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In this episode, Mikki Gardner, a certified life and conscious parenting coach, shares her personal journey of co-parenting and the insights from her latest book, ‘The People Pleasers Guide to Co-Parenting Well.’ She discusses emotional regulation, self-care, and the framework for identifying and overcoming people-pleasing tendencies. Mickey emphasises the importance of self-awareness, agency, and aligned action in navigating co-parenting and step-parenting challenges.

Mikki’s free gift:

Mikki Gardner: The awareness is that we know what we’re doing. We’re aware of what’s happening in the moment. Agency is then being regulated enough to understand what are the choices that I have available.

Laura Jenkins: In the Blend is a podcast series that helps parents and step parents navigate life in a blended family. Join me as I speak with experts and guests to get practical advice on how to create a more harmonious blended family life. Having grown up in a blended family and now a decade into raising one of my own, I bring a personal perspective to these conversations and we dive deep into the unique dynamics, logistics and challenges of raising a blended family. From new partners to juggling mixed finances, we will help guide you through it. Welcome back to In The Blend, where we dive deep into the intricacies of blended family life. I’m thrilled to have you join us for today’s episode featuring Miki Gardner, a certified life and conscious parenting coach. In this conversation, Miki shares her personal journey of co-parenting and draws from her latest book, The People Pleasers Guide to Co-Parenting Well. We delve into topics like emotional regulation, self-care, and the essential framework for identifying and overcoming people-pleasing tendencies in the context of co-parenting. What I loved about this chat was Mickey’s emphasis on the importance of self-awareness, taking agency in our actions, and why we need to learn to respond rather than react. Her practical advice is sure to resonate with anyone navigating the complexities of blended family dynamics and further, simply anyone trying to master the art of adulting. So without any further ado, here is Mickey Gardner. Mickie, it is a pleasure to have you here today. I recently had the opportunity to listen to you on another Step Parenting podcast discussing the insights from your latest book. And I must say that your expertise and your perspective in relation to co-parenting really did resonate with me, Mickie. So I knew our listeners here at In The Blue would greatly benefit from what you’ve got to say. So thank you for being here today.

Mikki Gardner: Oh Laura, thank you. I’m super excited to be here and I am so intrigued by your accent and I love it so much. So I’m excited that today I’m the one with the accent.

Laura Jenkins: Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to write the People Pleasers Guide to Co-Parenting Well, which is your latest book?

Mikki Gardner: Yes. Yes, yes. It’s a mouthful, I know. First time author lesson right there. Just be careful with how many P’s you throw in a title. No, thank you for having me. I’m a certified life and conscious parenting coach. I host my own podcast as well called Co-Parenting with Confidence. And I wrote the book, The People Pleaser’s Guide to Co-Parenting Well. My most important job though is being a mom to my 14 year old son. and my four-legged dog who hopefully won’t make any noise here while we’re recording. But I, you know, I came to this, I think like so many of us do, you know, it’s the what we need to learn the most. And I got divorced. I had no intention of getting divorced. I mean, none of us do when we get married. But suddenly I found myself in a marriage that, you know, in an instant, everything I thought I knew to be true about our marriage was suddenly not true. And looking back, I realized that wasn’t as instantaneous as I thought it was, but it sure felt that way. And it put me on a journey over several years of learning how to allow this to be a catalyst for change. And I had to learn and shift my perspectives on pretty much everything. I come from a family, there isn’t divorce. My parents, we just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. It just wasn’t something that I ever thought I would do. And so I really had to learn how to shift my perspective. And once I started to do that, and once I started to learn how mindset and embodiment and somatics came into play, I was able to start to actually co-parent differently. And I started to have a different relationship with myself first and foremost, but then with my son and then with my ex and kind of with everybody. And so then I was like, holy moly, we’re onto something here. And so I had found life coaching and it was really a game changer for me. And so I really devoted my life at that point to be a guide and a mentor for women as they navigate this process, because it can be very alienating, lonely, And I know, you know, from being in a blended family, you can feel like you’re all on your own, even though you’re in partnership, even though you’re in Relationship with other people, it can feel so alone when you feel misunderstood, when you feel like the outsider. And so what I really want to do is help guide how can we start to shift that and how can we start to actually create the homes and the families and the relationships that we really desire because it’s possible for each of us.

