Double Life

How do you cope with your kids having a totally separate life from yours?

How do you cope with the fact that when your children aren’t with you, they’re with another parent/set of parents? They’re making those people feel like a million bucks, the same way they do to you. They’re showering them with cuddles, compliments, and love, the same way they do you. They’re giving other people their little sweet kisses. Making memories, memories that you will never be a part of.

Those parents are serving as their caretakers… serving in your role. They [hopefully] are feeding them, keeping them safe, loving them, and providing for them. They are getting to pack their lunches, brush their hair, get them dressed, take them to school, cook them dinner… all the things that you look forward to. They have their own bedtime routine, which probably looks different from yours. How do you cope with having another set of parents in the picture, when they can’t communicate with you without it being a disagreement or production?

How do you cope with not knowing if your children are being taken care of at all times? Are they being bathed? Are they eating well? Are they being watched at the playground? Are they dressed weather and size appropriate? How do you cope with feeling like your home is the better home, but having shared physical custody, and no firm way to prove your home is “better enough” for primary physical custody?

When your kids aren’t with you, even you are living a different life… a “double life,” if you will. Your daily routine is completely different, and there is an unimaginable void. How do you cope?

How do you cope with your children constantly bringing up their other home? Is it a sign they trust you and want to share happy memories with you, or is a sign they miss their other home?

How do you cope with being a part-time parent, when in your heart, you’re a full-time parent? If you’re the stepparent, how do you cope with being a full-time parent in your heart, when friends and family only see you as a part-time parent? 

These are the thoughts that consume my mind. These are just a few the pressures and realities of a blended family.

Walking the Tightrope

As we prepare to formally request modifications to our custody agreement, I am a little anxious. After tirelessly documenting every detail of the past 1.5 years (since the last court date), I feel a sense of calm knowing that we’re prepared, but I also wish I knew more. I feel like we’re walking a tightrope, and could fall in either direction.

Do we have the right type of documentation? Will it hold up in court?

Is what we consider to be regularly denying access to the girls, actually her regularly denying us access? Or does BM see enough gray area in the current custody agreement to skate by?

Do we have enough documented incidents of her instigating arguments and lashing out? Or will the judge consider that petty and not care about it?

How can we get the judge to care about BM’s poor standards for hygiene, if we do not have concrete proof?

Do we have enough to clearly paint the picture that BM has been manipulating the custody agreement- and the girls- this whole time, but doing so in a manner that is just under the radar as to not give us a “slam dunk” case against her?

Will the judge care that she only gets the girls to preschool about 5% of the time (if that)? Will the judge realize that our oldest is about to start Kindergarten at a school where she will have to be there an hour earlier? How will that work if she continues to have them on school nights?!

To that tune, will the judge care that she has stalled in coming to a compromise on a school district, just so that we miss the deadline for the one we live in?

Does the fact that she never returns all clothes on each exchanged- as directed in the custody agreement- even matter because they’re just clothes? Or does it matter because it’s something in the agreement she is not adhering to?

Is the track record we have documented the past 1.5 years enough, or will we need more?

We’re on the tightrope. Will we fall on the right side, or the left side? What I know for sure is that on this tightrope, I do not want to make it across in the same situation we began.

Responding to the Ex’s Ridiculous Accusations — stepmomhelp.com

REPOST from Jenna Korf. This is an excellent short video… If you are feeling like you’re constantly defending yourself and/or your family, please give this a listen!

“Be really confident in your household that you’re doing the right thing… that you’re parenting together…”

Do not engage! “Ignore! Ignore! Ignore! Block! Block! Block!”

Enjoy! 🙂 (Link below!)

Stepmoms spend a lot of time feeling controlled by the ex because they waste a lot of time responding to ridiculous accusations. Continue reading →

via Responding to the Ex’s Ridiculous Accusations — stepmomhelp.com

Protecting the Newbies

I’ve felt a strange amount of loyalty lately to an unexpected group of people… I feel this loyalty to BM’s new boyfriend and his family.

Let me explain.

Since BM got a new boyfriend about 6-weeks ago, things have seemed to progress at a rapid pace. The girls immediately met him and his whole family, and spend a lot of time with them. He lives with his parents and sister, so I’m assuming that the girls spend most, if not all, of the time they’re with BM, with him and his family as well.

The rapid progression has my husband, his parents, and myself a little concerned. Despite the fact that I think things are moving a little too quick, I am feeling a strange loyalty to this boyfriend and his family in the sense of, I don’t want us to have negative feelings about them!

