I Didn't "Know What I Was Getting Myself Into." Not Even Close.

The first time I heard the phrase, "You knew what you were getting yourself into" I had a different view than I do now on the topic. I remember reading a forum my third semester of college while working on a paper about childhood development post parental divorce. I'd just stumbled on it accidentally while searching for peer-reviewed journals. The author of the thread spoke of her woes whilst dating a divorced man with children. And one of the first comments on the thread read something like this...

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"What else did you expect? You had to know what you were getting yourself into."

 

And I remember vividly reading this unnecessary comment on this poor woman's thread (who was just desperately seeking advice) and thinking- Yup! 

Face Palm

The universe must have heard me that day. And it's as if she said, "I see your judgmental attitude and I raise you one big fat dose of 'You gon' learn today.'" Fast forward a couple years and along came Michael. 

Now I've heard the term on several occasions, uttered from strangers or to close friend's from their single/traditional-familied friends. I couldn't have more of a different opinion now. Because, you know- Hey, I'm a Step-Mom!

When I first started seeing Michael two years ago, I truly thought I had an idea of how things would be. I genuinely thought that I comprehended all the dynamics of blended family and the responsibilities of being a 'Step-Mom.' After all, the latter half of my childhood was spent adapting to my own parent's divorce. What more experience could I possibly need?! I definitely knew what I was getting myself into.

Except... not even close.

 

I didn't know I'd fall into instant motherhood.

When I met Michael, I had this big idea that I'd get to be this cool 'friend' figure to his son. And I did get to be that for a little while. But then reality set in. With a more flexible job schedule, I became the go-to. When an emergency came up, both parents called me. I started picking him up and dropping him off to school, arranging doctors appointments, and coordinating soccer schedules. I changed my work schedule to stay home with him during the summer when we saw childcare would be an issue, and even eventually left my job for a home-based position so I could provide more family support.

There wasn't any parenting plan in place yet in the beginning. Soon it became clear that our house was Ry's primary home. He was never with us less than sixty percent of the time- and even that wasn't typical. On average, we had him over seventy-five percent of the time which meant that I was the most consistent female figure in his life. I came into this with no kids of my own. I had no idea I'd become full on mom-like and I'd completely underestimated how much time and responsibility I'd have to invest. I couldn't be his friend. I had a responsibility to him. I became a bonus-mom in a way I'd never anticipated. 

I Didn't know It would be such a battle.

I had no idea how many fights there would be. We fought for nearly a year and a half over custody. We spent thousands of dollars in attorney's and court fees just to come to agreement on a schedule we'd suggested prior to filing. There are fights about money and parenting differences. There's jealousy, safety concerns, and MANY differences in opinions. The fights don't stop. Ever. Thankfully over time and with the help of the court system they've become fewer and further in-between. Parents fight, and I myself caught wind of several of my own parent's battles post separation, but no one could have prepared me for how involved it gets. And once you're in...you're in.

I didn't know there would be so much double standard or criticism.

I had absolutely no clue how deep the hatred for step-mothers ran. But I certainly do now. There's this double standard that runs rampant in the world when it comes to mothers vs. step-mothers. And there's ridiculous hoops we're supposed to jump through, yet fine lines we're "never to cross." If a mother is involved in her child's schooling, volunteers, brings snacks to school, or joins the PTA- she's the vision of motherhood; an incredible woman who's truly dedicated to her children. If a step-mom provides that same love, involvement, and support to her step-child- she's overstepping her boundaries. If mom say's no, disciplines, or sets rules and restrictions in her own home, she's a great mom raising accountable children. If bonus mom does the same, she's out of line. Who does she think she is? Mama's tired? She can post a humorous meme about how exhausting motherhood is, but if step-mom posts the same thing about her bonus babies- how dare she! Being a step-mom means you have to love your step-kids... but not too much. You have to treat them like your own, but don't you dare for a second think they are. I had no idea this double standard even existed until it happened to me.

Nothing can prepare you for the amount of criticism you'll face. I was amazed at how much hatred and slander surfaced about me- just because I was helping to raise someone else's child.

I heard things like:

  • "She wants to be a mommy so bad it's pathetic."
  • "You need to put your b!@#$ on a leash!"
  • "She's f!@#$%^ crazy."
  • "She needs to know her place!"

