Oh, you always trigger me. You always know just what to say. It’s your fault.” But you are the one who took the bite. So to me, it’s the ability to say, “Okay, thanks for letting me know,” or “That’s not true just because you believe it,” and you give them back the raw hamburger. You give them back their emotions, and you stop doing it for them. You stop cooking it for them. You stop processing their emotions for them. Because chances are that’s probably what you did during the relationship. You have to set a boundary so that you don’t do that continually, so that you’re not stuck in the same patterns that you were as you were in the relationship, so that you can then focus on what you need to focus on.
Jessica: I have to admit, that’s so not where I saw this going with the raw hamburger. I legit thought you were going to say it’s like raw hamburger, and as someone who personally does not love cooking and does not love handling raw meat, I totally thought it was going to go: they hand you the raw hamburger, and even though you don’t want to have to touch the raw meat, you do cook it, and you do have to do because that’s what you have to do if you want to actually eat the hamburger. I totally thought it was going to be about like, sucking it up, and you have to just do the things that you don’t want to do anyway. It’s like it completely took a left turn.
Jay: Yeah, no, I honestly think that there’s not much you have to do that you don’t want to do. It’s the fact that you tell yourself, and maybe society taught you, or your parents taught you that if you’re not taking care of other people’s emotions, that you don’t have value, or that if everybody else isn’t safe, then you’re not safe. It’s all of these things that we have to let go of that we were conditioned to believe, that we were taught to believe from our parents, that it’s like actually, it’s counter culture. It’s counter to the accepted norms. It’s counter to that if I don’t take care of my co-parent’s emotions, that they’ll take it out on the kids. However, we upset our kids too. I piss my kids off all the time. I don’t know if these co-parents that I’m talking to or that are listening somehow have magically never upset their kids. But it’s like, I’m not going to focus on if what I say is going to upset my co-parent, and when that happens, they’re going to take it on the kids, because I’ve got to be able to walk away. I’ve got to be able to say something and not sit by my phone and wait for a response.
Jessica: In a big picture, you’re really talking about figuring out how to set boundaries.
Jay: You are going to have to learn how to live life. You’ve never lived life this way. You’ve never co-parented before. You’ve never single parented before. You’ve never gone through a marriage break up before or the dissolution of a serious relationship, or in my case, friends with benefits.
Jessica: It’s all good. This is a no judgment zone.
T.H.: No judgment ever.
Jay: Yeah, you have to figure out how to live life. So to me, boundaries are like, “Hey, I need time and space to figure my shit out. I’m not going to do all of that stuff that I did while were married, because we’re not married anymore.” So my gift to you, co-parent, is I’m going to take care of my stuff, and I’m not going to bother your stuff. That’s the gift. That’s the true, I don’t like saying be the bigger person or take the high road, because that pits you against each other. That says, “What I’m doing is good, and what you’re doing is not good.” I want you to just look in the mirror and say, if you’re married to somebody who cheated on you the whole time, maybe you got into that relationship because you had some holes and voids that you were trying to fill. Instead of blaming them for cheating, you can be like, every time that they went out, or those early times in the relationship where I knew, I felt it, it was there, and I ignored myself, I betrayed my own intuition. That’s where the work is.