Laura Jenkins: Actually, I’d love to touch on emotional regulation because this is something that whether you’re just newly divorced or you’ve been divorced for a while or you’re a stepparent who’s navigating a co-parenting environment that you’re coming up against all the time. How would you define emotional regulation and why is it particularly important?

Mikki Gardner: Yeah, okay. So emotional regulation and kind of nervous system regulation are two things we hear a lot about. So we all have emotions, right? This isn’t a newsflash, but so few of us were actually taught how to feel or process our emotions. We actually were taught how to suppress them, how to ignore them, how to avoid them, how to numb them, right? We live in a society that can tell us a million ways in an instant to not feel our feelings, right? whether it’s to eat something or to drink something or to do something or to buy something, right? So we actually are just inundated with all these messages about how to not, the sub-messages, how to not feel your feelings. But the magic is all of the wisdom is held in those emotions, right? Emotions or feelings are literally just little messengers. Yes, they seem terrifying and scary at times, but they’re messengers from our body being sent, traveling through our nervous system to our brain to send a message, right? And so they’re actually useful. But again, when we’re always shutting them down, we can’t access that wisdom. So that’s sort of like the backstory. Why did I get into that? Well, so many of us don’t know how to feel our feelings. We just want to feel the good ones. We want to feel the joy. We want to feel the happiness. We want to feel the love. But we don’t want to feel the anger, the rage, the bitterness, the sadness, the jealousy, right? All of these things, but it’s actually all of them that we need. So emotional regulation is really just learning how to be aware of your emotions. And ultimately what we’re looking to do is be aware of them and learn from them. But emotional regulation is just learning how to sort of neutralize and get yourself back to baseline. The way that I like to think about it is it’s like we’re either reacting to life or we are responding to life. I call it taking responsibility, which is response hyphen ability. It is our ability to respond to our life. to our triggers, to other people. But as long as we are reacting, right, all we’re doing is either running from, avoiding, suppressing, and we’re basically just giving away all of our power. So I love visuals. To me, reaction is kind of how everybody, so many people, let’s just be frank, all of us are living, right? I’m in America, we are in a very reactive state at this point. And I like to think of it as like, it feels like living in a pinball machine. You know, it’s like you wake up in the morning and you get shot out to that little side ramp and then somebody pulls the trigger and boom, off you go. And you’re thrown out into this wild world of sounds and paddles coming at you and bright lights and music and all the things. And you get thrown around and beat up and then you end up in a black hole and then you get spit out to do it all over again at someone else’s will. That to me is reaction. Right, it’s a good analogy. I don’t want to live there. Those days are exhausting, right? That is not the way I want to live. So emotional regulation and nervous system regulation, a lot of people will think of as just being super calm, right? Like, oh, we just need to calm ourselves down. Yes, we do want to be calm, but actually what it means to be emotionally regulated or have a regulated nervous system means that you are at choice. It simply means that you are not in reaction and that your body is sort of at a baseline where it can access the choices available. And those choices are what give us our ability to respond, respond differently, to choose our response instead of just reacting to whatever is happening. So that’s why I think our emotions and learning how to regulate our emotions is crucial. Right. And again, so many of us were not taught this, no blame, no judgment, no shame about it. Like we don’t need to know why. Let’s just go forward from this point and start to do the work because when we do, there’s a trickle down effect to every single person that interacts with us. And so that’s what we’re looking to do.

Laura Jenkins: I so identify with what you’re talking about there, Micki, and 100% agree that emotional regulation is huge. And that skill of being able to stop, pause in the moment and think about how you want to respond rather than just flying off the handle is just crucial in so many aspects of life. What are some strategies that step parents in particular or co-parents could could try in the heat of the moment when they’re feeling the blood rising and they’re really triggered by something that’s been said or done, what’s something that they can do in that moment to help them move to that place of response rather than reaction automatically?

