One of the more prominent narratives surrounding separation and divorce involves ex-spouses being at each other’s throats and constantly arguing with one another. Such a hostile environment not only affects the former couple but negatively impacts their children as well. While separation and divorce are difficult for everyone involved, a happy co-parenting ending with your ex is a very real possibility.
Touchstone Family Law founder Leigh Sellers speaks with Freddie Sexton and Jen Olin about their personal journey through separation, divorce, and effectively co-parenting despite living separate lives. Freddie is a Dad, artist, cyclist, and entrepreneur. Jen is an energetic mother, daughter, and friend who has worked in the senior living industry for 16 years. Jen and Freddie emphasize the importance of having open and honest communication with your ex from the very beginning. Creating a safe space to air your concerns and other family-related matters is key to a successful co-parenting relationship. 02:42
When it comes to making any decision in your life, always ask yourself how it’s going to affect the children and their welfare. 04:35 Set expectations and intentions from day one and do your best to organize your life to honor these expectations. 09:59
Jen and Freddie also dive into the benefits of occasionally meeting face-to-face, as sometimes texts or emails simply won’t do. 16:18 Communicating with each other frequently is key, even if it may be difficult or uncomfortable at first. It’s also vital that you be supportive of your ex, especially when they’re struggling. Remember, they’re always going to be the parent of your children, so demonstrating more sympathy and understanding not only helps your ex, in the long run, it helps you and your children as well. 28:08
Freddie and Jen share the difficulties and struggles they went through and how they were able to overcome those issues and move forward. 22:16 They each share tips that have helped them personally, including finding support groups and being mindful of their physical and mental health.
Couples choose to divorce for any number of reasons, but, at the end of the day, it’s important that you demonstrate to your children that their parents will always love and care for them first, even after their marital relationship dissolves. 40:05
The insights and views presented in “Welcome to Splitsville” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey through divorce, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at http://www.TouchstoneFamilyLaw.com[spp-transcript]
Intro: 00:01 Hello there. Going through a divorce? Considering one? Sorry to hear that, but here you are. Welcome to Splitsville. You’ll find Splitsville to be a pretty unique place, a new world really, with its own rules, its own expectations, and in many ways its own language. But don’t worry, you have a knowledgeable guide along the way. A Family Law Attorney with three decades of experience under her belt, and now here she is, your host and guide, Leigh Sellers.
Leigh Sellers: 00:37 Hi everyone, and thanks for tuning into another episode of, Welcome to Splitsville. I’m your host and guide, Leigh Sellers, founder of Touchstone Family Law. And in this episode I’ll be answering another caution that many newcomers to Splitsville have. How do you raise kids with your ex? So, lets dive in.
Leigh Sellers: 01:02 So, today we are talking to Freddie Sexton and Jen Olin, and what excites me the most about having these two guest is these are survivors, if for lack of a better word, of divorce with children. And Jen and Freddie are going to be talking about their experience as parents, and as ex-spouses, and how they have navigated the entire journey from making the decision that their marriage was going to not continue, to almost six years down the road, still successfully and happily parenting their children together which is something that if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re at the beginning of this journey, may seem impossible to imagine. But, Jen and Freddie are proof that it’s not just for Bruce and Demi.
Jen Olin: 02:13 Thanks for having us today Leigh, I appreciate it.
Leigh Sellers: 02:16 I’m excited.
Freddie Sexton: 02:17 Thank you.
Leigh Sellers: 02:18 Thank you guys for making time for it. So, lets start at the beginning, why don’t one of you tell me how you actually came to think about the kids and how your decision as adults was going to impact the children? How did that conversation go?
Jen Olin: 02:39 I’ll take this one, Fred, if you want me start?
Freddie Sexton: 02:42 Go for it.
Jen Olin: 02:42 So, I think we’re kind of in the midst of turmoil, I mean, as partners maybe it’s both, together decide, or maybe it’s one that decides that they’re not going to move forward with the relationship anymore, and there’s a lot of hurt and pain on both sides. Really have to take a step back and look at what’s going on. Freddie and I have always been very hands-on with our kids. We both worked full-time, and when we were home, we’re both extremely hands-on with the kids and enjoyed the time that we spent with them. So, as we were going through logistics of what it looked like to be separated, and where should we live, and how should we start maneuvering the kids back and forth, and telling them, a lot of anxiety and concern started creeping up as to how do you decide what’s right, and how they’re going to best adjust to this particular situation.
