Friday, October 30, 2015

Holidays

Blended Family Holidays, Stepmom, Happy Holidays Not, Step Mothers, Blended Families
Warning the holidays are quickly approaching.  Are they really Happy Holidays for your family or are they difficult? As for me, it’s even harder because not only do I have my own blended family with stepchildren.  I am from a blended family myself.  So the holidays are very hard on me trying to make sure I go to everyone’s houses so my own parents don’t have hurt feelings.  Since my own parents are divorced since I was 7 years old.  My Father remarried to when I was young and so I had my own Step Mother to and then she had three children with my Father. Just a few years ago my Father and Step Mother got divorced too.  It does make the holidays very interesting, stressful and exhausting.  My mother never remarried, even though part of me wishes she has someone to share her life with. 
So let me slow down and explain my family dynamics.  My mother has been married twice, the first marriage, she had seven children (YES 7), then got divorced and married my Father and had two children, one of which is me. Then they got divorced and my Father married my Step Mother and had three children together and now they are divorced.  So on the holidays, not only do we have to figure out how we can handle sharing the holidays with my ex-husbands and my husband’s ex-wife but we have to try to go to my Mother in-law’s house, My Mother’s house and then my Dad’s house.  It’s very hard to try to accommodate everyone and make everyone happy. 
For Easter, I host dinner for my husband’s side of the family. For Thanksgiving, I host dinner at my house for my Dad’s side of the family.  So for Christmas Eve we go to my mother in law’s house with all of our children, then the stepchildren go back to their Mother’s house later that night and my two girls go to their Father’s house that night too.  Then Christmas morning my girls come back early that morning to open up their gifts from Santa and us.  Then we rush off to my Father’s house to have Christmas breakfast with him and exchange gifts. Then from there we go to my Mother’s house for Christmas dinner and to exchange gifts.  Then my ex-husband comes and gets my two girls to go back to his house.  It really bums me out when we don’t have my stepchildren on Christmas day, but I do realize their mother should have time with them too.  What an ordeal and every year I just want to stay home because it’s too crazy.

So the holidays can be very stressful trying to split up time evenly with the ex-spouses.  It makes it much harder when you don’t get along with one or both of them either.  Luckily for us we only have one ex-spouse that is difficult to deal with.  My two ex-husbands are great; we have no issues with them. I just look forward to the day where we can have our own Christmas holiday celebration where we don’t have to go over anyone else’s or split up the holiday.
Holidays can be a great time to start new family traditions or continue with old family traditions. On my Mother’s side of the family, we always play this game called, “the white elephant” game where everyone who wants to play brings a gift with them. The gifts all go in a big pile and you count how many people are playing the game and write up little slips of paper with a number on them.  Then hand out a piece of paper to each person who is playing.  They open it to see what number they are. The person with the #1 on their paper goes first and picks a gift from the pile.  These gifts can be gag gifts or his/her gift under $20.00 or whatever spending limit you give. Unfortunately, my family likes to do the gag gifts which are funny but no one ever wants to keep their gift because it’s usually junk.  Okay now, getting back to the directions on how to play the game. After #1 person opens up the gift, number 2 person can either steal number 1’s gift or pick a new gift from the pile. The gift can only be stolen twice usually, then it stays with whoever stole the gift the second time. Then you play the game until all of the people who are playing played.  It’s more fun when you play with gifts that are actually good, meaning more people steal gifts from one another.

If you struggle with the holidays and trying to get the stepchildren and the ex-spouses to work with you on making sure, you get visitation with the children.  You can try alternating the holiday meaning every other year you get them on Christmas Eve and the ex-spouse gets them on Christmas Day and then the following year your ex-spouse gets them on Christmas Eve and you get them on Christmas Day.  If there are a lot of disagreements with the holidays, you might want to consider going to court and getting it agreed on paper that way you have a legal document as a backup.  I feel bad for the children, sometimes it feels like they a bag of luggage getting moved from one house to the other house.
Another suggestion is to celebrate the holidays a week before the actual holiday that way it’s not that stressful and you can still have your day with all of your children.  I have personally done that before and it made things go a lot better and we did not care too much about when the ex-spouses had them because we already celebrated it with our family the week before.

Here are some overall tips to help with the blended holiday:
  • Do what you can do and accept what you cannot change
  • Be flexible and make sacrifices – Try to find a way where you can spilt up the time between your house and ex-spouses
  • Plan in Advanced – Start working on it now
  • Be creative – Maybe celebrate Christmas a week before and say Santa made a special early trip
  • Live and Learn – Try not to make the same mistakes or arguments you had last year with ex-spouses
  • Be Consistent – Follow through with the planned holiday and don’t change it at the last minute.
  • Maintain patience - To Learn new Traditions to incorporate.
  • Be Compassionate – As far as what children’s preferences are for the holiday.


The biggest lesson I have learned is when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse is to be supportive and don’t add any more stress.  Plan your holiday in advanced, which in turn will help more with the impact of possible rejection or neglect by step family members.  Also have consistency with your family planning, meaning make sure you follow through on what you to decide to do with the kids.  The tension your husband might be feeling about the holidays with dealing with custody arrangements is already a lot on him, try to be supportive and listen and more importantly be there and try to make it less stressful for him.  Try saying this to him “Honey, I know talking to your ex-wife about this Holidays schedule is very stressful on you.  I am aware that asking you what the plans are puts a lot of pressure on you; I do not want you to feel pressured. How can I best support you with this?” Saying that may help make him feel more understood and less pressure and defensive about it. No matter how bad the battle is about the holidays, make sure to keep the children out of it. If the ex-spouse gets the children involved, you cannot control their choices. Try to do everything you can do to keep them out of the middle of the conflict. Try to make your holidays less stressful for everyone by doing a lot of compromising with your husband and ex-spouses in order for everyone to be happy.  But sometimes, not everyone will be happy and there’s nothing you can really do about that. It’s near impossible to please everyone all of the time. Just think Christmas is only one day out of the year and it’s really all about the real reason for the season and not about who gets what kids and for how long. 

Do you struggle with the holidays or do you have an agreement that works well with your parents and ex-spouses?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Forgiveness

Forgiveness, Forgive or Not to Forgive, Blended family, stepmom, step mother
To forgive or not to forgive, which one will you choose to do? Don’t you want that sense of freedom of not feeling like you’re in a jail cell? When you chose to not to forgive someone, it’s like you’re in a jail cell without any parole.  When you chose to forgive, you’re escaping the jail or prison sentence. You feel a sense of freedom and a release.  It’s also much better for your health. Harboring resentment and forgiveness cause health problems and a lot of stress. When you allow what someone does or says to upset you, you’re allowing them to control you
There have been many things my stepdaughter has done or said to me in the past seven years which has really hurt me deeply.  She’s never once apologized for anything she has done or said to me, which makes forgiving her even harder for me. The most recent offense she did was over a year and a half ago while we were on vacation when she said out of anger that I was a terrible mother. This hurt me terribly and she’s never once apologized for it and I am not expecting her to do so anymore.  For one, she was never taught to apologize when she is in the wrong for something she has done, she’s not been taught to own up to what’s she’s done, unfortunately.  I can choose to keep the hurt and bitterness I have towards what’s she has done or I can choose to forgive her and try to understand that hurt people, hurt other people.

