Tag Archives: blended families

“…and I’m a StepMom.”

9 Mar

"My name is Brigette, and I'm a BioStepMom."

I like Mormons.  I’m Catholic, so admire the LDS hyper-focus on family, and truth be known, I’m jealous of their mega-pantries.  With a potential Republican presidential nominee on the horizon, the “…and I’m a Mormon” ads are all over TV.  I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to have an “…and I’m a Stepmom” campaign?  The goal of the campaign would be to humanize stepmothers and show that we are neither wicked nor evil. Think about it.  Of course I’ve written mine already!  Here it is:

When I found myself divorced at 40-years old with two children, I never imagined that I would become part of a blended family.  Now we have a busy “yours, mine and ours” family of three kids full-time, a total of five every other weekend and most of the time, a couple of extras kids here and there. 

I’m a firm believer that four is the magic number.  Once you get to four kids, it doesn’t matter if you have ten.  They all start to form their own little village.

The rules of my house are simple:  be nice to each other, pick up after yourself and help your younger siblings. 

My kids like to add to our family.  They have lots of friends that they consider part of our family.  My 9-year old daughter will tell you she has six sisters and three brothers.  I guess that’s my influence.  My father’s side is from Hawaii.  We believe in ‘ohana.

I believe it takes a village to raise a child.  And I’ve got a big village.

My name is Brigette.  I work full-time. I’m a compulsive multi-tasker and I’m a BioStepMom.

What would your 30-seconds look like?  Please share in the comments section.

“I thought I was the only one who didn’t love her stepchildren”

11 Jan

Not loving your stepchildren can make you feel guilty

A post that I wrote in March 2011 has been getting a lot of hits lately and stirring up all kinds of feelings. “Taboo Topics: Things that Stepmothers Don’t Want to Say Out Loud” was a three-part post based on a conversation I had with Heather Hetchler on The Stepmom Connection. The first topic was, “I fell in love with my husband, not my stepkids”.

More than a few stepmothers have had a “Thank God, I thought I was the only one” moment after reading the post and comments. And then, at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there are the indignant women that believe if you don’t love the kids, you should stay away from the man.

Some stepmothers love their stepchildren as much as they love their biological children. And then, there’s the rest of us experiencing a range of feelings towards our stepchildren, but not love. Yes, kids were part of the package. Yes, we knew that going in. If we didn’t already love our stepchildren, we hoped that those feelings would develop over time. And for some of us, it just hasn’t happened yet and for a few of us, it never will. But even the women who openly admit to not loving their stepchildren still treat them with kindness. We love our husbands, and the children are part of him, so we do our best by them, just as we would for any child.

Loving a man, but not his children is puzzling to us. We think to ourselves, “As a woman, shouldn’t I feel instantaneously maternal towards them?” If we don’t we think, “What the heck is wrong with me?” In a word: nothing. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s no reason to feel guilty. Give yourself time and be open to the possibility of love yet be prepared if it doesn’t happen. You can care for your stepchild his/her entire life and never really fall in love with them or have the same love as you do for your biological children. It’s totally normal. And based on the comments on the original post, it’s more common that you think.

If you’re a stepmother who grew to love her stepchildren over time, please share how your relationship with your stepchild evolved and tell us when you knew your feelings had changed.

