So So Def founder, Jermaine Dupri, recently conversed with renowned songstress Monica for his “Living the Life” web series. The Atlanta-natives converged in the studio to discuss everything from surviving in the music business to maintaining a peaceful marriage. One poignant aspect of their nine-minute conversation focused on Monica’s view of blended families.
The “New Life” singer is married to Phoenix Suns shooting guard Shannon Brown. The couple is expecting their first child together, but both have kids from previous relationships. Monica is mother to two sons, Rodney and Romelo, who were born from an 11-year relationship with rapper Rocko. Brown also has a son.
Monica, Shannon and their former spouses have maintained conflict-free friendships, leading Dupri to call her the “perfect baby mama.” The Grammy Award-winning crooner quickly retorted, claiming the “baby mama” term has no place in her life.
“I don’t think I like the term baby momma,” she said. “Let’s be clear, I have two sons. I had an 11-year relationship with two sons that came from that. I am now married with another child on the way. So I don’t really know where the baby momma term fits.”
She also explained how she manages her blended family.
“People always ask me, how do you make a blended family work? It is what you make it. First order of business is, as parents, we have to respect one another. I don’t believe in the court system, I’m not stepping in no courthouse. I’m not calling no people,” she explained.
Monica also credited Rocko for being active in his sons’ lives.
“I’m sure every situation may require something different, but I feel, for me, I feel like a real man would be man enough to assess the needs of his child and make sure that it happens. I don’t need to call you, and I don’t need to call the people for you,” she said. “So, since I feel that way, I’ve never had any discrepancies with the father of my oldest children, at all. Period, point blank. When it’s time for it to get done, he can assess their needs, come in and see what they need, and it gets done.”
All co-parenting relationships aren’t as salubrious and beneficial as the one Monica’s built with Rocko. When most of us picture blended families, we think of the short-lived UPN sitcom, “All of Us” and the drama that often ensued between the new fiancée (Elise Neal) and the ex-wife (LisaRaye McCoy).
Splits are difficult and require painful emotional work. Sometimes those emotions spill over when former couples attempt to come to mutual agreements regarding their children. Blended families can be successful, but this requires effective and communicative co-parenting, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Leah Klungness, a psychologist and co-author of the Complete Single Mother, offers five tips for establishing healthy co-parenting relationships.
Keep your feelings about each other out of your kids’ hearts and heads.
No matter how angry, betrayed, or bitter you may still feel, if you can’t put a lid on it in front of the kids – failure as co-parents is inevitable. Co-parenting requires maturity, grace and stamina. Find an appropriate outlet for your unresolved feelings. Talking to your ex about the kids simply cannot become your time to vent.
Carrots work better than sticks.
Maintain respect for your ex – this person is your kids’ other parent. Even if the other co-parent’s involvement is minimal, your kids benefit from this contact. Praise for the other parent’s efforts is a strong predictor of co-parenting success.
Keep the lines of communication open.
Communication lies at the heart of any relationship. If your marriage or relationship suffered from a lack of communication, resolve – for the kids’ sake – to find a way to communicate. Technology is a handy solution – if you prefer not to meet in person or chat on the cell. Find the tools – and the commitment – by which respectful communication takes place.
Allow for change and scary feelings.
Your agreement to co-parent represents yet another change – on top of the huge change everyone experienced when you divorced or separated. It’s okay to feel scared because it signals that you recognize your kids’ futures are at stake. Co-parenting is a formidable challenge – and – realistically – why would you not feel just a bit scared?
Talk and listen to your kids.
Your kids will want to know the nuts and bolts of the new parenting arrangement. Little kids, for example, will want to know where Santa Claus will visit. Or how the Tooth Fairy will find them. Older kids will want to know if friends can visit at both homes – and if they’ll need to change schools. Don’t expect every last detail to get ironed out immediately. Encourage your kids to share their concerns and questions with both of you. Family meetings are ideal – if you can swing it – so everyone gets the opportunity to be heard.
It appears that Rocko and Monica have used some of these tips, as evidenced by her answers to Dupri’s questions. Their children are psychologically and emotionally-healthier because of their maturity and mutual cooperation.