Monday, December 16, 2013

True Confessions of a Step Mom: The "I Lost It" Edition

Holiday schedules are hard. The day of, the days surrounding, the month leading up to it.... the whole thing is just rough. Our parenting plan is pretty black and white. Two lawyers were paid good money to make sure of that. So one would think that we could plan our holidays by consulting a calendar and the parenting plan no problem. One would be wrong.

In late October we received an email from my step daughter's mom informing us that she would be using her 2013 vacation time the weekend after Christmas. Our weekend. One of two weekends we expected to have in December. Leaving us with 4 Tuesdays and one weekend to pack all of our celebrations into. Thinking there wasn't much he could do about my husband let it go. He attempted to have a phone conversation with his ex about it but the call kept dropping. And then as it does, time got away from us.

Until the Christmas season hit us full on and we received another email asking us for a vacation day in 2014. Now I feel like I know the parenting plan inside out. I have read it and reread it many, many times over. However that day I was working and my husband needed to respond to the email. My husband is many wonderful things. But he is not one to keep track of details. So he consulted the parenting plan. Only to find that it specifies that you cannot take vacation time during the week of a holiday. Key verbiage that would have came in handy in October.

Normally we would have taken it as a lesson learned and moved on. However its Christmas. And Christmas, bless it, has a way of making people crazy. Not to mention we were still upset over the fact that his ex felt entitled to both the weekend prior and after Christmas. So my husband called her and requested that they split the weekend. Which naturally led to the Christmas War of 2013... but this story isn't about what he did. Or even what the ex did. It's about what I did.

During the email and phone call battles that ensued my stepdaughter's mother sent an email in which she copied me on. An email that, in my opinion, was best kept between her and my husband. An email that, in my Christmas crazed/ sleep deprived/ tired...tired... oh so tired... mind invited me into the conversation. So I replied. The longest email I have ever written. An email that could have been broken into ten blog posts. (Which may explain my absence from the blogging world, no?)

In this email I detailed many, many grievances with our custody situation. I focused on the relationship that my husband and his daughter deserve and the ways I feel she undermines that. Do I feel like everything I said was true? Yes. Do I feel like I was mature and refrained from unnecessary accusations? Yes. Should I have sent the email? I'm really not sure. I know that I feel better having said the things I said. I know that in the moment I felt justified.

The problem is I know I wouldn't have normally sent that email. I try to keep things as amicable as they can be for my stepdaughter's sake. I also try and leave it to my husband to discuss the important things. After all, it's "their" daughter. But that day I was seeing red. And so I sent it.

Stepmoms- have you ever "lost" your cool? Have you ever broken one of your own rules of stepmommyhood? I'd love to know I'm not alone.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas

Have I already told you all how much I LOVE traditions? Well I do. I love them the most. They give you something to look forward to and count on. They make for great memories. And most importantly they unify your family.

I find this especially important with my little family. Because she has another family. And because holidays away from her mom can be a little scary. So last year in hopes of showing her that we could have our own special traditions I started the 12 Days of Christmas. Each day that she came to our house she got to open an envelope with a number (1-12) on it and each day we would do a Christmas activity. For example: look at lights, watch a Christmas movie or make a Christmas ornament.

Last year the holidays were great. But there was always a little adjustment. There was always the ,"At my mom's house we do it this way..." or the sadness of being away from her siblings to deal with. This year has been so different! Instead of sadness or uneasiness she is genuinely excited and comfortable being with us for holidays. This year we had Easter and Halloween and both went really well.

So last year when we started the 12 Days of Christmas I knew she would be excited. What I was not prepared for was how much she was anticipating our traditions. Immediately she started asking me if we would have a Grinch night (which we will) and would we get to go to the Temple Lights (which was our 2nd day of Christmas). And then on Sunday morning (our 5th day of Christmas) she got super excited to see we were doing the Snowman Breakfast and had a great time comparing it to last year's breakfast.

The best part for me was putting up the tree. My stepdaughter looked at each ornament and either told the story of it or asked us to tell her why the ornament was special. Putting our ornaments up from our last two family trips was especially fun for her.

I feel like her excitement and joy over our traditions this year has proven how important traditions can be for a family. Last year she didn't know what to expect and while she had fun, it was all new and made her a little anxious. This year she will have a good mix of surprises and traditions to look forward to.

I hope your holidays have gotten off to a great start as well! Happy (Blended) Holidays!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Today you are ten. Its a big birthday for you. The first double digits. The first birthday that has made your daddy start to panic and wish he could slow down time. For me its the fourth birthday I've been around for. In fact the first time I met you was to celebrate your seventh birthday.

In the past year I have been amazed at witnessing the person you are becoming. With each passing day we can see more and more of the person you're growing into.

You are funny. Intenionally funny. You always have a clever comeback when Daddy teases you. You come up with things to say that witty and quick.

You are starting to assert the fact that you are growing up to everyone around you. You roll your eyes when Daddy tells you he loves you and tries to get a hug. You tell him not to call you "sweetie" and not to treat you like a little girl. And for the most part you mean it. But you still climb in his lap to watch TV and you still love laying with him at night.

You are all girl. You are obsessed with red lipstick. You love girl talk and on Halloween when your mom and I got you ready you were in heaven. You told us how much you liked getting ready with "all the women".

Ten is a big year. I vividly remember the year I was ten and all that came with it. Being a girl is the best. But sometimes it can be the worst too. And it was in my tenth year that I began to figure that out. Most likely you will too.

But you're brave. And spirited. You're ready to take the world on. And you will. I know it. Daddy knows it too. But go easy on Daddy. You may be ready for lip gloss and staying up all night with the girls. But Daddy will always think of you as his little girl. Let him baby you every once in awhile. I promise I will make sure he behaves in public.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On Community & Support

Before I started a blog I thought Twitter was all about celebrities self promoting and for reality tv addicts to discuss who should get voted off of Big Brother. It was only after reading another blogger's tips for increasing your blog's popularity that I realized how much more Twitter could be. For step moms (and I'm sure many other groups of people) it can be a lifeline.

Imagine a community of women who are all experiencing the same things you are. A community of women ready to lend an ear, offer advice and can truly empathize. Its incredible. (Not to mention the fact that I can now spare some of my real life friends from having to hear every detail of my life as a stepmom!)

So here it is in a nutshell. My advice for step moms out there needing support. Needing a community.

Join Twitter. Search #TwitterStepMoms. Follow these wonderful women. Read their posts. Ask questions. VENT. Read their blogs.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to support a stepmom. Find that community for yourself. There are so many women out there who understand what you're going through. Find them. Connect. Share your struggles and (hopefully) your successes.

Through Twitter I have also discovered another online community that is full of stories from incredible people about their family dynamics. You can check it out here: Family Fusion Community

I've personally written two posts (so far) for them. You can check out my posts here: A Daddy Keeps You Safe & here: Time

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I have a love/hate relationship with holidays. Its (seemingly) inevitable that something comes always up and drama ensues. So as much as I anticipate "our" holidays and love planning them, I always feel the dread and play out the "what could happen" scenarios in my head.

Up until Halloween my gut was always right. A holiday would approach. Drama would arise. The day would come and be great but there was always the aftermath of the drama to deal with. There was always the awkward exchanges and resentment on both sides.

So with our first parenting time agreement deemed Halloween on the horizon I held my breath and waited for the call. You know the call I'm referring to. Every person in the coparenting world knows the call. To my surprise (shame on me for expecting the worst) the call never came. But when my husband let me know that his daughter's mom would be getting her ready at OUR house I planned to stay busy and out of the way. Just to be on the safe side.

