Lead by Example

There is a lot of pressure on parents to be a good example for their children. To teach them how to think for themselves, and how to problem solve. To help keep them out of trouble, but also to let them fail some and learn from their mistakes. To instill a strong work ethic in them, foster creativity, and allow them to pursue their passions.

As a stepmom, having a blended family and 50/50 custody, there is even more pressure to be the best you can be. When you only have your kids half the time, you want to celebrate and have fun the whole time… but you can’t. You have to provide structure. You can’t just be a “fun parent,” because we all know that the “fun parent” is never the “good parent” in the long run. Even if you haven’t seen your kids since Friday morning when you took them to school, when you pick them up Monday after school, you have to go home, sit down, help with their homework, cook dinner, give them baths, and put them to bed at a reasonable time for their age. You don’t get to celebrate, “Oh, I’ve missed you so much!!” and take them to the playground and to ice cream every day. You don’t get to take them to their grandparents house every day after school, no matter how guilty the grandparents make you feel about it.

You have to maintain your structure. Because your structure is your example, and your example is what is going to make the biggest impact on your children’s’ future long term.

Now don’t get me wrong… we enjoy ourselves every week day, and we have a blast every-other weekend… but the example my husband and I show our kids every day is vital.

Additionally, I feel pressure to show my SD’s what a successful, career-driven woman looks like. To show them that you can be a #GirlBoss at work without sacrificing your family time at home. To push them to get a good education, pick a career, and do whatever it takes to succeed.

Parenting is hard, but co-parenting is even harder. Does anyone else feel like there’s more pressure when you only have your kids half-time? I’d love to hear your perspective.

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Five Things: Coin Flip

Five things that occasionally make me sad:

I will never be able to look at one of my kids and see my eyes or my features… or make comments like, “You get your sass from your Momma!”

I think our 50/50 schedule is great for the kids now, but what about when they’re older? I think they’ll need a home base… but how will we ever be able to prove that our home is the best to be that home base? And at that point, the kids will be old enough to know what’s going on… will it really be best to drag them through a court custody battle in their tween years?!

Will my family/friends/colleagues ever think I’m a legitimate parent, or do people just think I’m an idiot?

BM is a pathological liar and master manipulator… when the kids are older and she fills their head with lies to turn them against me and DH, how will we ever combat that, without speaking negatively of their mom to them?? Ugh.

Will my husband and I ever go on a [really late] tropical honeymoon? Or will there always be something to prioritize over that? Man, I want that getaway!!

 

Five things that typically make me happy, when the above items are holding me down:

I probably don’t want to push a baby with a big head like mine out anyway… I saw my sister do that (3x) and the first time was brutal and involved some sort of medical vacuum…? Gross.

I think no matter where the girls lay their heads more frequently as teenagers, they will always know DH and I are loving and reliable, and as they become adults, our relationships will be strong (plus then, we can block BM’s phone number forever… *evil laugh*)

It really doesn’t matter what anyone other than my DH and SD’s think! I don’t know why that is so much easier to say than to believe… but that’s the truth.

No matter what BM ever says or does… DH and I can only control what we do and say. No matter how rocky things get, if DH and I are consistent, loving, and reasonable with the girls, our adult relationships will be beautiful.

Even if DH and I never get a tropical getaway, hopefully I’ll enjoy whatever we are prioritizing over that! For example, a Las Vegas Christmas is a possibility for this year… so I should probably stop complaining about us having never been to the islands…

 

Remember, there are two sides to every coin… it’s all about perspective!

Overlap

We have had major drama surrounding birthday parties for the last several years. Everything from who is planning them, to who is invited, to who is paying for them. Over the years, we have been lied to, manipulated, uninvited, demanded to pay… the list goes on.

DH has always wanted to do parties together, because “we should all be able to get along long enough to celebrate their birthdays.” After the past four birthdays have come and gone full of conflict, manipulation, and second parties behind our backs, DH and I decided for SD4’s upcoming birthday, we should start doing what BM always requests- having separate parties.

We’ve known for a few weeks the date and time of each others parties… BM’s being a week before ours. I sent our invitations out early last week, and included a few friends from SD4’s class who she requested.

Today, I hopped on my email, and BM had emailed the whole list of parents from SD4’s class with a PDF birthday invitation to her party, again, a week before ours. Not a big deal, and not a surprise; however, we should have planned better.

First and foremost, it’s difficult to “plan” or “coordinate” with someone who will argue the sky is green, just so she can be right and “win.”

Now, the parents who received both invitations are probably really confused. SD4’s friends may be confused, and ask her about it. What would SD4 say? I don’t ever want her to be uncomfortable about her blended family… I want her to be proud of her whole family!

Which brings me to my next point… which may sound like a contradiction… but I’ve decided I’m not going to volunteer in her classroom, or eat lunch with her at school like her BM and “Mimi” (my mother-in-law) have. I’m not going to attend PTA meetings or be active in on-campus fundraisers or initiatives. Before you gasp, hear me out…

Since her BM has gone to lunch at school and gone on a field trip, I don’t want to show up and make SD4 explain who I am to people. I don’t want kids to say things like, “That’s not your mom! Who is that?!” because I think it may make her feel uncomfortable.

Actually… I guess I’m not really sure how she would feel, or if she even is capable of processing emotions like that, but either way, I’ve decided to bow out of these things I had been looking so forward to, in order to benefit SD4. Is this real parenting?? I think so.

I’m not ashamed of my role… but in all of this overlap, I think I have to take a back seat and just watch it all play out.

Tidal Waves

I’ll be the first to admit that my feelings crash down on me like a tidal wave from time to time… like the other night when I wrote No Surprise Here. Typically, I do well for myself… but I appreciate you all being here to help me process and vent when the waves crash down.

