Tag Archives: blended families

Six Things Remarried Dads Owe to their StepMom Wives

I just read this article over on the Huffington Post – and while everything the author says has merit, I wanted to add that it also applies to StepDads whose wives move in with their children – the Step Dads also deserve the same considerations mentioned in this article. If you live in a blended family this is well worth the read.

Six Things Remarried Dads Owe to their StepMom Wives

Blended Family Rant

I’m cranky these days. Must be the steroids that I am taking that are not doing diddly squat for this back pain. But people, some people, lately are really ticking me off.

I am always trying to figure out the best way to introduce myself, especially in an environment where being a mom is respected and applauded. Most people don’t really want to hear more than a short sound bite, so I generally say – I am a mom, my husband and I have seven kids. (It’s true. I have 4, he has 3, together that is seven). When asked the age range, I give it – 8-15. Yes, sometimes people look at me and wonder, but 9 times out of ten, they just wish me luck and we move on.

I am not interested in telling everyone my life story. That’s why I have a blog! But recently I was talking with a new acquaintance and she asked me if there were any multiples amongst this gigantic group of children that we have. I said no, in fact we are a blended family. There was a distinct change in attitude from the person I was conversing with. Oh well, it isn’t so amazing then that you have seven kids. Three of them aren’t even yours.

Them’s fighting words!! Life would probably be much easier if they were all “mine”. The blended family dynamic, especially when there are other parents involved and other homes where children live some of the time, is much much harder than the biological family dynamic. Just because they are not “mine” biologically doesn’t mean they are not “mine” emotionally. I love the KoD’s kids so very much – they are a part of him, how could I not? They are part of our family, just like mine are. I have a place in my heart for each and every one of our children. Whether they were born of my womb or not, they are OUR children…

Look, I don’t need kudos or awards or anything like that, I love being a mom and a step-mom and that’s reward enough for me. But don’t dismiss my mothering as “less than” because I only birthed four of the seven of our offspring. I am sure this person would not have dreamed of saying something similar to an adoptive parent – that would just be wrong, correct?

I dunno, it just sticks in my craw. Pass the grumpitol….

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Blending in….

Sometimes I wonder what it is like to be you reading my blog. Do I present a well balanced picture of my life? I don’t think I do. I put my positive spin on everything – even the crappy personal times sound downright silver lining-ish.

I don’t want you all to think that blending our family has been plain sailing just because I never blog about our challenges and only seem to blog about the good times. We have charted many choppy waters and have plenty of stormy seas ahead, I’m sure. However, neither of us are planning on sending up flares anytime soon. I don’t blog about the specifics of the squalls and tempests because there are minor children involved and this is a very sensitive area. Navigating the sea of step parenthood and blended families is extremely tough and sensitive and oh-so-complicated.

I will say that having a positive attitude helps a ton, and that when there is mutual respect between kids and a parent / step-parent it helps the adjustment to go much more smoothly. I will also add that all the kids need to see that this new partnership between biological parent and step parent is a solid one, and that the couple need to present a united front. The worse thing is for a child to be able to play one parent off the other.

Blending families is certainly not for the faint of heart. There is much compromise involved – for all parties concerned, kids included. When there are other biological parents involved in the children’s upbringing it adds extra dimensions – rules in each house are bound to be different, mommy does things this way, daddy does things that way. We have house rules that apply to everyone, even if things are done differently in their other home. Sometimes these rules are tough to enforce, but we try to do so fairly.

I love the fact that my boys adore the KoD. They love and respect him and want to please him. This is a HUGE deal – so many step children resent the advent of a step parent, and feel they have to compete (sometimes negatively) in order to get attention. My boys, well, they tease us about making googly eyes at each other. It makes them so happy to see their Ima happy.

But still, they have had my undivided attention for years, and now, they have to share it. For me, I cannot unilaterally decide on a course of action in a specific circumstance (as I have been used to doing as a single mom) – I need to consider the KoD’s opinions and thoughts and feelings too. This is where communication is key. Sometimes I forget that the KoD cannot read my mind. We are soul-mates – so I occasionally assume he knows what I am thinking then get frustrated with him that he doesn’t. I’m working on it and I must say the KoD is the most patient man I have ever met.

Way back when they first met him, the boys made sure that KoD knew his place. They told him he would always be #5 on my list, that they would always come first. They said it more or less in jest, but there was a huge nugget of claim-staking there too. So long as each and every one of them feels that they are top of my list and not being neglected, I know I am doing something right.

It’s also important for the couple to make time for themselves as a married couple. When you become an instant family it is so easy for the couplehood to get lost in the shuffle of biological kids and step kids and visitation. Even if it is just a trip together without kids to the local grocery store to buy another 10 quarts of milk – alone time is a precious commodity but so important.

We are still finding our way, and I am sure it will take a while until all the big waves have settled into tiny imperceptible ripples – but we are all committed to making it work.