Imagine my surprise when she (my step daughter's mom) arrived and told me that she didn't want me to feel like I couldn't help with the getting ready. And when she actually suggested that I do the makeup and she do the hair? I couldn't have been more shocked. But, are you ready for this? It was nice. It was pleasant. It was actually kind of (gasp) fun. And my step daughter? She was over the moon. She loved getting attention from both of us at the same time. She clearly enjoyed having that experience. Of both of her "moms" getting her ready. And isn't that what its all about?

The next day I thanked her mom. Including me was a big step and it was a lovely gesture. Not to mention its what was best for our child. The added bonus is neither of us had to miss out. We both got to be involved.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

True Confessions of a Step Mom: The GUILT Edition

"I should do more."

"I could do more."

"If this was actually MY child would I do/say/act/think/feel differently?"

We've all been there. Everyone of us has felt it. The guilt of not being enough for your stepchild. The guilt of not being a "perfect" wife.

This weekend I felt the crushing feeling of this guilt and even though I did everything in my power to make the guilt go away. It didn't. It lingered and festered until Sunday when we dropped my stepdaughter off. And then did it disappear? No. Its still with me twenty four hours later.

On the surface nothing was out of the ordinary about this weekend. We had a nice, relaxing Saturday morning. Followed by a jam packed rest of our day and a late night for all three of us. And ended the weekend with a lazy Sunday at home. Very typical of our routine.

But mentally I wasn't as present as I could have/should have been. And I knew it. At the movie on Saturday I was aware of this. While we were carving pumpkins my nutty family drew me out of my thoughts and I was able to be completely be in the moment with them. But once we finished I felt myself drift back. By the time Sunday hit I'm sure it was not a secret that I was in my own world.

Like I said before, I knew I wasn't living in the moment. However even the self awareness didn't help. I was stuck.

If I was the biological mother to my stepdaughter would I feel this guilt? Probably. But I would also have the luxury of time. In this situation I do not. My time with my stepdaughter is limited. And knowing time is limited magnifies that guilt.

How do you handle guilt as a stepmom, as a biological mom, as a wife? I know I can't be the only one plagued by this emotion.

Monday, November 4, 2013

To Have or Not To Have

I want babies. 

I dream about babies. I obsess over everything pregnancy and baby related. I would take your baby if you offered it to me. Kidding. Or not. (Mostly kidding.)

I've wrote about this longing before. I've wrote about my struggles with adding a baby to our little family. My husband and I endlessly discuss whether we should start talking about the possibility of a baby now or wait until we know its happening. As in I'm pregnant and ready or not here comes a sister. Or brother. (Can you tell which I would prefer? Ha.) 

And as much as my husband and I have always speculated on how my step daughter would feel with a new addition, we (read- HE) has been too chicken to directly ask her.

Cut to this weekend, after family pictures, when we are standing around and talking to our photographer about her recently announced pregnancy. And the inevitable, "You two are newlyweds, what are you waiting for?", comes up. To which my step daughter promptly replies with a very firm, no questions about it, "Nooooo....." 

Hmmm. I guess we now know her feelings on this subject. My question is what do we do from here? Like it or not babies are in the future. If I have it my way, the very near future. So do we talk to her about it now- or later? 

And once we have this conversation how do we help her be okay with it?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tis' The Season

This past Sunday my husband and I were blindsided with the news that his ex would be using her "vacation" time the weekend after Christmas. Our weekend. Our Christmas time with my step daughter. Right away we were furious. The parenting agreement states that each parent is allowed a week of uninterrupted time and we took ours this summer. Coinciding with "our" weekend, not hers. And while the agreement doesn't specify, we both assumed that this was an understood courtesy. Weekends are precious. I guess we should have clarified this.

During our fuming we went over the many ways we could mess with her plans. How could we use our vacation week next year to most impact her? This year is our Halloween and its only days away. We could easily manipulate the day to cut her out. After all she didn't give a second thought to our Christmas plans.

This conversation went on for awhile and when it ended we hadn't got anywhere. We were both still angry, hurt and possibly even more frustrated.

This morning (two days after the initial news) I woke up evaluating my reaction. The anger and the scheming didn't accomplish anything. All it did was make me tired. So tired.

So what do I do? What can my husband and I do in this situation? We can make sure that we enjoy the time we do have. We can plan the few days we do get in December to be full of the Christmas magic. Last year we did a family 12 Days of Christmas countdown. A Christmas activity for each day we spent with my step daughter prior to Christmas. This year we will be starting a little early but we will continue our countdown. I'm also planning extended family celebrations to happen a little earlier in December. That way our Christmas (we get Christmas Eve this year) is still relaxed and just the three of us.

And next year will we plan our vacation time to inconvenience her? No. We will continue to plan events and vacations for our family at times that work best for us. We will continue to think of my step daughter first and what's best for her. As tempting as it might be to do otherwise.

Fellow stepmoms- how do you get through these frustrating situations without completely losing your mind? How do you rise above and put the kids first? I'd love to hear advice right about now.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The 5 Tasks of Stepmommyhood

This past Saturday I spent an admittedly large part of my day browsing the internet. I didn't have much of a purpose in mind.I just was dealing with a sinus infection and didn't feel up to much else. Somewhere in my reading I stumbled about this article. Now I think most of us have heard of Kubler Ross's 5 Stages of Grief Model (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression & Acceptance) but this article related these stages to being tasks without a specific timeline. Something I hadn't seen before. And while reading these tasks it occurred to me that these "grief tasks" could just as easily be the tasks of "stepmommyhood". 

And so here is my personal take on these stepmommy tasks. 

Grief Stepmommyhood task #1: Acknowledging the reality
You are now a stepmom. Congratulations. With that comes an adorable child(ren), a doting husband, getting to be a mommy without the stretch marks and an instant family to dress in matching Christmas pajamas. Right... try a child (or children) who just might actually like you but is also struggling with loyalty issues, a husband who wants to make everyone (yes, even his ex) happy, the declarations of "you are NOT my mommy", and the inevitable stress of holiday schedules. And oh did I mention the ever present ex? 

Yes I'm being snarky. But you fellow step mommies get my drift. You can talk about the rewards and joys of your ready made family all day long. And its true. There are rewards. You can absolutely love, adore and be insanely happy with your husband and stepchild(ren). Yet the biggest truth of it all still remains. The reality is hard. Being a stepmom is not easy.

Grief Stepmommyhood task #2: Weathering the stress of separation
You fall into a rhythm with this whole family thing. You are making three (varying levels of) nutritious meals a day. Yes you. The girl who previously may have remembered to eat twice. On a good day. And one of those "meals" may or may not have been a pop tart. 

You are taking your family on exciting (albeit exhausting) day trips. You plan crafts and bike rides and movie nights... then Sunday rolls around. And you find yourself bursting into tears after the door closes and their mom drives off. With you heart in tow. 

Grief Stepmommyhood task #3: Adjusting to absence
The house is soooo quiet without the sounds of a child in it. Has it always been this quiet? You know, realistically, that is must have always been this way. And yet it feels empty. Without the hustle and bustle of a family what are you supposed to do? You're a parent. You need someone to parent. But they are with their mom. Oh wait! You still have your husband. Maybe you should plan a date. A movie! That's perfect. But the one you want to see is one your stepchild has been dying to see and you can't see it without him/her/them. So now what? 