T.H.: Yeah, I talk about that all the time. Because I was not in a good marriage, we had zero communication, and for a million reasons, it didn’t work out. But the primary reason it didn’t work out was because I allowed it to not work. Everybody plays a role. And so I didn’t cheat, and I didn’t lie, and I didn’t do those things, but I allowed someone to treat me like shit. I allowed bad behavior. I allowed him to set a bad example of how you treat other people, how you treat the mother, how you treat people that you love. I allowed that to happen. And so in co-parenting, I don’t allow that anymore. He doesn’t have that power over me. He doesn’t get to do those things. I’m not allowing it anymore. So those are my boundaries. But it does take time to unravel and undo those bad patterns that you have developed, because they were easy. “Eh, it’s just easier. I don’t want to fight about it. I can’t even hear what he’s saying. I’m just going to do it anyway and just tune it out.” But you know, when you tune it out and you suck it down, you get yourself sick on your raw hamburger. Then it comes up, and it’s going to hurt you in the end. I actually love the raw hamburger analogy. I think there are a lot of different ways that you can take it. I thought because of where I was coming from, it was going to be like, “Here’s the raw hamburger meat. Now you cook it for me,” because that’s where I came from. “Here, you take this, that no one’s going to eat and no one’s going to like, and now it’s your responsibility to make it better. If it’s not good, it’s your fault.” So see, it’s based on where we come from, what we do with this. But it’s true, it’s up to you to kind of—not kind of, it’s up to you to control your part of being a co-parent. And cream rises to the top. I will tell you that I have just stuck to my guns as a parent, and it’s amazing to see your kids are still going to be okay. They’re going to be great. If you are great, your kids will be great, and they’ll deal with whatever else. It may not even be the co-parent. It could be friends, it could be whatever. But you be a source of strength and openness for them, and it’ll be all right. But let’s get into Father’s Day, okay? Because Jessica and I are strong believers that Father’s Day is actually really Mother’s Day in disguise. Because we pass the kids off to you guys, and you guys get the kids for the whole day, maybe even an overnight or two. So yeah, we’re all about Father’s Day, from a selfish point of view. But what are tips for the moms, in particular on Mother’s Day, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, if you’re not where we are yet?
Jay: To me, this is where—because I haven’t had the best experience because I grew up without a dad, right? So Father’s Day to me has been a learning curve. It has been like, I don’t love it myself. Because of the up to 26, 27 years before I became a father, I celebrated my mom on Father’s Day.
T.H.: Aw, I love that.
Jay: So I guess the tips to this is, this is the number one thing I would say, because this has come up with clients before, anything that goes for your co-parent, anything that goes to the dad, anything that they do on that day, even if they’re a Disneyland Dad, and I hate that term too. I hate all the labels, like they’re so lazy. They’re so like… “And then what?” is always my question. Like, “Okay, he’s a Disneyland Dad. And then what?” Like, okay, cool. But them doing something good, or them having fun with the kids, or them taking them to Disneyland takes nothing away from you. It takes nothing away. So to me, it’s that sense that this is not a finite thing. I think that people operate out of a deficit because they think that if something good happens at Dad’s house, or something good happens with Dad, that somehow there’s less good for me. When you come from a place of abundance, like, “Cool when you have fun at Dad’s, you can come back and we’ll have fun here too,” or “When you have fun at Dad’s, come back and tell me about it.” If I’m a mom and I’m not in a place I can hear things that are good at Dad’s house, then that shines a light on something that I can look at. Like, why is it still a struggle for me to accept that good things happen there? How come my kid is benefiting, there’s good things happening for my kid, and it’s hard for me? So how can I look at that as something that like, okay, cool, this is an opportunity for me to explore, for me to grow, and that’s going to benefit my kid.
Jessica: I just want to give a shout out to that because you’re coming from such a healthy emotional place, that you’re recognizing where that stems from for you. I feel like it’s so common, and I hate to stereotype, but it really is true that men aren’t always so in touch with their feelings and able to admit where the, I hate the word, but the past trauma comes from. You’re totally acknowledging this has always been a hard day for me, but trying to turn it around for your kids and make it into what you want it to be, which is a big thing that we always talk about, like all of these holidays are what you want it to be, not what everyone else tells you it has to be.
Jay: Well, I think, whether this gives me credit with the listeners or not, I think that I’m a unicorn in the sense that I’m a single dad, or co-parenting dad, who grew up without a dad, who has primary care of the kids. I’m the one who worries more about school and worries more about their emotional stability and all those things. That’s what I would fight and get into arguments with their mom about. She is like this, especially now the last three or four years, the every other weekend mom. They have a blast. They get a ton of screen time. Guess what? The kids love it.
Jessica: Of course they do.
T.H.: Of course.
