Nine secrets your spouse’s ex may not tell you.

Do you have an ex in your life, which makes your life hell? Does it feel like even though your spouse got divorced, that they are still married? Would it surprise you to find out that you put up with more than you have to, simply because the ex says you do?

Below are nine ways to stop allowing the ex to run your life. And, how to remove the welcome mat from your porch and your forehead respectively.

1.  You didn’t marry them; they are not your ex.

This person your spouse or significant other married and consequently divorced, was not who you planned to spend your life with. The word exclude, starts with ex, do just that.        

2.  The ex does not own your spouse just because they share a child.

If your spouse is the non-custodial parent with visitation; it is difficult, but not impossible. Though no longer a team in terms of marriage, they are a team in terms of the child/ren. The ex can only control what the divorce decree says. If the ex has sole legal and sole physical, s/he has the say over schooling, medical and religion. However s/he is required by law to encourage and nurture a relationship with any and all family members of the child’s non-custodial parent. This includes stepfamily, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Better yet, did you know your spouse has a right to daily phone calls with their child, unless noted differently in the divorce decree?  

3.  If you want to attend a school or sporting event – you can. Doctors’ appointments too.

Sporting events are public; anyone and their grandmother can attend. If you want to go, go. Same goes for school recitals, back to school nights, etc. In fact most schools will do separate conferences so that both homes are involved in the child’s educational progress and needs. In terms of doctors’ appointments you can go with a spouse, or have your name added to the child’s file as someone who has a right to medical care and information. It is really no different than having access to a credit card or utility bill that may be solely in your spouse’s name. You can gain information and have some involvement.

4. Your spouse’s visitation time is your spouse’s choice to spend it how they wish. 

The ex-spouse cannot commit you to anything on your time. This includes sports, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties etc. It is a double edge sword though because if by not taking the child to certain engagements will hurt the child in the process, it is a no win situation. But, by no means are you required to do it.

5. Follow your divorce decree, not the ex’s divorce commands.

It can’t be any more plain stated than this. The divorce decree is your spouse’s bible in a sense. It states what is expected, allowed and forbade. Non-custodial parents have more rights than most realize, like rights to medical and school records. Do your research.

6. If your spouse and their ex share joint legal and joint physical custody – your spouse’s say is just as important as the ex’s.

One is not more than the other. In some cases, one parent may have sole physical custody, while both retain joint legal custody. You need to know the differences of these and what your spouse has.

7. The ex can only control what there is no control over.

If a void is visible, the ex will invade. One place the ex will try to invade is your marriage. This is your territory – be territorial enough to remind the ex, this is not their place, and their existence will not be tolerated. Stand your ground.

8. The ex’s issue with you, is a reflection of an issue with themselves.

Any parent who is content with themselves and their own level of involvement and parenting they provide will never limit or control the parenting or involvement of anyone else. This is a well-known fact.

9. In terms of child support, do your own math and research.

Many parents pay more than they should, and feel as though they have to roll over and take it. If your spouse feels there is a substantial change either in their income or the ex’s, request a review. If your spouse is on disability or the ex is on disability make sure the child support office is aware. You’d be surprised how many parents overpay because they failed to double check or request a review.

There you have it, nine ways to limit or exclude the ex’s involvement in your home, your marriage and the relationship with your stepkids.
 

Five stepfamily myths – busted!

  bustedMyths:

∗Don’t be a Mom, be their friend
∗Don’t be the disciplinarian
∗Stepchildren should be allowed to misbehave
∗It is easier without the other parents involvement.
∗You will eventually grow to love them, and they will love you.

Chances are, if you are a stepparent, you’ve had these said to you by either a successful stepparent whose life is perfect – and possibly lives in denial, a family member or worse; your own friends. Here are five common myths, and tips to prevail.

