This morning I received a letter from a fan of my Facebook page named Bobbie Ann Phillips and as I read it I knew instantly this needed to be read by all of you. This is her story and its an honest account of how it feels, of what we don’t expect, our fears and our goals. Enjoy!
” I never imagined I would have to co-parent with an ex of mine, much less an ex of my new husband. I did know I would be co-parenting with my own husband. I never imagined my husband would be someone else’s ex husband. I never thought I would have to share some of “my” weekends and “my” holidays, separate, from “my” son. I never thought I would have to long for the chance to do those same things with and for a son whose dad is dead. I also never thought my deepest fear would be that my third son may someday meet the same fate of a broken home. I never thought I would be fearing completely loosing two of my children if my marriage ever did fail. I never thought most of my scheduling would revolve so much around picking up one set of kids at 6p on Friday, meeting to drop off another kid before or after that, and then meeting back on 6p Sunday for drop off of two kids and then meeting before or after that to get another kid back. I never thought I would both look forward to, and dread those weekends at the very same time. I never imagined I would explain to two of my three biological children why daddy can not be here, or does not live here and the reasons be because of such different circumstances. Circumstances that would cause as much hurt for both of “my” boys and myself as both situations do. I never even imagined my children would have different dads. I never thought I would have “other” kids ask me why my husband, their dad, is not with their mom. I never thought I would be making beds, cleaning laundry, preparing meals, buying necessities, and supporting “other” kids. I knew “my” kids may look past all I do for them and it would hurt some. I did not know having “other” kids look past those same things would hurt as much. I never thought I would have “other” kids sometimes resent me for my role in their lives. A role they only want their mom, and their dad, to have. I never thought I would feel so much hurt for them, and for my husband, because they too come from a broken home. I never thought I would love each person in “my” blended family so much that I would wish each child could have their mom, and their dad, in one home. If I had that wish though, several of my biological children would not exist, and I would never have a chance to even meet two of my “other” children. I would have never met my husband. I never thought I would have to accept that because someone I loved died, and because a different relationship failed I would find new love and create a new family. I never thought I would agree that when one life ends another begins. I feel as though I have personally lost two lives and began a new one each time. I feel I am on my third life, and feverishly pray for it to be my last.
I never thought I would be the “other” parent that another parent would resent. I am that parent whose mere presence in a child’s life causes another adult resentment, and pain. Though “her” family ended long before “mine” began, I never imagined my place with my husband would be a stark reminder of another woman’s lost place with her husband. I never imagined That my place with my step children would be a reminder of “her” time she “has” to share, with me. I never thought my loving them could hurt her as much as it would if I did not love them. I do acknowledge that my presence does cause these things, though completely unintentional. I never imagined two children who “are not mine” would have me so wrapped around their little fingers. I did not know I could love a child I did not give birth to so much that it literally hurts. I did not know I would want to fight so fiercely for my time, my bond, and my place with two children who I feel with every bone in my body are mine. I knew I would have children that would fill my life with love, joy, hope, chaos and clutter. I knew I would do everything in my power to protect, love and cherish every moment with “my” kids. I knew I would become a mom by choice to children I gave birth to. I did not know that I would have that same desire to love, protect and cherish children not born to me. I knew there would be times my children would be angry with me. I knew I would make mistakes and cause hurt. I knew I would mend the hurt, calm the anger and explain why I do what I do to “my” kids. I knew I would both reward and punish “my kids” with no remorse because that is my job as their mom. I did not know I would feel so guilty by my own presence that I would overly reward, and seldom punish the children I did not give birth to. I never knew I would feel I don’t have the right to demand and earn respect from “other” children as much as I do from “my” children. I never thought I would always worry my actions and words would favor “my” children over the “other” children so much that I actually show more favor to “other” children over mine at times. I never thought I would say I am an ex, a wife, a mom, and a step mom, All in one. I am all of those things and I am these things at the very same time. I sometimes struggle to decide which hat I am suppose to wear at which time. All of these inner struggles are real, and part of my life. I am exactly where I want to be. I realize I am exactly where God planned me to be. I do have the husband and children I did always long for. I am thankful for all the good and bad that comes with this life and these roles. Yet I have no idea how to navigate my happiness and love without someone else being hurt, or resentful, in some way because of it. I have no idea why I even care that my presence, my role, and my place effects any person other than my husband, and our children. I just know that I do care.