Jay: They love going there. They love staying up late. They love getting on screens. They’re like, “When are we going back to Mom’s? When are we going back to Mom’s?” Touching on the emotional side of how I feel about it versus, and this is like a perfect way to wrap it all together, is that on Christmas, they got a puppy. Like, the cutest, the picturesque little cute basket puppy, right? Like, we split, so I get Christmas Eve and they get Christmas. They get this puppy, and I’m like, I know that this is going to change the game. They’ll be at Mom’s house and it’s going to be amazing. So on Christmas day, I’m alone. I journal and cry for like a significant amount of time, but I journal about my feelings, because otherwise, I’m going to sit with that jealousy. Otherwise, I’m going to sit with that “ugh”. And it was the fact that somebody gave it to them, so it wasn’t like she even got it herself. She didn’t even think of it. I could have gone down that rabbit hole. And I was jealous because I would love to have a puppy, but I’m doing this by myself. She’s married; they have help. I don’t want another animal. At the time, this is what I’m thinking. So I get through all of that so that by the time they come back a few days later, I’m cool with it, right? I process my emotions. I was envious. I think I even brought it up to her. That was Christmas. So it’s April now. A couple of weeks ago, we just happen to get turtles, these little painted turtles. They’re like half dollar pancake turtles, the size of the painted turtle. I don’t know how big they are. But we got them. The kids love them. I’m talking to the boys’ mom and told her about it. She’s like, “Oh my god, I’m so jealous. I love turtles. Turtles are my favorite.” It’s like, how crazy is this? That she got a puppy, and I’m sitting here being jealous of her. I get turtles, and that’s what I would consider a much less cool pet, and then she’s like, “Oh my gosh, turtles are my favorite. I love turtles. I’m so jealous. I can’t wait to meet them.”
Jessica: It just goes to show.
T.H.: That is also so awesome because you were cheering on her getting the puppy. Whether she likes turtles or not, I believe she does, but even if she didn’t, it’s even better than she’s cheering on your turtles, and your kids are in a win-win situation. We’re just going to pause for a quick minute here. Because we know it’s hard to get honest and reliable information about your divorce, so we’ve done the work for you. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get exEXPERTS in your inbox. Join our virtual events where you can ask questions to top experts live just like Jay, and sign up for private sessions with us so you can move forward and thrive beyond your divorce. You can get all this information at www.exexperts.com. We’ve lived it, so we get it.
Jessica: So, Jay, more about Father’s Day. I mean, we’ve spoken to a lot of men and therapists. I feel like it seems that it’s common that women don’t necessarily weigh out that one of a man’s biggest fears when it comes to divorce is how that’s going to affect the relationship with his kids. Men are always afraid they’re going to lose the kids, or that the kids are going to be more attached the mom because of all of that. What are some other suggestions that you have for men to be thinking about for Father’s Day in order to really enjoy the day, but also maybe what moms could be doing or thinking about so they’re not home feeling sad and upset if they feel it’s a day that they can’t have the kids?
Jay: Well, I wrote down three main tips for dads just in general. This will be just be a good reminder overall. The first one is just you have to be willing to make mistakes. One of the biggest things that happens towards the end of a relationship, especially when it’s deteriorating, is that a man might be like, “Well, what do I do to fix it? What can I do to get you to trust me? Or what can I do?” They’re asking these questions like “How do I do this?” Without realizing, what they’re doing is putting more of the emotional labor and more of the emotional work on the woman, right? Most women are going to tell you they love when a man just plans the date, like, “Hey, this is what time I’m going to pick you up. This is what you should think about wearing, and I’m going to take care of the rest.” That’s one of the safest places for a woman to exist. That’s one of the most loved places for a woman to exist. When a man is asking, when the dad is asking, “What can I do to get you to trust me? What can I do to do this?” don’t ask, and not like, don’t disregard, but just do what you believe is true. Do the thing. Stop waiting, stop asking, and lead with action. Yeah, you’ll get some of it wrong, but then when you get it wrong, you’re like, “Okay, I recognize I got that wrong.” It’s like, for the men listening, when LeBron wins, it’s like, “Good. LeBron did what he was supposed to.” But when LeBron loses, he’s not like, “Oh, my teammates didn’t make their baskets,” or “My teammates didn’t do well.” You don’t ever hear him blaming other people. He’s like, “You know what? We’ll come back from this. We’ll be fine.” It’s always like—
Jessica: Or Giannis with that speech the other day with that press conference he did about “it’s not failure; it’s steps to success” after the Bucks lost.