Jen Olin: 03:44 And I think what helped Freddie and I in the beginning, is we actually talked about those concerns. What are the kids going to say? How are we going to keep this as calm as possible? How are we going to let them know that this has nothing to do with them, and that we both love them wholeheartedly, and keep things as normal as possible, when life was pretty much being turned upside down? And so, through that conversation, my recollection, and Freddie please correct me if I’m wrong, through that conversation we were sitting around the kitchen table one day just having these concerns, I’m sure I was crying and just sort of said out loud, “Well, maybe we need to take each situation, whether it’s where we’re living, what school they’re going to, what money looks like, with the question of, how does this affect Elly and Graham? How does this affect our kids, and what does that look like, and what’s best for them?”
Jen Olin: 04:43 Freddie, feel free to add anything, but that’s my recollection on how it began, and that initial process of sitting around the kitchen table and trying to figure out next steps.
Leigh Sellers: 04:53 And how old were the children?
Jen Olin: 04:55 Graham was two, and Elly was almost six, so very young. Elly, we absolutely knew that she would remember the conversation and what was going on. Graham, not so much, he doesn’t have a whole lot of memory of us living together. Faint things here and there that he’ll bring up, but not a whole lot.
Leigh Sellers: 05:15 Freddie, how did the conversation go, how do you recall it?
Freddie Sexton: 05:24 Yeah, it’s tough. Probably one of the hardest things that I’ll ever do, so it’s leading up to that when Jen was just talking, I was just thinking about, weighing, do you stick out with this relationship? I’ve talked with other people, you kind of stick it out for the kids. You may not be happy but, potentially they are. I think that’s up to everyone to kind of weigh the risk versus reward with a choice like that. Yeah, I just remember being really sad through that period and then, I mean, it got a lot just … I don’t want to sound like … I was just sad, I was depressed, and it was a hard phase. It was a lot harder than, I guess, I wasn’t really thinking about the future a lot in terms of what I wanted, but like Jen said, it was just trying to keep everything focused on the kids as much as possible.
Leigh Sellers: 06:17 And I imagine that that elevates the difficulty of caring for the children, when you’re both feeling so vulnerable, and raw, and hurt as adults in your own right, and then you still have these very needy children? Yours were young.
Freddie Sexton: 06:32 Yeah.
Jen Olin: 06:33 I remember going through, yeah, I’m sorry Freddie. I remember going through a phase where I would try extremely hard not to let them see me cry if I was at the house with them, and emotions start to come up, and I would try really, really hard to make sure that they didn’t see me crying. And I was talking to a friend one time and she said to me, “What’s wrong with letting them see you cry? This is a change in your life, it’s the next steps, and they need to understand that emotions are real and it’s okay to feel those sort of emotions, and it’s okay to talk about them.” So, I don’t know, that was a kind of life-changing for me because when we lived together, if we had sad times or hard moments, I could walk away and Freddie was with the kids. But for myself, living there with them alone in the beginning, you can’t really walk away, run away from that.
Jen Olin: 07:21 So, there was times when they were able to see that it was an emotional time, but it didn’t take away from what we were doing with them, and the love that they were getting.
Freddie Sexton: 07:31 Real quick to jump in, an important element that I want to stress to people listening to this now is that, you project, and I guess we all as humans do, what you think the future will be. And especially as a parent, I think you overthink a lot of stuff. And I feel like as a parent now for 12 years, I’ve come to find that kids and humans in general are incredibly resilient. And I remember after, it was short kind of rainstorm for the kids, and there was a little bit of confusion, but I think within weeks they were living their new normal lives. And they just want love and happiness, and they totally rolled with it. It was a lot easier, I think, from their perspective than it was for Jen and I.
Freddie Sexton: 08:26 It’s totally unrelated, but we had to put a dog down a couple of years ago and I remember the day after that had happened, Elly was like, “Okay, let’s get on Pet Finder, and let’s look at the new dog.” I’m like, “Honey. Girl friend, you’re on it. You need to process this, and we need to be sad.” She’s like, “No, when do we go Dad?” And that’s just my experiences. And I don’t know if other kids or whatever, but I think we can do a lot more than we think that we can.
Leigh Sellers: 08:57 That’s a good point, it’s hard to not take your adult sensibilities and emotions, and assume that these little minds are processing it in the same way, that is difficult sometimes to remember. That brain isn’t working that way.
