Tag Archives: stepfamilies

“…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.

A Tale of Two Mommies

2 Nov

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I think there are several different ways to make a stepfamily.  DH and I are not married, but you wouldn’t know it if we didn’t tell you.  In fact most of our friends are surprised to find out that we’re not.  Regardless of the lack of legal documentation, we consider ourselves a stepfamily.  My two oldest children enthusiastically embrace to DH as their stepdad.

Regardless of your views on homosexuality or same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian stepfamilies are also included under the umbrella of stepfamilies.  Because same-sex marriages are not recognized by most states it’s hard to get an accurate count of the number of gay and lesbian stepfamilies there are in the US, but they fall in the estimated number of families created by co-habitation.

Tina and Lisa

I recently reconnected with a friend via Facebook.  Lisa and I did cheer and theater together in high school so I was thrilled to find her. But I was even more thrilled to learn that she had found the love of her life in her partner Tina, after a very difficult marriage.

I know several lesbian couples, but Lisa and Tina are the only gay couple that I know with such a huge blended family.  When I asked Lisa if they would be willing to be interviewed, she quickly said “yes!” and I was lucky enough to pin them down for a chat before they left on a 3-week European cruise.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a stephousehold with two moms?  Read on!

How long have you been a couple?
We have been together for 4 years. In fact, we just celebrated our anniversary in Santa Barbara in September.
How many children did you each bring into the relationship?
We each brought three children to the relationship. We call it the “modern-day Brady Bunch”.  Lisa brought two girls whose ages are 19 and 17, and one boy, 12. Tina brought three girls ages 24, 19 and 14.  Lisa’s children are from her former marriage.  Tina’s two oldest children are biologically hers and her youngest is biologically her ex-partner’s. We also have 2 dogs together!

A "modern day Brady Brunch", Lisa and Tina both bring 3 children to the relationship ages 24 to 12.

 

What do your custody arrangements look like?  Do you have to do a big “kid shift” every other weekend?
With six children between the two of us, you’d think it would get confusing, but it’s really pretty simple. Tina’s two older girls are now over 18, but she was the primary custodian for both, and her ex-partner is the primary custodian for her youngest daughter.  My ex-husband is deceased, so I have full custody of my three children.

Was it easy to blend your families?
There were a few bumps in the road in the beginning. Our girls did competitive cheer together, (in fact, that’s how we met) so they were best friends first. Becoming sisters though, was a little bit of a transition.

Tina and I are friends with Tina’s ex. She’s a great person, and we all try to work together for the kids. In our experience, it’s very common in the lesbian world for ex-partners to remain friends. In fact, I think it’s even more so than in the straight world.  A couple of weeks ago we moved my 19-year old into her dorm at college and it was the three of us putting her room together.

I’ve always personally thought that there would be great advantages to having two moms in the household since traditionally women do much of the child-rearing.  What advantages and disadvantages of being raised in lesbian household?

Really and truly it’s just about two parents (either gay or straight) showing love and respect to their children and to each other. I think for us personally, we tend to just pick up when the other one needs it. We seem to know when to step in and take over for one other without even saying. We just seem to know when one of us needs the other to be stronger. Call it women’s intuition? I don’t know, but it’s wonderful.

I don’t really see that we have any real disadvantages. We joke around a lot about who got the “lesbian gene” and who didn’t when something breaks, but the truth is we both try to fix it until one of us gets it. It all works for us. Tina loves to cook and I love to clean. Tina doesn’t mind laundry and I don’t mind gardening. Tina’s good at math homework and I’m good at school projects. Tina’s great at sports and I’m great at rhinestoning everything (and I mean, everything).

Being in a stepfamily has many of the same challenges whether you’re gay or straight. Do you think there are unique challenges to lesbian stepfamilies? How do you overcome them?

The most challenging part of any stepfamily is everyone trying to find their place. Where do they belong? Where are their boundaries? Tina and I have different boundaries with each other’s kids than we do with our own. For example there are some things that only I can say to one of my girls that she just doesn’t feel is her place to say and vice versa. Each child has a different place with both of us mainly because of their ages. Tina’s oldest was grown when we got together so I don’t really have a “parent” role with her but we have a great relationship. As far as my son is concerned we co-parent him together (he’s the youngest and the only boy). Each one of the kids in-between fall into categories according to their age. It took us a while to figure out how everyone fit together and where everyone’s place was and that was probably our biggest challenge.

