Finding Harmony After the Heartbreak of Divorce
After her split from producer Swizz Beatz, R&B artist Mashonda Tifrere made the journey from viewing his new wife Alicia Keys as a rival to uniting with them as coparents.
For Mashonda Tifrere, 40, the public spectacle of her 2010 divorce from hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz made the breakup even more painful. Then word got out that Swizz had begun his relationship with Alicia Keys while still married to Tifrere, popping the question to the Grammy-winning singer just a month after the divorce was finalized. Mashonda took her anger public — accusing Keys of home-wrecking on Twitter. Her appearances on Love & Hip Hop: New York reinforced her image as a woman wronged.
Fans on team Mashonda and team Alicia eagerly sifted through social media in search of shade. Amid years of upheaval, Mashonda realized the people most affected were her son Kasseem, now 11, and Swizz and Alicia’s sons Egypt, 7, and 3-year-old Genesis. Vowing to do better for their children, Mashonda slowly made her peace with this family dynamic. She shares these lessons in her new book, Blend: The Secret to Co-parenting and Creating a Balanced Family. Sisters asked about her journey to healing, understanding and love.
Folks on Twitter or Instagram think they have the right to tell others how to live. How were you able to block out unsolicited advice?
I just shut down. The truth is, I had been looking outwardly for validation. This was just leading me in the wrong direction. I had to turn everything off and really connect with my higher self.
What has been the greatest challenge in adjusting to a new family dynamic?
You have to heal yourself from pain and past expectations before you can relate to people you've disconnected from. And then there’s a new partner that you really don't know. Plus, you have this small person picking up on all of the energy, so you have to come from a place of love and respect.
How did you overcome your personal feelings?
I didn't want my son to see and deal with the pain and confusion that I felt as a little girl because of the choices my parents made. Our experiences as children shape us as adults. I went to therapy. There is a lot of stigma around it in our community, but therapy works!
Who did you look to for coparenting guidance?
My grandmother raised me. She had the most beautiful relationship with my grandfather’s wife. Both women were so loving to every child involved. So after all the smoke faded, that memory came to me. I wanted to follow in her footsteps.
When did you realize the work you put in was worth it?
This summer, we vacationed together in the same hotel and on the same boat. We enjoyed each other, and my son was in his comfort zone. He didn’t have to worry about not being able to talk to Alicia because I was there and vice versa. It’s taken us three years to get to this point.
So, what do Alicia and Swizz’s sons call you?
[ Laughs] Alicia came up with the name Mooshie, and it’s stuck, so …
How does your family celebrate holidays?
Kasseem celebrates half of every holiday at my house and then goes to his dad’s house. Sometimes, they invite me over and we just do it all together. For birthdays, there’s always just one large party.
What about bringing a new partner into this family dynamic?
I was in a serious relationship three years ago. Once I felt comfortable, I introduced him to my son. I spoke to my son's father about him. And you know, we (the adults) ended up all getting along. So, while that relationship didn’t work out, I would take that same approach again.