What Stepmom’s want Bio-mom’s to Know.

If you’ve ever searched “Stepmom,” “Blended Family,” or any other related word or phrase, you’ve undoubtedly came across a list like this. Recently, I’ve felt drawn to write a list of my own, from my perspective.

Some things Stepmom’s want Bio-mom’s to know:

Trying to manipulate the kids in to “liking you better” or “feeling sorry for you” is going to backfire on you in the long run. When they’re older and can process things, they are going to realize that their Dad & I always encouraged their relationship with you, despite you always discouraging their relationship with us. They’re not going to care if you think their Dad & I started dating too soon after you split. They’re going to remember how each of us made them feel growing up, and they’re not going to turn against their Dad and I, since we have been a joint, stable, reliable unit in their lives since they were toddlers.

You do not need to repeatedly reference things that happened when you and my husband were together just to make me jealous. Trust me, I’m already jealous enough. While you’re still working through your feelings regarding your split, I’m still working through my feelings of resentment about all of the things you got with my husband that I will never get. All the firsts you got, the big wedding, the pregnancies… Also, the nice things you two had that him and I just haven’t got yet… the nice house, the nice top-of-the-line SUV, the new furniture, the big back yard… It’s tough. Please know I’m human too and I’m processing emotions just like you are.

You can take as long as you need to “get over” your failed marriage, but please cut out all of the petty stuff. The phone calls just to yell, “Why did you pack [SD3] three salty snacks today?!” … Directing us to buy blackout shades and put the girls to bed at 7:30pm… Criticizing everything we do with them, dress them in, etc… It’s exhausting, not to mention hypocritical since you aren’t doing any of the things you’re “telling” us to do. We have joint legal and shared, 50/50 custody. We get to parent however we want to on our time. You know they are well taken care of and safe with us… so please stop being petty.

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I am not your enemy. When the girls talk about things they’ve done with you, I engage in the conversation and speak highly of you. When they say they miss you, I comfort them, and remind them it will only be 2-3 days before they see you again. On the flip side, when they cry and say they don’t want to leave our house, I tell them how much you miss them, and how excited you will be to see them. They actively talk about how they have “two mommies” and they love us both. They don’t remember the time before I was in the picture, so why bring it up? They will only have an issue with their blended living situation if we create one.

You will find someone new. I know you’ve had many failed attempts at a new relationship since your marriage ended, and I’m sure it’s devastating. You will eventually find the right person, and that person is not going to want to see you acting super high-conflict with your children’s Dad & Stepmom. Men don’t process things the same way women do. Men won’t buy into your charade the same way women will… they will see the “crazy” and run for the hills. Maybe that’s what’s happened in your past few relationships? You being a supportive co-parent will ultimately help you find the perfect man for you, and the perfect Stepdad to our children.

In the end… I just want you to know that we’re not as different as you think. We both have big emotions and a lot to process. My best advice for you is to embrace your time with the girls and be fully 100% invested in them, but then embrace your time without them and be fully 100% invested in yourself. I think a little honest, soul-searching self-care will be great for you. Things don’t have to be this stressful forever.

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Quick Update

Today’s the day.

Back in July, DH and BM decided to amend the custody agreement to correct custody/child support since SD4 began Kindergarten. It seemed like they were on the same page, for once.

As history is repeating itself, now that she’s single again, she has wavered in her reasoning, and I’m not sure if she’s going to agree to these proper adjustments.

Today’s the day, 2 months after filing, that DH and BM go to mediation to make these adjustments.

Will she agree, or will we find ourselves back in court? Will our lawyer fees delay our moving into a new house next summer? Will she become more high-conflict than ever following today’s mediation?

Will her lack of reasoning abilities and high anxiety tendencies spike more than ever? Will she continue using our kids as an emotional crutch? When will she see that she’s hurting them? Will she ever?

Only time will tell. Say a prayer for my family as today could make or break our routine and morale.

… and special shout-out to the real MVP, my DH! He is steady as a rock today, and fully prepared to keep advocating for the best interest of our kids no matter what the cost. I love you, baby!

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.

Not Everything is Black & White

One thing that really grinds my gears are all of these “un-provable’s” … The things that we simply cannot prove in court. The things that we know are taking place, and we know shouldn’t be, but we cannot document to a fault.

