You’re Uninvited: How Do You Determine the Guest List When Stepsibings Are Involved?

30 May

One of the most awkward post-divorce situations is establishing new holiday protocol. Who gets to spend the holidays with the kids? Do we abide by the parenting plan (you get the odd years, I get the even years)? Do we celebrate birthdays together as one big extended but divorced family or do we have two separate events? Do the kids really have to suffer through two Thanksgivings?

Having grown up in a stepfamily where everyone put down their weapons to celebrate together for the kids, it made complete sense to me to invite my ex-husband to every birthday party and holiday dinner and leave it up to him if he wanted to attend. He has not remarried and hasn’t had a girlfriend that he thought was serious enough to introduce to the kids, so the invite is simple: come hang out with DH, me, and all the kids.

However, complications arise when there are children in both households and those children are friends but the BioMom and StepMom are not. Just today I experienced a moment of sadness at a fellow BioStepMom’s house when a stepsibling realized she wasn’t invited to her stepsister’s party.

Stepsister #1: “I’m going to have party at the pool with all my friends for my birthday.”
Stepsister #2: “Really? I can’t wait to come!”
Stepsister #1: “Um, well, you can’t come.”
Stepsister #2: “Why? I’m one of your friends and I’m your stepsister.”
Stepsister #1: “You can’t come because my mom doesn’t like your mom.”
Stepsister #2: (Bursts into tears and runs out of room)

Ouch.

The BioStepMom and I were at a loss for words. Stepsister #1 was being absolutely truthful in her own 8-year old way and Stepsister #2 reacted as any 6-year old would after being told that she wasn’t invited to her own stepsister’s party. This BioStepMom was especially hurt since she’s made it a point to schedule her own biochildren’s birthday parties on DH’s weekends to make sure that her stepdaughters would be included. She and her DH even went so far as to have their baby’s first birthday party twice so that the baby’s half-sisters wouldn’t feel left out when BM refused to let them come to the originally scheduled party after initially agreeing. In fact the whole family (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins) showed up for the second birthday party to make it even more festive for the girls. She didn’t have to do any of that, but she did because she knows how much her biodaughters love their step/half-sisters, and on top of that everyone in the extended family wants the opportunity to see the children since they’ve missed out on so many family celebrations and get-togethers since the divorce because of the “rules” of an every other weekend parenting plan. Should she really expect the same in return from a BM that has no interest in a relationship with her? Probably not, but it still hurts a mother’s heart to see her children feel left out. She shook her head and said, “It’s hard to watch my kids get their feelings hurt because BM hates me.”

So how do you handle situations like birthday parties and holiday celebrations? What do you do when you’re a single mom or a BioStep and your ex-husband has remarried someone with children? If the BioMom and StepMom have a good relationship, then the invites flow easily. But if the children have a relationship and the parents don’t (especially the BioMom and StepMom), then what’s the right thing to do? I know there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution but I’d love to hear what you do in your particular situation. Do you maintain family separate family events or put aside differences so the kids can celebrate together? What do we teach the kids by keeping things separate? What do we teach them by celebrating together? I’d love to hear your comments.

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3 Responses to “You’re Uninvited: How Do You Determine the Guest List When Stepsibings Are Involved?”

  1. PJ Juliano-Panther May 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    My situation is somewhat unique, but I realize that I’m probably not the only one who is going thru something like this.
    #LetLoveRule in many aspects it’s such a hard adjustment to not always be walking on eggshells-I have situation where I limit exposure to my stepkids right now-my husband & I are currently separated & our blended family is in half right now! But they are still my (“step”)kids! I added them to my family the day I married their father. (Due to TPS, a meddling MIL, things fell apart 3yrs ago. But my husband and I have gotten back together after about a year and a half-with an even is better & stronger than before) now the complicated part of making peace – and reconnecting a very tricky & complicated relationship.
    Our time apart much derogatory pre-cepts were seeded into my step children & the relationship I had with them by BM, MIL & a BIL(brother) tho before the split of households I did have a very close relationship with my three step kids. There were just too many fingers in the pie-so how do you carefully break down barriers???
    So, many times I’ve just had to #LetLoveRule, okay it seems over simplistic, love is a verb!
    “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Cor 13:7
    #LetLoveRule-you invite, even when rejected … “You say well maybe next time …”
    I’ve planned birthday parties at neutral locations. It took several tries but they are now & they have wanted to actually attend parties that I have planned & have expressed to the opposing other family members (BM & MIL) that they want to go & participate. We go do still go thru stages where they back off again … but consistentcy on my part, they realize that there isn’t a catch, a betrayal or an under-lying motives.
    I myself as well as my sons go thru periods of disappointments, my boyz want the family pulled back together again – his three children, and extended family doesNOT!
    With a lot of prayer, withheld frustrations, I attempt to “LIVE” LOVE thru all my actions-believe me there are times my horns just wanna pop out! And in the end I know in my heart that TRUE LOVE NEVER FAILS!

  2. Jessica Jones May 31, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    My situation is also somewhat different. For the first year or so we followed guidelines and me and my custodial skids BM did not really care for each other, we had not stopped to really try to know each other as we were also going through court and then appeals..so it was always hairy, I had always been advised not to speak to her aside from scheduling and what not during the court trials. She did parties on her end, I did on my end. We have since begun to form a friendship..learning about each other..technically our guidelines for long distance say the children celebrate at the primary parent house on birthdays. She is 2 hours away. Basically the court has them with us for all birthdays. I felt that was wrong. My latest SS who turned 10 she came over we had cake and watched a movie. His birthday was during the week, so really she would not be able to see him anyway. I suppose and hope in the future we will attempt to plan stuff together and both be there, or at least communicate the events…but she has an open door policy now to our home. She is welcome for any events that involve her boys, my skids. We nicknamed her Auntie for my bio kids.

    Wife number 1 I do not speak to lately. She is the BM of my non custodial skids, 3 teenagers. It has been difficult to coordinate anything because they have a full schedule, and my husbands hours tend to be during activities, and I have no car to get them…

    My 2 boys that are my bio’s that live primarly with Dad and SM….we work together, again open door policy.

    For the kids sake especially if they are young, I kind of lean towards working together even if your still at the uncomfortable stage…when we first started working together it wasn’t comfortable at first..but the kids loved it..they were thrilled..it got easier…

    Though I know some BM’s or even SM’s will remain b*tches for all intense and purposes over holidays and such.

    Lets face it, you got bad bunches in both forms of Moms.

  3. Teri May 31, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    We stick to court order. We have never had SS for Christmas morning (can’t WAIT til this Christmas b/c orders changed and we get him!!!)…We always just had our own function. We’d have Christmas dinner at my parents’ house where SS would get all of his stuff and BS (that’s just wrong….) and BD would get some of theirs and the rest Christmas morning.

    I had (previous to new orders) scheduled birthday parties to be on visitation weekends and then would have just a small thing for BK on their actual birthday. The only thing she (bm) allowed us to change was she, in 2003, allowed us to start alternating for SS’s birthday. (technically we still do this except that he doesn’t get out of school until 4 days after his birthday…grrr…this should have been our year)

    Now with the new order we’re going to have to change things. We called him on BD’s birthday when she opened the present he told me to get for her. We’ll celebrate his birthday the weekend after he gets here, but since he no longer lives close instead of giving gifts we’re going to give memories. We’re going to go somewhere and do something as a family for his birthday. Not sure, yet, what I’ll do on BS’s birthday this year. It’s New Year’s Eve and we have to send SS back at 3pm on Christmas so might do like we did for BD’s bday. Next year SS will be here on BS’s birthday (and so on alternating as such)

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