So yeah, I definitely didn't know what I was getting myself into when it came to that. Who could really? We all hear crazy stories... but we never think they'd happen to us.

I didn't know i'd have such little control.

I never imagined that being a step-mom meant so many days feeling like my life wasn't my own. And I mean that in a way thats bigger than just like, "I'm responsible for more than just myself now." I mean my whole life is full of uncertainty and theres absolutely nothing I can do about it. That custody battle? It was a year and a half of not knowing which home Ry was going to live in or if/when it would change. It was a year and a half of not knowing how much money we'd have left over at the end of each month. Michael and I can't just pick up and move somewhere with our family if we want to. We'd have to undergo another custody battle. If we want to vacation out of the states, we have to get permission. I never knew how little control I'd have over the things that so greatly effect my life, as a step-mom.

I didn't know I'd love my new son this much.

You could never have told me two-years-ago-me that I'd come to love my new son as much as I do now. I wouldn't have believed you. Of course I adored him when I met him, in that way you think all kids are cute. But now- I like really freaking love this kid. I know they say you can never love another child the way you do your own biological children, and I don't have my own children yet to compare that to- but I still don't buy it. I'd run out into oncoming traffic for him, without even thinking twice. Every action I take has him in mind and I find myself constantly thinking of ways I can make him happy, make his life better, and fulfill him. Nothing in the world could have prepped me for this kind of love. 

 

So I guess the moral of the story is... don't be like the 2012 asshole me who thought she knew anything about what it meant to fill a step-mom's shoes. I was completely wrong and life made sure to prove that to me in the most literal way. I love my life and my family. I wouldn't trade them for anything in this world, but this role is a difficult one. No person or thing could have prepared me for the complexities of blended family life, and the harsh realities of step-motherhood. 

So be nice to the step-mamas in your life, whether they're your own parents, friends, or relatives. Keep your criticisms to yourself and don't assume. No one knows until they've filled the shoes.

And step-moms- share your story often. You know, with me preferably. Teehee. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus Discipline Part I: You DO Have a Say

A consistent topic I've seen across my own and other's Step-Mom oriented Facebook communities is discipline in blended families. Which makes sense! Discipline is an inevitability of ANY family, but whenever you add the blended family dynamic, it makes it all the more complicated! That's why I've decided to tackle the topic throughout a series of posts so that I can cover the many complex details related to the subject.

I've been a part of Ry's life for about two years now, and a large majority of that time we've all resided in the same home together. I tried to steer clear from involvement in discipline in the very beginning. I wanted to be a 'friend' first. I wanted to gain his trust before taking on a disciplinarian role. After all, children are more likely to build resentment towards those without biological connections to them. But soon enough there came a time where I took on a very motherly role. I was (due to our own home being his primary residence) the more prevalent female figure in his life. I'd taken on many duties, was majorly involved in his life, and he spent a significant amount of time in my care. Time passed, and our relationship changed. Being just a 'friend' wouldn't cut it anymore.

The number one question I see being asked across platforms is this:

Is it okay for a step-parent to discipline their step-child?

I see so many opinions on this matter, but I want to break it down plain and simple. If you're questioning your own right to discipline your step-child, take a look at the questions below and think about your answers:

  • Do you want your step-child/children to see you and respect you as a parental figure rather than as a 'friend?'
  • Does/Do your step-child/children live with you during any point in time throughout the year, regardless of frequency?
  • Is/Are your step-child/children under the age of 18?
  • Could your own physical/mental/emotional health be impacted by their behavior?
  • Could your current/future children's physical/mental/emotional health or their own behavior be impacted by your step-child's/children's behavior?
  • Is/Are your step-child/children ever in your sole care?
  • Do you believe in the fair treatment of both your step-children and biological children?
  • Is your spouse seeking an equal partnership in which you both are involved in rule-enforcement and boundary setting?

If you answered yes to ANY of these questions, the reality is YES, you have EVERY right to be another disciplinary figure in your step-child's life. The catch though, is that you need to develop a trusting bond with your step-child, and discipline from a loving and caring place. If your intent is not to love and teach, then you absolutely do not have the right to discipline. 

I should also add that no right to discipline should be assumed by any step-parent whose spouse does not agree to such. Talk with your significant other about his/her expectations, boundaries, and comfort level. Trust takes time. But bottom line: If your spouse, after reasonable time doesn't trust you to to discipline his/her children, I think it's fair to say you're both in the wrong relationship.