#1 Don’t be their Mom, be their friend.
It was about a few months in when a friend of my significant other muttered this very statement. It was followed up by “He already has aunts, grandma, and me, he doesn’t need anyone else.” Those words are as fresh in my mind as the day she spoke them. What I should have said was this: Last time I checked, his mother hasn’t been in his life for years. Furthermore, Aunts are aunts, Grandmas are grandma’s and you are a friend. Therefore, looks like the Mom position is currently vacant, so I am just going to go right ahead and slip into whatever role his father and I choose. Instead of course I sat there with the deer in the headlights stare, and a broken heart. This is solely a decision that is left up to the people who it effects, your spouse, your stepchild and yourself. 

#2 Don’t be the disciplinarian.
Okay, let me get this straight, what you are saying is that if the child misbehaves with me, I need to wait until his father comes home to rectify that? Or, if I see him misbehaving even when his father is home, I am supposed to run to his father and tattle that he is doing something wrong and make him deal with it? Whoa honey, no freaking way! Sorry, not happening, uh uh. NO.  Allow me to explain why in two reasons. First, respect is built by setting expectations and firm foundations, and allowing the go around or discipline to doled about by someone else, is less effective. That simply permits the child to be disrespectful and to misbehave until dad gets home. And, the second reason is, have you ever asked your husband to take the garbage out…. it can take days!! Discipline needs to be done in the moment, direct, and efficient for it to work.

#3 Stepchildren should be allowed to misbehave.
When venting to friends about the difficulties in blended families, and building a relationship with your stepchild you hear the difference in responses when the conversation of ill behaviors arise. When you are talking about your biological childs misbehavior to another parent the responses are “Oh yep they get bitchy when their periods are coming” Or, “Oh, I would have spanked her ass, and grounded her until she was 16!” But, not with stepchildren. Those responses are “Oh, she must be going through a lot. You need to love her through this phase.” Or, “Well consider how she feels, she’s angry, lost and confused, she just needs patience.” While, I can give the benefit of the doubt and show compassion like any other parent for a majority of situations – I am not an idiot! Sometimes, kids are little shits, and do bad things, and misbehave. ALL KIDS. They all need the same reaction and same treatment. No different. Same love, same discipline – same, same same.

#4 It is easier without the other parents involvement.
Really? For who? The child? Or, me? I used to believe this myth. I was wrong. My stepsons mother is not involved except maybe three times a year, by phone – if that! Yesterday was the first day of school, and all day my mind was overrun by thoughts like, will she call? Why didn’t she call? Who does that? Sure, I made sure to ask him about his first day, and I made sure to take those all important first day photographs, his father and I took care of the school clothes shopping and the school supplies, without one care or concern from her. She is not involved with him, but she and I are involved in that she lives permanently in my head, rent free. She lives as the fear I have that she will never call, or that she will call. That she will never come back for him, or that she will come back for him. That she will always be the one he wants, because he so badly wants her to want him. I worry she will let him down either way – and there will be nothing I can do to prevent that heartbreak.

#5 You will eventually grow to love them, and they will love you.
I’ve never been one to blow smoke up anyone’s skirt, mostly because I don’t smoke and I have no business up another woman’s skirt – but nonetheless this is not always the case. Sure there are some gloriously unified step families that just work. However, there are plenty of blended families who live to respect their parents choices, and live a life without a bond or love for their stepparent. In the same sense, there are stepparents that tolerated their stepchildren until they were old enough to live on their own. A stepparent/stepchild relationship can’t and shouldn’t be forced. If it happens naturally and effortlessly that is fantastic and makes life that much easier. But, don’t be surprised or feel doomed if it doesn’t happen for you right away, or at all. You can still foster a relationship with mutual care and respect.

Contrary to popular belief no one really has the answers on how to be the best stepparent. There are plenty of articles and advice from those that have lived it, and while those should be respected if only as a differing point of view, you don’t have to agree. You need to do what is best for you and your step-family. For me, I choose to be the mom, not the friend to all my children, step or otherwise. My significant other and I are the two leading adults in our home, we are partners in the responsibility for raising healthy, happy and well adjusted children who we chose to love, care and discipline regardless of the person or whose child is whose. Children and Stepchildren, are the same. Period. Maybe, one day the lack of involvement from the other parent will change, maybe it won’t – don’t allow that to limit your involvement. Love your stepchildren/stepparents as best as you can, if you have to fake it at first, do that. If its not there, respect them.