I do not co-parent with my ex’s new wife or serious girlfriend, not yet anyway. I do know that the day will come when I will. At least, I pray it does. I do want “my” son to have another parent love him. I do want him to have someone else he can learn from, respect, love and cherish. I so want him to know I am okay with him loving some “other” parent. I want her to know that while her presence may cause some stinging, I’m happy to share “my” son with her. I want her to know that he’s “our” son, and that “our” will include her. I know that during my time as a step mom I have learned many things to do, and not to do both with “my” son and towards the “other” parent. I hope I will remember to respect her, and to honestly cherish her. I hope I will remember I should view any person my son loves as an extension of himself. I love “my” son, and so I will love those he loves and that love him. I hope I can remember I should love “my kids” mom because they love her and she is an extension of them. For the love of a child even the most difficult situations on all ends I am involved in will be handled with love and care, by me, for them regardless of how the opposing end on either side of these blended families are behaving. That is my goal anyway. I know I pray daily that God shows me the way to do all these things with Grace in each of the roles I am fulfilling.
~ Bobbie Ann Phillips
Okay, 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.
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.
“Lately, I have been struggling with others views about my life – marriage – family etc. How far do we let peoples opinions, advice, etc in to our homes and how do we do that, and still find a place within our little family and our spouses families at the same time. Below you will find many scenarios of things I struggle with, and some ways to help that. “
My husband teases me that I need an invite before I will just stop by someone’s home. He often times goes to his mom’s house unannounced, will help himself to food in the fridge and take the most comfy chair. Not only does this make me uncomfortable, but its something I would never do. Seriously, I am an adult – and I wouldn’t want someone just stopping by – what if they are having sex or enjoying time alone – or naked walking around the house? That happens at our house, so it is possible.
Call it being sensitive, which I know I am, or you can call it being a worry-wort which I have been since I was a child – either way I don’t want to intrude. Is it possible they want me there, sure – but it’s also possible that even though the like me, they may not feel like having to entertain company. Some will argue that family is not company, I will argue they are both. Putting this into account with other things – I sometimes feel as if I don’t know my place, I don’t always feel welcome and can grow uncomfortable easily. Not because they did, or said anything – because of me.
There are times when I don’t feel included – and when I choose to let it bother me. There were two months that grandma was in the hospital. My mother and father in law – spent the majority of the time there alone – working full-time and spending nights there. Just showing up there – isn’t something I would do, yet I couldn’t understand why when they needed help no one called us. Getting my feelings hurt, it was explained that we have kids – and that all the other people who were too busy or unavailable to help out – didn’t. I never thought about that – I just figured they didn’t want us there. The same with the service, I simply showed up. There was no helping with setting up, or getting pictures, or anything. When it was time to leave – it was my husband’s brother and sister that helped his mom carry things out, and I stood there – not knowing my place. Everyone is different – and in a blended family – this couldn’t be more true.
Take for example my husbands Grandmother that recently passed. Her hospital room welcomed visitors that were immediate family, I had never met. People that were so important to her, that she loved, and then there is me. Having been in the family for a hot minute – I worried I was taking up room for someone else, or maybe they felt it wasn’t my place to be there. Yes, I wanted to be there, both for myself and my husband. But, I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with it.
Today, at the Celebration of Life – the church was full of people I did not know, and very well may never see again. It is also the same church that is led by husbands ex-wife’s family. Her Uncle is the Pastor, and her Grandfather plays guitar in the band. The pastor and I have met, and they are fantastic about staying out of anything about them. The pastor even helps my husband and I as we have problems like every other blended family does. They love my husband, and for that I am thankful. But, did I feel a sense of belonging there? No, it was uncomfortable – however this day wasn’t about me, so I sucked it up. Once seated with my food after the service, I sat next to Grandpa and I never moved. Many people came to speak to him, none of which I knew – but I made my job refilling his coffee cup and that gave me a purpose. Outside of that, I didn’t speak with too many people, and when my husband would leave and visit with others, I stayed put. I didn’t want to follow him around, and literally waited for him to come get me, when he was ready to leave.
Since we had our kids there with us, that meant that my stepson would see his great-grandfather, and as they were talking and he asked him if the kids with him were his brother and sister – I knew he knew, I was the Step-Mom. Had he heard of me? Had he believed what he heard – did he think I was all the things his granddaughter said I was – or was he a genuine christian man – that appreciated the fact I loved his great-grandson? I’m not sure, but I definitely felt on edge, fearful I would say or do the wrong thing – be too friendly or not friendly enough. Should I just leave my stepson with him, and walk away, or do I wait until they are finished and continue on my way as a family, as we had started? Have you caught that I am an over-analyzer yet? Cause I am.
