Archive | April, 2011

He just called us a “broken family”

28 Apr

We're not "broken". We're more like Good Seasons Italian Dressing.

Recently, DH had a few days in which he had to care for his girls during the week.  For us that means 5 kids, 4 different schools in three different school districts and a plethora of afterschool activities all happening simultaneously.   Since I’m still in “step-back” mode and because the schedules of my 3 children are overwhelming enough, DH was his own.  He had to make lunches, drive them to school, pick them up and take them to their after-school activities while working a more-than-full-time job.  Getting home late one night, he looked at me and said, “How do real families do this every day?” 

Wait.  Did he just say “real” families?  He did.  When I pointed that out, he said, “You know what I mean.  Original families, not families that are broken like ours.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh hysterically or smack him upside the head because of the two issues that jumped right out.  First of all, has he not watched me manage the schedules of my 3 children?  If you’re a mom with busy kids or if you’ve ever been a single mom, you know where I’m coming from.  My son swims almost 20 hours a week and my daughter dances 3 times a week.  I manage both of their weekly schedules not to mention meets, shows and the occasional birthday party or sleep over on the weekends, I work full-time and take care of our 3-year old, and he’s going to complain about getting home late one night??  I think he just figured out how hard it is to be a mom. 

The second issue which made me want to smack him is he called us “broken”.  Broken.  This from the man with the biggest pair of rose-colored glasses I’ve ever seen. You’d think he would have picked a better/different word.   I know what he meant: “broken family” is equal to “kids from divorced families”.  But when those same kids join a stepfamily, do you refer to the stepfamily as “broken family”?  I think not.

I’ve heard stepfamilies called several different things: crockpot families, salad bowl families, blended families. With DH labeling us a “broken family”, I got to thinking:  how would I describe our family?   I think at this point in time, our family (two his, two mine, one ours) is best described as an “Italian dressing family”:  we can blend together for short periods and act like a first family (what DH refers to as a “real family”), but over time, we separate again.  Would I like us to eventually become a fully emulsified creamy Ranch dressing family?  Yes.  But it’s going to take time.  In the grand scheme of the universe, we are a fledgling stepfamily.  We’ve only been at this for 5 years and despite our enthusiasm and good intentions, we know that blending our families is a process that doesn’t come with a timeline. 

How would you describe your family?  You can stick with the food analogies for fun!  How does using the term “broken” to describe your family resonate with you?

Postscript:  When I told DH about this post, he said, “I have to say that moms are incredible.  You’ve got a knack that men just don’t have.   I seriously don’t know how you do what you do every day.”  Then he took his club and his bearskin and went back to his cave. 😉

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“In the Blender” is now “Step In The Blender”

19 Apr

Slighty new name! New url! Same great topics and brutally honest writing.

My new url is: http://www.stepintheblender.com. The old url will redirect you to the new url, so no worries!

Stepping into the blender is a courageous thing to do.

Thanks for reading!

Help! I need somebody! Help! Not just anybody!

19 Apr

Do you ever feel like youre drowning, but youre too proud to ask for help?

This song has been playing over and over in my brain as I’ve been taking care of 3 kids (ages 15, 8 and 3) who have all been sick for the last two weeks.  I thought we were out of the woods last night, until my 8-year old daughter came running down the stairs to tell me that my 3-year daughter had just barfed all over herself.  My reaction?  I laughed.  After two weeks, projectile bodily fluids are now comedy instead of tragedy. 

What I’d really like is someone to put on a hazmat suit and take care of my infected offspring so I can have a cup of coffee and read a book in a place where no one is coughing, sneezing or barfing for 30 minutes or someone to just entertain them so I can get to the pile of dishes and never-ending loads of laundry.  What I’d like is some H-E-L-P.

Yesterday, in two different places, I came across the question: what’s your biggest challenge as a mom?  My challenge as a single mom was the same as my challenge as a married mom:  asking for help.   There are a few reasons why it’s so incredibly hard for me.  See if any of these ring true for you:

  1.  My first husband was always very critical anytime I’d ask for help with the kids while we were married and is even more so now that we’re divorced.  He made me feel like I wasn’t doing my duty as a mom if I needed an hour break to go run to Starbucks, grab a latte and recharge or if I asked him for help getting two kids to two different places at the same time (I know, physically impossible right? But somehow he expected me to be able to get them both there on time).
  2. Because of the guilt trip that my ex puts on me, I don’t like to ask DH for help with my two oldest because I feel that they’re my responsibility because they’re not biologically his.  He doesn’t feel that way at all, but I always feel guilty asking him to do things like watch the kids so I can meet a girlfriend for dinner or to pickup my son at practice so I can stay home and hang out with my two youngest (one of which is our BC).
  3. I am stubborn.  I want to be Super Mom/Wonder Woman and get it all done myself, but the truth is, I can’t.  Once I admit that I need help, I feel like a failure and that the Mom Police are going to arrest me for not giving it my all even though I’ve got absolutely nothing left give.  Ever feel like that?