Grief Stepmommyhood task #4: Revising your relationship to the deceased your step child
You crave acceptance from your stepchildren. You want them to think you're cool and fun. You want them to think of you as a friend. And yet you still want them to respect you and now that you're a parent. After all, you are their stepmom and that makes you a parent. Right? Or should you try and be their friend because they already have parents and maybe your role isn't the one of disciplinarian? Maybe you should take a step back and not be so involved. Then again you see that their step dad is pretty involved and if he is you should be too. But you read articles about this whole "step mom step back" thing and it kind of makes sense. Wait, what am I doing? What is my relationship to this child? What is my role? Do I have it all wrong? 

Grief Stepmommyhood task #5: Rewriting the storyline of your life
First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes baby in the baby carriage. Sounds simple enough. Unless your version includes stepkids and the presence of your husband's ex...

Do these "tasks" resonate with you as well? I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I'm not unique in the fact that I had a miscarriage. In fact it's estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies end this way. But when you are personally going through it? It feels like a pain no one else could possibly understand.

I anticipated my first ultrasound from the moment I found out I was expecting. I couldn't wait for the affirmation of a heart beat. I couldn't wait for my (now) husband and I to stare at gray images and see our baby for the first time.

But the night before my appointment I started spotting. And I knew. Even though my husband told me it could be many different things. Even though I took to google to find out how common spotting is. Even though the spotting was to the slightest degree. I knew.

So when it was confirmed with an ultrasound I wasn't surprised.

When I went to work after my appointment I told myself I was okay and that I had expected this news.

But I wasn't okay. I just hadn't processed exactly how "not okay" I was. I didn't know that the level of "not okay" I would reach was even possible.

At this point in my story I should stop and let you know that realistically I know I was not alone. My (now) husband was hurting too. In fact he shed more tears in that doctor's office than I did. But knowing this and how I felt were (and some days still are) completely different things. Dads hurt too. Men in general hurt in many ways that society likes to pretend they don't. But that's a post for another day.

I remember the first pregnancy email I got after the miscarriage. It knocked the breath out of me. Somehow I had expected that these emails for the many "expectant mothers" websites I signed up for would stop on their own. After all I wasn't expecting any longer. I no longer needed to know what fruit or vegetable to compare my baby to. I no longer needed to know what I should be eating. What I should be doing to prepare for a healthy delivery. Even still it was several days before I could bring myself to the point where I could go in and cancel these memberships. Meanwhile I kept seeing the emails pop up in my inbox.

The worst part of all of this- I was waiting to tell people I was pregnant until I had my ultrasound. I also wanted to be in my second trimester before revealing the news. With this is mind I scheduled my ultrasound for the very first day of what should have been my second trimester. So now how do you tell people you had a miscarriage when they didn't know you were expecting to begin with? In my case- I didn't. And that was a mistake. A huge mistake.

When I was pregnant I was determined to be armed with information. I wanted to know everything. I wanted the support of a community of moms and mommies-to-be. I read. I signed up for the aforementioned websites. And not just one. EVERY single one I could find.

But when I lost the baby? I withdrew. In this time, when I needed support more than ever, I cut myself off. I stopped talking to people I had known for years. I stopped looking for the community that previously I had longed for. I argued with my husband for absurd reasons.

Because I felt alone. And because I felt alone in my grief I subconsciously created a world where I was. Alone.

Over time I pulled through. Little by little. Week by week. In very gradual steps I found my way back. But it was a struggle.

I am sharing this story now because it didn't have to be that way. Not entirely. I could have let people in. I could have reached out. I could have found resources to help myself. But I didn't.

And while this post may seem out of place on a "step mom blog". Its not. Because my message is YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Not ever. There are always people who will care if you let them. And personally I will never make that same mistake again. I will always do everything in my power to surround myself with strong, smart people. People who-when you are down- will pull you through. So if you are struggling because you are a step mom and the journey is hard, and you find yourself feeling alone- reach out. There is a community of people experiencing the same things as you. Trust me. Just reach out.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Creating a (Step) Family Culture

Early on in my "stepmommyhood" I charged full force in to creating traditions, memories and establishing our household values.  After all I believe one of the most important things you can do for your family is to establish a culture within. So I did. And was promptly awarded with a mixture of success (hurray!) and failure. Wait, what? I was so not expecting failure.

That's when it hit me. I was building from the ground up in a ready made family. My husband and his daughter already had a family culture. And in our situation her family culture started with her early years while her mom and dad were together before getting completely tied up with her mom's new family. And the family traditions she most recently shared with my husband were in large part ones my mother-in-law created. Yet here I was the bull in the china shop trying to redo everything this child knew about holidays and family.

So what is a step mom to do? Most women have family traditions and values they have spent years dreaming of passing on to their own families. So now that you married a man with kids, with a family culture already, do you give up those dreams?

Absolutely not. But you need to do some research first

First step you take is asking questions. What is important to your husband? You might be pleasantly surprised by what he has to say. My husband shared that in his family the Easter bunny hid the eggs. This was a first time hearing this tradition for me but now its something we are incorporating as well. You want to make sure you learn from your husband not only things his family did growing up but also things him and his ex did with the kids. I know that part was hard and scary for me but its necessary. Especially with older children. In this aspect I was pretty lucky because my step daughter was very young when her parents split. But its still part of her history and I'm glad to know her early traditions.

After you have asked your husband what's important to him try and figure out what traditions and values your step child has at their other home. I remember on St. Patrick's Day running out to the store to buy my step daughter a gift because I didn't know the leprechaun was supposed to have left something. I know now that I could have explained to my step daughter that the leprechaun probably didn't visit because we aren't Irish and don't celebrate. \but how much easier would it have been if I knew the importance of St. Patty's in her life?

Now that you are armed with information its your turn to bring to the table your values and traditions. I want my family to be uniquely "ours" so I have created (with the help of my husband and step daughter) a family culture that is just that. Unique to the three of us. But the reason it works is I started with knowing what they both expected and needed.

For me as an adult I still expect to go to my dad's for Christmas and have brisket. If my (current) step mom had taken it upon herself to change that I would have probably felt hurt. But every year when my Dad's extended family gets together we still have brisket and potatoes. Last year she gave us a new tradition by cooking the meal my Dad and her learned to make on their honeymoon for the actual night of Christmas. Because she respected the tradition we already have I was completely on board with the new one.

Establishing family rules may be a little trickier depending on your child's living situation. The biggest challenge we have is keeping the limited time we have her structured. Especially because neither my husband or I are strict people and are much more likely to go with the flow and guide her with a general set of expectations than to lay down a bunch of rules. At her mom's house there are a lot more rules. Which is to be expected since she also has younger children in her home and has our daughter the majority of the time. That being said we do the best we can to try and create consistency for my step daughter while still parenting in our own way. When conflict arises we simply explain to my step daughter why things are different at our house than they are at her mom's. Not everyone will agree with this method and that's fine. But it works for us.

One last thing to remember is your step child's mom will more than likely still want to "own" their family traditions. Every year my step daughter and her mom go for pedicures on her birthday day. It would be out of line for me to try and do that for my step daughter. However there might be a holiday where you know your step child will only be celebrating in your home. For us this was Easter this year. My step daughter was going to be with us and I know how much she looks forward to an Easter ham every year. Normally I like to make green chili and beans for this holiday. This year I made the ham because I knew that was important to her. Making a ham was something I could do for her without stepping on anyone's toes and so I did. It's a balancing act after all.

What are some challenges you've found in establishing family traditions in your step family? What about house rules?