Mikki Gardner: So hitting the pause button, right? One of my favorite tools is you just literally, as soon as you realize that you are activated, right, or triggered, whatever the word that you wanna use. So I teach a three-step framework in the book and in my practice. It’s not mine, I didn’t create it. It’s sort of derived from what I, I believe I’m a truth seeker. I always look for through lines of truth. So this three-step framework, you’ll find it everywhere from all, you know, all the wisdom teachers, the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, like all of them, it really is like all baseline, you pull it down and this is it. But it’s awareness, understanding that you have been triggered, you’re having a big emotion. we can only change what we are aware of. So that is always the first start. So as soon as you feel that blood rising, as soon as you feel the heat coming up in your body or you feel the clinch, for me, it’s like a gut response. I’ll feel like a really tightening in my stomach or the tightness in your throat. Maybe it feels like you’re going to choke a little bit. These are all those moments where we are It best serves us to just stop and pause. And I like to put my hand on my heart because it helps connect back to the body and take three cleansing breaths in through your nose, out through your mouth, right? Our breath is an amazing tool. It’s actually the only response in our body that is both unconscious and conscious. Right? The blood pumping through your veins, your heart pumping, your brain doing its work. Those are all unconscious. Our breathing is also unconscious, but we can tap into this and use it as a tool with our conscious awareness. And so breath to me is always the place we come back to or start from. So if you are noticing yourself, you know, sort of having those moments, just pausing. taking a deep breath, seeing if that can sort of bring you down to a place where you feel like you can start to access what’s really going on here. You know, what, this person just said this, you know, what do I want to do about it? Or, you know, this thing happened that always happens, you know, like, how do I want to respond to it? That’s ultimately what we’re wanting to get to. So that’s pausing, taking a breath, it’s walking away. No one likes that one because it doesn’t seem as fun and sexy as dueling it out, right? But we got to walk away, right? Sometimes that’s actually in everyone’s best interest. My son now says to me, Because he’s 14. I was never a 14-year-old boy. So this is a completely foreign experience to me. And it’s like talking to an alien sometimes. I am genuinely confused on anything that’s happening. And he will argue with me about, you know, that the sky is blue. You know, he’s like a little negotiator and an arguer. And I will fall for it. And then I’ll catch myself, right? And I might be mid yelling. Sometimes I yell, sometimes, you know, like whatever it is. But when I notice, I stop, right? And as soon as I stop, I literally will put my hand on my heart and I’ll start doing the loud breathing. really loud and he’s like oh gosh he’s doing the loud breathing thing again and i’m like yeah uh-huh i am right and it’s he he makes a joke out of it and i make a joke out of it but it actually helps me come it gives me just that brief moment to come back and to just and to remember that i have a choice

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, I love it. It’s so simple, but I think even just taking that time to stop, and in that example you just shared with your son, him seeing you take those deep breaths also in a way breaks the ice for him and gives him a chance to pause as well before he continues. So yeah, I think it can be helpful both ways.

Mikki Gardner: Well, and it also teaches them Like for our children, this is the best thing we can do, right? They don’t listen to a thing we say, but they watch what we do, right? And people remember the way you make them feel. And so he actually just did a presentation in school about anxiety. And one of the things was his breathing techniques that he uses. And I was like, oh, look at that. Look at that. I didn’t know, right? But you know, they’re watching. They do and they learn and other people learn in response to us. And so here’s one thing is give yourself permission to pause. So often we think that we have to have a response, that we have to react, that if we don’t sort of stand up and say something right in that moment, that we’ve sort of missed the boat or we’ve lost the opportunity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listen, if there’s imminent danger, yes. you’ve got to act, you’ve got to move, right? If someone is in danger or unsafe, like this is not a time for, you know, pausing and thinking about it. No, you act. But in what we’re talking about, which is those moments where we’re triggered, when we’re activated, when we’re sort of like really overwhelmed, you can give yourself a permission flip to take some space. to take a pause, to take a breath, to leave the room, to think about it, you know, come up with a mantra. You know, I, you know, when I’m triggered, you just have to say, like, I’ll get back to you. Yeah. Or walk out of the room, give yourself permission to take care of yourself.

Laura Jenkins: Think about it. I love the point you made about the kids watching you and I think that’s why I was particularly interested to talk to you about this topic because we’re the role models in these kids’ lives and if we can’t get it together then it’s modelling that behaviour. Vicki, just wanted to ask you, about the role of self-care because I think this plays a part in the conversation here too and if we take it a step further from walking away, taking a deep breath, how does self-care play a role in maintaining that emotional regulation and What are some self-care practices that you would recommend for co-parents or the parents?

