Tag Archives: stepmoms

“…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.

BioMom vs StepMom: “Excuse me, that’s MY milestone. Back off.”

9 Mar

My sacred mom/daughter first: going to the ballet.

I recently stopped by The Psycho Ex Wife and read a post about things that stepmothers would like to say to biomothers.  While much of it rang true from a stepmother’s point of view, I did take exception to one of the attitudes expressed about a biomom’s request:

When my daughter turned five, you took her to have her first manicure/pedicure… I feel you stole my chance at creating a lasting memory.  A better idea?  Ask me if a certain milestone activity is important to me first…

Where do I begin?  It’s all about mommy!  Step-mom “stole” from bio-mom.  It’s a frigging mani-pedi, sweetheart – it’s not baby’s first steps.  The thing that is amazing about this one is that the self-centered bio-mother author assumes that the child being taken to the manicurist is being done as a “childhood milestone.”  Beyond that, it requires the step-mom to be a mind reader and to contact the biological mother every single time something might be assumed to be a “stolen milestone” if step-mom does it first.  “All about me.” Again.  Selfish.  Possessive.

Hmmm.  I think this stepmom is way off the mark.  As a biomom, is it selfish and possessive for me to want to share certain milestone events with my child?  Maybe.  But then again, it’s MY child!  I haven’t had to personally deal with this issue as a biomom, but I have dealt with it as a stepmom.  A couple years ago, I was taking my daughter to get her ears pierced and my oldest stepdaughter wanted to get hers pierced at the same time, especially once she heard that their cousin was going to come along too. DH would have been perfectly within his rights to give us the go ahead, as he did, but I had him call BM first. She said it’s something she wanted to do with her daughter when she turned 8, because it was their family tradition. I can completely respect that. And she did take her to get her ears pierced just a few weeks later. 

I think there are some “girly” events that we need to be mindful of like buying a training bra for the first time or a dress for homecoming, or even that first mani-pedi.  If you’re a woman, you probably intuitively know which events I’m talking about—think about the ones that you shared with your own mother.  If you’re a father, there are some “father/son events” that are  treasured like driving for the first time (read about our “oops” here), learning to shave or learning to tie a Windsor knot.

On the other hand, as a biomom, if you’ve got the corner on the sharing the first “girly” events,  or if you’re the primary custodian, don’t forget that it’s only fair that you give up a few things as well.  Last summer, my BFF called in tears because her ex was going to take their son to Hawai’i with wife 2.0.  She was devastated because it had always been her dream to take her son to Hawai’i for his very first time and she felt like her ex was cheating her out of sharing firsts with her son:  his first time on a zipline, his first time at a luau, his first time swimming in the ocean.  I put a positive spin on it for her and said, “You may miss out on his first time, but think about the first time you get to go together.  He gets to be your tour guide!  How cool will that be for him??”  When that didn’t work, I had to remind her that as the primary custodian, she gets a whole bunch of “firsts” and at some point, she was going to have to get used to the fact that her ex (and even wife 2.0) were going to have those moments with him too.  It may suck, but it’s fair. 

If you’re a stepmom, especially a non-custodial stepmom, you might want to have a list of events in the back of your mind that might need to be shared with mom the first time, instead of you.  And if one of those events comes up, think about your motivation for wanting to participate instead of the biomom.  If you’re a biomom, and your ex or the stepmom want to share a special moment, think about your motivation for saying no.  Case in point, a stepmom friend of mine and her DH had planned a trip to Disneyland with their four children (2 his, 2 hers).  Using common courtesy, the DH ran the trip by his ex who replied, “Absolutely not.”  The reason?  Because the new wife and her children were going along. Ultimately they went without DH’s children (mostly because the DH wasn’t up for WWIII with his ex), which was a disappointment to all. Malicious intent on the part of the biomom?  Maybe, until you hear that one year later, the ex went to Disneyland with her boyfriend and their combined children.   Losers in the game?  The kids.  The missed an opportunity to build a memory with their dad and stepsiblings (and to go to Disneyland twice in a year).  