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Wedding Story: Divorced Parents Edition

When I got married in May of this year part of my preparations was making a list of the poses I wanted for my photographer. Upon meeting my photographer I immediately explained to her that my photos would be a little more complicated than "groom's side" and "bride's side". She of course told me that it was no problem and to just make her a list.

 My husband's part was easy. 2 parents, 3 siblings, 1 set of grandparents, 2 sister in laws, a few nephews and of course his daughter. Mine was not. I knew my parents would want their own sets of pictures making my list triple the length of my husband's. I needed pictures with my mom's side, my dad's side and then there were the combined photos that I knew I had to have. This was my opportunity and since I was the bride, how could they refuse me?

Let me back up just a bit. One of my most treasured possessions is a picture of my mom, my dad and I in the hospital after I was born. My parents were married for over five years but for some reason this picture is the only posed one I have that is of the three of us. At my high school graduation I would have loved to change this. But while the majority of my class mates were taking their pictures with mom AND dad, I was running back and forth between two families to take pictures.

At my wedding I knew I wanted a picture of me, my mom AND my dad. I also wanted a picture of me with my three siblings. I have tons of photos of me, my brother and sister. And of me and my two brothers. But none with all of my siblings (in August my baby brother entered the world so now I need a picture including him). And because my family has grown immensely over the past few years, I got both pictures. Even better? It wasn't awkward.

But that picture wouldn't be the only thing my parents blessed me with that day. To my delight and surprise- my parents sat next to each other at my wedding. When I made the seating chart I sat them at different tables. I gave each parent a table to host with their own families. For a few reasons that changed and prior to the ceremony my Mom moved my Dad and his wife to the same table as her and my step dad.

For someone who grew up in a high tension family with parents who could barely be in the same room, seeing my parents seated together at my wedding was the greatest gift. And someday when my step daughter gets married I hope that we can give her the gift of peaceful harmony at her wedding as well.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Home Sweet (Second) Home

From the very beginning I've been very adamant about my step daughter not being a guest in our home. When I was growing up, I went through periods of time where I felt really comfortable at my Dad's house and then times where I was extremely uncomfortable. If I referred to "home" it was always my Mom's house. I wanted my step daughter to have a different experience with having two homes than the one I had. So from the beginning I did everything I knew how to, to give my step daughter a second place to call home. The first few times she was at our house she would refer to her Mom's as her "real house" but that quickly went away and now when she says she wants to go home or says "our house" and not "your house" I feel like we are doing a pretty good job of accomplishing what I originally set out to.

So as someone who struggled with feeling at home in two places here are some of my suggestions for helping your step kids feel at home in your house. I know everyone's situation is unique but so far with my step daughter these have been successful for us.

1. Make sure they have their own space in your house. My step daughter has her own room and bathroom at our house. If she had siblings it might be different but for right now she is our only child making this situation possible. If you don't have the room in your house to give them their own room (or you want them to share with a sibling) make sure they have some place in the house that is theirs. I also recommend that they have their own bedding. Nothing makes you feel more like a guest than sleeping on someone else's sheets or under someone else's comforter.

2. No overnight bags. Keep basic toiletries and clothes for them at your house. I know it can be expensive and seem unnecessary for one child to have two sets of clothing. However who packs a bag to go home? If you have an amicable relationship with their other set of parents maybe you can split their wardrobe between the two houses. Or if you only have them on the weekends maybe the other parent will allow you some of their older clothes. Personally I buy on clearance and am lucky to have family members that also like to buy clothing for my step daughter to wear at my house. Also you can find awesome deals on gently worn clothing for kids if you look! One other thing to note on toiletries is to make certain you have items specific to your child's needs. My step daughter uses a special cream for her eczema which we didn't know about until recently. Having it at our house now makes her feel more secure in knowing we are attending to her overall comfort and needs.

3. Don't wait on them hand and foot. This is one that I admittedly still struggle with. I'm naturally a caretaker so it's second nature for me to want to wait on everyone that comes into my home. Including my husband and step daughter. Little by little, I've made sure she gets her own drink of water and that she cleans up after herself. By allowing her to get her own drinks and snacks from the kitchen not only is she being independent and self sufficient but she is also making herself at home. Win win.

4. Involve them in major purchases. Buying a car? A new TV? If you can, take them with you. If time (and lets be honest- patience) doesn't allow you to bring them with you for the purchase, then still make sure they feel included. When I bought a car this past summer we told my step daughter we had a surprise for her then picked her up from school in it. By including her she knows its the family's car.

5. Frame pictures. Do you have baby pictures framed of your biological children? Then frame baby pictures of your step child as well. I remember at my Dad's house there was baby pictures and school pictures of my sister but not my brother and I. At our house we have current pictures framed as well as a baby picture. In my step daughter's  room I also have a bulletin board with pictures on it. There is one of her Mom and her, her Dad and her, a family picture of the three of us, pictures of her friends, cousins, grandparents. I even have a picture of her with Mom and Dad from when they were still together on the board.

6. Create a family calendar. Include their activities. My husband and I have a board that we list appointments and special occasions on. My step daughter has her own column where her activities are listed. Not only does it make sure we remember when her activities are but it shows her that we are planning for them as well. Even activities that fall on her Mom's days go up there. If its not something we will be attending we have it up there as a reminder to ourselves to ask her how it went.

7. Decorating? Planting flowers? Let them help. When they get the chance to voice opinions and help with the work it gives them ownership. All of the sudden its "our garden" and "our Christmas lights". Not "yours" or "my Dad's".

8. Respect their belongings and make sure others do as well. I remember going to my Dad's house and finding my sister had taken over my boom box. And that she had a sleepover and the girls slept in my room instead of hers. Now I know siblings need to know how to share. But if its not something you would allow if your step child was in your care full time then you shouldn't allow it while they are at their Mom's.

9. Let them see your house in its natural state. I use to kill myself making the house "perfect" for my step daughter. But my house isn't always "perfect". So now when she comes over on Fridays the house is "as-is" (I do the majority of my deep cleaning over the weekend). I'm not preparing for a guest- my step daughter is coming home. That being said I still like to make sure the house is warm and welcoming for her.

10. Start family traditions. This is a subject I could and probably will do its own post on later. But giving the kids new traditions that happen in your family and in your home is so important. It makes them feel connected and it will create memories that will remind them of their home.

What do you do to ensure your step kids feel at home? Are there any on this list that you don't agree with? I welcome your opinions and advice.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Small Wins

Lately there has been an influx of small wins in our world of co parenting.

Nothing major. Allowing us an hour longer on Halloween. Emailing me pictures from spirit week. Attending a school function as a group.

The result? In the last month I've been amazed at the confidence my step daughter has acquired. At the school event we all went to she went seamlessly from talking to one parent to the other. When I picked her up from her step grandmother's house she showed genuine excitement at me being there. There was none of the usual uneasiness of being around me in front of someone connected to her mom.

This is not to say that we haven't had our share of frustrations over differences of opinion. Or that we are living with our ideal situation. We aren't by a long shot. But when I think back to this time last year and the stress we were under with the impending holidays, I see so much improvement. And if there is this much improvement over twelve short months, how much can it improve in the next twelve months? The next twenty four? I'm optimistic.

How often in our lives do we take the time to celebrate the small wins? How often in our journeys as step moms do we celebrate these small, seemingly insignificant victories? I know I don't often enough.