Although my childhood, wasn’t horrible – I do lack the general understanding and feelings of being part of a bigger picture – of being wanted. Being a daughter is foreign to me, being able to go “home” help myself to food, or a comfy seat without notice is something I never had or did. Being a mom, that I know – how I want my children to feel – that I understand but not how to receive it myself. Leaving the church, I don’t even think I said goodbye to my mother in law – I think I just wanted to be home – in my comfort zone. Allowing things to get to me, is something I struggle with. There was an attendee at the service, that always makes a point to make a big deal out of seeing my stepson – but not my two kids. It bothered me. First, he barely knows who she is, and it’s not as if she is actively involved in his life. Yet, the reason it bothers me – is inside me – which I know once I am honest with myself.
Whether it is admitted or not, there is always favoritism in some manner. Whether it be that the bio family is more important, or your spouse’s family feels that your spouse can do no wrong – or maybe even one of the step-kids is liked more. It can go every which way possible. And my favorite – it will all change tomorrow. I have had my brother-in-law and husband both say in the heat of the moment, that I am their mom’s “new” favorite – and there have been times where I swear she doesn’t like me for some reason. There are times when, following arguments – I will feel like we are not family anymore – because that is how my family worked. However, their family doesn’t work like that – they forgive and move forward. This is more than foreign to me, because I am still mad – when they are over it… I simply take things more serious – more final – and have a hard time building that bridge to get over stuff.
There are moments when I feel like no one see’s my point – and no matter how many different ways you try to explain to explain it – it will not help. If you are like me you may get emotional, or feel judged because they seem one-sided. Sometime’s they are one-sided – sometimes they are right. The good thing is that either way, its is your life and you have the right to feel how you feel – even if they don’t agree. In our home, bringing up softball – will always be a lost case for me. If I complain that hubby is playing ball 3 days in a row all day long – I am the bad guy because he played ball so much more when we first got together. Therefore, I have no right to feel as though that’s excessive. To me, if you have chores, or anything that needs attention that comes first. If you are playing in a tournament that is two days and your wife says that she doesn’t want you playing a third day that is unrelated – that you shouldn’t – especially when she is at home with both his kids and hers. When does a mother get 3 days of being able to not have to be a mom? She doesn’t but because it’s a hobby that has been cut back on – we should get over it. I still think I have every right to have been upset – others disagree. The world did not end – therefore life goes on.
It’s not any different from how you parent your children. Chances are there is a good chance you parent differently than your spouse. One major difference in our home is that my husband eats anything – I am a picky eater. When my stepson eats – he eats anything – he will eat it all and whether he likes it or not. My son is picky, he doesn’t like new things and I simply refuse to force him to sit there and choke it all down. I was asked once by a family member on my husband’s side ” So, because when you were raised you were forced to eat things you didn’t like, and your dad was mean to you, you refuse to do that to your kids?” the answer I gave was yes… My answer wasn’t well received – did it bother me? yes, but they are my kids and my kids don’t have to just like my husbands. People can and will disagree with how you parent – but while advice is great – their opinion really doesn’t make a difference unless you want it to.
Discipline is the same way. My husband is far stricter and competitive than I am when it comes to the kids. He has a better follow through rate than I do – yet I remind him that I have pretty great kids – so whatever I am doing must have been working before him. He believes instilling a “general fear” the kind of fear that when you are speeding and see a cop – will make the kids behave better. He also makes it known at times that his son will be better at things, than my children – because of it. My comment is always – I guess we will see. Fear is not something I want my children to every feel when it comes to me, I would rather them worry to disappoint me, let me down or themselves down. I had a home where I couldn’t be honest and talk to a parent about what was going on with me, and when I needed help – I had no one to turn to. I refuse to let that happen to my children – Truth is, we are both good parents – although we don’t always see eye to eye. It doesn’t always mean on of us is wrong and the other is right – it’s just different.
Blended families are hard, when trying to find your place – and trying to assert your independence while showcasing what you have to offer to your spouse and your stepchildren. Many of these people have seen your spouse with the ex, many know that the children are not both of yours – and while at a grocery store or restaurant you can continue in the world of “were a family” – during family events your secret is out. How then, do you manage to be yourself and be comfortable?