Mikki Gardner: Yeah, yeah. Laura, I love that you asked this question because it’s certainly a topic that we hear a lot about and, you know, many people will say, oh, you know, this is mani-pedis or going to yoga or, you know, taking a bubble bath or having a glass of wine, whatever. If those things, go for it. I’m all for all the good experiences. I believe true self-care is really about making sure that you are fully resourced. Because it is only when we are resourced that we have the ability to respond. When we are depleted, when we’re running on empty, when our gas tank is done and empty, we don’t have anything to give. And unfortunately, most of us run that way with the people that we love the most, right? We’re out in the world, we’re doing stuff, we’re working, we get home at the end of the day, we’re short-fused, and we end up taking it out on the people that we love the most. So I believe that self-care is really about, again, shifting the perspective, not so much around this idea of, you know, I deserve certain things. Yes, we all deserve the goodness and amazingness of life. But what I like to think of as self-care is what do I need to do to fill up my tank so that I have enough to be able to take care of all the people that I love? And so self-care to me is really about how am I taking care of my emotions? How am I taking care of my body? How am I taking care of my nervous system, right? How am I really sort of filling up my cup with enough so that I am fully resourced. And so this looks like, what do you need to be resourced? For me, walks, huge, right? I have always loved walking. I find it very therapeutic, right? And I have a big question on my heart, or I’ve just gotten into the millionth argument with my 14 year old. I wanna go walk, I just wanna walk, right? My poor dog, I drag him everywhere, this thing, because I just walk and walk and walk. But what I heard recently, and I’ll get it wrong, and I don’t know the science behind it, but if you’re familiar with EMDR, which is the rapid eye movement in therapy, so walking actually moves your brain in the same way, right? So while they’re treating, EMDR is used for treating trauma, because it shifts the brain to allow it to sort of access more information. When you’re walking, you’re actually doing the same thing. So I think going on a walk, if you’re able, moving your body in any way is a great way to help yourself be more resourced. So whatever it is for you that helps you do this, and it doesn’t have to be hours and hours and hours, right? But for me, one of the things that I do is my morning routine. I know we hear a lot about morning routines. I actually think they are hugely important because you are setting the tone for your day. You’re choosing how you start your day. So if we wake up, open our eyes, grab our phone and start scrolling, who’s in charge? Social, right? The news, whatever we see, any texts that came in, you know, the angry boss. No, instead, you know, setting aside three minutes to connect with yourself, to set an intention for the day, to decide how you want to go through your day. I start with meditation. I have for over four years every day. I don’t even know how many days it is at this point. I’ve never not, because it’s become so much a part of who I am. But what I like to call it is it’s learning how to keep the little promises to yourself. And that’s what I think self-care is about, saying I matter enough to be resourced, to get what I need so that I can also give it to everyone that I love. So morning routines, exercise, meditation, drinking water, right? We’re just, we’re just animals, right? We’re like, we’re spiritual beings having a human experience in these little meat suits that we’re wearing around. So we’ve got to be kind of a meat suit, right?

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, it makes sense.

Mikki Gardner: It makes sense. But I think so many, I think part of the problem is that we have become conditioned to think that we’re not worthy of the time. or that everyone else is more important than we are. And this to me is what self-care is really coming, this is the point that self-care is about, is allowing yourself to say, I matter. I matter enough to have what I need, to be resourced, to feel good in my body so that I can do other things, so that I can show up as the person that I really wanna be. And I think, you know, people-pleasing, there’s so many things that we start to do, right? And that we’re not, but we’re doing it at our own expense. And so I think self-care is really a little bit of a shift.

Laura Jenkins: Definitely. You have to prioritise it, don’t you? And it’s so easy. I’ll put my hand up and say I can be the first one to remove the gym session from the calendar on a busy day or other things just find their way into that spot. curious to ask you about your book because you just mentioned the people-pleasing term there and that just got me thinking, could you outline the simple framework that you provide in your book for identifying and overcoming those people-pleasing tendencies?