Jay: Right, exactly. I don’t know if you’re a Bucks fan.
Jessica: I’m a fan of that speech. I thought it was really—I keep saying speech. I was a fan of what he said in that press conference because I thought it was really insightful, and it ended up totally going viral because of that.
T.H.: Yeah, I have no idea what you’re even talking about. I know LeBron, but I don’t know the rest of it. Okay, tip two.
Jay: Tip two would be, don’t deviate because of the emotions. You two can vet this, and I will be open to hearing what you have to say about this, but guess what, men? Women are going to be emotional during a divorce. Women are going to be emotional during their pregnancy. Women are going to be emotional during co-parenting.
Jay: If you are the man of the situation, then it’s your job to continue going in the direction that you feel is right. Lead by example. Make these mistakes. Own up to the mistakes when you do it. But if every time she’s like, “Oh, you’re the worst,” or “You don’t get it,” or “You’re not showing up enough,” if every time you’re on this course and you know what you’re doing, if every time she expresses doubt or fear or anger, you’re like, “Oh, I better go fix this,” “I better go make sure,” and then you wear yourself out and you get resentful and you stop, then what you’re doing is you’re creating this distrust. And that’s not safe. I promise you that if you want co-parenting to feel better, you want this woman to feel safe. You want this woman to know that she can trust you. That means that like, “Okay, yes, I hear you,” “Yes, I know this is upsetting,” “I understand that you feel that way,” and “We’re still going to go this way.” Like, “And we’re still…” and “I’m still going…” “Okay, I’ll see you on Thursday,” “You can yell at me, you can do this, and I’ll still see you on pickup.” It’s not like a “Oh, now that you yelled at me, I’m not going to be there,” or “I’m not going to show up to basketball.” That’s a weak masculine. You need to be able to take the emotions, understand just like what I told a lot of moms, not to eat the raw hamburger from the dad, and Dad, don’t eat the raw hamburger.
Jessica: Also, don’t take it out on the kids. The idea that someone will be like, “Well, now I’m not going to go to the game,” or “I’m not going to do this,” it’s like, who are you really upsetting in the end?
T.H.: Right, you’re only hurting your kid.
T.H.: Yeah, I agree with you. Women are way more emotional. I agree with what you said. I don’t disagree with that. I think you’re right.
Jessica: So give us your third tip.
Jay: So my third tip is lead by example. There’s a big difference between telling my kids how to throw football and just throwing the football with them. I don’t need to correct. This is speaking from personal experience and having fights with my kids and making them feel like a pile of poop, is that if I overcorrect, then they don’t learn. If I overcorrect, then they don’t want to do it anymore. So by leading by example, whenever I want us to be better in the morning, like getting ready for school, getting ready for me to get ready for work—they start school at nine, and most of my appointments are like 9:15—if I want the morning to go better, I don’t focus on what they need to do. I focus on what I need to do. I focus on if I say breakfast is going to be on the table at eight o’clock, I’m not fussing with them at 7:50. I’m cooking breakfast at 7:50. So then the same thing is going to be happening across the board. If I want to be in better shape, then I don’t say, “Oh, I don’t know what to do.” It’s like, “Okay then we’re are going to go to the park, and we’re going to run up and down the hill.” It’s going to be leading by example, because that’s how you create a legacy. There are so many things, whether you’re a dad that’s on the weekends, whether you’re a 50/50 dad, that’s like, “I just can’t make memories,” “I can’t make these things.” Two things that my kids get from me every morning that somebody else might not even notice, we play Uno or War at breakfast, the most simple games. We might only play one or two games; it’s 10 minutes. We’re not having these like groundbreaking, earth shattering discussions about philosophy and life and love. We’re just talking crap to each other when we win. That is something that they get and they can count on. Then when I drop them off at the school drop off line, they don’t hug me like I would love them to. I’m a hugger, so give me some hugs. They stopped doing that. So instead, what has happened is that as soon as I can put the car in park, they try to shoot out the door and run to the door, and I try to catch them. Go that way. That way we’re both laughing, they know that I love them, and I know that they love me, and they’re starting the day great. We have to understand that you’re not going to hit a home run every time. Sometimes it’s just a single, sometimes you get out, but it’s like lead by example. Do the things that are going to leave a legacy behind you that will last. I promise you, they will remember those things.