But when the result of these small wins is a well adjusted kid who bounces seamlessly from house to house with joy? We must stop and celebrate. Because that's what it's all about. It's not about my feelings being hurt because she didn't eat dinner. Nor is it about her mom wanting to control pick up and drop offs for the holidays. Its about this kid that the four of us have been blessed with. And her lighting up when I come to pick her up? You guys, that's the greatest victory I could ask for.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You MUST be a Step Mom

Do you ever stop and think about all the "titles" you carry? Right now you're walking around and you are a lot of things to a lot of different people. A sister, a friend, a daughter, a wife, a boss, a coach, a mentor, a friend... and the list goes on. But how often do you think about these titles? These roles in your life? Probably some more than others. But generally they probably don't enter your mind all that much. And then you become a Step Mom and suddenly that's a role that weighs heavily on your mind. Day in and day out. Its a role that weighs heavily on other people's minds as well. Suddenly you are someone's Step Mom and people use that word to define you. 

For my own entertainment (and maybe some of my step mom sisters as well), here is a list of the signs that someone (or maybe yourself) is defining you by your title of Step Mom.

1. "My mom doesn't make it that way." There's probably not a Step Mom out there that hasn't heard a variation of this from their step kids!
2. You are at your stepdaughter's cheer practice and all the mom's are huddled around talking about fundraisers... while you sit with your husband pretending to be 100% focused on what the kids are doing.
3. You let your stepdaughter pick out a tinted lip gloss without giving it much thought. Then panic that she is going to wear it to her Mom's house. 
4. You are the first to see school bulletins, emails from teachers and to hear about extracurricular activities but instead of replying you remind your husband to reply. Five times.
5. At school orientations you stand to the side while "parents" fill out emergency contact sheets and kids bustle around putting their supplies away. Pretend not to notice you are the only person in the room with no purpose. 
6. The cashier at the store directs a comment to the child about their Mom. Enough said. :)
7. You ask your boss for a day off to attend your step child's choir concert. 
8. You call in to work to stay home with your step child because no one else can.
9. You meet your step child's maternal grandmother for the first time. She makes four comments about what a great mother her daughter is in a space of five minutes.
10. You are volunteering at your step child's school. When introductions roll around everyone else is "Joe's Mom" and "Sally's Dad". You are "First Name". Or Mrs. Last Name.
11. "When is Daddy coming home?" is said repeatedly while your husband is working.
12. When planning your step child's birthday your "well meaning" mother-in-law offers to help, you know, since you haven't planned a kid's party before.
13. You try and arrange play dates with other Mom's from your step child's school. They always seem to be busy. But you hear later from your step daughter about her plans with the same kid on her Mom's weekend.
14. "Oh so do you have kids of your own?" 
15. Mother's Day rolls around and you get the "Happy Mother's Day" texts from family and friends but no call or mention of it from your step kids. 

When do you most feel the "Step Mom" stigma? Do you think its one other people place on you? Or is it our own insecurities?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sunday Night Letdown

I'll admit- Friday nights are a struggle for me. I come home after a long week at work and my stepdaughter is there. I'm always excited to see her. That's not the issue. The issue is me. I come home and find its a major challenge for me to adjust. 

I can't really explain why. Maybe its because I've exclusively interacted with adults for the last several days and forget how to relate to children. Maybe I'm just tired and it will be the same when I have (biological) children. I really don't know. But for me- Friday nights are rough. 

Because of this my dear husband usually lets me sleep in a bit on Saturday morning. He gets up, makes breakfast and hangs out with my stepdaughter until I join them a couple of hours later. And then I'm good. And then I can play and laugh and enjoy the company of my family.

Come Sunday and I'm all in. It's routine. I'm comfortable. She's comfortable. My house is vibrating with life. And I love it. I am so blessed and I never fail to be amazed at this family that fell into my world. 

And then it's Sunday evening and it's time. Time to take my step daughter back to her mom's house. Just like that.

And it crushes me. The first several weekends, I cried. I waited until she was gone and then the water works came. Now there aren't tears. Just emptiness. 

If you are a stepmom how do you deal with this letdown? How do you pick yourself up every time your stepchild leaves? I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


With marriage comes the inevitable questions. When are you going to have kids? Are you trying? How many do you want? How will (my step daughter) deal with not being an only child at your house? 

I answer with jokes. I answer with a smile and say when it happens, it happens. I change the subject. I turn the situation around and ask my friends about the age gaps that would exist and what they think of siblings who are ten years (or more) apart in age.

But never do I answer with my heart.

If I did, I might break. 

Because the truth is I long deeply to a mommy. To have a child that is mine and my husband's. To have a child that stays. 

Because every two weeks I find myself falling into the routine of a family. Just to end Sunday with goodbyes and see you next times.

Because I've always wanted kids. 

Because my step daughter will be ten this year and I want her to have a chance to be raised with her siblings.

Because I'm 27 and then comes 28 and before you know it 30 is here and not having a baby by 30 seems strange to me. My mom is only 20 years older than I am and I love that. I always tell people that having young parents means I'll keep them longer. And I know, I know 30 isn't old. But still, a new decade.

The problem with all of this longing is on the flip side of the coin is fear. I had a miscarriage a little over two years ago. And while I know everything happens for a reason and our lives have changed for the better times a million since... still my heart isn't healed. And everytime I think I'm ready to go forward something screams in my head- not again. I couldn't do it again. And while I know other people deal with miscarriage and some women suffer multiple miscarriages (and my heart aches for each and every one of these women) I don't know if I'm strong enough to bear the loss again. 

There is also the stress of not knowing how my step daughter will handle a new sibling. Will she feel as connected to him or her as she does to her mother's other children? Will she resent her brother or sister? If we have a girl will she be jealous of not being daddy's only little girl? If we have a boy will she be jealous that her daddy has a son to teach things to? Will she accuse me of treating her differently once the baby comes? WILL I treat her differently when the baby comes?

All of this scares me.

But the scariest part to me is my husband. He has done this before. I haven't. I fear that I will have to hear how she (my husband's ex) did something. I fear that something I think is a big deal won't seem as important to my husband. Because he's been there. Because it's not new. 

I fear that he will feel guilty. That the fact he is able to be with our baby every day will make him feel the burden of guilt. That he will try to overcompensate when his daughter is around and that will make me resentful. 

The logical part of me knows that fear is normal. And everyone goes through their own special kind of anxiety over bringing a child in to this world. How could you not?

But I still find myself terrified that it's too much. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

I Want My Mom

I started my period while at my dad's house for the weekend. It was THE worst. 

First off, I was home with just my dad and younger brother. My step mom and sister were having a "girl's day" with my step grandmother. One that I, the step daughter, was not included in.

To make matters worse- a few months prior my step mom had called my mom to tell her that I had started my period and was hiding it (I hadn't and to this day have no clue why she claimed I had).

And the worst part of all was I couldn't even call my mom. I didn't have the nerve to ask and it was a long distance call. 

So what did I do? I dealt with it on my own and didn't tell anyone. Exactly what my step mom had accused me of doing earlier that year.

My plan was to tell my mom once I started again and pretend it was the first time. 

As fate would have it I've had a very regular cycle from the beginning (something I knew nothing about at the time). So every 28 days I was at my dad's. Keeping my secret. Not knowing how to go back and fix the situation.

Until finally my step mom made a call to my mom once again. Calling me a liar. Telling my mom that she was right and I had been keeping this secret all along. So I told my mom the truth. And a weight was lifted. My mom knew. She made things better. She understood. She believed me. And that made all the difference. 