Mikki Gardner: Awareness, agency, which is just a fancy word for choice, and aligned action. So the awareness is that we know what we’re doing, we’re aware of what’s happening in the moment. Agency is then being regulated enough to understand what are the choices that I have available. And then once we understand those choices, then we can take the action aligned in the direction we wanna go. Got it, okay. So it’s really learning how to sort of walk through first stopping, getting awareness, what’s actually happening. Okay, you might have a story of this person just made me so mad because they just cut me off in traffic. Okay, right? But underneath all of that, there’s some other stuff going on. So we have to actually understand and peel back the layers of realizing we are triggered, what’s actually happening. Let’s calm our nervous system down so that we can get our thinking brain back online. So that we can, again, be at choice. Right? Again, that regulated nervous system is getting to choice. So agency is really understanding what are my choices and then the aligned action is what is the action that I can take right now that is going to at least get me moving in the direction I want to go. Right? And that gets us out of that kind of pinball. you know, game.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah. And Mickey, have applying some of these frameworks helped you personally in your own co-parenting arrangement as well over the years? Oh my gosh.

Mikki Gardner: Oh my gosh. Yeah. I mean, I just, I was laughing so hard because today, I’ve had a couple interactions with my ex recently, and we get along very well. I mean, if anyone sees us, they’re like, gosh, they enjoy each other’s company so much. We’re always laughing. And, you know, we were talking today about something and, you know, his experience of the world and my experience of the world. are like vastly different. And he was talking, I was talking about, you know, we really need to help our son with integrity and making sure those actions are lining up with his words. And this was maybe something that was a challenge in the marriage. And he said to me, he goes, you know what, I totally agree with you. This has been like a pillar in my life, one of the most important things. And I was like, what? Who is this? Do you remember 10 years ago? Because I remember 10 years ago. You know, in that moment, I could have flown off the handle. I could have said, are you joking? Like, here’s the laundry list of things, right? But as we build the muscle of awareness, I noticed those feelings come up where I was like, excuse me, but I don’t have to comment on it, right? Because that actually doesn’t get me in the direction that I want to go. And so that’s just sort of like a simple thing that just happened today. But there’s so many times, you know, what I think is so frustrating, many of your listeners might understand this, you know, I send a note, you know, I’ll send three texts, all of them go unresponded. I was just talking to a client today, she’s like, I sent six, and then I started calling. And then I didn’t stop calling. And I’m like, wow, okay, like, let’s talk about what happened there, right? But we have a choice. It’s like we can get ourselves to be more and more and more frustrated, or we can put the brakes on and realize the only person in this moment that is consumed with the frustration, with the anger, and all of that, and the bitterness, is me. Right? The other person feels none of it. And so learning how to really stand up and say, okay, what’s going on here? What are my options? I can let them have it. And sure, it might feel good in the short term, but is it going to feel good in the long term? Maybe, maybe not, right? Or I can handle what’s, I can process the emotions that I’m feeling right now and choose to go in a direction that actually supports my kids, supports, you know, the, the relationship going forward, whatever it is. And so that’s really where The more that we learn to use this framework, the more we learn how to regulate our emotions, the more we learn how to be at choice, we have the ability to start choosing. And when we can start choosing, we’re actually far more willing to have the hard conversations, to stand up for what we believe in, to not people please, but to actually be honest. And that’s one thing I do want to say quickly about people-pleasing. I’m a people-pleaser. Love people-pleasers. People-pleasers are amazing. I mean, who doesn’t love a people-pleaser? We do everything. We get it all done. We’ve got a smile on our face. Everybody likes it. We can be awesome. And when we’re in relationship with other people, of course we want to please them. Of course we do. And that’s a beautiful part of relationship. The part that I’m talking about is the shadow side of people-pleasing, when we’re actually prioritizing other people at our own expense. And the root cause of that people-pleasing, when we will put other people’s needs over our own, other people’s opinions or desires over our own, the root cause is our own inability to feel the discomfort that we’re feeling in our bodies. So I don’t want to feel this like icky feeling that I’m feeling, so I’m just going to go over here and try to manipulate and change it. I’m going to just try to people please over here. And so when we start to understand that people pleasing can actually have a really selfish kind of intent behind it, that’s when we realize that it’s time to start to really look at what’s going on. Because we want to stop being the peacekeeper, right? And we want to start actually parenting peacefully. We might know that some of the people are like, well, how do I know if I vote people pleaser? Well, you know, right? We all do know deep down, but maybe we’re quick to agree just to avoid the argument, right? Maybe you apologize a lot, right? Or maybe you do things even when you don’t want to, but just so the other person isn’t disappointed, right? Or maybe you accept faults when you’re not to blame. Or maybe you find it really hard to say no or you are completely uncomfortable when people are upset with you, like can’t function and move forward. Maybe you give and give and give hoping that it’s going to be reciprocated, right? Or we feel frustrated and resentful. That resentment and bitterness comes from all the things I just mentioned. putting other people, you know, other people in front of us, not being willing to say no. All of these things. And so it’s actually really hurting us. And then we turn around and ultimately hurt people because we’re not being truthful. We’re not showing them who we truly are. We’re sort of giving them a veiled version part of us. Yes. And they can feel it. Right. And especially I think when you I really struggled with this when you know, when blending families, it was incredibly challenging to, I wanted to be this great, you know, like sort of person in my stepkids’ lives. And it was really difficult, but I wasn’t, I had a very hard time sort of navigating that process. And so I give so much credit to all the people out there blending families. I mean, it is, this is co-parenting, I think all of, like parenting is hard. Co-parenting, step-parenting, like that’s taking it up a notch on steroids, like onto the elephant level.