Like the hygiene… ugh. The fact that BM doesn’t brush their teeth before school, or even brush their hair before school. The fact that she does not give them baths every night, and doesn’t even wash their hair every time they’re in the bathtub. The fact that she does not clean their ears or cut their nails.

How she puts them in clothes that are too small for them. How she forgets to give them their medicine after doctors visits. How she ignores a red butt for weeks, but will keep them both home if one of them coughs one time in the morning…

Unfortunately, a four year old telling you these things are happening will not stand up in court. Unfortunately, BM knows to only admit to her faults over the phone and not in writing. Unfortunately, we may be able to see the small clothes and the filth, but it doesn’t always translate through into pictures.

And then, there are the lifestyle differences. The things that each parents has legal rights to make decisions on with the joint legal and shared physical custody. Like the food… the fact that she is vegetarian and believes that a small container of beans, 5 different fruits, and a chocolate dipped coconut bar is an acceptable lunch for a 2 and 4 year old. The fact that she keeps them out late, puts them to bed late, and gets them to preschool late. The fact that she will let them wear flats with no socks in the snow, but send them in long sleeves and tall socks with pants in 80 degree weather.

More than the un-provable’s and the lifestyle differences, I cannot stand the projection. How she will call and harass us about not taking care of them, not feeding them right, not dressing them right. How she has the nerve to call us bad parents.

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That her anger towards my husband has severely impacted her ability to reason, and that it is steadily taking a toll on the girls. [Then of course, she is constantly telling him that he is unreasonable… Classic projection.]

When you document every email, text message, and phone call, but you’re worried it’s not enough. When you’re constantly worrying about what manipulative play BM has up her sleeve. This shouldn’t be how joint legal and shared physical custody works. This should be smooth.

When all you want is to petition the court to make adjustments to the custody agreement, but you have no idea what lies she’s told, or who she’s convinced they’re true. It’s scary, and it’s frustrating, and it’s truly unfair.

Not everything is black and white…

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Powerless.

Powerless.

That’s how I feel lately regarding a lot of things. Well, mostly just one thing.

Before a custody agreement regarding our precious babies was in place, I used to crave it. I couldn’t wait for the day that we had an agreement. A “this is the schedule, deal with it” agreement. I almost didn’t care what the schedule was, as long as we had one. I am Type-A in a lot of ways, and this was one of them.

We didn’t have one of those civil, in-mediation type of agreements. My husband had to fight for what he has in court because BM wouldn’t agree to joint physical custody. She literally had nothing at all negative to show of him, so it truly was just a waste of money for everyone, solely because she was so angry at him for their divorce. Luckily, he was awarded joint legal & joint physical custody in court (obviously– because he is an outstanding father), and I thought we had got our big break. I was so relieved.

Never did I imagine how little the custody agreement would actually do for us. My husbands work schedule dramatically changed 4 months after the agreement was made, but BM refuses to split time more evenly without going all the way back through the process… back to court. I hate that threat… “Well, you’ll just have to take me back to court!” Oh, I could get sick right here thinking about that. There is so much room for interpretation in the custody agreement, and some of it does not even make sense whatsoever with his now “regular” work schedule. “The parties are to split time evenly” and “The father has 10 overnights a month” are a huge point of conflict for us.

When will she let go of this anger? She is hurting the kids… but does she realize that?! I want to show her grace, but she makes it so difficult. 

I write this from a place of hurt, a place of powerlessness. I’m trying my hardest to stay strong for my husband, because I am here to take on this burden with him, not to cause him more stress. But where is my breaking point?! I don’t ever want to have to find out. I refuse to give her that satisfaction.

She never gets in the way of our relationship, and I am so proud of that. But it kills me to not have the girls even time. It devastates me to see my husband hurt so bad, and for all of this to be out of our control unless we spend another $3,000+ on a lawyer. The system is broken. I feel helpless. I feel powerless. As a fixer, there is no worse position to be in.

My husband is so comforting. He reminds me that she has no power greater than he does. He reminds me that getting worked up is exactly what she wants, and to never give her that satisfaction. He keeps me grounded, he keeps me sane. He keeps me focused… Eyes on the prize!

To those of you feeling powerless- about anything- know you’re not alone. We will make it through, and we will come out victorious! The power of positive thinking is incredible, so let’s will ourselves to think positive together. Life is messy… that was never a surprise. This too shall pass.

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