I love my step daughter. I want to be there for her. I want to be involved in her life. But at the end of the day, sometimes only her mom will do. And that's okay. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

True Confessions of a Step Mom: Disneyland Dad Edition

Disneyland Dads. We all know the type. Be honest. We all probably roll our eyes and judge this type.

With these dads, the weekend is all about junk food, late nights, amusement parks and rough housing. Discipline? That's for the full time parent. The burden of making sure homework is done, rooms are cleaned and balanced meals are served lies with the Mom. The custodial parent. 

And its the Dad's right to provide the fun because he only has his kids two weekends a month. Right?

We all know this isn't a healthy environment to provide your kids with. We all know that children need structure to be successful. And all weekend McDonald's binges? Not cutting it.

When I met my husband the only times he had his daughter were for the purpose of celebrating the holidays and the occasional infrequent visit. He never filed for custody and they were never married so this is what he settled for. Because he was afraid of a big scene in court. Because he was afraid of the games. Because the situation was originally amicable and he got to see his daughter on a regular basis without a court order. By the time I entered the picture regular visits had turned in to 2-3 times A YEAR. Then went to one time in 2011. 

So time he spent with his daughter? There was presents galore. There was junk food. There was very few rules. Her visits weren't just like Christmas- they were Christmas.

And when we went from this to two Saturdays a month it was natural for the Disneyland Dad syndrome to continue. Our sixteen hours a month were spent going to movies, the park, McDonald's, etc. And the word no? Admittedly, was seldom used. 

Finally the court order allowed us a more consistent routine with his daughter. We had a week night and every other weekend. My fear? That the Disneyland Dad syndrome would reign on. 

Thankfully my husband wants the very best for his daughter. And early on he was able to see that she needed us to provide structure for her while she is in our care. That means homework and reading must happen at our house. Picking up after yourself is the expectation. Fast food and restaurants are reserved for special occasions (except for Sonic Happy Hour. That's our little secret. Shhh...). He talks to her about her grades, disciplines her when she is disrespectful and volunteers at her school. 

And yet things are different than they would be if she were in our household on a regular basis. How could they not be? Your traditional family might eat out twice a month. If we do it one time each weekend we have her- is that wrong? Your traditional family has the entire month of December to celebrate Christmas. We have two weekends, a few weeknights (which are spent doing homework, reading and having dinner) and one day. Naturally this means the two weekends we have are full of parties, lights, festivals, visits to Santa and on and on. 

And on Tuesdays? When she has a temper tantrum over having to read? Yes, we correct her behavior. But when her mom is coming in two hours and we won't see her until the following Tuesday? The conversation is tempered with that in mind.

I know her Mom thinks we are the worst. She hears that we went somewhere or we bought her something or we don't have a certain rule in our house and the judgement is passed. My husband is the Disneyland Dad. He is spoiling her to receive her love and affection. He is overcompensating. He is trying too hard. But still she repeatedly refuses to allow additional parenting time. My husband sends requests to add time. He asks for extra days, extra hours even, during school breaks. He reminds her that she agreed they would work together to add more time at our house. Just to be rejected. To be told their daughter isn't ready for more time. To be told that she will be at her step grandparent's home during the day even though my husband is home and would love to spend time with her. 

How is this attitude fair? Not to be allowed additional time to parent and develop routine but to be judged for trying to make the best of the limited time he does have? 

Stepmoms- how do you help your husband to find the balance between enjoying your children and creating structure for them? Biomoms- do you find that your kids come home from their dad's house "spoiled"? 

I'd love to hear any and all opinions on this topic.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Letter To My Step Daughter

Today is Tuesday. My favorite day of the week. All week long I look forward to our time together. I love our family day. We have settled into a comfortable little routine. Homework, reading, family dinner, watching the shows we saved for you on the DVR, playing a game... and now with the weather is cooling down- bring on the bike rides and walks around our neighborhood! But you want to know a secret?

My favorite part of Tuesdays is the hour that's ours. Just the two of us.

I love how Sonic Happy Hour is our tradition.

I love hearing all of the million little details of your day, your weekend with your mommy, whats new with your brothers and sister, what you did in class...

I love how I'm the first one on Tuesday that gets the story of your day. I love going home and telling your daddy to ask you about a story I already heard.

I love how you hurry to get in the car and start talking the minute the door opens.

I love seeing how excited you get to see your daddy as we get closer to home. And how without fail you always ask if daddy will be beating us home today.

And don't tell Daddy- but I what I love the most is not having to share you for that hour. I love having time that's just ours. So if on Tuesdays I don't seem to be in a rush to get you home... now you know why.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What's In A Name?

I never called my step parents Mom or Dad. The people who gave me life and brought me into this world held those titles. My steps were ALWAYS called by their given name or referred to as my step mom or step dad. So when I started dating my husband and our relationship progressed it never dawned on me to wonder what I would be called.She had a mom after all.

"I already have two daddies and now I will have two mommies." She tells me in a rush of excitement. I smile, not quite sure what to say. This is my third visit with this child. Granted, her father and I are engaged and I know that will make me her step mom. But still, I'm not sure how to respond to this. So I smile and move on with the conversation by asking her a question about the paper doll she is playing with.

"Wait, let me ask my Mom," my step daughter says to the other child she is playing with. I pause in surprise that she is referring to me as Mom. What happened to all the stories about the children who, at every opportunity, make sure to let the world know that this person is NOT their mom. That they have a Mom, thank you very much. And her? She's not it.

We are getting ready to watch a movie and have freshly popped popcorn waiting to be divided into brown paper bags. "Instead of your name, I'll just write 'Mommy'. Is that okay? I like that better," she says anxiously looking at me for approval. "Whatever you like," I reply trying to sound nonchalant. 

She is outside swimming with a friend when I overhear her talking about her mom. "You know, my other Mom, the one that gave birth to me." 

Every time this beautiful child has called me or referred to me as Mom, I must admit its the most amazing feeling. Her choosing to be so accepting of my role in her life is the biggest blessing I could have asked for. On a day to day basis I'm not Mom and that's okay. I've never asked or expected to be more to her than my given name. Her step dad she calls "Daddy". Her mom said prior to them having more children she called him by his first name but when she had their son that changed. And she started calling him "Daddy". I must admit it makes me wonder if when I have my own biological children will her name for me change as well? And if she decides she wants to call me 'Mom', will her mother support that decision?

For the step parents out there- what does your step child call you? For the biological parents- are you okay with your child using the title of Mom or Dad in reference to their step parent?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Step-spiration Sunday

This evening I watched the new show Instant Mom on Nickelodeon. And I must say, I adored it. So often in the media step moms are portrayed in a negative light. The role of a step mom is an easy part to villianize. This show did a great job of breaking that stereotype. Instead it showed a woman doing her best to be an active part of her step kids' lives. I have great hopes for this show and the future of step families in television. If anyone has any other suggestions for shows or movies that portray healthy, functional step family relationships I would love to hear them!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lessons Learned: What I Hope To Share With My Step-Daughter

My step daughter's second visit to our new home is one that will always stick with me. On the days when I question my place in her life, more than anything else its this memory that brings me back.

There was nothing especially significant about the day we spent together. We went to the park, treated her with McDonald's and watched a movie. When it was almost time to go she decided to take a bubble bath and get cleaned up before going back to her mom's. 

I was in the living room straightening up when my (then) fiance came in telling me that she was refusing to get dressed and asked if I could help. Confused as to why an eight year old would refuse to get dressed, I went in to her room to find her sitting on the floor wrapped in a towel. 