If any of you come from a blended family, or have one of your own – any tips you have to make this transition smoother for all concerned would be much appreciated.

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Monsey Tales

We survived the weekend. Intact. Well, we did, the fridge – not so much. Seven kids and two grown ups – it takes a lot to feed that many people. We went from total peace and quiet, the two of us, to us plus seven kids, within the space of 24 hours. And we are sane enough to still tell the tale. Ok, I know that’s a matter of opinion, but hey, allow me my delusions 😉 . We are now back to 4 kids and two adults – the decibel level is slightly less, but the house is still hopping.

This will be the first full week with my kids here – and they are not going to day camp. The two big boys are too old, and most of the older three’s friends have gone to sleepaway camp. Not an option for my boys. The little one would probably enjoy day camp very much – but it’s not an option this summer, either. I am starting to appreciate how cheap everything was in Montreal. School, camp etc is three times the cost here. The kids will be doing Ima camp as they have done in summers gone by. Makes for a relaxing summer, I guess. If anyone has any suggestions of stuff to do locally that won’t break the bank, that would be appreciated.

We shlepped them to Costco yesterday. Heehee. Their eyes went huge as they saw the selection and the prices and the sheer size of some of the packaging. Yeah., I can make fun, especially as I did the same thing two weeks ago when the KoD took me there for the first time. But now I am a seasoned Costco veteran so that gives me seniority.

I had better go and wake up my boys for minyan – will check in with you guys at some point…

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WWYD – mealtime

My kids go to their dad for dinner one night a week. They are always complaining they never get fed food that they like and it’s always healthy stuff, sometimes vegetarian foods including tofu. (My boys are very much meat and potatoes types of guys) It has got to the point that before they leave they take inventory of my fridge to see what there is to eat when they come home. I feed them healthily, but never tofu because, well, I just don’t do tofu.

They invariably come home ravenous. They do not ask me to cook anything for them on those nights, because they know I won’t (it’s my night off), but they descend on the fridge like vultures. I have told them to discuss their culinary concerns with their dad and step mom. I would feel awful if I cooked them a meal and they didn’t eat. Doesn’t matter if I am biologically related or not. It’s rude not to eat food put in front of you.

Is this my concern, or not? By allowing them to eat when they get home am I sabotaging their mealtime at their Dad’s? They say they do eat there, or pretend to, and are not rude.

What would you do?

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Could I have been wrong?

It is a reflective time of year. Reflection is good for the soul, so they say. My reflections have taken a different tack this year, due to my changed status from divorced single mom to married woman, mom of 4, step mom to 3.

I had a step mother. Now, due the some issues I have faced / am facing with my own step children I am rethinking everything about the relationship I had with her.

I was seven years old when I was first introduced to her. We had travelled to Israel to spend the summer with my father, with whom we spent a few weeks every summer. It was the only time during the year that we spent with him. We didn’t even speak on the phone in between visits. This was my normalcy. It was just the way it was since I remembered.

That summer we were introduced to her. It was a casual thing, from what I remember. No one said the “marriage” word or anything close. We all went away for a few days to a hotel – I am not sure where – all I remember is that I got sick with the mumps while we were there and while they were all out having fun and chasing snakes my grandmother nursed me back to health.

I don’t remember thinking anything negative about this woman that was hanging around. From what I recall they were not overt in their affection for each other, but that could also be that I was too young to even have it make an impression on me.

Within a year or two (my chronology is hazy because I was a kid back then…) they were all living in the states, and we came there to spend our summers. The first summer we visited them in the states they had had a baby shortly before we arrived. From what I remember, we had not been informed of nor invited to their wedding, nor had we been told there was a sibling on the way. At the time I guess it didn’t bother me, it’s not like we were all major parts of each others’ lives. But as I got older I was resentful that I hadn’t been important enough to my father for him to include me in all these changes. However, as a 9 year old I was thrilled with my baby half-brother. I changed his diapers, rocked him, totally enjoyed him. I did the same when his brother came along 4 years later.

My step mother and I, and my grandmother who lived downstairs, were the only females in a male dominated family. There was my grandfather, my dad, and my FOUR brothers. But we didn’t hang out. I preferred my grandmother’s company over everyone else’s when I couldn’t hold the baby. I felt that my step mother tolerated my presence but really wished I didn’t exist. I cannot recall any specific incident that made me think this, but that was how I thought. I am ashamed to say I hated her. I cannot put words as to why as she never did anything to me that would have hurt me. But her mere existence seemed to hurt me.

Looking at things from a different perspective now, I wonder if I had totally misjudged her. It’s too late for me to sit down with her and talk it through. She has passed on already to join my Dad in the big palace in the sky. I would love to have had the chance, as a grown up, to sit down with both of them, and talk through everything that is going through my head right now.