If I had family close by, it probably wouldn’t be such an issue for me, but everyone lives a few states away.  What I learned quickly as a single mom was that I needed to swallow my pride and ask for help from the friends that kept offering.  I had two issues:  often times I needed help getting my kids to their activities when they were scheduled at the same time and sometimes, I just needed a break.  The first time I asked for help was hard, so hard in fact that I would have rather asked someone to pay my mortgage than admit that I needed help with transportation or just a break from my kids.  Early on, I didn’t ask for help often, but when I did, my kids and I both came back home recharged. 

Fast-forward five years and now I’m much better at asking for help.  DH and I have been lucky to have a trio of babysitters (whom we consider family) that will watch the kids at a moment’s notice or even do drop-offs and pick-ups, and I’m a bit more comfortable asking my in-laws for help.  DH has helped me get over the “my kids, my responsibility” hang-up by showing me time and time again that he’s completely committed to my children.   And most importantly, I’ve gotten my ex-husband’s voice out of my head and I know that I’m not any less of a mom for needing or taking a break. 

Whether you’re a single mom or married mom, how do you feel about asking for help?  Do you feel guilty about needing a break from your kids or asking for help with transportation or childcare? Do you rely on family or do you have a good support system of friends that are able to help you?

Taboo Topics: Things Stepmothers Don’t Want to Say Out Loud, Part 3

12 Apr

Are you "chummy" with the biomom or do you keep her at arms' length?

This is the third installment of my conversation with Heather Hetchler of The Stepmom Connection.  The third taboo topic that we discussed on March 16th was:  “I don’t want to be friends with the biomom.”

While I really admire Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine and the revolution that they’ve started getting biomoms and stepmoms together—for some of us, it just doesn’t work.  Some of us don’t want to be friends, ever.  Some of us want to keep communication to a minimum.  Does that make us failures?  No.  It makes us honest. 

Let’s face it, most of us are never going to write a book with the biomom like Carol and Jen and most of us aren’t going to start a business together like Lisa Teal-Webb and Lisa Webb of Lisa & Lisa Stylish, Sporty & Special Jewelry (yes, that was a shameless plug for two moms that I admire for coming such a long way).  We feel pressure to “make nice” with his ex and feel guilty for wanting to hold her at arms’ length.  Heather mentions in her companion post “…whether it’s right or wrong, typically the mom sets the tone for the relationship.”  Being a biomom and a stepmom, I can attest to the truth in that statement.  I think about the Tracy Byrd’s song, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and that can certainly hold true in blended family situations.  The stepmom can keep extending the olive branch, but when the biomom keeps whacking it with her machete, it gets a little discouraging.  It gets so discouraging in fact, that I wrote a post last month (“Here’s a news flash:  I don’t wanna be friends”) on this exact topic.  I compiled the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the hundreds of stepmoms involved in online support groups and the post got quite a few comments.  Stepmoms are frustrated; so frustrated in fact that they give up because they feel that they’re “damned if they do, damned if they don’t”, so why put out any effort at all? 

Personally, I don’t have a relationship with the biomom (that’s a mutual decision on both of our parts).  That lack of relationship was also the impetus for me to do the “stepmom stepback”.   I appreciate the fact that she’s kind to my biokids, but that’s as far as the niceties extend.  I don’t think we would have ever chosen each other as friends if we had randomly met one another because we are very different people.  The only thing we really have in common is that she used to be married to the man I now share my life with, and that alone is enough of a reason (for me at least) to NOT have a “chummy” relationship.  However, I’ve had a nagging feeling over the last year that the needs of my stepdaughters are beginning to outweigh my own personal reasons for not having any sort of relationship with their mother. But then again, a relationship of any kind would mean that both parties would be participating.  Would I like for us to be cordial to one another at the kids’ events?  Yes.  Would I like to be able to communicate if necessary about the kids’ needs?  Yes.  Do I need to meet with her for coffee or lunch or friend her on Facebook?  No.  I’ve got my boundaries and I’m sure she has hers.  Only time will tell what, if anything, will happen.

 If you have a relationship that works with the BM or SM in your life, please share how you got there and how your relationship functions. If you decided not to pursue a relationship with the BM or SM, please tell us why. 

Don’t forget to read Heather’s companion post on CafeSmom.