It's a tough topic, and you'll hear many with opinions that conflict with mine. Communication will be the key factor in determining what works for you and your family. After all, that's what it's all about.

Have an opinion on the matter? I'd love to hear what you have to say! Leave a comment below! Until then <3

 

 

 

 

Parallel Parenting: Finding Solace in Circumstance

Throughout my journey into step-motherhood, very little has remained constant. Everything is consistently changing. From parenting schedules, to animosities (or lack thereof) our lives are constantly evolving. And from what I've read, that's pretty normal. It's how you adapt your mindset and shape your family around those changes and difficulties that's most important.

I've read more books on co-parenting and successfully blending than I can count. Each covering a million and one scenarios and topics. They explain just how you can be happy in adapting to your new life, as if some sort of infomercial shouting  "A successful blending guaranteed!" But I can help you by cutting to the chase. The one recurring theme in all of these books is the simplest thing: Do what works for YOUR family. 

But what if what works for your family goes against the grain? What if it's contradictory to every piece of advice that's been thrown your way? The answer: You do it anyways.

Or at least that's what we've done. Michael and I have made a tough decision as of late. It goes against everything we've heard in post-divorce parenting advice, but we're doing it anyways. We're parallel parenting with Michael's ex. 

What's that you ask? Parallel parenting is co-parenting's antonymous helper; co-parenting minus the 'co'. It's a way of parenting that involves disengaging from your ex and re-engaging in your household and your child. Parallel parenting allows you to collectively co-parent through individual parenting. It means limited direct communication, set boundaries, structure, and specificity. In other words: You do you.

Through parallel parenting you can reduce the stress and tension involved in communications, and day to day decision making. Each parent’s household functions independently; each parent is responsible for making minor daily decisions about the child during the time that the child is in that parent’s household. Parenting plans/schedules are decided on in advance and followed to the tee. Any deviations are requested ahead of time. The need for contact between parents slowly dwindles due to the structure in schedule, and communication can generally cease with the exception of urgent matters and atypical changes. 

It's a solution to a problem, and traditionally not an ideal first choice in parenting's grand scheme. It serves as a balanced standard for parenting when two households:

  • Cannot communicate effectively
  • Have vastly different parenting styles
  • Are highly reactive to each other
  • Are on different pages when it comes to matters concerning children
  • Have trouble getting along, or
  • Feel uncomfortable in each other's presence

It was a difficult decision for us, and not a decision we'd hoped we'd ever have to make. We wanted to be THAT family. You know, the one on that Facebook post you see; two households joined together on the sofa for _________ event/holiday. But after many arguments over parenting issues, and unresolved conflicts, we realized our households just aren't there yet. Our hopes are that we can eventually bridge the gap and become THAT family, but to get there we first need to go out separate ways! For now, parallel parenting will give us the opportunity to focus on our household, and give Ry the tension free environment he deserves!

Accepting that you aren't THAT family is hard. Like really hard. Michael and I sat down and had a conversation one day about his co-parenting situation. He couldn't understand why none of his attempts to co-parent were successful. Every request for compromise met by an argument, or even worse- just ignored. I had to remind him, there's a REASON his relationship ended prematurely. To end a relationship means that in some way or another, you and your ex don't align. It's a lot to expect someone who couldn't align with you during a relationship, to do so post relationship. And while I do wish positive cooperative parenting could be the standard of parenting universally post separation, the reality is, it can't be for everyone. Biting the bullet and making the decision to parallel parent certainly isn't the dream, but if the alternative is living engulfed in frustrations and living a life that doesn't suit your family, it's a choice I'd make time and time again! We're not THOSE people, but we ARE the kind of people who will do whatever it takes to make sure our children will grow up in a happy and healthy family environment. We're living and learning, and most of all- adapting to our situation. And regaining our sanity along the way! 

Our decision to take a parallel approach didn't come easy, and if you're considering the same I suggest asking yourself the following questions :

  • Are you looking for some solace from your current co-parenting arrangement?
  • Have you tried to effectively co-parent to the best of your ability?
  • Are you willing to take a step back when it comes to the daily decisions made in your child's second home?
  • Is limited direct contact between yourself and your child's other parent something you and/or your family could benefit from?
  • Do you have the ability to maintain a cordial, business-like relationship with your child's parent?
  • Can you abide diligently to a set parenting schedule?