Jen Olin: 09:13 Absolutely. It’s easy to build up in your mind what you think their reaction’s going to be, or how long, or how something’s going to effect them, and get yourself all worked up, when that really isn’t even the case.
Leigh Sellers: 09:25 So tell me, if you were looking back, one thing I’d love to know is, in the beginning, what were some of the sort of bedrocks, the things that you guys put in place to really kind of honor this conversation, that question that you said of, “For everything we’re going to do, lets first ask, how is it going to impact the children?” And while you have that great intention, what steps did you put in place to make sure that you really kind of honored that while you were moving forward with each other?
Jen Olin: 09:59 I think one of the things I can think of, and I’m sure Freddie has some stuff to add to it, but no matter how much it hurt to be in the same room together, or see each other in person, we have from the beginning done as many face-to-face, in person meetings as we possibly could. There’s something so different about being across the table from someone, sharing a cup of coffee, or having a glass of wine, or whatever, than there is texting, or calling, just to feel that person that you’ve been with for, I don’t know, however many years a couple has been with someone, and focus. You both have the same drive, you both have the same focus to want so much for your children and want to see them thrive, that I feel like it was okay to be with each other in the same space when we had that one common ground, and it just helped up always kind of come back to that same question, when we were talking about whatever situation might be going on.
Leigh Sellers: 11:01 So, even that decision to be in the same room was not for each other, but that was in a nutshell, a decision for the children? No matter how uncomfortable it might be. This moment, I’m here.
Jen Olin: 11:17 That’s the way it felt for me, absolutely.
Leigh Sellers: 11:20 Freddie, what do you think that maybe for you personally, was something that kind of kept you really centered with the kids while you were going through the early stages?
Freddie Sexton: 11:32 Good question. Personally, I made a choice to simplify my life. So, I was running multiple different businesses, and was already kind of max stress, and lots of activities, and volunteer engagements. So, I just kind of took that down a lot knowing that it would be personally hard for me and, like Jen said, focus as much time as I could on the kids. I definitely took the opportunity initially when I didn’t have the kids, to take care of busy work, and bills, and kind of boring stuff. Or, I don’t know if you like paying bills, maybe you would, whatever. And then I got myself a long-term new goal, something that I could focus on, and that was to do a painting a day, so I found a little program, and didn’t take that long, and that brought me kind of like a new thing to my life, and I enjoyed that.
Freddie Sexton: 12:33 Yeah, and I had people around me that were supportive of me, and encouraging because you kind of go up and down. So, wherever you are, I think it’s important to have people that care for you and support you throughout that process.
Leigh Sellers: 12:49 That’s really interesting and simple, but I don’t think people do it. You’re basically saying that while you were going through this, you actually had to step back from other things to be able to take this on, this co-parenting while separated, actually was going to take enough time and energy, you recognized something else had to go.
Freddie Sexton: 13:10 Yeah. Yeah, definitely, it did.
Leigh Sellers: 13:13 I think that’s a good point. I’ve heard a lot of parents talk about just keeping everything the same. They have this feeling that they think their children will feel the most secure and safe with as little change as possible, so they’re very focused on not making any changes in their lives, in their schedules, in their routines, in their world, because it’s as if they don’t want the children to notice the changes, and that’s hard. I’m absolutely sure that must be really, really hard, but I like for Freddie that you’re talking about, you just sort of recognized early on, that was not going to bode well for success.
Jen Olin: 13:56 And I get that feeling too, I mean, I know I struggled in the beginning with letting the kids do more than what I would have done when Freddie and I were together. Whether it was staying up a little later, letting somebody sleep in the bed with me, or doing more for them than I would normally do, that they could do things on their own. But I kind of stepped in just of feeling guilt, or whatever you might want to put a name on it. So, I understand that feeling, especially with some other parents, because I struggled back and forth with, how much do I give? How much do I give more love, give more to the kids, that I did before, and do more things than I did before. Or is it this very strict bedtime, in your own bed every single night, nothing changes type of scenario?
Jen Olin: 14:41 And I think that there’s a healthy balance because your mental wellness is just as important. I mean, I know Freddie got a life coach. I worked with a therapist, and I think there are times to give yourself permission to let your kids sleep with you in the bed if they want to one night. But getting them right back into normal schedule is just as important. But I think there is some flexibility there that it doesn’t have to be so strict in the schedule, and just communicating with them is so, so important.
Leigh Sellers: 15:13 So, how often did the two of you communicate about the children?
Freddie Sexton: 15:17 Well…
Jen Olin: 15:17 Well, we still do.