If you’re not a custodial stepmom do you think there are certain milestones that should be “reserved” for the biomom?  Biomoms, are there certain milestones that have been shared with the stepmom that have hurt you? What were they? Do you think it was done maliciously?   Do you think women intuitively know which events should be save for mom??

Confessions of a BioMom Gone Bad: Manipulating the Parenting Plan

14 Sep

The creation of a Parenting Plan is standard procedure in a divorce.   It’s meant to be used as a guide, and there can be variations if both parties agree.  But, if both parties cannot agree, they must go back to implementing the Parenting Plan.  What I’ve seen too often is BioMoms that use the Parenting Plan in a manipulative way especially with BioDads that are following the rules and are trying to “play nice”. 

I’m talking about the BioMoms that won’t allow BioDad to bring the kids back an hour past the documented drop-off time saying to the kids “We have to follow the Parenting Plan!”, but the next week will ask if he can keep them a few extra hours because she hasn’t finished running her errands yet.  Or the BioMoms that can’t possibly find 2 weeks that the kids can stay with their dad for his summer vacation time but will ask during the school year if he can take them for a week so she can go on a vacation. I even have a Twitter friend that said her stepdaughter told her that when she asked her mom if she could spend more time with her dad, her mom said, “You can’t because the Parenting Plan doesn’t allow it.”   Then when the father asked for more time with his daughter, BioMom said, “You are not entitled to any extra time.”  Huh?  What?  Entitled?  That seems like such an odd choice of words when you’re talking about your own child.

I’m tired of the BioMoms (and custodial BioDads) who only want variations in the Parenting Plan when it suits or benefits them.   For instance, BioMom asks BioDad to make changes in the schedule to accommodate her needs and BioDad agrees.  But when BioDad asks for more time, BioMom falls back on the “legalese” in the Parenting Plan and says something like “The Parenting Plan states that there can be variations when both parties agree and I don’t agree with you having extra time beyond what you’re allocated in the Parenting Plan.”  In the most ideal situation, the custodial parent should be happy to give up some time to the non-custodial parent when it’s requested, but in many situations, this is not the case. 

I’ve got some experience on this particular subject because I behaved badly as a BioMom for a few years (see “Confession of  a BioMom Gone Bad” in the July issue of StepMom Magazine) and I have been guilty of this offense myself.  It wasn’t until I met DH that I could observe what it felt like to be a non-custodial father.  DH has the same “boiler plate” custodial arrangement with his ex-wife that I have with my ex-husband:  every other weekend and one night a week.  I know how much he misses not being able to see his girls every day.  And while our house is always bustling with my two children from my first marriage and the daughter that we have together, nothing can take the place of the two daughters that are only with us every other weekend.  If his weekends fall the right way on the calendar, he may get to see them 6 full days out of the month (plus a day if you add up the week day visits).  For any parent that wants to be involved with their children, that doesn’t seem like enough.

That’s when I decided to start acting like a rational human being instead of a vindictive bitch.  When my ex-husband started stepping on my last nerve and I started to plot how I could get away with not inviting him to our daughter’s concert or making sure the kids had activities scheduled on his weekend, I’d look at DH and realize what a jerk I was being. I was hurting my kids more than anyone else. 

I had a few choices: 

1.  I could be completely inflexible with my schedule to screw him out of time and continue to refuse requests for extra visitation;

2.  I could spend thousands of dollars and take him back to court to have the plan revised;

3.  I could do what felt like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do—BE REASONABLE. 

Despite my opinion of him at times, he’s still half of their DNA.  He divorced me, not the kids, and he should be able to have extra time beyond what the Parenting Plan states if he wants it.  It was time for “both parties to agree”, but more importantly, it was time for me to get over myself.  Maybe it’s time for you to do that too. 