When the Lines Get Blurry: Letting your BioKids go to his ex’s house

22 Nov

     Have you as a BioStepMom ever let your BioKids spend the night at the home of your StepChildren/DH’s ex-wife’s home? If that question hasn’t come up for you, consider it for a moment. Would you? Would you if you had no relationship with DH’s ex?
     I know of a few blended families in which the lines are blurred and biosiblings, stepsiblings and half-siblings spend time with all branches of their family tree. Recently an interesting challenge came up for one of BioStepMom friends. She and her DH have a “mine, yours and ours” family, much like mine except they have a whole lot of girls. She has 3, he has 2 and together they have 1. One day, her stepdaughters asked if it would be okay if her daughters spent the night at their house. After a “let me think about that” response to 6 girls excitedly jumping up and down at the prospect of a sleepover in a new location, she discussed the proposal with her DH. Without hesitation he said, “Sure, if it’s ok with my ex, it’s okay with me. What do you think?” That’s when things got a little sticky. While things were good between DH and his ex after many years of battling, she still did not have a relationship with the mother of her stepchildren. DH was completely confident in his ex-wife’s ability to make sure all the girls had fun at this blended family slumber party extravaganza, but she just couldn’t say “yes”. Very few words had been exchanged between the two women, and that ones that were spoken were terse and often unkind (on the part of his ex). She said, “I felt bad about being the person that said ‘no’ to this whole deal because the girls were so excited about it, but to me it felt like the equivalent of handing my girls over to a complete stranger, even though they have met her and have been to her house. I don’t even have her phone number or address.”
     So what about you BioStepMoms? What would you do? Would you blur the lines and let your children go because your DH is confident that his ex will be kind to your children despite her lack of relationship with you? Do you think that this kind of leap of faith would lead to starting a new relationship with his ex? Or, would you say “no” and perhaps offer up a slumber party atmosphere for a weekend instead of the typical EOW routine? What makes you uncomfortable about this situation? Sound off BioStepMoms!

BM | SM | WFC?

3 Nov

Pick your battles

There’s a discussion group on Facebook that typically has lots of fireworks between BMs and SMs (the group is open to both).  I watch the heated discussions, but rarely post.  In a recent thread, an SM said she was thankful for the group and was hoping for better relations with BM.  The BM replied with the same argument that we’ve all heard:  don’t call me BM, it’s the same abbreviation as “Bowel Movement” and the term “Biological Mother” is more appropriate for women that have given up their children.

Here’s an SM publicly holding out an olive branch and the BM takes issue with an abbreviation.  And we wonder why BMs and SMs can’t get along? 

BMs that take issue with “BM” listen up, “BM” and “SM” are acronyms that are commonly used when writing on the internet.  Other acronyms include:

                                                                                                                                                                                          SD = Stepdaughter          BD=Biological Daughter

SS=Stepson                        BS=Biological Son

SK=Stepkids                       BK=Biological Kids

DH=Dear Husband           BF=Boyfriend

Sure we could write out “my husband’s ex-wife” or “the mother of my stepchildren” or use your first and last name, but  c’mon.  Pick your battles.  We all know who the mom and the stepmom is in the relationship.  “BM” and “SM” are internet/texting shorthand terms and in all honesty, are probably a lot better than what the other women would like to call you some of the time.  Furthermore, if you’re using terms like “lol”, “omw”, “cya”, “btw” or “jk”, you should probably think twice about criticizing the use of “BM” or “SM”. 

Let’s focus more on building working relationships with the BM or SM in our lives to make things easier for the children instead of taking offense over internet acronyms.  JS (just sayin’).

 Postscript (11-4-11): as the thread developed on the page, it turns out that the BM and SM are on friendly terms and the comment was meant in jest, but of course the tone was lost in writing.  Still, this is an argument that has come up time and time again, which is evidence by the very long thread debating acronyms.  As I’ve stated before, we know who gave birth to the child and we all know who the stepmother is.  Let’s do our best to raise the children and try to get along for their sake.

You’ve been cast as the female lead in a dramatic series called “Your Life” as the Stepmother. Now what?

10 Aug

Not a suggested role, for obvious reasons.

As stepmothers, we often have a hard time deciding how to approach our role as the new “female lead in a dramatic series”. Custodial stepmothers usually chose the role of “mom”, but for those of us that have our stepchildren every other weekend (or some other non-custodial situation), choosing an appropriate role is a bit more difficult.  Add in your own biological children and it gets even more confusing.

 Here are some stand-in roles that have been suggested to many of us.  See if any of these describe you:

The Cool Aunt:  You are probably around the same age as the biomom but you are her polar opposite. 

Discipline:  Like any Cool Aunt, you have your limits, but most of the time, you let stuff slide.

Advantage:  The kids look forward to their weekends with you to do different things than what they would do at home.  Arts and crafts, dancing to world music, hiking in the woods, you are a source of new adventures! 

Disadvantage:  The biomom will either embrace the fact that the children are learning new skills and are being exposed to new things or she will be insanely jealous and either criticize those things or try to compete by “one-upping” you.  It could get ugly.

 

The Big Sister:  You are probably much younger than the biomom and not much older than the kids.  You have boundless energy and you’re very enthusiastic.

Discipline:  You don’t have to worry about discipline at all because Dad will take care of it!