Freddie Sexton: 15:21 Yeah. I would say almost every day. Yeah.
Leigh Sellers: 15:22 Every other day.
Jen Olin: 15:22 I mean, if not every other day. We’re not in the same room every day or every other day, but we’re at least communicating about what’s going on.
Leigh Sellers: 15:30 And has it always been that way, or did you sort of fall into it more naturally over time?
Jen Olin: 15:37 I mean, I would say it started that way from the beginning, I mean, even when we were together. If one of us had something going on in the evenings, we were constantly communicating about the kids, and then we just kind of naturally fell into that same routine because of, well, we set our own expectations from the very beginning.
Leigh Sellers: 15:55 And you guys talked about, I think, the importance of one-on-one meetings. You guys meet in person, I’m sure that’s not exclusive, but you guys make a point of meeting in person, not by text, email, or some other sort of communication app, to talk about activities with the children, or things that are concerning the children?
Jen Olin: 16:18 Yeah, and I really have to give Freddie credit for that, because that was sort of an initiative that he set forth with the two of us really early on. We knew we were communicating about the kids every couple of days regardless, but to have a set meeting once a month where we sat down and really talked about financials, what sort of behavior changes or challenges are you seeing at your house? How can I help on my end, if you’re seeing something at your house that I’m not seeing at my house? So, I mean, really in depth kind of conversations about what was going on, and just the whole conversation really turned into being supportive of each other so that both of us could enjoy the time that we had with the kids. And so I really have to give Freddie credit on that because he asked from the beginning if we could do that, and we’ve tried to stick to it as best as possible, and through the whole journey.
Freddie Sexton: 17:09 I think to add to that, I think it’s natural to not want to spend time, especially face-to-face time with your ex. I mean, it’s always going to be uncomfortable regardless of the circumstances so, like Jen said, if you have the intentionality of the kids first and foremost, it makes that choice more simple. And yeah, you’re always going to communicate better in-person, like I do say also. I always want to meet with people, and you get so much more context and color, and if it’s something as important as your kids, then I think you can make the time.
Leigh Sellers: 17:45 And that’s a good point. I know that text and emails are sometimes convenient, but you do lose a layer of context when you’re communicating in that way. And my texting is atrocious, nobody even understands what I’m trying to say. It’s a joke in my family. They send it among themselves to see if anybody can interpret it. I’m definitely a source of amusement for them. The children would not know differently because you guys have always parented this way, but how do you think that it has helped them cope and grow with the two of you being apart, the way that you guys have approached it? What do you think the benefits for the children have been?
Jen Olin: 18:34 Well, I think it’s-
Freddie Sexton: 18:35 Relative to if we were more combative, or argumentative, or whatever?
Leigh Sellers: 18:40 Far more distant even, all of those things.
Freddie Sexton: 18:43 Yeah-
Leigh Sellers: 18:45 More separated, I guess, if that makes sense.
Freddie Sexton: 18:49 Jen, do you want to take that first?
Jen Olin: 18:51 Well, I think it’s an important note to say that the kids in the very beginning, didn’t see Freddie and I together that much because it was really difficult for them to go with one of us and not the other when it was time to walk away. So, Freddie and I talked about that, I mean, we thought, oh, they’re going to see us together, and see us in the same room together. Or one’s dropping the other off at the others house, and they’re going to see us getting along, and think, great. And it was hard, and so we decided in the beginning that that wasn’t what we should do. We should still be meeting and doing what we set our intentions to be, but I would drop the kids off Wednesday morning at school, and then drop a bag over at Fred’s for anything he might for the next few days, and Freddie would pick them up from school on Wednesday. So, they didn’t see us together to help with that ease a little bit in the beginning.
Jen Olin: 19:45 Slowly we’ve gotten into feeling so much more comfortable. They don’t have a problem with the separation anymore. I mean, right now especially with the pandemic going on, we changed our schedule to week on, week off. We worked 2/2/5 schedule before, and really just for the safety of the kids and for lifestyle with homeschooling and not disrupting homeschooling, things like that, we decided to do week on, week off. Well, we’re at each others houses a couple times throughout the week because a week’s too long for our family life. A week’s too long for our youngest to be away from one or the other for right now. So, we want to be able to see them in that gap time. And so it’s very comfortable right now, I’ll go over to Freddie’s house and take the kids on a short walk, just to say, “Hi,” see how the week’s going, things like that, so that they can see that connection. And they see the comfort level, and they see us interacting. But it didn’t happen right away.