So, with the benefit of my newfound wisdom this is what I now think. I didn’t hate HER so much as what she represented. By marrying my father she put the final seal on my hopes and dreams for my parents to reconcile. Every child of divorce wants their parents to get back together, deep within their soul, even if they know it wouldn’t be right. But they want to be part of a nuclear family. As a “step mother who married my father so he couldn’t reconcile with my mother”, everything she said was suspect. If she asked me to make my bed, well, that’s because she was mean and wanted me to work. If she told me to eat supper like a lady, she hated me because I was the other woman in my dad’s life. If she gently told me off because I was too loud, she wished I was dead. See the pattern here? There was nothing she could have done right. I was predisposed to hate her.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, we only spent time with them once a year. So there was not really any regular contact for us to improve on our relationship. Any headway that had been made the summer before disappeared and we were back at square one the following summer. It had never occurred to me that she might have wanted a relationship with me. To be an important figure in my life. I just thought she would rather me out of her life completely. I thought that if she wanted me as part of her life she would have encouraged my father to be in regular contact with us, to see us more often. I saw it as her fault that he didn’t call us. In hindsight, yes, my father could have made a lot more effort – maybe she did encourage him, and he ignored her? Who’s to know?

I am sure I said many mean and hurtful things to her, teenaged girls can be vindictive and cruel. I never gave her a chance. When my father died in 1993, we all sat shiva at their house in Monsey. (yes, small world) I didn’t give one moment of thought to the hell that she was going through, having lost her husband. I had lost my father, a man I barely knew. I was 19 and life sucked. Big time. My half brothers were young at the time, not yet barmitzvah, and my heart hurt for them. I looked at my grandparents and saw their pain and sorrow at having to bury their only child way before his time – and my heart broke for them. For her? I couldn’t have cared less about her pain. I am sure some part of me blamed her for his death, which obviously is totally nonsensical.

I am by nature a caring person. I cry for people who are hurting, I feel their pain and suffering. Yet to this one person, my step mother, I was cold. Growing up I told myself it was because she hated me, so I was just giving it back to her. Now looking back on it I cringe. How could I have been so cruel and mean and just plain hateful? Her only sin was that she existed. She could have been the sweetest gentlest person in the world, cooked and baked and been a mix between Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker and Mary Poppins, and I still would have hated her. I never took the time to get to know her as a person, and that I will regret for the rest of my days. I should have been happy that my father found himself a second chance, someone that he could potentially grow old with, though, sadly, neither of them had the chance to grow old. But that is a mature attitude, and I was a kid.

This year I pray that I can start somehow to develop some kind of bond with all my step children. I love their father so much – he is the air that I breathe. He is so necessary to my every day life. His kids are an extension of him, and I love them too. I want so much to have a decent relationship with them – I don’t want to be their mother, they have one who loves them very much, but I don’t want to be their friend either – I do have a parental position. There are house rules, for all the kids. How does one find the right balance without over stepping boundaries? I know it will take time and a lot of effort and frustration and major patience from me and the KoD but I am up for the challenge. I don’t want my step children to have the same regrets that I do, 20 years from now and I don’t want them to hate me just because I exist.

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Heinous or Harmless – Interesting Quandary

DivorceSo I am cleaning up the house, getting rid of everything that I can, as we already have a furnished house in NY to move to, so the less we bring the better for everyone. Amazing how much clutter one can accumulate without even trying.

I came across the wedding pictures from my first wedding, to the father of my children. We are no longer married, we have each moved on and are married to other people.

Do I need to keep the albums? This is a serious question. I was told I should keep them for the kids, but I have boys, they are so not into looking at photos of people from decades ago. Even if it is their parents. If I do get rid of them, is that so heinous? I would rather not move them into my new marital home. I feel that would be disrespectful to the KoD.

What do you think? Is there anyone out there who has faced the same issues? Would it really be hurting my kids to safely dispose of them?

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Step Parenting Advice Part 2

Two people get married. One brings biological children into the family home full time. The other parent’s children visit occasionally, let’s say every second weekend. How does one prevent the non custodial children from being jealous and envious that the other kids get to live with their biological parent full time?

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Step Parenting Help

What does one do when one’s young step-children, who do not live in the newly established marital home, refuse to come see their biological parent because they “hate” the new step-parent(for no reason other than the fact that this person married their biological parent)? Bonding time is so necessary, and the more time they spend in the new environment with the new step-parent, the more they can see that s/he might actually be a decent person.

When visitation is granted by the courts – how far does one go to enforce it if the child really doesn’t want to come? If they are small enough does one just pick them up physically and carry them to the car kicking and screaming? At what point does the child get his/her own way?

How does one answer “I won’t come because I hate your spouse”? How does one stop this from causing pain, even though you know it isn’t personal?

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Step–parenting question

If a young step child tells the step-parent “I wish you were my mommy / daddy” what would be an appropriate response?

Is this really what the child wishes or is s/he just saying “I love you, thanks for being my step mom / dad?

How would you answer? I think an appropriate response is “you have a father / mother who loves you. But, I’m glad to be your stepfather / step mother.”

What are your thoughts?