The look on her face was one I related to with every fiber of my being. Uncertainty. Its a feeling that most children who are products of two families can relate to. And it was in this moment that I felt I was in this child's life for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, I could share with her some of the things I wished I had learned earlier in my own life. Lessons that I wished someone had known to teach me when I was that little girl, sitting on the floor refusing to get dressed. Not sure why the world was so unfair, only knowing that it was.

And while I'm certain this list will change and grow over the course of time, these are a few of the lessons learned that I hope to share with her.

1. Never apologize for your feelings. The way you feel in any given situation isn't something you should ever feel the need to apologize for. That being said, regardless of the way you feel, you are always responsible for your actions. And sometimes we all need to apologize for the way we act. That's okay too.

2. You can never have too many people in your life that love you. It may complicate things like birthdays, holidays and special events... but there can never be too many people in your corner.

3. Embrace the differences between your two families. Through out your life you will find yourself surrounded by a variety of people with different belief systems, cultures, traditions, economic status, etc. The fact that you are growing up with two unique families will only benefit your ability to adapt in the long run.

4. Your Mom and Dad made the decision to bring you in to this world. Together. No matter what anyone tells you or how hard it is to believe, at one point the three of you were a family. That's a part of your history that no one can deny you.

5. No matter how mature you are, you are not an adult. And your biggest responsibility? To be a kid as long as possible.

6. You are an equal part of our family. You may not be here everyday but that in no way makes your place in our home any less significant. One day you will have siblings and you may think because they are with us full time that makes their role in our lives more important than yours. That will never be true. And if ever you feel differently- speak up!

7. We miss you. Your mom and step-dad miss you. But never let that make you feel guilty. You didn't create this situation. Once again focus on being a kid.

8. Be yourself.. You have the very best of your mommy and daddy in you. Plus you have all of these wonderful, unique qualities that make you one of a kind. Never try to be anything other than the very best possible YOU.

9. Never let yourself be a victim. Life can suck. It has a way of twisting you inside out. Its that way for EVERYONE. Yes even kids whose parents are married and madly in love with each other. Don't let bad situations victimize you. Instead let them shape you in to a strong, compassionate person who lives every day without apology.

10. Sometimes a girl needs her mom. Sometimes she needs her dad. That's why you're blessed with two parents. In your case you are doubly blessed. Accept that there are certain times you will want a specific parent. Count on the fact that you can come to any one of us, for any thing, at any time. And if you are worried about hurting the other parent's feelings- don't. Remember #5? You're not an adult. Let us deal with our feelings. I promise we will be just fine.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Every other weekend of my life is now filled with the sounds of an energetic nine year old. There is constant chatter, frequent laughter and the million questions that only a child would think to ask. We are busy with day trips, playing games and trying to get as much living in as possible before our time runs out (as it so very quickly does) on Sunday. Our weeks are filled with work, scrambling to get household items done, eating quick dinners, sleeping, wake up and repeat. So while we miss my stepdaughter, we don't have much time to feel the void of her absence.

That changes when her mom's weekends hit. Suddenly the house seems much too quiet. The days seem long. And while we always have a list of a million things we need or want to do before Monday morning rolls around... there is still an emptiness. Prior to January of last year I never knew how the sound of a child could feel your entire house. And so I also never knew how empty a house could feel without it. But now I feel it. I feel the quiet in every part of my being. And it has a way of making me crazy. I miss the noise. I miss the chatter. I miss the sound of footsteps running up and down the hallway while the dogs runs behind barking.

So what do you do? How do you move about your weekend and feel whole? How do you get past the loneliness that comes when part of your family is not there?

 Honestly, its also in these times that I most feel empathy for my stepdaughter's mother. If I struggle with the emptiness- how does she feel when its our weekend? She has had nearly ten years of the noise that comes with raising this child. And while she still has three other little ones running around to fill her days, I know the void of missing one of her children remains.

I know that we can't move through our lives wishing the days away just to get to our weekends. So how do we go about accepting the quiet and making the best of it? This question weighs heavily on me as we transition into another weekend. (Can you guess who's weekend it is?)

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Now that I've caught you up on my journey to becoming a "step" I want to back up a little bit. I fully believe that every parent does the best they can for their child. My husband's ex had her reasons for doing the things she did. I truly believe that. I don't agree and will never agree that keeping your child away from the other parent is the right thing to do. However I haven't lived her life. I also didn't live their relationship.  I'm living my life and my relationship with my best friend.

This blog is for me and I hope with it I may be able to reach other people to share experiences and learn how to "step with care". This blog is not meant to villainize my stepdaughter's mother. She is not the bad guy in this story. She is just a mom who is doing her best to raise a confident and happy child. 

This doesn't mean I always agree with her. I'm human. There are days where I feel like screaming. There are days where, in my head, she IS the bad guy and she is out to personally ruin my life. I'm sure there are days where she feels similar. These feelings are normal and realistically not true. All feelings aside she is the mother of my stepdaughter thus I do want to show her the appropriate respect. That being said, out of respect towards her (and my stepdaughter who may come across these posts someday) I will strive to make certain I'm not using this blog as a way to vent or throw mud. I can vent privately if the need arises. 

I still however plan on telling MY story and I will be as honest and as candid as possible. But I believe that can be done without viciousness or name calling. 

How I Became a Step Pt. 5

January 1, 2012 we relocated to the town where my (future) step daughter resided with her mother, stepfather and two siblings. We knew that this was our best chance at being as involved in her life as possible. We also had my experience of my parents living 45 minutes apart to draw off. I had always wished the distance between my Mom's house and my Dad's had been closer and we wanted that close proximity for her. In mid- January my (then) fiance got a call from his ex that we could have their daughter for a few hours on Saturday if that worked for us. At this point we would have moved heaven and hell to see her. So naturally we readily agreed. We were both fully aware that there may not be another opportunity to spend with her until court in March. We spent the whole day with her- opening gifts from not only Christmas but also from her birthday, Easter, Halloween and items we bought her for school. During this time we were also able to show her the rooms that we had worked hard to put together for her- her bedroom, bathroom and playroom. Finally these rooms were able to be unveiled and used. All too quickly the time flew by and before we knew it she was leaving. At least this time, with court on the horizon, we were hopeful that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.

After the visit with his daughter, my fiance went to our lawyer to see if there was anything we could do to try and reach an informal schedule of parenting time with his ex. After the lawyers communicated we received notification that her mom was agreeing to allow us every other Saturday from 8am-5pm. Far from what we were requesting but after only seeing her once the previous year we knew it was better than the alternative. So every other Saturday from 8am-5pm we started to build our little family. These were magical days.

March 28, 2012 we appeared in court. The judge heard testimony from both parents and myself. Interestingly enough no other witnesses were called (there was an entire list of witnesses furnished to us prior to court that we expected to hear testimony from). On April 3, 2012 we were given the best news of our lives. The judge awarded (temporary) joint legal custody. This meant my fiance had the legal rights to be involved in her schooling, medical decisions, etc. Best of all the judge awarded physical custody of every Wednesday from 5-8pm and every other weekend Friday at 6pm- Sunday at 6pm. This meant we went from 2 days per month to about 10 days. Best news ever. We still had court on the horizon for October but we both felt so blessed at receiving the temporary orders.

For so many reasons my fiance finally decided to settle outside of court with his ex. Anyone who has ever gone through court knows what stress it can cause you and although coming to an agreement with his ex meant settling for less than what my fiance wanted- it was the best thing for all involved to not have to go through that day in court. So in October of 2012 our temporary orders became official. Along with 2 additional hours a week, 2 more hours added to our weekends and a holiday/vacation schedule.