If you’re a BioStep, it may have taken the BioMom in your life to make you realize how you’ve been manipulating your Parenting Plan to suit your needs and ignore his.  If you’re a BioMom, it may be hard to let go of the one thing in your life you know will bring your ex-husband to his knees.  Bottom line is, start working for the good of your children and not for your own selfish agenda.  Regardless what your issues might be, your ex-husband (no matter how big of a dirtbag you think he is for leaving you or how much you despise his new wife) is still the father of your children, and your children deserve to have a relationship with him. Work your Parenting Plan to your children’s advantage, not yours.  A healthy co-parenting relationship is what we all want to model to our children, right? 

Here’s an idea:  the next time he asks for extra time, give it to him and use that time alone to do some self care.  Take the time to do some reflection and find the root of your anger and hostility and free yourself from it.  You may be able to do it on your own or you may need a therapist’s help.  Figure out what you’re doing to contribute to the problem, own it and then fix it.  It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you’re willing to do the work. 

Are you a BioMom who worked your Parenting Plan to your advantage and his disadvantage?  What made you stop?  Or are you a BioMom who is willing to admit that you still like using the Parenting Plan as a weapon?  Would you consider stopping for the good of your children even though you feel like you’re giving up control?

For healthy co-parenting support, go to Co-Parenting 101.  They’ll be  featured in a segment on co-parenting after divorce on CBS News’s The Early Show on Wednesday, September 15th at 8:09 AM EST.  Please tune in!

What Comes Around Goes Around

17 Aug

My stepdad should get a medal of courage for raising me.

 

I was raised by a single mom who decided, much to my dismay, to get married when I was 10.  My new stepfather was a nice man with two young sons (ages 7 and 4) from his previous marriage and I wanted nothing to do with him.  I was the proverbial stepdaughter from Hell.  I refused to live with my mother and stepfather instead taking refuge at my grandparents’ home.  My mother and I had lived with my grandparents since I was born, so staying on wasn’t a big deal, and I suppose it was easier on my mom  to let my grandparents deal with my snit fit.  She was 18 when she had me, so my grandparents stepped in and did the bulk of the child rearing. When I was 13, my mother and stepfather decided to move the family from Los Angeles to the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.  I was in the middle of my eighth grade year (my last year of Catholic elementary school), so I graciously told them to go ahead without me.  That’s when reality kicked in and my grandparents told me that it was time to go live with my mother and stepfather, full-time.  We packed the car and I moved to a city I had never seen. 

I gave both of my parents a run for their money throughout my teenage years.  I’m sure my poor stepfather thought more than once, “What the Hell did I get myself into??”  I was a horrible teenager.  I was a snot-nosed, back-talking, disrespectful, “you’re-not-my-dad-so-I-don’t-have-to-listen-to-you” kind of stepdaughter. You know the one that you fantasize about smacking into next week?  Yeah, that was me.   I wasn’t being poisoned against my stepdad by my biological father, I was just a mega-brat, plain and simple.  

But when I turned 16, my stepdad wanted to adopt me.  After a bit of legal wrangling with my birth father, my adoption went through and my dad handed out See’s suckers that said, “It’s a Girl”. I remember him saying, “I always wanted a daughter”.  It was nice to be wanted even though I had worked hard at making myself difficult and unlovable for years.  

When DH and I started our life in the blender, I figured I was an expert in the stepfamily department having been raised in one and because I had been a biomom for 11 years.  Ha!  Let’s just say what comes around goes around.  I’m sure my mother and stepdad (who were only married for 11 years) have several laughs when they hear our stories.  Whether it’s karma, paybacks or God’s practical joke, I’ve got my hands full.  I try to keep in mind my stepfather’s attitude of calmness and graciousness in the eye of the storm that I created.  

If karmic justice is at work for former challenging stepchildren like me, wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was at work for the biomom that actively engages in parental alienation or purposely poisons the children against their stepmother?  I wonder what happens when she becomes a stepmother and the same thing happens to her?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if she changed her behavior toward her ex and his new wife/girlfriend and stopped her campaign of ridiculousness?  