Leigh Sellers: 20:44 And Freddie?
Freddie Sexton: 20:45 Yeah. Yeah, I would say it’s a process, like everything is. So, you create your plan and stick to it. But yeah, to answer to your question, I think they’re better off because of it, and they’re stronger and hopefully will be happy adults because of this.
Leigh Sellers: 21:08 What are some things that looking back, because you guys have been not in the same household for more than five years. If you look back at it, what are some things that in retrospect, or in hindsight, you would say maybe that, that missed its mark? Or, I wouldn’t recommend to somebody else that they try that? I mean, you mentioned already the being together a lot in the beginning, you learnt real quickly that was actually not landing like you wanted it to with the children.
Freddie Sexton: 21:43 So, there’s some presumption in the question that we’re not perfect, and I will neither object or whatever.
Leigh Sellers: 21:52 I don’t know why I come from that place.
Jen Olin: 21:57 You can start Freddie.
Freddie Sexton: 22:00 Yeah, I don’t have a lot, there’s not any big things that are coming to mind. I know finances were tough and hard, but going into it, you don’t really know what to expect with that. Yeah, do you have any thoughts Jen?
Jen Olin: 22:16 I would say that that’s been our hardest struggle. I mean, I probably, I or we, didn’t do a really good job of getting the right questions answered in the beginning as far as financials are concerned. How does it work? I think we didn’t get a lot of those questions answered in the beginning that we should have. For example, the rules around child support. I know I had a lot of questions and should have asked more about what that entails, and how does it change when someone’s income changes, and what does that take? I still have questions around that. Now, Freddie and I have a different situation going on, I mean, I went in working extremely hard to have two completely separate financials going on, and we’ve accomplished that. It took awhile, but we’ve accomplished that, and so that was one of my main goals because it was such a struggle to talk about in the beginning, and was very hard for me especially, that my personal goal was to get to a place that that didn’t have to be discussed anymore.
Jen Olin: 23:18 That things that came up with the kids, we split costs, and we run our own life, and making sure that we both have lifestyles that are good for the kids, and safe for the kids, and comfortable, but that we weren’t relying on each other for that particular piece. So, I know for me especially that was just extremely difficult, and I didn’t know how to have the conversation with Freddie. I mean, I think that when we got together, if there were tears, they were mine, and 100% of the time those tears were around a financial conversation. They weren’t about, to me the other stuff was easy. Do we make a school change? What camp should they go to? Somebody’s having a behavioral problem at home, those were easy conversations. So for me personally, that was the hardest part, and I wish I had better coaching on how to deal with that, and have conversations and not let it get so emotional for me personally.
Leigh Sellers: 24:11 I’m taking notes. That’s a really good feedback from somebody who’s supposed to be helping people with those questions. I guess we’re falling a lot shorter than we want to. But really, it isn’t surprising if you read the statistics about what married couples disagree about. I mean, finances is really high in the list of just in any married household, that goes pretty high about the things that married couples fight about. So, it shouldn’t been shocking that, that would contend you, even when you’re not sharing a household anymore, to some extent.
Jen Olin: 24:51 Yeah, and I think that’s the point too is, there is so much going on when you’re going through a separation. You’re balancing what’s best for the kids. You’re trying to figure out your own living situations. You’re trying to figure out work, balance of work and home life. Finances is such a big part of it, and maybe it’s just brain capacity that to sit there and really take it all in. I remember it was, what are you making right now? Show factual information around that. Okay, this is the agreement. Okay, sign off on it. Go on your merry way. There was no real, okay, six months from now when Freddie loses a big client, or Jen switches to another job, do we come right back running to the lawyers? I have no idea. And so, there is a lot of questions there that I just didn’t even know to ask.
Leigh Sellers: 25:49 That could make it harder, when you really are trying to focus on the children, because in some ways that is why the questions are coming up. But on the other hand, it probably just really falls in a very uncomfortable zone. You’re talking about money with someone who you’re not sharing a household with anymore, and it is fraught with finances. What were some tools that you guys sort of had to get through that, to make sure that, I would say, so that it’s not always the same conversation over and over, because if there is an income disparity? [crosstalk 00:26:24]
Jen Olin: 26:24 Yeah. No, and-
Leigh Sellers: 26:26 … conversation because is this going to be the same person being asked to contribute more in situations where there is an income disparity if it stays the same.