Anyway, over the past couple of days, I have again been at peace. My daytime & nighttime (work + family) have both been great. I’ve found a new- unexpected- joy in helping SD4 with her Kindergarten homework each day.

You read that right- Kindergarten homework every day.

SD4 is learning how to read, and it is incredible! The progress she makes week to week is truly fascinating. I really look forward to coming home and helping  her each day. I may be biased, but I’m pretty sure she has an acceptance to Harvard in her future…

I’ve been following a blog, The Called Stepmom, for a while, but her post yesterday really jumped out at me… so much so that I re-blogged it. As a stepmom, there is always a lot of pressure surrounding what the kids call me. On the one hand, I adore the rare moments they call me “Mommy,” but on the other hand, I really don’t care that they call me by my first name. There is societal pressure that if they don’t call me a version of “Mom,” then they must not consider me a mother figure. I think that societal pressure is bogus, honestly… and why in the world should it even matter what they call me?

People are too judgmental of other peoples parenting… parenting structure, style, family… everyone just needs to lay off, okay? We’re [mostly] all out here just doing the best we can.

The Called Stepmom also brought to light a Bible verse I hadn’t seen before… “He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother.” Psalm 113:9

How beautiful is that?! God has directly made me a mother. This is further (and possibly the most important) affirmation that my job in these kids lives is important. I can make an impact and help them to develop into the best versions of themselves they can be!

Emotions are fickle… don’t let the waves crash you down.

What’s in a Name?

I rarely re-blog anything, but this is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. I will be following this blog a little more closely moving forward… Great read!

The Called Stepmom

When my stepson was in elementary school, our home was always full of neighborhood kids after school.  One night, while I was cooking dinner, a few of them wandered into the kitchen to see what I was making.  One of the more precocious boys commented on what an awesome mom I was – and my stepson was quick to correct him: “She’s not my mom!”  His friend was confused, and began to list off all of the “mom” things I do: cook, clean, laundry, buy toys (lol)… Finally, the boy scrunched up his little face and announced, “You’re just like a mom, so I will call you SCH-mom!”  It was stinkin’ cute.

What to call (and not to call!) stepparents is a big hairy deal for many families.  My stepkids have always called me by my first name; in fact, my stepson used to tell people, “This is my Brandi”…

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No Surprise Here

As I lay here wide awake over an hour after going to bed, my thoughts have overcome me.

First thought- why didn’t I take my sleep medicine?! Is it too late now? *the struggle*

Second, my husband and I had a brief talk about “kids” before he so luckily fell right to sleep. It was a nice conversation, but in it, he reminded me that I knew what I was signing up for when I started dating him, and subsequently married him. There were no surprises here. I knew he couldn’t have more kids. But I think what tonight’s brief conversation brought to light was that he really doesn’t want anymore.

I knew he couldn’t have kids, but I figured once we had been together a while, got married, etc. he would want to have kids with me. Seriously… he is Super Dad… so why wouldn’t he want to have a family with me? Come on, one more kid wouldn’t add too much crazy to the mix, now would it?! In my heart, I always thought we would find a way to make it happen.

Anyway, early on, I really did believe I would be okay with only having my two stepdaughters… but nothing could have braced me for how painful the reality of it is now that we’re married, and I’m living through the crazy day after day. I’m constantly reminded by music, social media, friends, colleagues, my stepkids, my in-law’s, etc. that I am just a stepmom. 

I don’t even know why the word “mom” is incorporated into this title, because other than myself and my husband, no one sees me as a mother of any kind… not even my stepkids. And of course, I can’t take it out on the kids… they are so young. They can’t even begin to grasp the concept of our blended family. But it’s hard when all day you’re reminded of how you’re not a mom, then you come home and your SD4 starts telling a story by saying “Hey, Ashley… when I was with my mom… not you, my REAL mom…” Like, obviously you’re not talking about me or I would already know this story, right? *I digress*

It’s going to be a long road of processing exactly why my husband doesn’t want a family with me. To some degree I get it… in his eyes, he has his perfect kids and his perfect wife, so he has the perfect family! But there is just no way for me to explain to him the desire I have to truly be a mom. I hate to gender stereotype, but really, this is an urge in [most] women that [most] men can’t even begin to comprehend.

Before I began writing this, I prayed that I would find peace in this and not resent my husband for this in the future. I knew I was coming into an already-made family. I knew I would be the odd man out forever. I knew that… again, no surprises here. 

And my husband is so good to me. He is exactly the type of man I dreamt I would spend the rest of my life with. So I can’t let something like his weigh me down forever, especially since we are so blessed to have two amazing kids.

So what do I do? How do I convince myself that I am actually a part of this family? Will it just take time? Or should I consider this an unrealistic expectation and just brace now for the fact that I will always be an outsider?

I don’t think this is one I’ll be able to work through and answer in a few blog posts… check back with me in 40 years and I’ll let you know how it’s all played out.

Goodnight, friends.

The Results

Well I thought you all deserved an update…

DH & BM’s mediation to amend the custody agreement was a rough three hours, but a good mediator with common sense paired with thorough documenting and preparation proved successful, and our goals were accomplished to a tee!

There are so, so many insane things I could tell you about demands she tried to make, but instead, I will leave my positive reflection, now that a couple of days have passed…

My husband is an amazing father, and it’s clear that deep down, BM knows that.

Hopefully we won’t have to go through this again for a while!

God bless my husband for sitting in that room and keeping his composure for three hours.

Good things happen to good people, and karma is a bitch!

Have a good night, friends. Thank you for all of the continued prayers!