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Whether or not BM settles down and marries this guy, or another guy, I know my husband is going to have a huge issue with the girls having “another Daddy.” Which I do understand… I think this is a “normal” hurdle my husband will emotionally have to face. But he has no issues with the girls having “another Mommy” in me, their Stepmom. If I can be a “second Mommy” for them, we must accept her next husband as a “second Daddy”… am I right?!

And my Mother-in-Law (MIL)… *Backstory* This weekend, my MIL noticed that the boyfriend’s mom has the girls in her Facebook default picture… just her and the girls. You read that right- this lady put her son’s girlfriend’s [of 6-weeks] daughters in her Facebook default picture. I think it’s odd too, but my MIL went off about it. Last night she said to me, “I’m going to look [SD4] in the face and tell her that she’s not her Mimi, I’m her Mimi! I’m going to tell her that she can’t love her like I can because I’m her Mimi!”

As a Stepmom, I literally just stared at her in response. When she said that, what I heard was, “You can’t love them like their Mom loves them because you’re not their Mom.”

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I understand jealousy– trust me- but come on! Over the years, I’ve gained this hyper-awareness and hypersensitivity to people who either come across hypocritical, or just rude when talking about my blended family.

And I know, my girl brain may be getting the best of me here. But we need to look at the facts… you cannot fully accept me as the girls family, and not fully accept the step-family on the other side of the fence. You cannot say I’m a great Mom, but then not give this guy a chance to be a great Dad.

And I know, this guy and this family may not last, but I really think we need to start choosing our words and our mindsets wisely now. We will be far better suited in the long run to embrace these people and continue to set a good example for the girls.

So this is my PSA for everyone who is in, or knows of, or ever meets, a blended family. Choose your words wisely. Think about the big picture before you speak. Think about what you can control versus what you cannot control, and act accordingly. Practice what you preach.

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And know that everyone makes mistakes… you can’t get this 100% right on your first attempt… but progressing your mindset is far better than remaining hypocritical, or remaining and poor role model. The sooner in “the process” of having another family added to the mix we can all get on board, the smoother the overall transition will go. Trust me, resistance is nothing but negative in the long haul.

Hang in there, Stepmama’s!

Let’s Meet in the Middle.

This post will be me talking myself off the ledge. As usual. Enjoy!

I’ve written about comparisons and feelings of inadequacy in the past. And I know that to be successful in a blended family, you have to let it all go.

But y’all… women are crazy!! Our brains are just wired so complicated that we give ourselves a headache sometimes…

I know it’s not just me, y’all…

When you look at the fine print, this weekend was a mix of everything I hate about being in a blended family. For starters, we didn’t have the kids this weekend (bummer). Then, I beat my husband to a cookout, and before he got there, all I got was questions about BM’s new boyfriend they all had seen on Facebook, and how quick it seemed for her to be getting serious. No worries, then my MIL chimed in to let everyone know BM & my husband’s timeline, and how quickly they got engaged and then married. I mean… she went into detail including exact proposal and wedding dates. Whew, I’m glad she cleared that up… *vomit*

We had a couple of conversations about how Kindergarten still hasn’t been sorted out for SD4. Logistical conversations are the worst, and when I feel the most powerless.

My husband had his share of what I call “unnecessary mentions” this weekend too. Referring to he and BM as “we” in talking about past experiences, referring to his wedding, but talking about his wedding to her, not to me… etc.

We all do these things. We all get nosy and ask intrusive questions. We all reference people or places from our past that we really don’t need to mention. I know I am guilty of unnecessarily mentioning BM a time or two [or 3,000] over the years. So I get it… no harm, no foul.

So let’s meet in the middle. We need to pick our battles. As stepparents, we have to tread lightly and understand that people (including ourselves) make mistakes. We cannot be overly sensitive… we must have thick skin for the war ahead of us. It is imperative that we meet in the middle, because that is the only way we can set a good example for our children. After all, that’s all that matters.

We also must aggressively fight for our families. We must remember that we will only be treated the way we allow others to treat us. We must stop comparing ourselves, and remember that sometimes first isn’t the best… sometimes last is the winner (Missing the Firsts but Saving the Best for LastSource: stepparentmagazine.com).

And when all else fails, we need to push forward with the tenacity of Todd Chrisley– a strong example of a father in a blended family- and heed his advice:

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Hang in there, friends! I’ll see you in the middle.

Reasons to be Thankful.

I follow several different blended family blogs and social media accounts, one of my favorites being @stepmomquotes on Instagram. This page allows followers to direct message the admin questions, then the admin posts them for anyone to reply to.