If you could be the spokeswomen for lesbian stepfamilies in America, what would you want the world to know?

We would want the world to know we define “normal”. We are just like any other family. We deal with the same challenges every day that most families do. One of us works outside the home, one of us stays home with the kids. We have dinner at night together and do homework together. We go to baseball, football and volleyball games and to cheer competitions. We laugh, we cry, but most of all we love all six of our kids. We both truly love each other’s as if they were our own. I think the love and respect we show each other is the best thing that we do as parents.

Some people would like to think that lesbian households are not normal.  Let me tell you, my life is so normal now compared to what it used to be. My relationship with my husband was very dysfunctional and my children were raised in a home that the whole world saw as “normal”.  That was the farthest thing from the truth. Our family is what a family should be and I thank God that my children are now a part of a loving, safe home.

“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too”

22 Sep

Is it our vindictiveness that keeps us from forming a working relationship with the "other woman"?

 

Recently I received a list of questions about stepmothers, and one particularly got my attention:    

Why is it that stepdads seem to be spared the challenges that stepmoms face?    

THAT is a very good question and one that sparked a great late night conversation between DH and me.    

Me:  Answer this question, “Why is it that stepdads seem to be spared the challenges that stepmoms face?”  For instance, the challenge that we hear most often is that the biomom hates the stepmom.    

DH:  Gender.    

Me:  That’s what I think too, especially with this issue.  Men aren’t as wicked to each other as women are.    

DH:  Women are too competitive with each other.    

Me: Yes, but men are competitive too at work and in sports, so why aren’t they competitive in family situations?  Why don’t we hear about conflict between stepdads and biodads?    

DH:  That’s true.  Men can be really competitive with other men at work or in sports, but at the end of the day, they can go out and have a beer together.  Women are…what’s the word I’m looking for?  Vindictive.  Yeah, women can be vindictive sometimes if they don’t get their way or if they don’t win.    

Me:  It’s true.  Women are hyper-competitive with each other but sometimes they can’t “leave it on the field” so to speak.  Instead they go in the locker room formulate their own “Kill Bill” list.    

DH:  Like a list of all the women they want Uma Thurman to take out?    

Me:  No, just a list of women that they despise. “The Wicked Stepmother” is usually on the top of that list.     

Ask any stepmom and she’ll tell you that one of the biggest challenges of being a stepmom is the relationship (or lack of) with the biomom.  Biodads and stepdads can meet in the driveway during pick-up and within 15 minutes, they’ve worked out a comfortable co-parenting relationship between themselves.  I’ve seen it happen in my own driveway. Once DH moved in, he made sure to approach my ex and let him know that he wasn’t here to take his place, he just wanted to support us raising our kids.  Two months later, they were sitting on the couch watching football and having a beer.     

Biomoms and stepmoms are a different story.  Put them in within 5 feet of each other and they’re sizing up the competition.  They put on their best fake smiles, exchange pleasantries, then go to their corner of the ring and morph into the Wicked Witch of the West. Remember how vindictive and spiteful she was:  “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too!”     

Not to pick on biomoms, but in most cases, we’re the ones with the chips on our shoulders (see my article in the July issue of StepMom Magazine).  Next thing you know, the stepmom is at the top of your “Kill Bill” list, also known as “The List of People I Wish Would Just Fall Off the Face of the Earth”.  We’re plotting the stepmom’s demise and ways to make her life a living Hell while the biodad and stepdad are having a genuinely pleasant and friendly conversation.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Does anyone realize that the kids are watching?     

So back to DH’s point, is gender the reason why stepdads seem to escape one of the biggest challenges that stepmoms encounter?  I think it is otherwise someone would have written “No One’s the A**hole” as the companion book to “No One’s the Bitch”.  I think much of the tension and conflict between biomoms and stepmoms happens because of the way women are “wired”.  We are all territorial and protective of our children, and then there are those of us who are still working on the less savory aspects of our personalities like jealousy, insecurity and fear which tend to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times.  Of course there are all kinds of societal expectations of women as mothers and stepmothers, as well as their expectations of each other. But when there’s a contentious relationship between the two, nothing gets resolved.  When a stepmother and biomom spend time whipping up tornadoes and waiting for a house to fall on the other’s head, no one wins. The big losers in the war?  The kids.   If you think they don’t sense your deep-seeded hatred of the other woman, think again.  Maybe it’s time we take a lesson from the guys and learn to shake hands and play nice for the well-being of the kids.  Be a little less “Wicked Witch of the West” and a little more “Glinda the Good Witch”.  You’ve got nothing to lose by being nice but you risk quite a bit, including the respect of your children, by acting vindictively.     