Forgiveness is a process of these three steps:
1. Surrender the right to get even with the person who did you wrong.
2. You need to revise your caricature of the person who hurt you so much. Meaning you need to reconstruct the image of what you see in that person.
3. You need to revise your feelings towards that person. Meaning going from feelings of rage and resentment towards that person to feelings of wanting them to be blessed.
I know it might seem that sometimes forgiveness seems unfair.  There is something unjust about a person’s dastardly deeds going unpunished.  But God says: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: it is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19. Forgiving someone helps you to let go of the past hurts and look ahead to the future. Forgiveness is also an act of faith. When you forgive someone you are simply trusting that God is a better justice-maker than you are.  Leave the issues of fairness up to God to work out. The wrong doesn’t go away when you forgive, but you’re not harboring it inside of you and letting it control you anymore.
The longer you wait to forgive someone the more at risk you are of becoming a person defined by your anger rather than a person who has a grievance.  People who carry hatred and resentment will invest themselves so deeply in that resentment that it gradually defines who they are. In Ephesians 4:32 it says: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. When you forgive someone it lets the control of the offense lift out of you and you feel like a big weight has been lifted off of you.  Sometimes we need to forgive the same person over and over again. Let go, and Let God deal with the offense.  Sometimes the person that we are holding an offense with doesn’t even know that they offended you. It’s better to just let it go.  Only you can decide if you want to feel better, as Rachelle Katz said “Healing happens more quickly when you consciously initiate the process.” 
God can take what was meant for your harm and turn it around and use it to your advantage. God will give you the strength that you didn’t even know you had. He’s done it for me and he will do it for you, but the first step is forgiveness.

Have you ever been hurt by someone close to you? How were you able to forgive and move on from it?


References:
Katz, Rachelle. (2010). The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Family. Harlequin

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

1:1 Time with Dad

Time with Dad, 1:1 time with Dad, Blended family, stepmom, step mother, blended families
One of the best things you could ever do as a Stepmom is to make sure your husband gets 1:1 time with his children. The reason being it is important that your husband gets that quality time with his children.  It’s also really important to tell the stepchildren verbally that “I will never get in the way of your 1:1 time with your Dad and I think it’s very important that you get time with just your Dad”. That way they know that you are okay with it and that you are not taking them away from their Dad.  That is one thing I have never said verbally to my stepchildren is how I have always encouraged their Dad to spend time with them 1:1.  I have regretted not saying that to them verbally because the ex-wife has put it in their minds that I have taken their Dad away from them and now they believe it.
The reason why they need that time with him is because providing that exclusive time with him makes your time with the children feels less intrusive.  It provides a sense of stability when they are feeling like they lost their own family. Then when it comes to sharing their Dad with you, they feel less anxious about it and it makes them look at you in a better light.

At the beginning of my relationship with my husband, I would make sure that at least once or twice a month; my husband was spending 1:1 time with his children.  I would suggest places or things for him to do with them because at first he didn’t know where to go or what to do with them.  But, then after a few years I got somewhat relaxed about it and assumed they didn’t need that much time with him, and then I forgot to encourage it.  To my stepchildren and the ex-wife, it made it look like I was stopping him from spending time with his kids when that wasn’t the case at all.  I was just making sure we were always doing fun family things together as a family.  I guess as my stepchildren got older, I just thought they were comfortable with spending time together as a family, I did not know they still desired the 1:1 time with just him.  But it was still there and now they blame me saying that I didn’t allow their Dad to spend time with just them when that wasn’t the case at all.  I never once told my husband he couldn’t spend time with just his kids.  And there were times when my husband would do something with just his son and I would do something with all of the girls. But I wasn’t aware that they still needed that time with just the three of them. There were times that he did do things with just them, but there were not enough of them as they used to be in the beginning.  I do feel bad about it, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.  For this past year and a half, he has been getting 1:1 times with his kids without me around. I am very happy he is spending that quality time with his kids and has always encouraged it.
When I was a child, the only time I got with my Father without my stepmom around was when we went sailing on the sailboat because my stepmom hated sailing and she always got sea-sick so she stopped going after a while.  Back then I really didn’t care that much for sailing, but what I enjoyed from it was that it was time with my Dad without my stepmom around.  There was one weekend where I, my Dad and my brother spent the night on the sailboat; it was really wonderful to have all of that time with just my Dad without my stepmom around. I too felt like my stepmom never allowed us to have time with our Dad without her around. So I can relate to my stepchildren for wanting that time with their Dad.

I just don’t want to see any other blended family go through this where the stepchildren start to think that the stepmom is getting in the way of their 1:1 time with their Dad. This time with their Dad doesn’t have to be an all-day thing either; it could just be a couple of hours.  Remember it is all about quality time not the quantity time with their Dad. Just as long as he is spending quality time with them without you around is the best thing you can do for his relationship with them and to also have a better relationship with your stepchildren.  He doesn’t even have to always make it be about spending money on them; he could just play a board game with them, take them to the park, or go for a bike ride.
While your husband is away with his children use this time to spend with your children 1:1, that way they to have a positive relationship with their Stepdad. Or use this free time to spend time with friends and do something for yourself. If you haven’t been encouraging your husband to have time with his kids, it’s never too late and it doesn’t matter how old they, they still desire that time with just him.
Does your husband get quality time with his kids without you around? 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Discipline Stepchildren

discipline stepchildren, discipline in blended family, blended families, blended family, stepmom