Laura Jenkins: Yes, agree. The skills that you’re describing are actually quite useful life skills as well, whether you’re a step-parent, co-parent, best friend, what have you, colleague.

Mikki Gardner: You know what, I say that I’m a co-parenting coach, they’re really just adulting skills. Yeah. This is how we learn how to adult in the world. And so many of us are actually just reacting to the world from our past, from our wounding, from what we haven’t dealt with. And many of us have never been, we don’t know, right? And so when you start to have these conversations and you start to hear about these things, you know, learning how to regulate your emotions and just take those pauses, it can create massive results in your life. because you start to shift how you’re showing up. When you’ve always sort of like gone one direction, right, maybe you’ve been a little bit of a yeller or an arguer or a blamer and then you start to notice it and shift it, I mean it’s a really big change. And then you start to invite people to interact with you differently. It’s like we start to actually welcome into our life what we want when we stop pushing away what we don’t.

Laura Jenkins: I love it. It’s so powerful, Miki. Before we wrap up today, are there any final takeaways that you’d like to share from your book or from your experience coaching so many co-parents and step-parents?

Mikki Gardner: Yeah. I just want everyone to know that you absolutely 100% are worthy and deserving of the family and the life that you want. And you have the capability to reshape your world and create a harmonious, healthy, happy home for whomever is living in it. And I know that often we don’t feel like we have that kind of control. You do. And it starts with control over yourself. Learning how to show up and be the example, embody what it is that you want. If you want love and respect and kindness, you have to be love and respect and kindness. And it starts with us. And when you do that, you will start to offer the most beautiful gift to your children and to the people in your life.

Laura Jenkins: What a beautiful spot to end, Mickey. Thank you so much for your time today. Where can listeners go if they’d like to get in touch with you, or importantly, get a copy of your book?

Mikki Gardner: Oh, thank you. Well, it’s all on my website, which is just my name, which is Mickey Gardner. And Yeah, the book is there. The podcast is there. There’s ways to get in touch with me. And I would be happy to offer if it’s helpful, I would be happy to offer I have a welcome home. free program. It’s a seven-day program where you get a little note from me in your inbox with seven strategies to start to create more harmony in your life and home today. So if that would be helpful, it’s free. I’d be happy to share that with your guys.

Laura Jenkins: Amazing. Thank you so much, Miki. We will link to all of that in the show notes. Well, have a wonderful evening and thank you again.

Mikki Gardner: Thank you for all you’re doing and for having me.

Laura Jenkins: Thanks for listening to the In The Blend podcast. The show notes for this episode are available at And if you like what you heard, be sure to subscribe and please rate and review in your podcasting app. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.