So let me ask you the same question that was asked of me:  Why is it that stepdads seem to be spared the challenges that stepmoms face?  Do you think there’s a double standard as far as expectations of stepmothers and stepfathers are concerned? Do you think stepmothers face greater challenges simply because of gender or does society’s expectation of women in a stepmother role factor into the equation?    

NOTE:  This is the first installment in a series that will look at the unique challenges that stepmoms face.  Next topic: feeling like an outsider in your own home.

Yours, Mine and Ours

20 Sep

She's ours

 

When I first jumped back into the dating pool, I knew that if I ever did find someone and fall in love again, that someone would probably have children of his own and wouldn’t want anymore.  I was 42 and figured my baby making days were over anyway.   

Then I met DH.  

On our first date DH and I knew that we were made for each other.   We both have two children from our first marriage (he has an EOW arrangement, I am the custodial parent of mine) and I was perfectly content with riding off into the golden sunset with our combined total of four kids.  That was until he had a crazy idea and an apparent burning desire to have a baby with me. I had to think about for a bit.  First thing to consider was our age (42).  Not only were there the risks to consider with my “advanced maternal age”, but also the math involved: when the baby starts kindergarten, we’ll be 48; when she graduates from high school, we’ll be 60 (I can hear it now: “Isn’t it sweet that your grandparents came to your graduation?”).  While our friends are enjoying their retirement, we’ll probably still be working to put our last one through college.  

Honestly, adding a baby into a stepfamily can be a messy proposition.  Not only are there children (potentially from both marriages)  to consider, but also the reaction of family members.  Then you have to consider the reaction of  the ex-spouses, which as we all know, can influence your child’s perspective on what you believe is a blessed event.  

Our first consideration of course were our four children.  How would they feel about a sibling?  They all agreed that it would be “cool”.  But then again, who doesn’t love a new baby?  After talking about the possibility of a new sibling with them and weighing all the issues, the pros outweighed the cons and before we knew it, we were pregnant and heading into the “yours, mine and ours” category.  

At first, our choice to have another baby concerned our families.  Some feared that I was too old to be pregnant and had no business giving birth in my 40s.  Some insisted that it must have been a mistake or a sinister plot to “trap” DH (little did they know it was HIS idea).  Others were upset by the fact that we didn’t feel the need to get married in order to bring a child into the world.  But hearts softened and everything changed the minute they laid eyes on her.  Babies have a way of doing that to people.    

The biggest surprise was the reaction of my ex-husband.  To my amazement, he was supportive.  In fact, the first “blended family” photo that we took was when I was about 7 months pregnant at the birthday party for our kids.  I remember posting it on Facebook and my friends applauding the fact that we both had come such a long way from our ugly divorce.  He picked up my older kids from school the day I gave birth, brought them to the hospital and made sure to congratulate us.  It was a nice moment.  Two years later “the baby” (as she’s referred to around here) will yell, “Sissy, your daddy’s here!” when he arrives to pick them up.  She always says “Hi Mister M!” and gives him a hug.  He confided in me once that his friends think he’s nuts for even acknowledging her, which he doesn’t understand.   He said, “You’d have to be pretty cold-blooded to ignore her.  She’s just a baby and she is the kids’ little sister and they love her.”  

When it came to our children, we were prepared for the possibility of a negative reaction, but thankfully it never happened.  They all adore her and dote on her .  When DH’s girls arrive for the weekend, the baby will run to the door squealing their names and I don’t even get a chance to say hello before they’ve scooped her up and taken her off to play.  From the moment the kids laid eyes on her, they love to find things about her that are just like them.  It’s their way of connecting themselves to her.  My Asian/Pacific Islander genes have dominated her so she looks more like my two older children, but she’s got the same crooked second toe and wide-set eyes as DH’s oldest daughter and the same mouth shape, long and lean body and facial expressions as his youngest daughter.  Unknowingly, her arrival bonded the family in a way that we couldn’t have done on our own, no matter how hard we tried.  The baby built a bridge between our two families and now it feels complete.  

The decision whether or not to add a child into a stepfamily can be a tough one.  If you have a “yours, mine and ours” family, how did the addition of your “ours” children affect your family?  Are the children accepting their new sibling?  How did your families react?  Are your ex-spouses supportive of your children’s’ new sibling?