For any new blended marriage, I would recommend not getting involved with the disciplining of your stepchildren within the first couple of years into the relationship; leave that to your husband.  The reason why I am saying is, is because the stepchildren need to respect and trust you in their life. The stepchildren need time to first develop a warm and friendly interaction with you.  Once the foundation of respect and affection is established, then stepmoms can slowly attempt to be an authoritative parent to the stepchildren.  If you do it too early in the development of the relationship with the stepchildren it could result in a bad relationship which is sometimes very hard to recover from.  Children often never forget things that happen early on in the relationship.  So it’s best to leave the discipline to your husband until you have established a close positive relationship with them.
Early on in my marriage with my husband, I made the mistake of trying to step in and help my husband who was having trouble disciplining my 11-year-old stepdaughter.  My stepdaughter kept pushing my husband and yelling at him trying to get her away about playing with some neighborhood kids in which we said they couldn’t play with because the kids were just not good kids for them to play with.  She kept arguing with him and I was right there trying to let him handle the situation but I can clearly see he was getting worn out from it all and he wasn’t making any headway with her.  So I stepped in which I totally regret to this day and told her that her Dad said No, you cannot play with them, this needs to stop because he’s not changing his mind. No means no, is what I told her.  Well, she stopped yelling and looked at me and gave me the middle finger.  When she did that it totally shocked me and told me she doesn’t have to listen to what I say. I didn’t even know what to do or say.  My husband then told her to go into her room.  She ended up going back to her mother’s house for the rest of the weekend as punishment.  However, she never once had to apologize for doing what she did.  The next time I saw her, she just acted like it never happened.  It was very hard on me when it happened.  My husband apologized to me for her behavior that day.  After that day happened it seemed our relationship meaning my stepdaughter and me just took a turn for the worst and things were different between us.  I will always regret stepping in like that and I should have walked into the house and let him deal with my stepdaughter, but I wanted to help him out, but it only ended up hurting me.
This is a good example of knowing when to say something or when not to say anything. Since it was our first year into the marriage, I should have let him handle it until I had a good solid relationship with my stepdaughter. Then later on after a year or two there were some other times that I stepped in and said something only to help my husband out that I regretted doing. After a few years into our marriage, we finally came to the conclusion that it was best if he handled discipline with his own kids and I would handle my kids.  It’s best that in the first few years to maintain an emotionally non-threatening, distant relationship is key for the stepparents.  After a couple of years, stepparents can begin to be more involved in the rules settings and discipline area. When that time is right, it should be agreed upon between both you and your husband until then try to enjoy being the “cool” stepmom.  Because with discipline they tend to forgive their Father about it more easily than they will forgive their stepmom for disciplining them. The relationship between you and the stepchildren is always on a rocky road the first two years that is why it is very crucial that you leave the discipline area up to your husband. It’s very hard to recover if you step in too soon and start disciplining your stepchildren.  Sometimes your relationship doesn’t ever recover after you have overstepped your authority to early with your stepchildren.  With that being said, you should never be alone with your stepchildren during the first year of marriage, that way to avoid having to be the disciplinary in the house. The ability to lead and influence stepchildren comes the old fashioned way.. you earn it! (Ron Deal; 2002) With that, it takes time just like any new relationship.  You need to build that trust, respect, and honor from them, there’s no quick way to get it either, everything takes time to grow and mature.
discipline stepchildren, stepmom, step mothers
Discipline in a blended family can be very hard and it requires a lot of letting go of your own ideas of control. First you need to realize that you have no control over what goes on in the other home. Your rules are different than the rules at the other house and there's nothing you can do about that. Don't expect them to follow your rules over at the other home and don't get angry about it, you need to let it go.
When it does come time to discipline you and your husband should negotiate rules together behind closed doors and must always seek unity in every decision.  Makeup consequences of when a rule is broken and follow through on it and be consistent.  When giving the “house” rules as I would like to call it make sure you do it together and say that you both came up with these rules together.  But each of you has to take the lead role with their own children.  You cannot have two separate set of rules for the children and stepchildren.  All of the rules need to be the same across the board.
If you don’t agree with the way your husband is disciplining your children or stepchildren, do not say something right in front of the children or stepchildren.  Wait until you can get the time to go behind closed doors and talk with them about it.  If you talk in front of the children or stepchildren they will most likely hate you or think that your parenting is weak between the two of you and end up using it to their advantage. Discuss the circumstances often with one another and work together to make changes over time if need be.  What we have done is post a list of the “house” rules on the fridge along with the consequences that way they know what they are because having two sets of rules for both houses can be confusing at times for the all of the children.

Have you ever had issues with getting involved in the discipline too soon with your stepchildren?

References:
Deal, Ron. 2002. The Smart Step-Family. Seven Steps to a Healthy Family. Bethany House.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Self Care

Self Care, Stepmom, Step mothers, blended family
I know this isn’t an easy thing to hear, however, it needs to be said. Often times us stepmoms are trying our best to be the best wife, best mother and best stepmom that we forget about our own needs.  Well, our own needs are just as important as everyone else that we love.  Emotional needs, in particular, are just as important as the air we breathe, shelter or food.  Emotional needs aren’t just about feeling loved and to love others.  It’s about socializing with others and belonging to a group for support. Because everyone needs someone sometimes and it’s important to be able to have your own time to relax and let your guard down with a friend or a group of stepmoms. 
When I first got into my relationship with my husband, I shut everyone else out and just spent every waking moment with him that I forgot about my friends and left them at the curbside.  I didn’t know I still needed them even though things were on my fire with my husband that all I would focus on was him and making him happy.  My husband and I just couldn’t be apart for an hour without missing one another.  I tended to lose myself with him, which I know a lot of us tend to do when we get into a new relationship or marriage.  I regret not carving out time to still be with my friends and for that I lost a few really great friends because I was always canceling on them or not calling them back.  But then when things started going wrong, I didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice because I shut them out of my life.  Then things were very hard on me because I felt like I had no one to turn too.  Then I started evaluating my life and how important having a girlfriend is and that I need to try to repair the friendships I had lost that were very dear to me.  Some I was able to save and others were just gone.  Please don’t let this happen to you, friends are so important because once that relationship ends or has bumps in the road you need that friend to talk too.  Friendships most times last longer than relationships or marriages so it’s important to find the time to invest in them.

Think of it as one hour, one day, one evening, one weekend, don't you deserve some "me" time?
It’s also just as important to take care of your health and well-being.   Often times we don’t even know how to satisfy our emotional needs.  The truth is that unless we place our own emotional needs first on our list of priorities, we will be of limited use to anyone, including ourselves (Katz, Rachel; 2010). It’s very important to look for happiness in the right places.  The best way to figure out what are your happy places is to write down a list of places that make you feel happy when you are there whether it be Starbucks, the gym, the mall, your favorite restaurant, the spa or at a friend’s house.  Those are the places that you need to try to do at least once a week.  If you keep doing things for others, you will get burned out and eventually become depressed. Think of yourself and do something for you at least once a week.  You will in turn see how happy you can become and how much energy you have to keep doing for others.
As for me, I enjoy seeing my best friend once a week for coffee or we go to our favorite Mexican restaurant for cocktails.  It’s so great to be able to talk and share with one another about what’s going on with our lives and get advice or just laugh about silly things.  I always feel like hundred bucks after I had time with her.
We need to do something for ourselves in order to feel happy about our life. Don’t wait until you’re exhausted or depressed from taking care of everyone else’s needs, start today and care about yourself.
Are you happy with your life? Do you do enough for yourself? Do you put your needs first?