I am thankful that I came in a bit prepared.  My heart goes out to the moms that get blindsided, especially the well-intentioned women that naïvely believe that being a good biomom automatically qualifies them as a competent stepmom that their stepchildren will adore.  If you’re not a stepparent, it doesn’t make any sense when someone tells you that being a stepparent is very different from being a bioparent.  If you’re about to become a stepmom, strap up and hold on. You just might be in for a wild ride. 

What about you?  Are you a formerly horrible stepchild that is now the stepmother of children who wish you’d just go away?  Did you assume that because you were raised in a stepfamily that you’d be prepared to raise a stepfamily of your own?  

Are you an overly critical biomom who became a stepmom and got a taste of what you’ve been dishing out?  Or are you a stepmom that secretly (or not so secretly) wishes that biomom would marry into some seriously challenging stepkids?  

 

The Princess Gene

5 Jul

A recent guest post on Café Smom  by Jessica (Sassy Single Mamma) stimulated a lot of discussion in the BioMom and StepMom community.  The 23-year old single mother of two posted a list of 12 things that “a Smom should do/be”.  The one that everyone was talking about was #12:

12) You are his wife, but I am the mother of his children. I’m not saying I’m better then [sic] you! I’m saying he has a responsibility to take care of his kids, and part of that is making sure his kids [sic] mother is okay! So when he says I got to drop my car off at___ because hers broke down and needs to get to work… Don’t complain! Realize its [sic] for the good of the kids.

The responses ranged from an agreement to a suggestion to program AAA into her cell phone.  My response, to all women, not just specifically Jessica, was this:

#12 doesn’t fly. I’m with Ellie: program AAA into your phone. And while you’re at it, learn how to use a screwdriver and a hammer, learn how to pump your own gas, hang your own blinds, install a car seat properly, start the lawn mower and change a light bulb. Part of being a single mom (and a woman) is modeling to your children (especially your daughters) what a self-sufficient independent woman looks like. We don’t need a prince on a white horse to rescue us because we have it under control!!!

I remember the days when my husband first left.  The lawn needed to be mowed and I couldn’t muster up enough strength to get the lawn mower started because I had shrunk to skeletal-like proportions on the “divorce diet” (all stress, no food).  I was standing in the front yard in tears when my neighbor came over and asked if I needed help.  Completely defeated, I said yes.  Once he got it started, he offered to mow the yard for me, but I protested.  Damn it, I was going to mow the lawn ON MY OWN.  And I did.  It was the proudest moment I had experienced in months. 

With my ex-husband gone, I knew that I had to get familiar with basic home and car repairs or at the very least, find someone to tutor me should I need help.  I made a vow never to call my ex to ask for help with anything.  The one time I did break down and call (my car wouldn’t start in the McDonald’s parking lot) he said, “What do you want me to do about it?  Figure it out yourself.”  Click.  I called AAA and never looked back.

Part of being a woman is modeling self-sufficiency to our children, especially our daughters.  Too many women rely on men to rescue them and in turn, pass on “The Princess Gene” to their otherwise capable daughters.  You know the gene I’m talking about:  problems arise, the princess sends out a distress signal and waits for the dashing prince on the white horse to gallop in and rescue her.  In many families the BioMom presents herself as the princess.  Sometimes the incessant requests for help from her ex-husband are out of pure helplessness or lack of resourcefulness, some are in an attempt to woo him back and still others are because of a victim’s mentality coupled with an attitude of “you owe me”.   Nevertheless, it’s my opinion that it is a single mom’s responsibility to take care of herself and her children and NOT rely on her ex-husband.  Of course there are times when we need help but constantly relying on your ex-husband to bail you out on simple tasks that you could take care of yourself doesn’t make you look like the intelligent and capable woman that you probably are.  My guess is that most ex-husbands would feel a lot better knowing that the mother of his children can pump her own gas, paint a room, use a weed wacker, check the oil in her car and hang a picture (all of which I have heard BioMoms ask their ex-husbands to do). 

