Awkward Moments

“They are so cute!” “They’re adorable!” “I love her curly hair!

Seriously- looking for advice- how am I supposed to respond to these comments?

We had SD5’s birthday party this weekend and she had a blast! Not to mention, selfishly, I can report that there weren’t any awkward moments… I really felt like a nuclear family… like those were our full-time biological kids. I felt like a parent. I felt great.

Anyway, something I’ve always found awkward is comments about how they look… “They are so cute!” How am I supposed to respond to these comments? A biological parent would respond, “Thank you!” but I didn’t have anything to do with how cute they turned out. Now, “I love their outfit!” is a compliment I could accept… but not ones like, “She has the prettiest eyes!” [Even though SD3’s hair and eyes look like mine… she really gets that from her Daddy.]

“Thank you!” doesn’t make sense, but “Yeah, I think they’re cute too!” doesn’t feel like the right response either. “Yeah, they are!” sounds like a brag, and again, one I have no place to say, anyway.

Does anyone have any input or advice from these awkward moments? Any other awkward moments you’re willing to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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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.

Custody

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.

Birthday Girl

Today, we woke up with a FIVE YEAR OLD!

That’s right, SD4 is now SD5-Going-On-15 and she is so excited about it! Meanwhile, I cried after I tucked her in last night…

Baby Girl, If you ever stumble across this blog when you’re older, I hope you know how much you are loved. You are our world, and we cannot wait to see who you grow up to be, and what you’re destined to accomplish!

Take a minute to hug your babies today, because babies don’t keep!

Marriage Benefits

Marriage is hardor at least that’s what they say, right?

Although my husband and I hate that we only have our kids half the time, there are some huge marriage benefits to it. I used to feel guilty when I thought about it like this, but seriously… why should I feel guilty about making the most of our situation?!

For starters… we had to deal with so many hard things before we ever got married. We both moved a couple of times while we were dating… I had job transitions, one which sent me an hour away for about 10 months… he had a failed mediation, and subsequent court to create the initial custody agreement… divorce being finalized… moving in together… inevitable family drama… the list goes on. We worked through so many raw, emotional situations while dating that we learned so much about each other. We learned how each other processes intense situations. We learned how to work together to problem solve, and we developed an “us against the world” mantra. We developed an unbreakable bond through our dating years.

Additionally, now as old married folks, half of our time is spent just with each other. We have built in date nights, without even trying! We haven’t let our spark slip away. We aren’t constantly wrapped up in the kids… we have time to be wrapped up in each other. We get to reset and re-prioritize frequently.

So, although some would say the odds are against us as a blended family, I’d say the odds are in our favor. We’ve been through it all, and we have persevered. We’re lucky that “marriage is hard” isn’t true for us at this point, because we’ve been conditioned to work together in harmony. We’re prepared for when more “hard times” come around, and we will overcome whatever obstacles are thrown our way. We get to focus half of our time on family, and half of our time on each other, which I think is healthy.

In a situation where it’s easy to focus on the negative, there are many positives. It will always be important to never overlook those, or take them for granted. Life is beautiful, and it’s way better with my husband in it.

Meant to Be

Maybe God was preparing me to help raise these girls all along.

No, he definitely was. I know that I was placed in their lives for a reason. But maybe, he was preparing me in ways I haven’t considered yet.

Growing up nomadic… living at different points with my grandma, great-grandma, great-aunt and third-cousins, uncle & aunt, cousins & their spouses, even friends for some college breaks… I’m used to being with a lot of people, but feeling alone.

That’s exactly what it feels like to be a stepmom, and know you’ll never have any other kids. Surrounded by people, but still oftentimes feeling very alone.

Now don’t get me wrong… I always had a room and a bed growing up, but never had a nuclear family. The many family members I knew had no relationship with each other, but all had relationships with me. I was the in-between. I was isolated. 

And I never had my mother as my partner in crime, or my father to be daddy’s little girl. It was always just me and whoever my legal guardian was at the time.

I went to college, and almost completely lost contact with my entire family. I worked to maintain relationships with everyone, but seldom had genuine reciprocation. I built tough skin. I built a confidence that I was all I needed. I built resilience that children lucky enough to grow up in a “happy home” could not even begin to fathom.

I used to wonder, “Why me?!” “Why is this my life?” “Why couldn’t I be raised ‘normally?'”

All this to say… I now feel confident this was all in preparation to be a stepmom-only. 

On the one hand, I am fit to support the girls as they transition from home to home. I will understand if they ever feel tossed around, or if they ever feel like the “in-between” to relay information. I will sympathize with them when they inevitably overhear “family drama” and feel like they’re stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

And on the other hand, I am used to being surrounded by many, but feeling all alone. I can embrace being an outsider. I can recognize that blended families are hard to navigate, and persevere, like I’ve always done. In my moments of solidarity, I can bask in the all too familiar feeling it brings, and know that although life isn’t perfect, it’s still an amazing life to live.

You never know how your life experiences are going to impact you in the long run, but it’s a great feeling when you catch a glimpse of reason.

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.

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.