Jessica: Yeah, you’re so right. I mean, I feel everything you’re saying is totally resonating. This is the stuff that people need to hear because so many people get so caught up in all of the shit and all of the negativity and all of the anger and the resentment. It’s hard to see through it, to be able to successfully co-parent and not be blaming the other person all the time. It’s true, focus on yourself, do the things that you need to do, and that’s what’s going to set the stage for things, not being focused on all the things the other person’s doing wrong.
Jay: Well, and that’s—okay, so to jump into that tip for moms, it’s the fact that—I’m not sure how much the two of you subscribe to masculine and feminine ideas, but whether you subscribe to masculine or feminine, whether you subscribe to parenting as partnerships, you have to understand that you don’t want a clone of yourself. So many of the moms that I talk to are a bit more high anxiety, they’re a bit more worried. They’re a bit more like, “Oh, how’s this going to impact them?” They’re a bit more of this. What they’re saying about the dad is like, “Well, he just doesn’t care. The kids aren’t his number one priority.” But the mom is the one who hasn’t gone out with friends in two months. The mom is the one who hasn’t gone and worked out because she doesn’t want to take the kids to the gym daycare, because she doesn’t want to lose out on time with them. So one parent is in kid time, and then that person is upset because Dad’s not oversaturating himself, that he has a job, and he has a girlfriend, and he goes to concerts. Instead of being like, “Oh, what he’s doing is terrible,” maybe you’ll learn from them. Because generally, there’s going to be one co-parent who naturally, and maybe detrimentally, thinks about themselves more than the other people. I’m that guy. I’m naturally thinking about myself more. I have had to learn how to include other people when it comes to decisions. That is a skill I’ve had to learn. So I had to learn how to think about other people. There’s also going to be a co-parent who naturally, and probably detrimentally, thinks about other people first.
T.H.: Right and totally loses themselves.
Jay: Yeah, and they got to learn how to take care of themselves.
T.H.: With divorce we used to talk about that a lot because the process is so overwhelming. I’m speaking in very broad strokes here everybody, but generally, it seems that the men have it all together as far as the business of divorce, the money, the finances, the lawyers, the this, the that. And she, broad strokes saying, is more in the dark about money, overwhelmed by the process, scared and lonely. So yes, we do definitely ascribe to that, very general, broad strokes. Because I know there’s always someone out there saying, “You got it wrong.” And I probably do. Everybody’s unique. Everybody’s relationship is different. Everybody handles things differently. But I think what I really took from what you said, and I know it to be true, is people just want to be heard. When you were saying be kind to her when she is emotional, she just wants to be heard. The truth is if you just let her say it, and be like, “I hear you. Okay, but I’m still going and taking them Disneyland.” But all of sudden, you’re like, “Okay thank you very much.” Then it’s like, I don’t even hear whatever else is said because I just wanted to be heard. I just wanted to be heard. And so I love everything that you have said, and honestly, I’m super excited to do a part two because you are just so awesome and dynamic and have really, really on point advice for men and women. In general, by the way, this works for every relationship, even if you’re not a parent.
Jay: That’s the secret is I just figured out how to box it up in co-parenting, but this is just human stuff.
Jessica: Yeah. Even if you’re married, those are things that—
Jay: That is—yes, yeah, yeah.
T.H.: And your parents. What about your parents? Like, I get raw hamburger all the time.
Jay: And at work. And yeah… it’s yeah.
Jessica: Everywhere, everywhere. Well, again, we definitely can pick it up in a part two, but so many great tips and so much great information, Jay. We really appreciate you taking the time. For everyone listening, if you enjoyed this episode of the Divorce etc… podcast with the exEXPERTS today, then please help us out. Because when you subscribe, rate, and review, it helps us get the word out so we can support more people like you going through divorce and beyond. Check out the show notes for more info on Jay and everything that he has to offer. And of course, share with anyone you know who can benefit from listening. Have a great day.