References:
Katz, Rachelle. 2010. The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Family. Harlequin

Friday, October 23, 2015

Expectations

Expectations, Realistic Expectations, Unrealistic Expectations, Blended family, stepmom, step mothers
When you first got married to your husband, did you have expectations of how your blended family would be? When I got married to my husband, I had some expectations that weren’t said out loud, but they were in my mind. Some of my expectations were:
  1. That all of the children would get along and love one another as much as my husband and I love each other.
  2. That I would bond with my stepchildren in a special way and that they would see me as a second Mom and a friend to them.
  3. That the ex-wife could see that I am not a threat and that I am not trying to replace her, that I am only here to help raise my stepchildren and that I only have their best interest in mind.
  4. That the ex-wife and I would become friends and have great communication with one another about anything relating to the stepchildren.  
  5. That all three of us would become a great parenting team together to help raise the stepchildren.
  6. That my husband would take my son under his wing and create a special Father and Son bond, in which that my son really needs in his life.
  7. That my husband would teach my son valuable things that every man should know as they move out on their own.
All of these were pretty good expectations, but they were unrealistic expectations and unfortunately none of them came to pass. In yet, I still pray that one day that some of them will come to pass.  It is devastating as you slowly see the expectations fail one by one over a short period of time.  You have to realize that you need to adjust your assumptions to really bring them into harmony with your reality.  Then you have to create a more realistic expectation or approach to your existing expectations.  For example, my first expectation about the children getting along and loving one another like my husband and I love one another.  A more realistic expectation of that would be that: “I know one day all of the children will love one another and get along great over time”.  The difference between both expectations is that one is an assumption of control of how they will love and get along with one another whereas the second one show that it’s not expected right away and that it will take time for them to love and get along with one another.  Unrealistic expectations will often set up a couple for failure with what they are trying to accomplish.  Each of the children need time to experience one another, develop trust between one another, it takes commitment. We have to acknowledge that some assumptions are out of our control sometimes. 
The best way to go into a blended family is to get rid of any unrealistic expectations that way you can go into it with an open mind and an open heart.  Blended families take time to be great.  It takes a lot of time adjusting to different living conditions, rules, new parenting styles and responsibilities. Everyone needs time to find a sense of belonging and a way to come together as a family unit. 
A very wise stepmom will have realistic expectations for their family. Don’t expect too much from yourselves, relax and let the relationships develop on their own, but don’t rush it everything has to happen at a slow pace.  If you rush the relationships between everyone, you will only find disaster up ahead. Be patient and relax and resist having unrealistic expectations of your new stepfamily.  Take each day at a time and pray every day for your stepfamily and for the ex-wife.
What are your expectations of your blended family?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Other Woman

Ex-wife, Other woman, step mom, stepmothers, blended family, blended families, stepmom
Okay, I know you are probably wondering who is the other woman.  Who can she be referring too? The other woman in your marriage is your husband's ex-wife. Early on in my marriage there were a lot of times where I felt like he is still married to his ex-wife.  Because whenever she called to ask him to do something he would jump and say how high and never thought about checking with me first before saying yes to her.  It felt like he was just the “YES Man” for her and it drove a wedge between us.  We had a lot of arguments early on about how I would like to know what’s going on before committing to something she requested of him to do.  He rarely ever said no to her, and even still more so today than ever he drops everything and does whatever she needs.  I think he does this because of guilt parenting and not wanting her or the kids to say he is a bad father.
There were a lot of times where she even interfered with discipline at our house, which really got me very upset because it’s our house, our rules.  In yet, somehow she would always get my stepchildren out of trouble when honestly they really would do something wrong and all my stepdaughter would do while she was in her room for punishment is text or call her Mom.  Then the ex-wife would call my husband and he would go out in the garage and they would have this all-out battle over what my stepdaughter did.  Then he would come back in the house and all of a sudden she would be out of her room never having to apologize for anything she did wrong.  This happened over and over again.  Until finally my husband had enough and finally stepped up and took her phone away from her when she was in her room for punishment.  It just felt like the ex-wife had more say and control over of what goes on in our home than we did. 
Then emails started coming after every other weekend, it was always a guarantee that my husband would get a nasty email every Monday morning about something we did wrong in her eyes that the kids told her about.  I told him to stop responding to her emails and eventually the emails will stop coming.  Because any time he would respond, it would just fuel the fire with her.
I started keeping a notebook of all of the things she calls him to do for my stepchildren. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that he helps out with my stepchildren. But sometimes, she would call late Sunday night and ask him to take one of them to a doctor’s appt on Monday morning (the next day).  This would really annoy me because she could have given him more notice than just less than 12 hours’ notice.  Then there are loads of other times where my stepdaughter was sick from school and he either had to pick her up and take her home from school.  It felt like he was always taking time off of work, as if the ex-wife’s job is more important than his job.  I would get worried about his job being in jeopardy because of all of the time off, he had to take to run them home from school, doctor & dentist appts, or if they missed the bus he would have to take them to school because she wouldn’t. 
Then there was a time when it was our kidless weekend and we were out spending time together his ex-wife called to say she needed help with her car because she ran out of gas and she was at a park with the kids.  We had to drop what we were doing and go out of our way to help jump her car.  Then there was a time where she asked him to go to a store for her to buy something for her. It just always felt like she was taking advantage of him and yet would turn around the next day and call him a bad father. If he ever were to say No to her, she would turn it around and tell the kids that he doesn’t care about them or love them and that his wife is more important to him than they are. The next time we would get them the moment the stepdaughter would get mad about something he did, she would tell him that he doesn’t care about them and doesn’t love them.  We finally started realizing that the ex-wife was saying bad things about us to them. Of course out of loyalty they always side with their mother and always believe whatever she says.
We started going to church early on in our relationship and when the ex-wife found out about it, she was livid about it because it wasn’t a Catholic church. The ex-wife doesn’t even attend church anymore; however she started sending emails saying they are not allowed to go to our church and that they can only go to churches she approves of. My husband would say it’s not in the divorce papers on where they can go and where they can’t go to church.  My stepchildren even told the kids that they had to stay home from church because if they went they would be in trouble with her when they get home from our house.
Then there was a time where my stepchildren weren’t allowed to take any medicine from our house unless they called to ask her permission from their mother.  Just to take Tylenol for a sore throat or a headache. Cold medicine had to be the kind their mother uses; it couldn’t be any other kind. It was awful.
The ex-wife wanted to control everything in our house from discipline to even to where we go to church. It just felt like it was never going to end with her.
In the meantime, all I did was pray and to this day all I do is pray for her and that she changes her ways and attitude towards us. Early in the relationship, I wanted to call to set up a time to meet with her to talk and introduce myself to her, but my husband said no and that it wasn’t a good idea.  I keep wondering if I did meet with her, that maybe all of this would be different, maybe she would treat us differently.  Eventually, I had to let it go because my husband knows her better than I do. 
I started reading books on many different topics regarding ex-spouses and learned that there are many different types of biological mothers.  I learned that my biological mother is a “Protector Mom” and a “Destructive Mom”. I learned that the best way to deal with a Protector Mom is for her to see and experience my goodwill toward my stepchildren and a non-threat message is crucial for her. Unfortunately, my husband wouldn’t let me send her an e-mail.  I tried showing her goodwill in different ways, for example, I threw my stepdaughter a sweet sixteen party and invited her into my home for it.  I was trying to show her that I do care and love her daughter.
I have realized something over the years of her being unreasonable, bitter and downright mean that it’s going to take God to change her, there’s nothing I can do or say that will help her see that I truly love and care for my stepchildren.  It will not happen in my own strength, this change will only happen through God.  All I have to do is continue to pray for her. There’s a scripture that sums it up Psalm 40:1-3  “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.”  Read this and know God is in control and there will be a day where the ex-wife will see that you are a good person and that you didn’t mean any harm to her children. We just need to pray for her hard heart to soften and for the bitterness, hurt, and resentment to go away and that God will redeem, restore and heal her.  Even when there seems to be no way out of the pit, pray, and pray harder and patiently wait for God to do a miracle.  Here’s a prayer that I originally got from the Smart Stepmom book, however I changed it around to fit my needs.