Jen Olin: 26:36 Yeah and I remember the first couple of meetings, we let the financials take over the majority of the meeting time. And again, I’m going to shoot some props to Freddie here, but I remember him saying, “I think we need to cut a time. We need to say, okay, this is the same conversation we had last month, there’s nothing new we’re going to accomplish this month, let’s talk about something else. Let’s move on.” And then we just got into that routine where it was, okay, we get the financial information or conversation out of the way in the beginning, and then it was like this huge weight got lifted off both of our shoulders and we got to sit back and talk about, oh, Elly made a new friend at school. Or, our son’s learning a new sport, whatever it might be, a much more centered conversation back to our comfort zone and why we really wanted to be in the same room together, and continuing that really strong relationship. But, it very easily took over the conversation a lot in the beginning, which was really difficult.
Leigh Sellers: 27:37 Freddie, how do you think, you guys have both mentioned this word, support. What are some good examples of how you can support the other parent when you’re parenting in two houses, because you both talked about how important it is that you guys have doing it. What are just some real life examples of how you do that? What does support look like to the two of you, from the other parent?
Freddie Sexton: 28:08 Yeah, great question. Maybe to go back with what we started with, with the focus on the kids and how do we ensure the best possible life for them? Presumably if your ex is struggling with whatever it is, finances, mental health, housing, or lots of other things, jobs, whatever, presumably the more support you can provide for them you’re, in our case with intentionality, the better off the kids are. I sense that other people may view it differently. I hear couples, somebody’s fallen on hard times, or they’re just going to bury them and crush them into the ground, and I think that may be spur of the moment, or I don’t know why people would choose that. But doesn’t matter what happens to the other person, they’re always going to be the parent of your children. So, maybe try not to be as, I don’t know, mean. That’s a hard word for me, but maybe sympathetic and understanding, and that other person’s always going to be there.
Leigh Sellers: 29:23 Very good points. Jen, do you have anything to add to that?
Jen Olin: 29:27 Yeah, I mean, that’s a real life example for us. I mean, I was struggling, needed a new job, and because of our connections and our conversations getting together, face-to-face having these conversations, Freddie knew I was looking for a new job and he was the first one to try to introduce me to some of his contacts. Because if I was out of a job, it doesn’t end well for the kids. I mean, of course I’m stressing out about it, so that doesn’t help your mental health and everything else. So, he’s absolutely right, I mean, you may not think about something as big as, the other person’s job or what someone else might be going through, but it trickles down and absolutely affects them when they’re with your children. And so you want to be as supportive as possible, and it goes a long way. It kind of just happened naturally which I’m very thankful for, but to really sit and think about it, that’s so important, supporting the other person. I’m not talking about financially, but just in any way that you possibly can.
Leigh Sellers: 30:27 You both mentioned this in different ways where you were talking about being flexible about the schedule, about one of your children not being able to really go that long, or seven days, without seeing the other parent which is remarkably helpful for the children that it’s not so much about my time, your time. But, talk about some of the difficulties you have when it isn’t your time, when the children are at the other parent’s house and you’re not actively, I guess, on deck. How do you deal with that?
Jen Olin: 31:05 I know that for me, I had a really hard time in the beginning not being with them, and I don’t know if there’s a really good answer around it. I think there’s a lot of practice, mental practice, you have to do to get to a good place, and I think even when you’re by yourself, you can ask yourself the question, is this the best thing for the kids? And I can’t imagine my kids not being with their Dad, I mean, that would destroy them and so, the answer is, absolutely, yes. So, if this is going to be our life and detour that we decide to take, then that has to be shared. And I think that we’ve both done a good job of being respectful of each others time. No one’s taking away from someone else’s time, or we do an even trade so we both feel like we’re getting the time that we need.
Jen Olin: 31:53 But I mean, me being flexible for a trip that Freddie wants to take the kids on, and I say, “Yes, absolutely,” the next time I ask him, “Hey, can you be flexible so I can take the kids on this trip?” He’s going to say, “Yes, absolutely.” So, I think it’s the kindness that you show towards someone, and if you both can agree that it’s in the best interests of the kids, then I think it can come back tenfold to help the whole situation, especially them. I mean, I would never want to take away from them to be able to have an adventure with their Dad, or go on a really cool experience that maybe I don’t have the opportunity to take them on right now. Why should they be held back? So, yeah. Freddie, do you have anything?
