Hello. I am 37 years old, married with two step-children and one child with my husband. Both my husband and I are teachers and live a very busy life. This blog is a daily life of living in a blended family. How we succeed, how we fail, but most of all how we love.
I have been with my husband for 7 years and have taken on the role of step-mom. It has its ups and downs, but our kids are our world and we do our best to blend our families. Here are a few things I struggle with on a regular basis.
Knowing your role. It is difficult, sometimes, to know where a step-mom role stops and the mommy role begins. I have to be careful to be loving, affectionate, and to enforce the rules of our home without stepping on her toes. My kids don’t need a second mom, but they do need to respect me and understand that I, too, love them more than anything. I make sure to keep a very amicable relationship with their mom and treat her as though she is part of the family which shows our children that I respect her as their mom and I am by no means trying to take her place.
Not over-compensating for my step-children. It is easy to go overboard with your step-children when they don’t live with you 100% of the time. You want them to be happy when they are with you and like being at daddy’s. This is especially difficult when their real mom has way more money and can do more fun things with the children. I have to remind myself daily that it is not a competition and that ultimately what kids need is to be loved and to feel safe. We certainly provide that and give them a very structured, stable home. We know deep down they are happy and love us, but we have to step back sometimes and remember what is really important about being a parent. It’s not about buying things and creating spoiled brats, even though that is easier sometimes.
Reminding my husband that the kids love him. As the kids get older, they are able to express their feelings more. Sometimes this means saying things that may hurt my husbands’ feelings. Of course they don’t mean to and are by no means malicious, they just don’t have a filter to soften the blow. Like all kids, sometimes you want mommy and sometimes you want daddy. Our 3 year-old changes her mind about this by the minute. We have her 100% of the time so neither of us takes it personally. When my step-children say they want mommy it can be like a knife through the heart. We are very careful not to make them feel guilty about their feelings and explain that it’s okay to miss mommy and that they will see her soon. This is when I have to remind my husband that the kids love him and it’s not meant to be hurtful. We remind each other that if they didn’t miss her, we’d probably have bigger problems.
Not going overboard at the holidays. Two Christmases, Two birthday celebrations (sometimes more), two or more vacations each year. There are two of everything when you have two homes. Of course we want to fulfill all of our kids wishes at the holidays, but have to remind ourselves there are more than just the two of us buying presents. What ends up happening are that my kids get more presents than they could ever possibly need and they come to expect that. This is scary to me as how much will it cost us when they are teenagers? Where do you draw the line? This past year I invited their mom over on Christmas morning and we discussed who was buying what. They still had too much, but hopefully in years to come we can split the lists and tame the buying a bit.
Putting aside my feelings for the children. I have to do this more often than not. I have swallowed my pride, bit my tongue and taken the high road even when I didn’t want to. I’ll admit, I hate her sometimes. I hate her decisions, her judgments and holier than thou attitude. My kids, however, will never ever know this. As far as they are concerned we are all friends and I support their mommy. It is hard enough being a step-mom, I don’t need to fight with the kids when they come to her defense. We handle adult issues in private and keep them out of it. Divorce is hard, but I’ll be damned if the kids will suffer because of pettiness and immature adult decisions.
Just remember, kids need love, support and to feel safe. Keep that in mind above all else!
I could go on a bunch of tangents with this post, but I will try to stay focused. Many divorcee’s tend to think that because they have primary custody their choices are always justified and their decisions are always the right ones. This is certainly not always the case. Especially when the other parent is 100% involved and only wants what is best for the children.
Most divorce decrees have a 6 month waiting period to introduce the children to a new dating partner. There is a reason for this. Anyone knows in a relationship the beginning is all sunshine and rainbows. You think you could never possibly be happier and nothing could ever break you up. And then reality usually kicks you in the face. The honeymoon stage is over and you have to decide if it’s the real thing or not. As an adult, you can overcome a break up, kids are not as understanding especially if they have connected to the other person. This is why you wait. And wait. And wait. Make sure this person is going to stay in their lives and not be another void they can’t fill. They are resilient, but not invincible. While it is important for you to be happy, the kids well- being should always come first. So date, have fun, sleep around. Do whatever it is that makes you happy. Keep the kids out of it until you’re sure. They’ll thank you later.
When I first figured out that my husband was the one, I never looked back. I committed to him and his kids. Period, end of story. I am not going to lie and say my life did not drastically change going from a single woman to being part of a family of four. It absolutely did and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
True, I have changed many aspects of my life. I have gotten a better paying job, moved from MY first home, and changed schools multiple times all to better mine and my family’s life. I now work at the middle school on the same campus as the kids’ elementary school. I can easily attend school events and pick the kids up after school. And actually, I work at the best school I have ever been a part of.
Some call it making sacrifices, I call it making a commitment. If my husband and I had three children of our own, everyone would see my actions as heroic or responsible, or just trying to be the best mom and wife I can. When you’re blended, however, you are viewed differently. It looks like you are changing your whole world to accommodate. How would anything be different if the kids were biologically mine? Then it’s acceptable? I have learned to cast these opinions aside and continue to do what is best for my family. And you know what? It’s working. The kids are happy, my husband and I are happy and for the most part we have an amicable situation. Every parent makes sacrifices, it’s what we do, blended or not.
I have very little patience for people who constantly blame others for their mistakes. If you made a bad choice, own it, admit it, and learn from it. Stop making the same mistakes and expecting a different result. Jumping in head first to relationships is ok when you’re single. Yes you may get hurt, but all in all you will be ok. When you have kids, you’ve got to think differently. Be cautious, be nervous and go slow. The last thing children need is a new man to constantly be walking out of their lives. Just take your time. If it’s meant to be, there will be plenty of time to introduce your children and create a family. Go slow.
One of the hardest parts of dealing with a 50/50 custody situation is when you feel the other parent is not using good judgment. There’s a very gray line between what’s morally wrong and what the court will actually care about. In our paperwork there is a 6 month rule about introducing the kids to new partners. She’s done it in a month. They are staying with him tomorrow while she’s at work. Do we agree with it? Absolutely not. Can we do anything about it? I really don’t know. For the moment we have to decide if we feel they are safe and pray she is going to make good choices. This proves to be very difficult when her judgment is clouded as of late. Her history proves she meets guys, dates them and then has to quickly leave the situation moving the kids all over the place. It is scary to watch and think of how all of this will affect the kids in the long run. All we can do is continue to provide the structure and stability that children so desperately need and hope for the best. If only morals mattered more…
So the second court battle never ended up in court. This time she moved in with her boyfriend, “the one,” moved the kids 45 minutes away and had to change their school. We tried to fight for them to stay in the school they were in, but she manipulated that situation and we lost. Not to mention, court systems move at a snail’s pace.
Although we lost the school fight, we did end up with 50/50 custody. Previously Paul had the kids Wednesday evenings and every other weekend so this was a huge win for us! This schedule has been such an amazing turn-around for the kids getting equal time with both parents. Despite being a product of divorce they have adjusted so well and truly are happy kids.
Recently “the one” didn’t work out and she is in the process of yet another move. This will be the 6th move in 6 years and she is on her 3rd boyfriend in 4 so although we are in a good place, court may not be far off again.
One piece of advice I find to be most important: No matter now amicable the relationship seems to be, never let your guard down. I have already contacted my attorney and will do my best to remain 10 steps ahead of her. It is important to get along, but nothing is more important than the well-being of the kids.