As you can imagine, this page gets a little wild sometimes. But it has led me to realize that although our blended family is not yet a well oiled machine, we don’t have it as bad as others.

For example, BM has never once said anything negative about me to my husband, or to me directly. We see each other frequently, and our interactions are always neutral or positive. It seems like so many BM’s out there target their ex’s new significant other. Now don’t get me wrong, she was less than thrilled when I first made my entrance into the family, and she did have some expected words to say to my now-husband, but it was never anything off-the-wall.

Another example, anything high-conflict is always through email, texts, or calls (which we’re constantly trying to stray away from). And her “high-conflict” is never threatening, cursing, slandering, etc… her high-conflict is always just about her wanting to be in control of everything… she just wants the final say. Look, so what if she calls to pitch the exact same custody schedule that we pitched (and she denied) last month?! I don’t need the “credit” as long as time is continuously shared even. Do ya thang, baby-mama…

As far as we know, BM isn’t actively trying to turn the kids against us. This also seems to be a trend in the sites that I follow. I’m sure she tries to make herself seem more fun, likable, etc… but as far as we know, she isn’t downright telling the girls to dislike us, or saying negative things about us. SD4 is like a parrot, so I’m pretty sure we would know if BM was saying something crazy about us.

Last week, there was an article that went viral on social media about a family at Disney World (or Disney Land…?). There was a picture of the child, and then on either side stood her four parents, wearing shirts that said, “Mommy” “Daddy” “Stepmom” and “Stepdad.” I saw this post and “liked” it on Facebook, thinking “we could never be like this.” When my husband saw that I “liked” it, he sent me a screen shot of a text from BM that morning. She had sent him the article, and wrote, “I wish we could be like this.” I could not believe what I was reading… she actually wants things to be amicable! I was floored.

Again, we definitely do not have a perfect system. Our situation is a seemingly constant struggle for time- having shared physical custody- and a difference in parenting styles between the two households. We could have it so much worse. We are over two years into this, and the chaos has definitely minimized as the time has passed. I am looking forward to seeing how the conflict hopefully continues to minimize.

When things get tough, I remind myself of these facts. I remind myself that there is still hope for us to do this two-houses thing right, and to be great role models, support systems, and parents to these baby girls.

Mother’s Day Recap

Well, well, well…

What a long few weeks it has been! Things have been pretty crazy at work (different post for a different day), and I haven’t had a chance to see my therapist (i.e. this keyboard).

The first thing I want to write about and process is Mother’s Day. We’re about 9 days past Mother’s Day, but after the way I left you in the last post, I felt like a recap was necessary.

Mother’s Day, as expected, was a normal day for me and my husband. We drove about an hour away and spent most of the day fishing in new places. We ended the evening with dinner at our favorite spot from the town I lived in when we were long-distance. He did tell me “Happy Mother’s Day,” which was totally not necessary, but appreciated.

The girls were so sweet surrounding Mother’s Day. The two-year old (SD2) painted me a plate at school with her little handprint looking like a flower, and at the top was written, “Love Grows Here.” The back of the plate said, “Mother’s Day 2017.” She gave it to me the Thursday evening before Mother’s Day and obviously, I was shocked! It meant the world to me, and she was so excited to give it to me. When I dropped her off at school the next morning, I thanked her teacher for thinking of me. She replied that she is also a stepmom, and she “gets it.” She also went on to say how excited SD2 was to paint both me and BM a plate, and how she was very particular about what color handprint I had versus what color handprint BM got. That sounded just like my baby…

The evening before Mother’s Day, the girls gave me a card my husband had helped them to purchase. It was a surprise that we even saw them that evening, so I’m not sure how those logistics played out. The day after Mother’s Day, the four-year old (SD4) brought me a card she made at school with a little crafted heart inside, that read, “Mom, I love you to pieces!” She was so excited to give it to me! I love how big both of the girls hearts are, and how much they care about me and their Dad.

Mother’s Day, as with all holidays, is not about the gifts, but it was sweet to be recognized in those small ways. I can say that the time leading up to Mother’s Day was more dreadful than the actual day. I did not cry about the girls, or cry about my mom on Mother’s Day. In fact, I didn’t cry at all! It was a great day spent with my husband doing something we love to do. I have no complaints.

I am confident that over the years, things will become more routine and hopefully, I won’t overthink Mother’s Day as it approaches. I know there will always be certain voids in my heart, but overall I know that I have an amazing family in my husband and babies, and I will always be loved and supported through thick and thin.

Life is good, and I am a very blessed Stepmama!