After all, we are all in this together.

Divorce & the StepMom

Have you ever awoke from a dream that was so intense and real that your heart breaks as you open your eyes?

I dreamt about him again, and its such a double edged sword because even though for the duration of the dream we’re together again, there is always the waking up that rips him away.

Divorce sucks, everyone knows that,  divorce with your children involved even worse, but nothing is worse than divorce with a stepchild.  Nothing.

Ethan was only one when he blessed my life. Having had a hysterectomy after my son, I always believed God wasn’t done with me as a mother, therefore he brought me Ethan. We had him in our home every other week for a week at a time, which is virtually unheard of at his age.

At first, it was hard to get used to, because my children were 5 and 7 at the time. Diapers, sippy cups and highchairs were a thing of the past. But, it took no time at all to fall in love with this blonde little sweetheart.

He always called me mom, because he copied my kids. It was hard because his mother hated it. It was something he chose and though I was uneasy with it at first, I grew to love it and to call him my son. Raising him was a joint responsibility in our home. In every definition and action I was his mother, and I loved him dearly, and still do.

Through battles in court, battles between my husband and his mother, I fought hard for this little kiddo. My love for him and my relationship with him, is what started my blog, and my parenting page. My children took to him instantly and we were a family.  And then after three years, we weren’t.  He was gone.

His dad left for another woman. He left while my kids were not at home, and while Ethan was with his mom. There was and has never been a goodbye on either end.  My children were left heartbroken by the dual loss of a stepfather and brother. And, I, well…I haven’t seen Ethan since. Except in photos here and there.

image

That is probably why I still dream about him. In my dreams Ethan calls me mommy, and hugs me so tight as if to hold me over until our next date in our dreams. He caresses my face and tells me “I love you mommy” the way he used to do. This time I was so happy to see him that I was crying, and woke up feeling as though I was going to cry. My heart hurts, still, a year later.

It makes me hate his father, and the woman he left our family for. The woman who informed me it was better for Ethan and my children, to not see eachother or the man that was a father type in their life. She has no children of her own, how does she know? She made the rules and he followed them.

While I’m thankful my ex is gone, and even more delighted that they two now are eachothers karma;  I miss my son. I miss his laughter, his silliness, his sweet breathy voice and the way he loved me so. I miss him crawling into my lap, caressing my face and telling me stories about bullriding and hockey with his excited little boy voice. I miss him holding hands with his brother and sister and how excited he was to see them when he came home every week. I miss the 3 am tapping on my shoulder, saying “mommy can I snuggle you?”

Now, awake and emotional, I will go on about my day dealing with the loss of my son again. The sinking  feeling in my heart, that dull aching pain which will exist unbeknownst to anyone throughout the day. I’ll suffer quietly because noone understands it and everyone expects it to go away because its been over a year. But, guess what?  It hasn’t. 

It hides away until we meet again in our dreams.  I miss you Ethan, and love you always. 

Top Step-Parent Blog!

Top-10-Step-Parenting-Blogs-200We were, or I guess…I was nominated by someone, somewhere for my blog. It was entered into a Step-parenting contest with fifty…yes 50! other stepparents who share the same passion as I do. And…we ranked in at #5! How fantastic is that? And, how do you thank someone that you have no idea who they are? My best guess would be to continue doing what I have been for the past few years – and one day when my first book is published it can include this anonymous person who believed in me – because it has made a monumental difference.

Its hard to share the love of what you do with people who register writing and blogging as rather insignificant. “What is blogging? Who cares about that? Big deal! I have better things to do with my time” are all things I have heard people say – and while I let it affect me way down somewhere – those comments don’t matter to me today. You, the readers and followers, the stepparents, parents, friends and family are who matters. If we all went off of what the naysayers say – we would never follow our dreams. Besides, the fuel in my life has always been “those people” who didn’t think I could do it, because I love the moments like this…where I do.

So, for today I am going to relish in this small step towards the life impacting writing I hope to do in the many years to come – and to thank you for your continued involvement and support in my blogging.