Dear Lord, 
You have called me to be a stepmom and it’s been a large task. I praise you that I even get the ability to have faith in you.  For when I am weak, you are strong. I know I am not alone and that you are with me every step of the way.  Right now I do not like my husband’s ex-wife and much less have a hard time showing her kindness or compassion after all she’s done to us and continues to do. I confess there have been many times where I wished she would move far away from us. I confess there have been many times where I have said I hate her.  Her words and actions she does wound my husband and me. She treats my husband and me with such contempt and I don’t even know how to respond anymore.  But I know you do. Please forgive me for detesting her and hating her at times. The desire of my heart is to honor you more than I desire to retaliate and hurt her.  I know you are willing to lift me out of this dark pit and place my feet on solid ground and transform my mind to think like you do, I thank you for that. I know that only you alone can teach me how to forgive his ex-wife. Please teach me how to live in harmony with this difficult woman.  Lord, I can’t do this on my own, I need your guidance and strength, help me see her through your eyes and not my own. Please heal the ex-wife’s bitterness, help restore her and heal her hard heart, I pray for her salvation.  Help me to extend the same grace to her that you have shown me. You know the desire of my heart and I want to obey you. I put my trust in you and I know your ways will bring peace into my life, my marriage, and my family. Thank you for all you do for me and for loving me as much as you do. Amen. (R. Deal & L. Petherbridge; 2009)

I hope this prayer helps another stepmom as it is helping me. I pray this prayer every day over the ex-wife and the thoughts I have about her.  It has helped me but every time she does something else I try to find somewhere, where I can be alone somehow and say this prayer. It usually helps take away the hatred I am feeling at that moment.

Have you ever felt this way towards your husband’s ex-wife? Has it felt like in some way that he is still married to her?

References:
Ron Deal & Laura Petherbridge, The Smart Stepmom (Bloomington; MN; Bethany House, 2009)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Outsider Looking In

Outsider looking in, stepmom, stepparenting, step parenting, step mom, step mother, step mom alone
Have you ever felt like you’re an outsider in your own home? In the past, I have felt this way many times on the kid weekends. There were nights where I felt like I didn’t belong, felt like I didn’t exist even with my own kids in the mix with my stepchildren and husband.  It always seemed to feel that way the first night of the weekend and it would sometimes carry over to the next day. I felt ignored, not just from my stepchildren and husband but even my own children. It was very hard, I would sometimes go in my bedroom and cry wishing this wasn’t my life, wishing that someone would notice that I am gone and in my bedroom while they all laughed and talked to one another. It made me feel like I was an outsider looking in through a window into my own home. I felt such a deep fear of loneliness and frustration of walking on eggshells around my stepchildren.  I felt like no matter what, I could never say or do the right thing, that no matter what they would find something to report back to their mother to start more drama with.  Often times, I would just sit and listen to them talk to their Father and my kids and not say anything at all, that way there would be nothing to report back.  I felt so alone with all of these feelings because I didn’t really have anyone I could talk to about it all since a lot of my family and friends are not in my shoes. I didn’t know who I can turn to for advice and who I could trust with everything I was going through. Here I thought since I had a stepmother, I would know how to be a stepmother and I knew that I would be much different than my own stepmother was with me.  And I can definitely say I did treat my stepchildren different than my stepmother treated me and I expected less and yet still struggled to be a great stepmother to my stepchildren. I automatically assumed that because I was a stepdaughter myself, I knew how to be a better stepmother.  Boy was I so wrong there. 
When I first noticed problems within our family, I started praying and asking God to help teach me to be a better stepmother and to help me know when to speak and when not to speak and to fill my heart with compassion, understanding, love and grace towards my stepchildren. I started going to counseling to help me deal with all of the anxiety and stress I was feeling. At first it didn’t happen right away, but over time and through a lot of prayers, I started feeling less alienated, less lonely and less vulnerable, I felt my guard come down slowly. The church I belonged to was small and didn’t really have any blended family support. I did at one point think about creating my own small group on blended families, but wasn’t sure I would have a lot in it because most of the church members were married for the first time and weren’t in a blended family. Then I started buying books about being a stepmom and being in a blended family. I even reached out to a book author of one of the books I was reading just to look for more support. I did some searching on the internet for stepmom forums to seek out other stepmoms but didn’t really have any luck there.  
 This past month is when I decided to create my own group on Facebook and found other groups about stepmoms and joined them. After joining them I finally realized, I am not alone in this, that there are other stepmoms out there that are going through the same struggles as I am.
I have made some mistakes as being a stepmom that I can’t take back and change, only to say I am still learning what is to be the best stepmom I can be.  It’s not an easy role to be in and there wasn’t much out there at first to help me with my daily struggles when I first started to be a stepmom.  All I have to focus on now is the things I did right and things I have shown my stepchildren as far as morals, values, traditions and having God in their lives. We were the ones to take them to church, their mother doesn’t attend church, so the only way they knew of God is going to church with us every other Sunday. 
I have realized that I have grown so much more in this past year about being a stepmom and using stepparenting strategies to help better myself.  I know even more than when I first started six years ago and I am sure I will know even more in another year from now. I have a much deeper understanding about how stepfamily development works and how to apply to my own blended family.  It took me a long time to get where I am at now, it didn’t happen overnight.  Will I still make mistakes sometimes, yes, because I am only human, however now I will make fewer mistakes going forward. I have a stronger support system now, where now I am not alone anymore. Being a stepmother is a long process where you can go from surviving to thriving, but it does take a lot of time, development, dying to self, patience, sweat and tears at times. Every stepfamily is different and everyone goes at their own pace.  All I know is that I feel much better about where I am at now, even though I do not see my stepchildren currently.  I just know there will come a day where I will see them again and I want to be ready to be a better stepmom and do the right thing for them because after all I do have their best interest at heart and I do love them in spite of how they may feel about me.
You are not an outsider looking in a window, you are loved and cared for, more importantly, you are not alone on this journey.
Here’s a prayer that will help encourage you with your stepmom journey.