How I Became a Step Pt.4

On May 18, 2013 I became a wife and added one more title to my list of steps. The dreaded stepmother title. After the heartache I experienced in my own step family I never in a million years would have thought that one day I would end up with stepchildren of my own. But life has a funny way of sneaking up on you.

When I met my (now) stepdaughter in November of 2010, I had been dating her father for five months. By this time there was no doubt in my mind that her daddy would one day be my husband. So this meeting was especially important. I was meeting my future stepdaughter. I would love to say that we hit it off immediately but that would be a lie. During that first meeting she was sweet and warm and accepting. But I couldn't make myself reach out. Instead I spent that first day sitting on the sidelines, observing father and daughter interacting, doing my best to not intrude. And while I didn't feel like the encounter was a knock out success, I felt confident that I would have plenty of time to get to know this child and counted it as a win for having taken the step in meeting her.

January 1, 2011 we got to see her again to celebrate a belated Christmas. This time I made more of an effort to laugh and play and let her get to feel more comfortable with me. I was sure that this was the start of regular visits. By this time, her daddy and I lived together in a two bedroom, two bath apartment. So we spent part of the visit discussing how she wanted to decorate her bedroom. When she left I felt like we were on the path to creating our family.

The next several months went by with sporadic telephone contact from her. For various reasons my (then) boyfriend had never obtained a physical custody agreement with her mother. In July 2011 (after close to 7 months of not seeing her) my boyfriend finally filed for joint legal and physical custody of his daughter.  In August we received back notification that her mother responded by hiring a lawyer and entering a motion to dismiss the case. We immediately responded to the motion to dismiss and requested a court hearing  to have at very minimum temporary orders established. We also decided that we would need to hire a lawyer to help us proceed. We were granted a hearing with a family court judge to be held in March 2012. The rest of the year drug on and was a highly stressful time for us.

My boyfriend wouldn't get to see his daughter again in the year 2011.

How I Became a Step Pt. 3

This brings us to me becoming a stepdaughter for the fourth time. My Dad has been married for the last two years to someone who I'm proud to call part of my family. She is fun to be around and genuinely makes my Dad happy.

And... she is five years older than me. Once again adding a whole new dynamic to my life of steps. For example how do I introduce her? My Dad's wife seems cold and distant since it removes any personal connection from myself. Yet- my stepmom? It feels so strange applying that to someone who is less than a decade older than me. Not that I have any reservations about her because of her age. You love who you love and from my first meeting with her I knew she was that person for my Dad.

Maybe its my age, and not hers, that is the problem with defining our relationship. Maybe at twenty seven gaining another "mother" seems silly because I have my own home and my own family (which I will get to in my next post). Not to mention a mother AND a former stepmother. I'm sure that a lot of people would tell me that titles are unnecessary and that a title can't properly define your relationship with another person. Still I find myself hesitating when referring to her as my Dad's wife. I still feel the need to define the relationship in some way.

How I Became a Step Pt. 2

As I previously mentioned, my Mom's second marriage was brief. This period of time in my life was neither defining nor memorable. Lucky for us there was something better was on the horizon, we just didn't know it yet. The next five to six years my Mom spent as a young, single mom to three kids. With that came babysitters, tight budgets and what I'm sure were long days for my Mom. During this time she had met and was dating my stepfather but it would take five years of dating before he married my Mom and completed our family of five.

After said five years of being part of our lives but still apart from us, they married. Once again giving me a stepfather and regaining the title of stepdaughter in my (primary) home. Similar to the last time the title of "step" wasn't one I applied to myself. And to be honest it wasn't one in which I put a lot of emphasis in relation to my stepdad. Yes, he wasn't "my" dad. Yes, I had a dad whom I loved and couldn't be replaced by anyone. And no I didn't call him Dad, I called him (and still do) by his given name. Yet his role in my life wasn't terribly different than that of my Mom's. And their marriage, while not perfect, finally gave me the chance to see a functional, loving marriage that was built on friendship. Their marriage also gave me and my brothers a solid family unit. One that still exists today.

My Dad's second marriage lasted much longer than my Mom's second. This particular marriage ran the course of my childhood and ended when I was in my early twenties. And while I'm sure the lessons learned from these seventeen years will be shared on this blog for now I'm going to leave this particular piece of my history where I left it in my previous post- the word step was an ugly and profoundly impactful word. And, maybe for no other reason other than my own insecurities, I never stopped feeling that word. 

How I Became a Step Pt. 1

I became a stepdaughter at the age of five. Since I don't remember my parents being married to each other I was never the kid that longed for a reconciliation. Yes there were times I wondered what it might be like. And there were times when I resented having to do the every other weekend bit. However I didn't know any differently than having two homes and two families.

The same year that my dad remarried, my mom did as well. Suddenly I had two new families. At my mom's (where I spent all of my time, other than every other weekend and alternating holidays) I had my brother (who shares both biological parents with myself), a brand new baby brother (technically a half brother- but its a term I've never felt comfortable with), two stepsisters, a stepbrother and of course the man my mother married- my new stepfather. In this family suddenly I wasn't only a daughter and a sister- I was also a stepdaughter and a stepsister. My second family (of the every other weekend variety) was my dad's- which included my brother (whom I listed earlier), a brand new baby sister (again, technically a "half") and my dad's new wife. My stepmother. Again in this family I held the title of stepdaughter. And that title was profoundly different than any other in my life. In my mother's home I never felt the word "step" in a way that applied to me. Yes I had a stepdad. Yes I was a stepdaughter (and sister). But I was still my mother's daughter and essentially my place in the world hadn't changed. However in my dad's home I was actively aware of the title of "step" and the weight of the word completely impacted my feelings of worth in the family.

I don't have many memories of my first stepfather. My mom's relationship with him didn't last long. The memories I have of him are, for lack of a better word, indifferent. He didn't make any impact on my life to speak of one way or the other. However because of him I have an amazing little brother and for that I can be grateful.

As for my dad's marriage- that one lasted seventeen years. Resulting in plenty of memories- good, bad and ugly. I can only hope that the roller coaster my family went through during that time will be the experiences I can draw upon to ensure that as an adult my relationships with people are grounded. While problems will undoubtedly arise (as they do in any relationship) I hope I can always remember to "step with care".

Step With Care

In a perfect world step parents wouldn't exist. Everyone would grow up in one home with two doting, loving parents who naturally love each other as well. There would be no holiday schedule. No every other weekend. No differences in bedtimes and behavioral expectations. 

However we live in a vastly different reality. A world where not every relationship ends with the proverbial happily ever after. We live in a nation where we have the right to part ways with a spouse and take a second (or third) shot at that happily ever after. But what comes next is rarely black and white. This time around you may be a Mom or a Dad instead of the single and fancy free individual that met your first spouse. And what happens once you find someone that not only loves and accepts you but your child(ren) as well? 

Enter the world of steps. Your children now have a new title of their own- step kids. And the new person you brought in to your ready made family? They now carry the step title as well. So how do we exist in a role that was created by the destruction of a family? How do we exist with these titles that aren't the natural ones we were born with? Being a sister, a dad, an aunt, a grandfather, a daughter... those titles are all given to us within the natural order of the world. But add a step to the mix and suddenly its a whole new set of rules, boundaries and expectations. 

Being both a step daughter and a new step mother myself I'm still learning. But the most important lesson I've learned thus far came from a seemingly non related quote by none other than the wise Dr Seuss.