Freddie Sexton: 32:32 Something that comes to mind is solitude. So, I remember how quiet my life was when the kids weren’t there. It was like, man, I didn’t expect it to really feel like that, and I recognized that, and I would just call people up and be like, “Hey, what are you doing? Let’s get together, let’s go do something. Let’s go look at the sunset, or whatever.” So, I definitely struggled with that, but that was kind of an unknown. Yeah.
Leigh Sellers: 33:03 Freddie, I think you had mentioned once when we were talking earlier, that people would joke and kind of make fun and go, “Wow, it’d be great not to have my kids half the time,” or something like that. And you do not find that sort of joke funny.
Freddie Sexton: 33:17 Yeah, and a lot of people say it to me, “Oh man, it’d be great to have a date night or whatever, or a date weekend,” or things like that. And I think it’s important to recognize, for everyone to recognize what their life is like today. I know that I take lots of the aspects of my life, and my health, and how the way I’m able to live my life totally for granted. So, I feel like comments like that kind of smack of that, and that they don’t come from a very grounded place, and I’m not sure how serious they are, but I get a fair amount of people that share that with me. And I’m like, “Yeah you do, but you don’t get to see your kids nearly as much as you’d like to.” And it’s not possible for that person that’s thinking that or saying that, to feel that solitude that I shared a second ago, because presumably they haven’t had it.
Leigh Sellers: 34:18 Jen, you brought up something in earlier conversations, and I thought this was one of those things that I don’t think people are thinking about when I’m working with them, is one thing that you weren’t expecting is how you were going to feel when Freddie had a new relationship. Or you have this additional now, person that’s in Freddie’s life that’s now in your child’s life. I think, Freddie, you’re remarried?
Freddie Sexton: 34:44 Yes.
Leigh Sellers: 34:45 Okay, so step-mother.
Jen Olin: 34:47 Yep.
Leigh Sellers: 34:48 [inaudible 00:34:48] term.
Jen Olin: 34:51 Yeah, it was really difficult. And Fred had a couple of different relationships, and I would obviously, we had both promised each other again, that question, what’s best for the kids? Speaking kindness with the kids, you can ask questions, not leading questions. What’s going on? Have you met this person? How do you feel But also, Freddie and I have always been honest with each other through this separation if we are seeing someone, so it wasn’t unexpected. We’re not hearing it from the kids, we’re hearing it from each other first. But yeah, I mean, nothing can take away from the emotions of Freddie has found this fantastic person, and she loves our kids. She’s a wonderful stepmom, and there’s this raw emotion of being scared or sad sometimes when they’re being taken care of by her, just as good as when they’re being taken care of by me.
Jen Olin: 35:49 And my emotions are real and they’re nothing to hide away from, but when you go back to that question of, what’s best for my kids? I mean, they have a mother who loves them at both households when they go back and forth, and so 100% this is the best choice for them. So, I’m very lucky that they have her, and that Fred has her, but you don’t expect, you can never imagine how you’re going to feel until you’re actually in this space where the four of them are – she has two kids as well, so you can multiply to six very fast – on Thanksgiving together. And they’re spending time with their new Mom and their other siblings, and having a fantastic time. And I think that part of what has helped through that is, again, not this battle of my time, your time, my time, your time, because Freddie and I have always, no matter what time, day, weekend it is, if the co-parent wants to talk to the kids to say, “Hi,” they absolutely can do it at any time.
Jen Olin: 36:57 And just hearing their voices on the other side of the phone, and how much fun they’re having, and that they’re happy and safe, and well taken care of, helps with those emotions and how you might be feeling. So yeah, I mean, we’re extremely lucky, but you just don’t know until you’re in the situation how you’re going to feel when that happens, and you hope that it does for the other person, for sure.
Leigh Sellers: 37:18 And Freddie, how did you deal with that? I just think that would be almost like being stuck between two women in some ways. I mean, was it difficult for you to be, knowing that this component was happening? And you’ve built this great, co-parenting relationship with Jen it sounds like. And then, okay, here I come, I want to bring in this element.
Freddie Sexton: 37:38 Yeah, good question. I think it’s a pretty easy answer for me. I definitely identified a lot of my shortcomings in my personality through some of these coaching exercises, and whatnot, and just basic things like I said earlier, paying bills, or organization, or cleanliness, or some of these other things where I was totally failing at. So, I guess it wasn’t a hard choice for me to know that I’m barely holding it together, and I was still trying to run one of my businesses, and other kinds of things. So, for me and my personality, I think I’m better off with a supportive and loving partner. I don’t feel like I do that well by my own, so yeah.