Dear Lord,
I feel lonely and feel like an outsider in my home at times and feel like giving up and running away from it all.  Being a stepmom is much more complicated and harder than I thought it would be and it never seems to get easier.  Thank you for comforting me when I feel alone and afraid.  I know it says in your word that you know the pain I am feeling and see the tears I have cried and store my tears. I know they are precious to you. Just knowing that you are there for me and care for me, helps me to endure my current situation.  I know you still love me and will never leave my side. For that, I am very grateful for.
Lord, I need your strength and a new attitude towards everything I go through as being a stepmom. You say that you will take my hard heart and make it soft and loving. Please put your spirit inside of me to provide wisdom and truth.  I desperately long for your guidance and your ways. I feel so overwhelmed and discouraged that it’s very hard to find a solution, that’s when I feel like wanting to escape it all.  Help me to discern when it’s wise and right for me to speak and when I should be silent. Please help guide me through those hard to handle situations or circumstances. Give my husband a way to see and understand things clearly, please teach him to stand beside me and still love and be there for his kids.  Thank you for loving me when I feel alone, thank you for loving me when I make mistakes along the way, please help me to forgive those who have hurt me along the way.  Amen.

Have you ever felt like you were alone and an “outsider looking in”? How did you overcome it and get through it?

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Smart Stepmom

smart stepmom, stepmom, stepmothers, step parenting, blended family, blended families
There are very few books out there right now for blended families or that relates to being a stepmother, however, there is a really great book out there that I highly recommend for all Step Mothers, it is called, “The Smart Stepmom” by Ron L. Deal and Laura Petherbridge.  The book is wonderful for all stages of step parenting whether you are just starting off as a Stepmom or have a few years under your belt.  It even helps if you have younger stepchildren, teenagers or adult stepchildren, this book is for you.  If you feel like you’re all alone in this stepparenting role, this book is for you too.  This book is powerful because of all of the valuable information inside of it. One of the perks to the book is that after every chapter in the book there are a prayer and scriptures to help encourage you.  There is also a set of discussion questions after each chapter that helps you explore more in-depth of each chapter and how you can relate it to your blended family.  I have read this book four or five times now and I still find something new in it each time I read it that I didn’t realize was there the last time I read the book.  My only regret to this book is that I didn’t read it when I first got married to my husband, it would have saved me from a lot of mistakes that I made early on as a stepmother.  There are two chapters in this book that is recommended for the husbands to read, which is very helpful.
What was pretty valuable to me was learning how to understand where my stepchildren are coming from and the pain they are experiencing with having both of their parents divorced and having to share their Father with my children and me.
The book talks about how there are many different types of biological mothers and finding out which type is my stepchildren’s mother was interesting and is really helping me learn how to deal with her on a daily basis. The different types of biological mothers are The Open Mom, The Martha Stewart Mom, The Protector Mom, The Overinvolved Mom, The Stonewalling Mom, The Distant, Abusive, or Addicted Mom, and Destructive Mom. Which type is your biological mother, you can find out in more detail when you read the book about the different types there are and how to understand them better. 
There’s also a great example of an email or letter that you can send to the biological mother that is really good and non-threating to send especially if you’re a new stepmom.  This letter or email would help open the door for good communication between the two of you and it would show the biological mother that you’re not a threat to them and that the mother knows that you are not trying to replace her.  I wish I was able to do this; however my husband frowned upon it, just because of how difficult his ex-wife is and can be. I never did get the chance to really speak or send her any communication.  I will always wonder if I did do that if things would be different between all of us and if we would have become a more respectful shared parenting team with better communication between all three of us.
Most importantly I learned that great blended stepfamilies don’t just happen overnight it takes time to cook a step great stepfamily and it takes a lot of patience, time, love, respect, prayer, and encouragement from other stepmoms.  Yes, I said “cook” a stepfamily.  Look at your stepfamily as stew cooking in a Crockpot; you have to cook the stew on low in order for it to really cook all the way through.  A stepfamily is the same way it takes a lot of years before everything is going great.  I also learned that sometimes you need to learn to accept the things you cannot change and to step down my expectations. “This process takes time and patience. Moving from surviving to thriving doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be done.” (R. Deal & L. Petherbridge; 2009).
There’s also a chapter in the book that talks about adult stepchildren and how to handle the issues and problems relating to betrayal, jealousy, rejection, and concern about family finances.
Through reading this book, I learned that when feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions or when stepchildren test your limits, take an emotional break to try to process my emotions better. It has helped me tremendously to just have my own time out when I get upset. I usually go into my bedroom and just gather all of my thoughts and feelings and either write them down on paper or just think about how to handle it. I also learned that it’s okay to need help or support from others when faced with challenges, it is okay to seek out therapy (counseling) to get through a difficult time. Don’t do it alone, you don’t have to anymore; there are loads of support groups out there to meet other stepmoms that are struggling just like you are.
This book overall is the best book you could ever buy for anyone that you know is marrying into a blended family and becoming a stepmom. I think it’s a great wedding gift for blended families, there’s also a book for Stepdads too.
Do you have this book already? What have you found in this book that was helpful to you? What other books that are out there that you have found to be very helpful with being a stepmom?


References:
Ron Deal & Laura Petherbridge, The Smart Stepmom (Bloomington, MN; Bethany House, 2009)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dating your Husband

dating your husband, blended family, marriage matters, stepmom, step mother, step parenting
If you haven’t already, been doing this… you need to make your marriage your main Priority. Each of you needs to put each other first before the children and stepchildren. It’s important to get out at least once a week and have a date night with one another. In order to build a strong solid marriage that will withstand all of the drama the ex-spouses dish out you need to make sure you put each other first and take care of one another’s needs. There is a book I recently read that really helps you define both of your strongest needs, it is called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The book helps you discover what each of your five love languages is and when you discover them, it will help build a strong marriage.  My husband and I started seeing a marriage therapist this past summer because we just felt distant with one another and things just didn’t seem ok between us.  The first thing our marriage therapist said to do was read this book together. We did that and it really opened up our eyes to see what is important to one another and we started meeting those love language needs and what a difference our marriage has been since then. I really encourage every married couple to read this book together and watch what a difference it will make in your marriage.
Ok now, getting back to dating your husband. It’s important to pick a date night that is consistent every week and look your best when you go out, don’t wear your work clothes or sweatshirts.  After all when you were single and on a first date with someone you wanted to look your best then, so this is not any different. Have fun with this; don’t just make it about going out for dinner and a movie. Be creative, and do something fun together, like for an example:  roller skating, bowling, zip lining, tennis, canoeing, sailing or ice skating. What’s even more spontaneous surprise your husband with an overnight fun at a hotel room. When is the last time you took them to a hotel? Rent a room with a hot tub in it and buy some new lingerie, pack a bag ahead of time of clothes for them and make the hotel reservations and just go out to dinner like usual and give them a card with the hotel key card inside of it.
A great solid marriage has these key elements within it:
  1. Close Relationship with God – Praying together and separately for one another.
  2. Healthy Communication – Talk every day even during work; keep connected with one another always.
  3. Personality Compatibility – Do not be jealous, controlling, angry, moody or overly critical.
  4. Conflict Resolution – Manage conflict in a healthy manner, never go to bed angry, and always resolve issues within a short time frame.
  5. Couple Flexibility – Adapt easily to changes of life’s circumstances.
  6. Leisure Time Together – Go on DATE nights with one another or do a hobby you both enjoy together.
If you have a great handle on all six of these then you are doing something right within your marriage and you will be able to withstand whatever stresses come at your marriage whether it’s stepchildren or an ex-spouse.