Advantage:  The kids think “Dad’s new wife” is totally cool!  You get to do all the fun stuff with the kids; what’s not to love?

Disadvantage:  At first, it’s all fun and games, but then the kids get older and realize that you’re The Stepmother in disguise.  The tide may change.  Never mind that the biomom already dislikes the fact that she got traded in for a younger model. 

 

The Sweet Granny:  You see the world through rose-colored glasses.  Your stepchildren can do no wrong!

Discipline:  Discipline?  What’s that??  You love those children so much and you just know that any bad or inappropriate behavior can be contributed to the hurt of the divorce which you know you can heal through your endless love.

Advantage:  The kids LOVE the fact they have control of the household. 

Disadvantage:  The kids have control of the household.  And most of the time, you end up as a doormat.

 

The Babysitter: You married a man with children but you have no emotional investment in them. 

Discipline:  When the kids act up, you thank God they’re not your children. Your disciplinary plan:  “Wait ‘til your father gets home!”

Advantage:  They show up.  It’s a “free-for-all” weekend.  They leave.  Everyone’s happy, especially DH.

Disadvantage:  You have to put up with way more back talk than any babysitter would ever have to and to make matters worse, you don’t get paid.

 

Obviously these are tongue-in-cheek descriptions but most of us have taken on a few of these roles to see what fits best and still we come back to The Stepmother, a role that has yet to be universally defined.  However, there does seem to be one nagging universal truth to this role:  we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.    If we try to love the kids like they’re our own, we’re accused of trying to take over the BM’s role.  If we admit to not loving them like they’re our own, we’re labeled as heartless shrews.  If we treat them like our own children, we’re criticized for trying to act like a mom to them.  If we treat them differently, we’re accused of playing favorites.  Often times, it feels like a no-win situation with every move being analyzed by a cast of characters that all have their own agenda.  I think I speak for most non-custodial stepmoms when I say that all we really want to do is support DH in the raising of his children, yet finding a comfortable place in how we deal with and interact with our stepchildren is so very difficult.

What kind of role have you taken on as a stepmother?  How long did it take you to find a role that suited you?

“If I knew what I was getting into, I would have never married you”

2 Aug

Would you have married him if someone told you what you had in store?

 

Being in a stepfamily is not for the faint hearted.  There are issues with the children, issues with ex-spouses and sometimes, there are issues with between you and DH.  I’ve heard women say more than once on stepmom support sites:  “If I knew what I was getting into, I would have run the other way.”  Some of us have even said that to our husbands/partners.  

Think about it for a moment.  Did you know what you were getting into?  Did you know that your stepchildren would ignore you in your own home?  Did you know that BM would constantly throw herself at DH in an attempt to lure him back?  Did you know that you’d become well-versed in the family court system because of the number of times you’ve had to go back for child support or custody hearings?  Did you realize you’d be a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome?   

Many stepmoms that I know have had their bags packed and have threatened to leave or have left for some time (or permanently) when they’ve had it with the drama that often accompanies a stepfamily.  We share our stories, find the common thread and then wonder what do to.  Is the conflict manageable enough that you should you dig in your heels and stay or is it so out of control that you need to get out in order to maintain your sanity and reclaim your self-esteem?  

If you could’ve looked into a crystal ball and seen your future, would you REALLY have run the other way?  

Oddly enough in the middle of writing this post, I picked up Allison Winn Scotch’s “Time of My Life”.  Without giving too much away, let’s just say the book is about “do-overs”.  It has nothing to do with stepfamilies, but everything to do with what I’ve heard myself mutter more than once about several issues in my life: “If I knew how this was all going to turn out, would I make the same decisions?”  (Note: great read if you’ve asked yourself this question more than once)  

DH has said, “I wish I would have met you twenty years ago.”  I remind him that our current bliss wouldn’t be a reality if we didn’t go through what we did in our former marriages.  My 14-year old son has asked me, “Do you regret marrying Dad?”  And I always say, “Not for one moment because I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I like who I am!”  I’d change my reaction to a few things here and there, but I wouldn’t walk away from what would be the dismal failure of my first marriage (or my out-of-control teens or twenties for that matter).   