First, don’t do the things I did above. Ditch the over-analyzing, don’t be sensitive, and don’t feel watched. Is it possible you are being watched, of course. However, by acting on this, you will most definitely make a mistake.
Second, be kind – initiate a conversation and allow that person to make their own decision on what they think of you. I can’t tell you how many times, I have walked away from a conversation with someone I didn’t think I liked, only to find out that I actually rather enjoyed that person.
Third, Smile, and breath. First because not breathing would lead to passing out and that would only make it worse. 🙂 There is that saying “Smile, because you never know who is falling in love with it.” Its true. Plus, smiling makes you more approachable.
Fourth, identify why you feel the way you do. Is it your head playing into it, or was there really an issue with someone who has caused this? If so, make a plan to talk with the person later, away from the event if it is someone important enough to clear the air with. If its someone who talking to, would make no difference – don’t waste your time or energy.
Fifth, Don’t take it to heart. How many times has someone said to you: “What’s wrong?” for you to say “Nothing, why do you ask?”, finding out that you had a look on your face that looked mad or sad – without even realizing it. Or better yet, how many times have you said or done something that later you realized was probably not the best way to go about it, or maybe was taken the wrong way? We all say things that we may have not meant in that manner, or that we didn’t realize we said. Give the benefit of the doubt.
These work even if you are in a home that doesn’t exactly accept you. The term “Kill them with Kindness” really works – as well as “Fake it until you make it”. Neither of which I am good at. Talking with your spouse or significant other before arriving, can provide you the opportunity to have them be more supportive, and to inform them that you may need a little helping hand here and there.
All in all, you were picked to be in this family – by a key person in the family – your spouse. Find some value in that alone, and realize you have something to add, because there is no one like you. Today, as I was standing outside, my husband was helping his grandfather to and in his truck. I had hugged him goodbye already. Then, I hear my name being called, and my husband was motioning that Grandpa wanted me to come to the truck, he told me he just wanted me to know he appreciated all I had done and that he loved me very much. At that moment, nothing else mattered – I had served a purpose and he appreciated it. He will never know – how much that meant to me either.
After reading many educated articles, I decided to detail what works in our home – in our family. We may not go about it right, and people may disagree but in our home, we are happy. We follow these 10 rules and are a very close blended family. I hope this helps you a little.
- Discipline when the discipline needs to be done and per the situation – (no fair about it, and no waiting)
One of the reasons our blended family works is because we are a family. When my children do something that needs reprimanding, punishment or discipline, they get it per the situation and in that moment. There is no waiting until Dad gets home, or waiting for Mom to get home – and no difference whether step-child or not. If you have trust within your relationship, then the basic understanding of appropriate punishment should be understood. Ensuring that children’s behavior and respect for the parent exists at all times, not just when a certain parent or both parents are home. It also shows the children that you are a team!
- Keep a united front – (even if you agree only to disagree)
This is the one I still struggle with, although I see and feel the importance. If you are anything like me and have Bio-Kids as well as Step-kids, you may suffer from ” they are just kids babe, geez!” for all kids involved. I stick up for ALL of them and can be a little pushover at times. But, trust me when I get my fill – I get my fill! After my repeated interjections, I noticed two things. First, they would go around husband all together and come to me to ask for, ask to, or ask anything. Second, if my husband told them to do something, they would come to me to “check” if they had to obey. This made me snap out of it and I started answering any query’s with ” I don’t know what did Dad say?”. They caught on pretty quick and it created better communication with my husband and I, and the kids learned to respect my husband more, and even me for not being a pushover. Remember children crave discipline and schedules, normalcy is key.
- Tend to your marriage – (without you two, this family would be broken again. Let them see that happiness can exist after divorce)
Following a tough couple of weeks, and endless crap from “the other parent” I felt like the glass was half empty. The husband and I were fighting, I was going to bed sad and worried about our marriage, the kids, everything. We had lost focus on us – we focused only on all the negative going on and the kids and their needs but not us at all. We forget to talk, to ask how the others day was – to even greet the other with a simple kiss. My husbands grandmother told me that regardless of her day, or her husbands day, she would be waiting by door when he got home with a big kiss and hug. Sounds a little silly, I know, but – it makes a huge difference. Go on a date night, go see a movie, order pizza in and have it by candle light. When the kids go to bed, play a game of cribbage, or even a video game – maybe a boxing game if your frustrated!! Any interaction is better than none, and will almost always open up the lines of communication. It is important for kids to see that just because they are part of a broken home, that they don’t have to continue to be. That sometimes things fall about in order to let other things work out. Seeing your parents happy, whether step or otherwise is a good feeling for a child and an important feeling.
