Tag Archives: blending families

Accountability

One of the up-sides of being a single mom was the lack of having to account to anyone for anything. Well, yes, I do have kids, but they were not going to criticize how I spent my time or my money so long as they had everything they needed.

I knew what my budget was for everything, I knew my bank balance to the last penny. I knew what was going in to the bank and what ridiculously high percentage of that was going out to pay bills etc.

If I wanted to buy a pair of high heeled hot pink suede knee high boots that were on sale for a ridiculous price – if I could afford it, there was nothing stopping me. Those boots walked on home with me and had pride of place in my shoe closet.

In my first marriage I had a housekeeping budget. So long as I kept within my budget any extra was mine to do with what I liked. However, with 4 little boys there was not usually any extra. When there were other purchases that needed to be made (or that were a luxury not a necessity) it had to be discussed.

So having the financial freedom to decide how to spend my money was a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed not having to answer to anyone.

Here I am now, married to the most wonderful man in the world, and I have to readjust my thinking about spending. Again. And I am realizing that I am not handling it well. I get defensive if I am asked how much something cost, even if it’s just a little something that cost $3! I take it personally, as a criticism, when all the KoD wants to know was how much it cost. There is no hidden agenda, just open curiosity. The KoD is an awesome shopper. He knows prices like the back of his hand. He knows when we are being overcharged and he knows when he sees a bargain. Especially when it comes to grocery shopping. Food is his business and he knows it well.

Yet bring up how much something cost, and my hackles rise. It isn’t fair to him. But three years of not having to account for a penny to anyone but myself – well, I got used to that. I need to stop getting so defensive – it’s not like I am this crazy over-spender that buys and buys and has filled the house with unnecessary stuff. I am not. The KoD knows exactly how careful I am with money – so I should know that any question is simply that, a question, not a criticism.

How do I get over this? (Honestly, folks, the KoD is the most patient man in the history of the world. Sometimes I wonder how in heaven’s name he puts up with me). Logically I understand what I need to do, but emotionally – well, that’s a whole nother story…. Do any of you who were formerly single-parents but now remarried identify with my story? How did you handle this kind of situation?

Co-parenting after Divorce. It can be done.

There was a time, soon after we became a one-parent family, that I thought I would never be able to have a civil conversation with my ex, let alone be in the same building as him. There was a time that it hurt just sharing the same planet with him, breathing the same air – I was in so much pain that I couldn’t see past it.

We may no longer be married, but whether we like it or not, we are co-parents for life. We have four most awesome sons together who are our souls, our lives. Both of us are 100% invested in doing everything in the children’s best interests. Truthfully, occasionally our perception of the kids’ best interests differs, but we are always able to come to a peaceful resolution.

Time healed. Time allowed us both to work through our own issues and get past them. But that’s only because we were BOTH invested in doing so for the sake of the kids and for our own sakes too.

2 months post separation, when he was 11, our eldest asked about his barmitzvah. I can still taste the bile that rose in my throat at the thought of celebrating this momentous occasion with the “other side” of the family. It scared me. It frightened me. There was no way that I saw that it could possibly happen.

You know what? We made the barmitzvah together and it was awesome. It showed the children that their parents are willing to put them first. It showed the kids that they are our number one priority (or as they say, numbers 1 thru 4) and we would do anything for them. Sharing the simcha hall with my ex was fine – there are awesome benefits to mechitzahs!! We’ve since made another barmitzvah and have one coming up in 8 months. (We had three sons within 31 months!!). We have celebrated graduations and birthdays together, and sat holding our broken-legged child in the ER together.

Today we are able to pick up the phone and talk to each other like grown-ups. We don’t talk about anything other than the kids, and that’s ok. But I am so thankful that I am able to have this kind of “relationship” with him – that we have left the past in the past. Accepted that it is over. We have moved on with our lives. We are both remarried with stepkids. Our lives are an amalgamation of families and in-laws and relatives on four sides. As my kids say – so many more people to love them (and give them presents!!).

I just wish that all divorced couples were able to do the same. That at some point they come to the realization that they need to move on with their lives, and leave the nastiness and bitterness in the dust. It is even more important when there are children involved. I wish the divorce court could mandate some kind of co-parenting class for divorcing parents. Make them sign some kind of agreement that forces them to do what’s best for the child. There have been many things I have had to just accept, because being angry and bitter would not change them.

Had I not accepted my lot in life, the fact that I was getting a divorce – had I allowed myself to be consumed daily with anger and resentment and every negative emotion known to womankind – I would never have been able to move on with my life. I would never have been in a position to meet the KoD and realize his true value. I would have cheated myself out of this fairytale that the KoD and I have recurrent starring roles in.

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Loyalty and step-parents

I remember the weekend after my ex remarried. The kids had spent Shabbat with him and his new wife and her kids. They came home, and we sat together talking. The little one, who was five at the time, said to me, “I am so lucky, I have two mommies now”. I understood his sentiment, and was glad that his new stepmom was someone he liked, but boy did it hurt to hear him say that. It felt like a knife in my heart, even though he totally had not intended it that way. I couldn’t stop the tears from welling up in my eyes, even though I tried to smile through them. I had to leave the table to get busy with something so I wouldn’t break down.

Squiggy, who was all of ten then, decided to take his youngest brother to task. He reminded him, none too gently, “THIS is your mother, Ima is the one that carried you in her belly for nine months, this is the woman that gave birth to you, this is the woman that has raised you. Don’t you dare forget that!!!” So many emotions coursed through my mind at that moment. Pride in Squiggy that he defended my honour, so to speak. But I felt bad for the little ChatterBox – his intent was not to hurt me. He was just telling me he was happy – what more does a mother want for her child?

Once I had regained control of myself – it was a rough time emotionally as I am sure you can understand – I sat down with the both of them. I explained to the older one that he doesn’t have to choose sides or show more loyalty or anything like that. He can like his step mom without it hurting me. I explained to the little one that I am glad that he likes her and she is nice to him, because that’s very important. I explained to all the kids that there is no choosing one over the other. They live with me, they know who their mother is, but that does not mean there is no space in their lives to like or love their step mom. She is now a part of their family, and as such they have to at least respect her and treat her right. It was tough to explain to small children, who have a fierce love for their mother, that liking their step mom doesn’t discredit me in any way, shape or form.

In the years since then, the kids have learned a balance that has stood them in good stead. They adore the KoD, their step dad, and are not conflicted about loyalties. They understand that they can love him AND their own father at the same time. My children are so fortunate in having so many people to love and who love them. At the end of the day, they know who has raised them, they know from whom they learned their values and principles. But I also know that each of us who spend time with the children have had a hand in forming them into who they are, whether it’s a big hand or a small one, we have all contributed.

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