I remember very clearly the first time I said to DH, “If I knew what I had to deal with before I fell in love with you, I would have run like Hell the other way”.  It blindsided him and hurt his feelings and that’s exactly the intended effect that I wanted.  I wanted to jolt him to seeing all the issues that lay in front of us without an end in sight.  It was a sobering moment in our relationship.  

Once I did the “Stepmom Stepback”, I had to rethink what I said to DH.  Would I leave if I knew what was in store for me?  Now that I’ve changed the way I think, adjusted my expectations and stopped reacting, the answer is no.  I wouldn’t leave.  Stepping back has given me a whole new perspective (it also helps that DH and are perfectly matched and absolutely nuts about each other).  We’re definitely stronger as a team:  his über-calmness coupled with my “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude helps us to get to workable and more realistic solutions fairly quickly. He calms me down and I fire him up.  We’re a good pair and both devoted to making this work despite the grenades that get hurled in our direction.   

I look at it this way:  I can let the drama destroy me and my relationship with DH and run for the hills, or I can use it to strengthen our bond.  I’ve chosen the latter.  Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not the patron saint of stepmothers and there are times that the issues make me want to scream expletives loud enough that the neighbors can hear, but I haven’t felt the compulsion to pack my bags (or throw his stuff out on the porch) for a very, very  long time.   

What about you?  Have you said, “If I knew what I was getting into, I would have never married you?” or something to that effect to your husband?  How do you decide whether to stay or get out?

NMKNMP

28 Jul

Have you made a U-turn?

 

What???? 

NMKNMP is internet shorthand for “Not my kid, not my problem”.  Have you heard yourself utter those words?  

NMKNMP is like its own little city.  For some of us, it’s a place that we arrive when we’re driving aimlessly between the cities of “What I Say Doesn’t Matter” (population: 1-YOU) and “Wasn’t Blending Supposed to Be Easy?”  (population: 1 million).  We arrive at NMKNMP completely defeated because we’ve come to the conclusion that our input about what goes on in our stepchildren’s lives means nothing.  

For others, it’s a place that we come to as giddy as we would be about a bucket full of cash and a weekend in Las Vegas.  We’re overflowing with the new-found freedom that we’ve discovered after learning the steps to the “Stepmother Stepback”.    We arrive, unpack our suitcases and hit the pool. 

I got to NMKNMP because I took what I thought was a wrong turn.  I tried for three years to blend our families, without much success.  I was frustrated and kept wondering what I was doing wrong.  I came from a blended family, had children of my own, and naïvely thought, “This should be easy!”   Ha! I had no idea what I was up against.  After reading “Stepmonster” and a few very teary conversations with DH, I knew I needed to head in a different direction. With total support from DH, I declared that I needed to stop encouraging the blending of the family like an overenthusiastic cheerleader.  I needed to concentrate on myself, my relationship with DH and my own children.  I needed to do the “Stepmom Stepback” and fast.  

So I did.  

It was easy to take a U-turn since my stepdaughters are EOW, but I still felt guilty.  I had to hang up my Super Stepmom cape in the closet and that’s not an easy thing to do for this overachiever. But ultimately, it turned out to be the best thing for our family.  DH has total responsibility of his two oldest daughters on his weekends.  He manages their meals, their bedtimes and whether or not they brush their teeth or change their clothes.  When we first got together, those were some of the day-to-day issues that he left for me to manage.  It made perfect sense to the both of us because I was managing my three children as well.  But now, what gets done and what doesn’t get done, is his responsibility and honestly, he’s done a great job at stepping up to the plate.  All that’s left for me to do is show them love while they’re here and let me tell you, that’s a very refreshing place to be.  Battles over clothing?  Not my kid, not my problem.  Battles over meals?  Not my kid, not my problem.  Don’t want to go on a family outing?  That’s okay, I’ll take my three kids and you can catch up when and if you feel like it. 

I found myself in the city of NMKNMP thinking that I wasn’t going to like the accommodations but found that once I had checked in and unpacked my bags that the amenities were quite nice.  My stepdaughters were being taken care of by their father, who’s really discovering his own parenting style after leaving the “dirty work” to his ex-wife (for the last 9 years) and me (for the last 4 years).  No longer did I feel guilty about not trying harder to blend the family.  And best of all, my relationship with DH is better because I’m not so stressed out every other weekend.  

What about you?  Have you arrived at NMKNMP?  How did you get here?  What do you like and dislike about it?