- Take a trip – (even if it’s just a couple hour drive to a water park)
Following the tough couple of weeks above, I planned a trip without anyone knowing, not even the hubs! We were going only 3 hours away to a water park. We would leave on Saturday and stay one night in a hotel (kids always love a hotel-especially if there is a pool) and then come home Sunday in time to get our youngest back to mom. The excitement of them not knowing where we were going, was a thrill for them and myself. We all talked during the car-ride and played some games, the husband reached over to hold my hand as we drove. My love tank was filling up – and everyone was happy. Getting away – no matter the distance is huge for any family, but blended families where you get to deal with two sets of “other parents” sometimes we just need a break! With work and everyday life, we drowned out and sometimes take advantage of the people closest to us. Taking time to remedy that works wonders. We didn’t spend tons of money or eat at 5-star restaurants – but we did have a fantastic weekend that put everything back into prospective and back on track.
- Encourage them talking about the other parent, discourage any negative comments as well. (I know, but trust me)
During our week with “little man” he talks non-stop about uncles, grandparents and even mom. As annoying as sometimes it is, and even hard to seem actively interested in every story – it’s worth it for a few reasons.
First, you can almost bet – the other side isn’t like that. In our situation he isn’t allowed to talk about me and dad to anyone on their side. This creates confusion, self-doubt, and unnecessary concern for a child. They should be able to love and share about anything they feel. I won’t lie and say that I don’t ever nod and say “oh really, wow, that’s great” without full knowing what awesome thing mom did – but to him he is happy he is allowed to say it! I still have to elbow my husband, when I hear him muttering under his breath, but he for the most part gets it too.
Second, is that “kids say the darnedest things” right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve participated in a conversation where all of sudden I will click in that something is being said that we should be listening to. Kids share all kinds of stuff, mom’s moved, mom has a new job, mommy’s boyfriend locks me in a closet – you just never know! Pay attention, and when necessary keep track and document it.
Third, and most importantly is that you are creating a bond, a trust with your stepchildren. If they feel like they can talk to you about anything, they will do just that. If they feel like you hate the other parent – they will withhold, reject, and even possibly remain loyal only to the other parent. They should love their parents, even if they are crappy parents and we just wish they’d take a long walk of a short pier – its about them, not us. It goes the same with badmouthing the parent – if you allow it in your home, they will carry it to the other home and vice verse. Its always best to air on the side of caution and expect the same and you provide.
- Don’t treat them any different (Treat them how you’d want a stepparent to treat your children)
When the kids are home, they are home. This isn’t a pit-stop, it isn’t temporary or pretend – this is real life and a real home. We eat meals together, run errands together, attend kids sporting events and school functions together. It should be the same in your home. Children need to feel included, welcome, and at home whether they share your home full-time or part time. If you have children in your home all the time, and one or two that are part-time – they need to feel like it was still their home, their room or whatever else while they were gone. If there is a rule for one child, it should be the same for the other, within reason of course. Your stepchild should never be less while in your home, ever.
- Allow them to call you what they want (respectfully of course)
Here it is, the elusive, she we or shouldn’t we allow them to call us mom or dad? The answer is quite simple – YES. If the child wants to call you mom or dad, let them. If they want to call you Joe, or Molly, let them. Any variance of the two are acceptable per your home when it is their choice. Should you force them to call you mom, or force them to call you Molly? Absolutely not! This goes with the Don’t treat them any different above, most of the time children especially younger – mimic siblings. When you have children calling you mommy or daddy and one that doesn’t, he most likely will at some point because he wants to be just like them. Or, even school age kids who will talk about their mom and dad at home, and you’ll see that even if they don’t call you it at home, they may at school to friends or officials, just to not be different. I couldn’t tell my 1 year old at the time, that he couldn’t call me mommy, and that only brother and sister could. All it does is make them feel like less, not part of the family – and in our home we are a FAMILY.
