HGTV star Jonathan Scott recently opened up about becoming a stepdad to Zooey Deschanel’s two children, Elsie, 7, and Charlie, 5. Scott recalled an experience with a tarot card reader whose psychic senses were indicating he would become a father within a year. But considering he was single at the time, he thought it was pretty farfetched. When he started dating Zooey and eventually became a bonus dad, he says it all made sense.
“When she was doing my cards, she’s like, ‘Ah, yes. You will be a father within the year.’ I wasn’t even dating anyone at the time. Three months later, I met Zooey. We then started dating, never even thought of it until all of a sudden — I was the insta-dad.”
The couple has come a long way since their initial meeting on Carpool Karaoke, where both stars were with their siblings, Emily Deschanel and Drew Scott, respectively. The pair hit it off and began dating and went on to buy their dream home, a Georgian-style house built in 1938, in California, which the kids named “the park house”.
This past Father’s Day, Deschanel posted a photo to Instagram of ex-husband Jacob Pechenik and Jonathan captioned “So thankful my kids have these two awesome guys in their lives: @jonathanscott and their dad @jacobpechenik.”
As someone navigating the often treacherous terrain of co-parenting, it’s wonderful to see celebrities, or anyone for that matter, getting it right. Because in a perfect world, this is what co-parenting looks like. Exes, new partners and children alike should all be able to be in the same room, even go on excursions and have a good time. But I often wonder if co-parenting is easier or more difficult as a celebrity.
For those of us who don’t have the wealth and fame that an HGTV star or an actress might, money is almost always the biggest issue. Co-parenting with someone who is unable to make their child support payments can add a layer of stress, inconvenience, deep resentment and most importantly, missed opportunities for children who come from families that lack financial privilege. For ex-couples who live in different cities, provinces or states, not being able to start the private jet or hop on a plane to spend quality time can also affect one’s ability to co-parent amicably with an ex. So in terms of finances, there must be a lot less to worry about.
But on the other hand, celebrities sometimes face a lot more pressure to get it right, so to speak, than non-celebrities. The pressure to keep up appearances and give off the impression that everything is fine, even when it may not be, must be hard to deal with. There’s so much invitation for public scrutiny, and that’s something that even on my worst days of co-parenting, I’ve never had to worry about.
Before social media, access to stars and their lives was very restricted. Photos came from magazine shoots or the paparazzi, or a star sighting if you were lucky. And information that they carefully selected to reveal was really only accessible through radio, TV interviews or my personal favourite, a tell-all memoir or documentary (speaking of documentaries, have you watched the new Shania Twain one? Fantastic!).
Now, though, following a celebrity on social media, one who is active anyway, can really grant you a front-row seat into their lives. A simple podcast listen can expose everything from previously-unknown details about their personality to their deepest secrets and most difficult truths to the world. And with Twitter and Instagram becoming the new place to do everything from issue break up or divorce statements to cancelling concerts and tours, we carry unprecedented access to these celebrities in our back pockets. And what is that access doing to us? For us? To celebrities?
Recently, my partner and I moved in together. His son is 6 and my daughter is 4 and they get along great. But the same can’t be said for me and my daughter’s dad. I often compare my relationship with my ex to my current partner’s relationship with his ex-wife – and it’s very different, they get along well. In our first year of dating, she invited us over for Christmas and during a toast, welcomed me to the family. I was speechless. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Especially considering that on my end, I’ve found myself in a nasty, expensive and ongoing court battle with my ex.
There’s a level of shame, embarrassment, and failure when I think of how sour my relationship has turned with my daughter’s dad. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve laid in bed wondering how we humans can go from loving someone enough to create a child with them to doing your best to not have to speak to them, despite being connected by tiny, wonderful humans. On any given day, I have a deep desire to pick up the phone and call him to share this ridiculously funny thing our daughter just did, or send him photos of her being silly during her time with me. But the current state of our relationship simply doesn’t allow for it.
And call it selfish, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t lift my spirits when I see celebrities who don’t have it all figured it, like Deschanel, Pechenik and Scott seem to. It makes me feel less alone when even celebrities can’t seem to get co-parenting, or parenting in general, right. When I see former couples like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, who between the two of them, have got boat loads of money, having their own issues, it reminds me that not every co-parenting situation is going to be picturesque.
I remember Paula Patton’s bitter custody battle with Robin Thicke over their son Julian. It was a pretty big news story during my pregnancy, but never did I imagine that just a few years later, I too, would be a parent in court.
There are tons of other couples whose co-parenting journeys I’ve witnessed, even before I knew I’d find myself co-parenting with an ex. When my fate changed, being the only woman in my friend group with a child, I really looked to whoever I could, celebrities included, for insight into how they were doing it. I’d read the headlines, the interviews, listen to the podcasts, taking whatever lessons I could from the situations they found themselves in.
Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy’s situation probably stands out the most because it was so heavily chronicled on Real Housewives of New York. Witnessing the frustration, disappointment and sheer expense of her battle with her ex-husband, contrasted against the happiness she seemed to have found in him after some pretty difficult years, was a real wake up call into just how ugly this stuff can get.
It took Patton and Thicke a few years, but they seem to have made great strides in working on their co-parenting relationship. And it seems to be because they sought out co-parenting therapy, another thing you can do when you’ve got the financial means to do so, and something my ex and I could definitely benefit from.
“When we were first going through divorce, there was bickering,” Thicke revealed to Extra last year. “And then we used co-parenting couples therapy and that really opened the door for communication in a much better way for us.”
Thicke went on to say that their son is now thriving. And maybe that’s the key here. It’s no surprise that children do better in environments where there is less stress and hostility – and again, money. And as hard as parents might try to hide the strife in their co-parenting situations, kids are much smarter than we give them credit for. They’re also intuitive beings that can sense the energy in the air. But adults also thrive in environments where there is less stress and hostility.
My daughter has asked some tough questions about the nature of my relationship with her dad. And it’s difficult to answer because I want to give her consistent messaging across both homes, but I’d have to become a special investigator to find out the kind of dialogue happening when she’s not with me.
It’s a tough place to be in, but one thing is for sure. I can still celebrate seeing former couples finding their footing, while feeling incredibly connected to those that haven’t yet. And I can, and will, ride the wings of hope with as much might as I can and pray that we all get there someday.
Attached - Zooey and Jonathan out last night in LA after attending a play.