Tag Archives: step parenting

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

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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Came across this quote about step parents – how true.

“When children have permission to care about all the adults in their lives, it adds richness and variety to their existence. Each adult has something unique to give a child – whether it is a joyful sense of humor, the talent to tell a good bedtime story, or the ability to share the child’s delight in visiting the zoo. The more adults contributing to the child’s life, the more opportunities the child has to experience diversity.”

Dr. Emily Visher, cofounder of the Stepfamily Association of America.

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Gratitude

As I wrote the other day, the boys are spending some time with their dad. I miss them more than I thought possible, but I am so thankful and grateful that they have this opportunity to spend a good amount of quality time with him. Ever since he and I split we have both made it a priority to encourage the relationship between each parent and the children. There has never been any trashing of the other parent in front of the kids, nor has there ever been anything negative said or even hinted at about the new spouses and step-siblings that entered the picture.

Sure, there have been fights and arguments and lawyers – we DID get divorced after all – but we kept all of that away from the children. We may have chosen to no longer be married to each other – but that divorce does not include the children. They did not ask for this. As the primary care giver for my children, it is my responsibility and my role to encourage and foster a good relationship between my kids and their dad. I cannot force it, but thankfully he is more than willing and loves his sons unconditionally.

I guess when both parents are on the same page – putting the children’s needs first – there can be a civil relationship, an entente cordiale. It is so tragic and sad to read about and hear stories of divorces where parental alienation is happening – where one parent does all s/he can to trash the relationship of the kids with the other parent. I just wish all divorced parents (maybe even all parents) could put their kids’ needs first at all times.

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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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Step Parenting Question

This is a question that was emailed to me to pose on my blog. It has been edited to adjust flow.

“I am a newly remarried mother of an 8 year daughter. Her bio-dad has had nothing to do with her since we divorced 6 years ago. Her step dad has been in her life for two years and they have a lot of fun together. All three of us get along most of the time. However, my daughter will go crazy whenever my husband touches me in an affectionate manner, kiss on the cheek, arm around the shoulder etc. She hits him, kicks him in the leg and tells him to “get off my mommy!!” He has only ever been sweet and kind to both of us. What can I do? Why is she like this? She sits on his lap, she hugs him at bedtime. Why can he not touch me? If I am the one to initiate contact with him she says nothing and does nothing until he responds in kind. But you can see in her eyes that she is watching and waiting. I want us to be a normal family, but we are afraid to show affection in front of her.”

So, dear readers, you generally have wonderful insight and ideas – what do you make of this situation? What would you advise?

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Step Parenting Question – Rules

I love my kids. I love the KoD’s kids. I love each one of the seven assorted children differently. They all have different personalities and need different parts of who I am at different times. Any parent worth their salt knows that you cannot parent each child the same way. It just doesn’t work. BUT there are certain things that hold hard and fast no matter the temperament of the child. Things such as House Rules.

I don’t believe in there being different sets of rules for his kids and my kids, for the kids that live there full time, and those that just visit occasionally. I know in some blended families that is done, but I cannot operate that way. That really doesn’t help the kids to all integrate into one big happy blended family. By the time we are all together under one roof I want us all to have an idea of what the rules are.

How do we enforce these house rules especially when some of the rules may not be in play in their other homes? How do we answer “my mom/dad lets me do that / doesn’t make me do it”?

What are acceptable House Rules? so far I have :

  • Speak respectfully to both parents and all siblings at all times
  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself
  • If you have a problem with someone talk to the parents
  • No friends over when parents are not home or are resting
  • No TV on a school night
  • Bedrooms must be kept neat at all times
  • Homework must be done before computer games are played
  • No door slamming

What rules do you have in your home? How do you enforce them? Are you a blended family? How is that working for you?

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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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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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