- Ditch the word: Step (unless you’re talking about the ones that lead upstairs)
We never introduce the kids on either side as our step-son or step-daughter. My husband always says “these are my kids” or “this is my daughter” even though they are technically his step-kids. The same goes for me. In fact most people don’t know where a blended family until we share it, if we share it. The kids call their step-dad by his name or whatever rendition slips out, but at school, practice, or talking to others they always refer to him as their dad. By their choice. Step is an ugly four letter word and we just don’t use it. If you are looking for a way around it, and your uncomfortable saying they are your children, may be try “This is my husbands daughter”, or “My wife’s son”…etc.
- Find a common hobby and share it ( or encourage their talent)
Every child has a desire or something they excel at. Watch them, interact with them and learn what this may be. It may even be something you do, that they begin to like or want to do also. Encouragement with children of any age is huge and goes a long way. Not to mention the undivided personal time with them is priceless.
- Don’t step-back while they are in your home. (Remember: it’s your home too!)
Almost every article, at many educated women with years more experience and degrees, all say to step back – I say STEP UP. Last time I checked we lived in a world where the women are equal to men, and this home I live in is as much mine as it is his (even though the ice cream in the freezer & the hubs don’t seem to agree). Therefore, when his son is in our home, he is just as much mine as his – okay? Granted, on Sunday when he goes home, he is not mine as much – but still is mine in our home. If he is sick, or my children are home sick with my husband, we care for them, if they need to be taken to a doctor, we take them. We do not sit back and wait for the other, nor will we ever. It is no different then if my stepson were on the potty and needed to be wiped, and I go do it. Am I supposed to tell him to wait until dad gets home, or just hold your potty till later because I am only your step-mom? NO WAY! We are a family, all for one and one for all. Even daycare providers care more for children than “they say” Step-moms should be allowed to. That’s ridiculous – and I refuse to step back.
What do you think is missing? Did I forget a key element?
See you next blog – Jess
Maintaining, re-creating and even inventing new traditions is hard work on a blended family. Whether or not to carry on a tradition from a previous marriage – for the sake of the children , or to throw caution to the wind and start all over again is a question we asked ourselves. For us, there was one tradition that took no consideration as even as adults we enjoyed it as much as the children.
Every year the kids know they get a special set of pajamas and a special pair of slippers that can’t be opened or worn until our special night a week or so before Christmas. This particular tradition comes from my side, something I have done with my children since they were born. Which of course begs the question who is it really for, right? My youngest was a just a baby and it started because she simply wouldn’t sleep, and I was exhausted. My husband at the time loaded us into the car, pajamas, slippers and all and we went for a late-night drive. On our search for something exciting, while trying to get little miss to fall asleep – we came across beautiful Christmas lights. There were these two streets which came together and would put on an elaborate production of animated lawn ornaments and lights that led from one house to the next. The lawns were all lined in white bulb lights and every house had its own theme, yet still maintained the uniform flow. One stop for some hot cocoa later, and we had a tradition on our hands.
Over the years those nights came complete with diaper blowouts – being cleaned up along the side of the road. Vomit filled back seats when hot cocoa and our son didn’t mix; and of course some pretty great nights of looking at the most beautiful lights. One night a year we could peek into the life of a complete stranger, imagining what their life might be like, or how it would feel to live in a big home like the ones we visited. Homes that even if on the inside were broken, the lighting and theatrics would work as a beautiful cover-up.
As our marriage diminished, the children needed that tradition, that piece of normalcy – a gentle reminder that somethings do stay the same. Possibly even doubling the occurrence, which in this tradition it did, since now both myself and my ex-husband did them separately.
Now six years later we have both re-married and carried on this tradition ( minus the divorcing of course) to our new spouses and children. The kids still get just as excited picking out the special set of pajamas and slippers, and help with getting their younger siblings equally excited. They still get ready for bed every night close to christmas just waiting for one of us to say tonight is the night – go get your pajamas on. The only difference really is that our daughter likes chai instead of hot cocoa – but the rest is pretty magical every time.
Thinking back now, it is a pretty great realization to see that traditions can take form in any manner, not just from great-grandparents, which seems to be the norm. They can be passed down from friends, family, previous relationships whatever your heart and home are open to.
What tradition did you come about non-traditionally in your home?
Earlier this week if you follow my Facebook page, you’ll remember my posting about some educated and experience stepmother’s in this world have very firm ideas of where the line is drawn in parenting.