Do you go on a weekly date night with your husband or spouse? What are some of the fun date nights you have had together?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

PAS

PAS, blended family, step parenting
I bet you're wondering what does PAS mean?  It stands for Parent Alienation Syndrome.  It occurs when one parent brainwashes the child or children with the combination of the child’s own bad-mouthing the other parent. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot we can do to fight against it legally. There are ways to find out whether your children or stepchildren are going through this. 
The warning signs are:
  1. Letting the child choose whether to visit with the other parent when the child really has no choice about visitation because it’s set by a court order
  2. Telling the child details about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce
  3. Denying that the child has property and may want to move possessions between homes
  4. Denying the other parent access to school or medical records and schedules of activities
  5. Blaming the other parent for money problems, splitting up the family, or having a girlfriend or boyfriend
  6. Refusing to be flexible with the visitation schedule or over-scheduling the child with activities so the other parent isn’t given time to visit
  7. Assuming that a parent who has physically abused the other parent will assault the child. This assumption isn’t always true
  8. Asking the child to choose one parent over the other
  9. Encouraging the child’s anger toward the other parent
  10. Suggesting changing the child’s name or having a stepparent adopt the child
  11. The child is unable to give reasons, or can give only vague reasons, for their anger toward a parent
  12. Using a child to spy or secretly gather information for the parent’s own use
  13. Arranging temptations that interfere with the other parent’s visitation
  14. Reacting with hurt or sadness to a child having a good time with the other parent
  15. Asking the child about the other parent’s personal life
  16. Physically or psychologically rescuing a child when there’s no threat to their safety
  17. Making demands on the other parent that are contrary to court orders
  18. Listening in on the child’s phone calls with the other parent
  19. Breaking promises to the child  
(all of these warning signs came from: Lawyers.com, you can find more information here at: http://family-law.lawyers.com/visitation-rights/parental-alienation-syndrome.html)

If you are experiencing any of these above, then there’s a very good chance your child or children are suffering from PAS.
Unfortunately, my stepchildren are suffering from PAS, they have several of these above and, unfortunately, it has hindered our relationship with both of the children.  I just wish the children could see it happening, but they can’t see it.  The ex-wife has done nothing but use them as a pawn to hurt me and especially my husband and it has worked.  She talks bad about both my husband and me.  All we can do document everything and try to undo the damage she has caused and continues to cause my stepchildren.  We have always taken the high road on never talking bad about the ex-wife in front of children. It’s been very hard to keep quiet at times, but we have done our best to be the better person.  She’s done nothing but made us look like the bad parents even though we have done nothing but try to love the children and give them a good and positive structured home life.
When they were younger she would tell my stepdaughter to tell her Father that he needs
to pay child daycare and if he was ever late, she would have my stepdaughter get on his case about it rather than calling him and discussing it with him.  Then there was a time where my husband filed to get the child support reduced.  The ex-wife told both of the children that they would have to go to commercial daycare now and get up even earlier for school because their Dad filed to get child support lowered.  The stepdaughter came that weekend very upset with her father and yelled at him for wanting to lower child support and told him everything her mother said. Anytime the child support didn’t come, she would have my stepdaughter yell at him about it.  When the child support was being handled through Friend of the Court system, so it was out of my husband’s control of when payments were mailed to the ex-wife. My husband would tell my stepdaughter “that this is between your mother and I and you don’t need to get involved in these matters, it is for adults to discuss.”  She was only 11 years old when she was being told to yell at her father for matters that really only concerned the parents. 
Then the ex-wife started taking us to court for changes in custody and unfortunately won, because we never got the court papers in the mail, so we had no idea that the hearing ever took place until we heard the new custody arrangements from the ex-wife.
Then telling my stepchildren that I took their Father away from them and that I don’t let their Father see them or spend time with them.  I never once stopped my husband from seeing his children or spending time with them 1:1.  In fact, most of the time it’s my idea that he does something with his children 1:1 and always gave him fun ideas on what to do with his children.
Last year, my step children said that my husband is not on their side and that he is always on my side and that he puts me, my children, my job, and our church first before his children.  I do agree on one thing, he does put me first before his children, just like I put him first before my children. However, there are no sides, he disciplines his children, I don’t discipline them, and, therefore, there are no sides to be on.  I discipline my own children, sometimes I ask his advice on how to handle an issue and he also seeks my advice and wisdom on issues or problems, but never in front of the children.
Just this past month, the ex-wife sent my husband saying she blocked my husband's phone number from calling my stepdaughter, so now he has no way of being in contact with her. She further stated that if he wants to talk to her that he has to go through her first. 
It just makes me very frustrated that a parent such as ourselves that provides structure, love and spends time with the children, end up being called the bad parents. They never once had to cook their own meals or forced to clean up the entire house. All we asked for is to respect one another and to clean up after themselves. 
When the ex-wife has no discipline, doesn’t clean or cook for the children, doesn’t do laundry, swears often, has no bed times, lets the kids watch whatever rated shows they want too, has gone on many dates with different men, married one man and divorced him within two years, that's what a best better fit parent looks like? My stepchildren have told us that over at her house, they have to cook their own meals or they go out to eat every night of the week, they have to do their own laundry, and clean up the entire house, while she reads a book or takes long naps.
Family vacations to her are flying the kids to Florida without her, she stays at home and doesn’t even go with them on vacation, and just ships them off to Florida without her.
As for us every year we haven taken them on family vacation trips with all of the children, we either go camping or take them to other fun places.
One time during our weekend visitation, while the ex-wife’s house was for sale, she called and demanded that my stepdaughter go home just to clean the entire house because she had a showing on the house.
I just feel so bad for these children that they have been brainwashed to hate both of us. When we have shown them so much love, support, stability and structure than their mother has. It just feels like a constant losing battle with my stepchildren and the ex-wife. We are trying our best to stay strong through all of this and hope that one day when my stepchildren get older they will see everything their mother has done to ruin our relationship with them. I just pray that we can make it through the next four more years of the PAS. My stepdaughter is now eighteen years old and has moved off and gone away to college in Florida however, my stepson is fourteen years old, so we still have another four years to go until this parent alienation ends. But something tells me that even then it won’t end because there will be weddings and grandkids and so forth that she will get to control.  There’s one thing that is for sure our marriage is strong and we will make it through these rough storms that she throws our way. I will continue to pray for my stepchildren that they see the light and I also pray for the ex-wife that she changes her ways and stops the damage she is doing to the children. We both would like to have a good relationship with her for the sake of the children, but the only way that will happen is through a lot of prayers.
Is your children or stepchildren going through this right now? How have you handled it?