What do you think about Sassy Single Mamma’s #12? 

StepMoms: does the BioMom in your life constantly ask for help from your husband?  Does he rush to her aid or does he tell her to figure it out on her own?  How does it make you feel when he helps her out on projects?   Or is the BioMom in your life totally self-sufficient with an “I can do it myself” attitude? 

BioMoms (married, single or in a relationship): do you often rely on your ex-husband for help with projects that are typically “man’s work” or do you have an open invitation from your ex-husband for assistance anytime, anywhere?  Do you feel that he “owes” you the help since you are the mother of his children? Or is your ex-husband the last person you’d call in a pinch? 

 

 

Sugar-coating it is only going to give me cavities

9 Jun

Recently, the following comment was made on StepMom support page:  I was going so subscribe to her blog but now I will recommend that people to NOT subscribe because of her entry ‘No one’s the B….’ This is not neccessary (sic), professional, or Godly. This is a big let down. Why would anyone put this title except to do a ‘shock’ piece. She is more creative and did not have to go to this low level.”

I love controversy. 

At first I was taken aback by this man’s (yes, I said MAN) criticisms.  I assume that the “offending” post is “Who’s the Bitch:  BM or SM?” which is about BMs and SMs taking ownership for their part in making a relationship work; although it is possible that this man was offended by my many references to the book “No One’s the Bitch” or the fact that “No One’s the Bitch” is listed on my blogroll.  I’m also going to assume that he didn’t take the time to read the post, which is a shame since it’s the mostly widely read and discussed piece that I’ve written.  He probably stopped at the word “bitch”, clicked off and went on to warn the general public about my use of profanity.  What a shame.

The purpose of this blog is to look at the ugly side of being a BioMom and a StepMom without ever pointing fingers, and somehow, brainstorming a solution.  Being a BioStepMom, I am well aware that there are three sides to every story (hers, mine and the truth).  If I wrote a fairy tale version of what it’s like to be in a StepMom or BioMom’s shoes, I’d be doing a grave disservice to you, the reader.  I could sugar-coat it, I suppose.  We could run through our imaginary Candy Land together: a place where BioMoms and StepMoms hug to greet each other at pick-ups and drop-offs; a place where our stepchildren tell us how much they love and appreciate us while smothering us with hugs; a place where BioMoms, StepMoms and DearHusbands take a blissful vacation together; a place where all telephone conversations were pleasant—but I’d be lying and you know it.  The ugly truth is that most of us are dirty and sweating bullets in the trenches of parenting.  Some of us are in active combat while others engage in a cold war.   And sometimes we refer to the other woman as a bitch.  That’s right, I said it:  B-I-T-C-H.  For some of us, it flows freely out of our mouths while for others, it comes out laboriously after we have been pushed to the edge.  Sometimes we even go so far as to add colorful adjectives in front of it.  In some cases, it makes us feel better while others are ashamed that they’ve succumbed to a “lower self” moment.  But the truth is, like it or not, many of us use that word.

My commitment to you is to always tell the truth.  Sometimes it’s not pretty.  My intent is not to offend, but to work through the ugliness and issues that we encounter during our parenting journey while providing support and a safe place for StepMoms and BioMoms to land. I’ll never sugar-coat it.  It’s just not my style.

As for my detractor, I wonder if he even knows about “No One’s the Bitch” and if he does know about it, does he discourage women from reading it because of the title?  Does he realize how it has inspired women to form some kind of working relationship with the “other mother”? 

Ultimately, I really do have to thank him.  After his post, my blog hits spiked and my subscribers doubled.  That says to me that our community of moms is more interested in what’s real than a candy-coated version of the truth.  

Am I completely wrong?  Tell me:  have you ever called the other woman a bitch or something worse? 

 And for those of you who are counting, I’ve written the word “bitch” eight times and none of them were used in a malicious manner.

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.