In The Erin Experiment, a blog post written in 2010 she writes:
“Regardless of if the Bio-Mom is a crack head and Dad is an emotionally unavailable dork, a very important rule to remember for stepmom sanity is that you are not Mom or Dad – do your best to not act like one. “
and goes on to say in next exercise to be a more content Step-Mom that:
“As women, we’re going to trend to want to swoop in and rescue the children when life has dealt them a blow. If you’re making phone calls to the doctor’s office because Dad can’t be bothered or remember, step away from the telephone and write down what it is you’re doing and how you’re feeling. What you may start to notice is how much you’re doing for them and not for you.”
While I can appreciate her point of view and can see a validity to a certain extent – respectfully I disagree. If you are a parent to another child besides your stepchild – don’t you do these things already? Don’t you schedule appointments, make lunches, take and pickup from daycare, feed clothe and bath anyhow? Wouldn’t it seem kind of bitchy to not do for all the same?
I couldn’t imagine having my stepson come to me and need something, and for my response to be “okay sweetie, well daddy is not in at the moment, but I will write this down and when he gets home I will let him know”. Fat chance, for three reasons. First – he is a child, and may child on our weeks, and I refuse to make him feel any less of a part of our family. Second, it’s not his fault his parents split up – he doesn’t deserve the third wheel treatment. Third, because I am an overachiever damn-it and I want to provide, support and love this little boy – who cares if I get stressed for 5 extra minutes – I’ll live!
In a home where they live by separate rules, separate families – in my opinion it does just that – Separates. Blending a family is hard enough without adding in what can and can’t be done, and by whom – its best to do your best, love your best and treat all children the same. The kids don’t know the difference anyways – they know that in this house there is you and they know you take care of what they need and that all that matters. And, our spouses need us too – we all need help from someone at some point.
I realize life isn’t fair or easy – but when it can be – it should be. When I took my kiddos school clothes shopping, the youngest isn’t in school yet and brother and sister were trying on shoes, he looked at me with bis big blue eyes and with his teeny squeaky little soft voice said “Mommy do I get new school shoes too”? When I said yes to him his heart damn near jumped out of his chest and he was so excited!! Now do you think that was because he got new shoes, or because he got to be involved and do what brother and sister were doing? I think it’s partly both, but more so the being involved.
How do you think he would have felt, if instead I said – “Oh honey, I’m sorry you’ll have to ask daddy when he gets home or have your mommy do it for you?”
See you next post – Jess
http://oivindhovland.blogspot.com/2011_09_01_archive.html image used for blog.
Its always the quiet moments, snuggling on the couch or even helping a child get dressed, that they drop your jaw to the floor with a harmless sharing moment. “Mommy and I have special, private words” said my proud stepson to me one night. With some conversations that are held with any of my children that begin during a time when inside my head I am already co-communicating with myself about the happenings of the day, a bill that needs to be paid or coming up with that all too perfect response to someone that chapped my butt earlier, I replied with the standard “Oh ya honey, that’s great! ” You know those moments if your a parent, when in all honesty you have tuned them out, but are such a great parent that you can still mumble an interactive response during the exact key moment. Moms are stealthy- trust me. Anyhow – he kept going and somewhere in between the ” ya, we can’t tell anyone else” or “mommy-blank, really doesn’t like you” I snapped out of my mommy tune out moment and quickly retorted with “wait- what honey, say that again”. He of course obliged because he simply loves talking and can literally talk from the moment he wakes, till he falls asleep – its that exciting to him. Quickly I am privy to the secret word, without having to ask and my head is in full explosion, along with the rapid acceleration of my heartbeat that wants nothing more than to leap out of chest and clobber this woman! And not because my name in her home is changed to Bitch!
Being called a bitch is not a new thing, trust me, I have heard it and been it and at times proudly. The part that irks the ever living crap out of me is that she does this with him, a three year old little boy who simply wants to like and love, and be liked and love. “How dare she talk like that about me to him” I think to myself, “What gives her the right to have nothing better to do with her time than to sit and create pseudo name for me with him, to make herself feel better?” Then, the other part of my brain, the part that investigates the inner workings and tries to understand what led up to this point, the brief moment of where I give her the benefit of the doubt, like what she was doing was somehow warranted, which I can ASSURE was not – kicks in.