References:

Parental Alienation Syndrome (2015). Lawyers.com. This information was found on:  http://family-law.lawyers.com/visitation-rights/parental-alienation-syndrome.html?page=2

Monday, October 12, 2015

Past Memories

Have your stepkids ever mentioned a past memory that did not involve you and it made you feel out of place? My stepdaughter used to do it pretty often.  There was one time in particular where I felt like they were trying to put the blame on their Father for something that wasn’t really his fault.  When my stepson was three years old he climbed up a ladder and went on top of the roof of the house.  At the time my husband was not at home, he went to the hardware store when this happened.  The biological mother was supposed to be watching him, but apparently she blames my stepdaughter saying she was supposed to be watching him.  My stepdaughter was only five years old at the time of this incident. How can a five-year-old be responsible for a three-year-old toddler? I corrected her and said I don’t think it was your fault your brother got on top of the roof that day, you were only five years old, you shouldn’t be responsible for watching a three-year-old.  Then my stepdaughter blamed my husband, but he wasn’t even home at the time.  However, he did leave the ladder against the house, but really the biological mother should have been keeping a close eye on my stepson.

After a past memory is shared I would try to find some way to change the subject to talk about a memory that I am included in.  It does not always work, but most of the time it does.  It did feel like almost every other weekend we had them she shared a memory of the past that involved her mother and my husband when they were married.  It did make me feel left out and weird at first, but then I learned to let it go and try to find ways to get involved in the conversation of the shared past memory.  It is important to give your stepkids permission to share about the past that doesn’t include me in it.  What I try to do often is when they share something with me around instead of retreating and allowing it to ostracize me, I share something that relates to the past memory that I remember.  Which shows the stepkids that you don’t feel left out of conversation and that the topic doesn’t bother you?  After a while, I came to the realization that my stepdaughter mentioned past memories just to make conversation with us. Usually, after she would share a past memory with us, then she would talk about what was happening in her life that week with her mother’s side of the family or about school.
Has this ever happened with you? How did it make you feel and how did you handle it?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Family Picture Day

Love this photo of all of us
Every year I do family pictures for a Christmas photo card to send out to family and friends. It’s a tradition to me and I started this way back when I first got married and had my first child. I wanted to continue it every year even through the different marriages I have had, I have always done this. Well in this marriage every year when I did this, my stepdaughter would have some kind of meltdown or give us issues about it.  There’s only been one year where she didn’t give us any problems.  It’s so hard to get five kids to have the same kind of color or color theme to wear.  Two years ago, the family picture day was the worst and the most stressful day for me due to my stepdaughter having issues with wearing a white top.  She hates white apparently and wanted to wear whatever she wanted even though I told everyone a month ago that I wanted everyone to wear white.  She didn’t have anything to say about when I first mentioned it; she waited until the day before pictures to say it.  My husband took her to the mall that Friday of the weekend of pictures and she couldn’t find anything she liked that was white. 
Then on Saturday, all of us went to the mall to find a white top and she had this attitude
All of us together
about it all. Everything I showed her, she didn’t care for which was making me very frustrated.  Then she told her Dad, that she wants her Mom to take her shopping for the white top.  I was furious because pictures were the next day. So we ended up leaving the mall and on the way home she called her Mom from the van and her Mom said no to helping her find a top.  Then when we got home I was furious and told my husband if she doesn’t want to be in this picture then she needs to go home because I could tell she was just being difficult because she didn’t even want to do pictures, since she has done this just about every year we’ve been doing this. So he took her home and then I guess after he dropped her off, she called him and said she wanted to be in the picture and that she would agree to the white top.  He then turned the truck around and went back and got her and came back with her.  When he came home, I was hoping he had dropped her off and that everything was going to be ok, but then I saw her walk back in the door with him.  Then he took me into the bedroom and told me that she changed her mind and said she would wear white and told me he would get up early the next morning (Sunday morning, the day of pictures) and take her back to the mall for a white top to wear. 
On Sunday the day of pictures, everyone was ready to go but my stepdaughter and it was coming very close to being late.  She waited until the last minute to take a shower and then had to blow dry her hair, it was really stressing me out.  I was so mad that I decided to leave with my kids and just meet him there at the park where we were meeting the photographer.  I was so mad that my body was shaking because of her doing this to me and us, knowing how important family picture day is every year.  We went to the park just in time, and had the pictures taken and at first everyone was all tense because of everything that happened, but we managed to take all of the pictures that were needed. I ended up being so relieved, however still upset that this turned out to be such a big deal over getting a picture taken.
Me with my kids
Two weeks later, the next kid weekend we had, my stepdaughter came I decided to let go and get over it everything that happened the last weekend we had them. Everything was going great and everyone was getting along really well, but my stepdaughter had this attitude still about something and I wasn’t sure why.  So I asked her what was wrong and then she started yelling at my husband and then I came to find out that my husband bribed her to do the pictures that day; he said he would buy her anything she wanted if she just did the pictures for him that day.  Which he never told me about and then I was furious at him for bribing her to do the photos. So then he and I got into an argument unfortunately in front of the kids and it was awful. It was so awful that him and my step kids went and spent the night at my mother in law’s house.  This was the first time he has ever left the house like that and spent the night somewhere else.  It was awful not having him here and him having to leave without trying to work things out with me.  He did end up coming over alone later that night to talk and to work it out with me, but then went back to his Mom’s afterwards since the kids were there.  After that horrible weekend, we then decided that we were going to stop doing family pictures every year because it only causes drama.  I was very sad about it because I really loved having a new photo to send out to family and friends. 
This past year I did talk him into doing a family picture with just my girls and leaving the
My husband and my two stepchildren
step children out of the picture since my step daughter had her fits about them so much.  Looking back at it now, I guess I should have let her wear whatever she wanted, however I still think she would gave us a hard time regardless of what we had to wear for the day. Personally, I just felt like she didn’t want to be in the family picture at all and maybe that’s why every year she gives us such a hard time. 
The lesson to walk away with is if you take family pictures with a blended family, let them wear whatever they want to wear and maybe it might not be such a big deal to the children.
I put some of the family pictures on this post so you can see how good they turned out even though my stepdaughter gave us a hard time.
Do you do family photos every year? Do you have a hard time getting it all coordinated?