Read the article here on all of the Top Ten:

http://voiceboks.com/top-10-step-parenting-blogs-of-2014/

Blog post

Tough moms blend with the lid off!

blenderOkay, so it is hard… it really is. And, honestly if you haven’t thought to yourself “What the hell am I doing here, or dealing with this for?” at least once, you aren’t doing it right. Stepping into, or welcoming someone into a blended family – is much more than just another pound of ground beef for taco night. They do not call it blended for lack of a better term. Yes some days it can be blissfully blended, and some days the switch is left on puree/chop and you find yourself hiding in your room, scarfing down reese’s peanut butter cups like they are going out of style!

I’ve been told a number of times by step moms that being a stepparent is the hardest job – and I agree…but why is that?

Too much credit, not enough effort
Broken homes, broken children
All the responsibility, none of the say
You’re an extra – sometimes you take a backseat
Struggle with finding your place

While all those are true, and validated I feel like it can go a little deeper. Stepparents carry along a stigma, and with any statistic, any stereotype and biased opinion – strong individuals like myself feel the need to stand up for, rally against, and prove the nay-sayers wrong. Some stepparents walk around as if the world owes them a favor, for taking on the role. However, those people are who create the stereotype, not negate it. If you are a good stepparent, it is because you are a good person. Because you have strong work ethics, strong resolve and most likely a good sense of self. We don’t get a badge of honor because we stepped into a role, we earn that honor, from the relationship and time taken to honor your spouse, by loving and caring for their child.

Think of it like this: take all your experience about parenting, life, and your opinions about religion and so on and throw it in a bag, every trick you have used to raise your children, and toss it all in there. Then add in every emotion, confusion, frustration, love, doubt, etc. that you have felt as a parent or human being – and shake that bag with all your might. Now take out all the experience, and opinions – and leave the feelings…that is being a stepparent. You have a bag of all these tools, ideas, and ways that worked for your children, or the desire of something to try, but ultimately you can’t always parent the way you want or see fit, because your role isn’t always to implement; sometimes it is solely to support.

#1 Dad

Now if you are like me, you are an implementer, we always know the best way – the RIGHT way. Therefore, when we see struggle, you want to rush in and save the day –  but you can’t. Can’t isn’t addressing your ability, it is addressing your position.  And, that sucks…nothing is harder than having a motherly urge to fix a situation, and then realizing that it is not yours to fix. Trust me, I am fixer…I can fix an-y-thing! However, this is where being Dad’s #1 support comes in.  Behind closed doors, discuss with him some options, opinions, etc that he can implement as he see’s fit. Then stand behind him and support him. There is of course, a sticky downside, you can’t get upset when he doesn’t agree or want to implement what you see as fit. And, although you may be muttering a smart ass remark under your breath – you will learn to smile, breath and try again tomorrow 😉

Will you love your stepchild right away, or will they love you? NO! In fact, I liked my boyfriends son more at first, before I started dating him, when he was purely my son’s friend. Then we started dating, and his son and I just butted heads at times. We still do, there are times where I am the frustrated, wicked step mom, and there are times when he loves me. It is expected that both you and your step child will have hard times, a child is a wonderful blessing yes, but as with your biological children, you will get frustrated, irritated and disappointed. The difference is the bond being built at birth, verses being built following the break of another. I’m sure you have heard the saying “It takes a strong man to step up to the plate another man left at the table” but what about the child whose plate was served by one person, and cleaned up by another? That is a monumental life change. Its an act of getting to know each other, likes, dislikes, building a foundation. I am sure there are times where I am seen as the evil step mom, and there are times where I just don’t get him; but at the end of the day – we keep trying. And eventually, it will make more sense, it will be less effort and more natural.

Ahh Blended…lives, homes, beliefs, families, parenting, rituals, traditions etc… that is a whole hell of a lot to blend; does that even all fit into a blender? No wonder, the top blows off and you have an explosion in your kitchen at some points. But, we learn to enjoy the mess it makes, when the lid  is off.