At this point little one is in bed, and my husband is getting the earful of “You’ll never guess what I heard tonight” which is of course is received and responded with a casual ” whats that” and he takes one more spin on his cellphone hoping for BIG money on Slotomania. Filling him in, I share the fear that I think all parents, especially stepparents carry – ” Do you think he gets in trouble for talking about me, or sharing stories about me?” “What if loving him, and spending time with him, is hurting him?” then my heart shatters in a sense. Of course, my husband oblivious to the guilt I am feeling and the actions I am seriously questioning, confirms my current fear that “of course he talks about you, he loves you, your his mom”. “Oh no” I think to myself and panic sets in. I make a silent vow to myself that, that’s it, no more – I will stop loving this little boy, I will pull back and not interact with him, and I won’t snuggle with him anymore, and I most definitely will not allow him to call me mommy any more – its JESSICA – Jessica is my name from now on. Heartbreak sets in deep within the pit of my stomach, feeling as if I just lost, gave up, gave in and I’m embarrassed of the tattered and torn super step-mom cape that I theoretically just through to the ground and jumped on over and over with anger and frustration and the dirtiest, most serious, heaviest step-mom shoes to make sure my mind got the point across to myself! After all, if this is what it takes to make my stepson unaffected, and safe then – that’s that.
All this interior battling and self esteem bashing, has made for a defeated and exhausted step-mom, and soon I’m asleep. What feels like a few short hours later, I’m awakened by a small hand caressing my voice and a LOUD whispering voice asking “Mommy, can I snuggle you?” my half-opened eyes see my favorite little man – my stepson – in front of me. Without a second thought, I swoop him up and tuck him in tightly beside me. Facing me, he is still caressing my face and with his breathy whisper he says “Mommy, I love you” and kisses my cheek. My eyes close, and with him in my arms, I respond with “Mommy loves you too, baby, so much!” I mean, who was I kidding anyway, this momma ain’t no quitter! (and yes, figuratively speaking, I did patch up any holes my stomping created, and bravely tied back on my super step-mom cape, with confidence.)
We as parents owe it to our kids to keep them out of our adult, manifested, diarrhea of the mouth (and some brains) situations. It is our job to love, to guide, to protect, and to be adults. It is not our job to be right, or to win, or even to judge the other parent when they obviously fail miserably at the most simplest of parenting 101 – even though we do. My stepson, your stepchild – or any child for that matter at a young age is a product of their environment, they learn, share and interact with they SEE and HEAR. I remember my grandparents saying “Little ears, have big mouths” and boy were they right. At the end of the day, who cares what BM, the lady down the street, or the nosy lady in the cubicle one row over thinks about you – or says about you. It doesn’t create your self worth, or diminish it. One of the hardest quotes I ever read and had to seriously sit and let sink it – because it was gut-wrenching and accurate was this “Your opinion of me is none of my business.” –Randy Pausch, and although I don’t know Randy from Jack, Bob or Paul, he is right and that is true.
Don’t let the small-minded, get the best of you – love yours and his, or hers and yours and be happy. After all, the best revenge is happiness.
My mother-in-law will appear in alot of my posts, so we will shorten her to MIL. For you mind in the gutter readers, notice there is not a F at the end, although some may beg to differ 🙂 Now, eyes straight ahead, and back to the sublect at hand.
The normal process for life (which is rather boring and predictable if you ask me) is to date for a couple years, get marrried, get your career in order and then have babies. Well, since I lack any interest in boring and predictable its fitting that, my husband and I did it all backwards. I mean really, how could we not? When we met, we had already been married previously and both had children from those failed marriages, by far the highlight of those years.
So, when we struggle, when we think we have an impossible fight ahead, my MIL reminds us, that we started backwards. We had the house, the kids, the life, even the lifestyle – a ready made package on both sides, and then merged them! Thats insanity in a sense. You should notice, I used the word Package, instead of baggage, and for good reason. WE my children and I, and THEY, my husband and son, are not baggage – they and we are an extension, a bonus, an added benefit if you will.
Blending families, children of different marriages, lifestyles, ideals even, is hard, HARD work! And, yes we FAIL, sometimes, who doesn’t? But, so many times, wonderful, amazing times, we succeed, and we figure it out and the love from our once seperate rooted trees, have intertwined our families, our love and bond.
So, if you’re part of a blended family, and you feel like you’re in a uphill battle, barefoot, in 10 feet of snow – we are proof..there are sleds, snowboots and happy snowball fights on the way down, in the near future!