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.