Leigh Sellers: 38:29 Well, I loved that with Jen, she didn’t just say the kids were lucky, she was happy for you, and it goes back to this fact of the support that you guys share for each other, that it was something you needed and she’s happy for that, and that’s definitely extraordinary. And I would think that behavior towards each other would be a great model for your children. How do you think the way that you guys have dealt with any disputes or disagreements, or just issues and problems, what do you think it’s been teaching your children to watch the way you guys parent? Because they’re all school-age now, they would definitely have friends that have different situations.
Freddie Sexton: 39:09 I don’t think it really impacts them that much. I mean, Jen and I communicate so much, I think them viewing their lives versus other kids or things, they have a Mommy’s house and a Daddy’s house, but I feel like everything else is kind of the same from their point of view. I mean, they’re loved, and they’re fed, and they have fun, and that’s what’s important in their lives right now.
Leigh Sellers: 39:36 And a lot of people would measure that as success, your kids are having a childhood.
Jen Olin: 39:41 Absolutely.
Freddie Sexton: 39:42 I hope so.
Jen Olin: 39:43 Absolutely.
Leigh Sellers: 39:45 What else would you want to add to a conversation, knowing that you’re not going to know necessarily who’s listening to this, but what would be the most important thing you would want to leave people with that are listening to this, that are struggling to enter into this kind of, who hope to be where you guys are?
Jen Olin: 40:05 Well, I think that first of all, every separation is going to be for a different reason. Our story is our story, and everyone else has a reason why their marriage may not have worked out, but at the core, setting those intentions together to try to help your kids that you brought into this earth have the best life possible, and show that they have two people who love them so much, no matter what’s going on in the background, they love them so much that they will work through anything, goes a long way. And Freddie and I have had multiple conversations where one of us brings an idea to the other person, and the other person saying, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I don’t think that we should do that.” And it’s going back to that intention and that core question, and talking through it to figure out if it’s the best decision, not for me, not for Freddie, but for the kids, that has helped through every step of the way.
Jen Olin: 41:15 So, I would just say, our advice would be, or my advice would be, to set your intentions from the beginning and just have open communication. Freddie and I were on the phone just as recent as yesterday about some decisions that need to be made. With the second phase of opening and things like that, there are a lot of decisions that need to made on the safety for our kids right now, and getting on the same wavelength, and coming up with one answer is not easy, it’s not easy. So, we’ll have many, many more conversations as the pandemic continues to go forward, and that’s not going to go away for the next, what did we say, Graham’s with us in the house for maybe another 10 years, Freddie? So, we’ll have many more conversations together, and many more obstacles and detours. But again, just kind of setting that intention from the beginning has just gone a long way.
Freddie Sexton: 42:04 Yeah, I think that everything started with that intention. Maybe some lower level, more tactical kinds of things like I shared earlier, to stay focused on your mental health and physical health. So, if you feel like you want to go outside, you go outside and take walks. Or, do things that bring you joy and enrich your mind, and body, and soul, and definitely exercise, drink plenty of water, try and put good foods into your body. I think it’s easy to fall into a rut, so the more intentional you can be about that, I think the better. And again, like I shared also earlier, having people around you that can support you is, at least for me, was a big deal.
Leigh Sellers: 43:02 Great. Well, I hope that before the eight years is up, maybe we can have you come back and touch base, and this is going to be like a great experiment talking about it from the perspective of watching them graduate, or get married, or hold their first children, because it’s like you said, it’s going to go on for their entire lives. And it’s just been a real privilege to have you guys here to share your story, and I hope spread some hope with people who are really stuck in the early parts of this. That this too shall pass and then maybe be even better because, I’m sure you remember, it was pretty scary in the beginning.
Jen Olin: 43:46 Definitely.
Leigh Sellers: 43:48 We thank you both for your time so much.
Freddie Sexton: 43:49 Thank you.
Jen Olin: 43:52 Thank you Leigh, thanks for having us.
Leigh Sellers: 43:53 So there you have it, another neighborhood of Splitsville explored. There’s still so much to learn here, so I hope you’ll tune in to the next episode. While Splitsville is not a fun place to be, thankfully it is full of helpful people, valuable resources, and sound advice if you know where to look. See you next time.
Outro: 44:17 The insights and views presented in, Welcome to Splitsville, are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning into this podcast constitute an attorney client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at touchstonefamilylaw.com.[/spp-transcript]