If your answers to the above questions are yes, parallel parenting my just be a good fit for you. I urge you to sit down and think of your options, and what works best for your family. 

If you're already a fellow parallel parent, I'd love to hear your experiences and connect! What effect has parallel parenting had on you and your family? Feel free to reach out to me in the comments section below! I'm all ears!

6 Reasons I Won't "Know My Place" In My New Son's Life

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You guys, I'm about to be so completely and utterly real with you. I'm tired. I'm physically, emotionally, mentally, any kind of tired- you name it, kind of tired. My life has taken such a hardcore directional turn in the past few years. And it's definitely been for the better, but along with it has come some pretty draining... crap. That's the only way I know to put it. Just petty crap. Let me give you some examples.

Crap I'm Tired of:

  • People and their damn opinions
  • Unwarranted advice
  • Straight up woman-on-woman jealousy and hate

Well honestly, there's a lot more crap that I'm tired of generally speaking as far as life is concerned, but today I'm talking about a certain kind of crap. We'll get to the rest another day. 

I've become continually more aware of the unnecessary hate that is spewed throughout the parenting community. For some unimaginably silly reason, of which I'm unaware, I thought I'd be exempt from this (because you know, I haven't like, birthed a child yet.) But I'm definitely not, which I guess makes sense because I am technically a parent/mother figure. The majority of the hate and opinions I can let slide, because let's be honest-

  1. I don't have time to address someone's opinions on the contents of my pantry, or how much television we watch in our home.
  2. I have better things to do than worry my pretty little head about someone's personal thoughts of me.
  3. Most people's opinions/advice/hate comes not from a place of genuine concern, but really a desire to feel superior. And finally...
  4. I don't have to answer to anyone but myself.

 

But there is one opinion I will not let go. I won't let it slide. I'm addressing it head on because, quite frankly it is so incredibly important to me to make it known that this opinion will NEVER be welcomed:

And that's the opinion that I should "know my place" in my new son's life.

Yeah. Absolutely not happening. Let me break down why that is....

 

Because... Feminism.

Eeek. Yeah, I know. The term "know your place" uttered to/about a woman makes me shudder too. But even more so when it comes from another woman!  Ring Ring. It's 1945 calling... they want their phrase back. Seriously it's 2017.  My 'place' is whatever I decide it is. And rest assured, this woman has no leash. And I'm pretty sure that's all I need to say about that matter.

Because love, care, and support aren't problems.

Someone please explain to me at what point it time it became a bad thing to love your step-kids as your own? For years step-mothers have been portrayed as evil and awful, and I'm sure there's a lot of them who are! The idea for Cinderella didn't come from nowhere! I wonder just how many kids out there would give anything for the new person in their parent's life to treat them like their own, and not in a hateful/indifferent way? How does it make sense to cast a negative stigma onto step-mothers who treat their step-kids like crap, but turn around and criticize the ones who are loving their new step-kids like their own? Sounds to me like I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't. Supplemental love, support, and care isn't a problem. It's a solution to an incredibly real issue. When two parents decide to split and go their own separate ways, you know who suffers? The kids. You know what can help aid children during their difficult transitions in life? Love, care, and support. They aren't problems. Abuse? That's a problem. Neglect? That's a problem too. Let's get our priorities straight and stop trying to turn things that aren't problems, into problems. I'm not changing what isn't a problem. I'm not trying to take anyones place, rather act as a supplement to create even more love, care, and support in my new son's life. 

Because love shouldn't come with conditions. 

Love doesn't say, "I love you, but not like my own child because I didn't give birth to you." Love is inclusive. And quite frankly, you can't expect that someone take on all of the TASKS of motherhood, yet not allow them to develop and show the feelings that motherhood brings. I'm not too sure why anyone would want a conditional love cast upon their child. Bottom line, I refuse to love my new son under anyone else's conditions. Period.

Because I won't make him to be an outsider.

You know what kid's don't really like? To feel excluded or different. That makes most kids uncomfortable, and I think we could say the same for a lot of adults too. So you know what I'm not going to do? I'm not going to refer to my new son as my 'step-son.' I'm not going to refer to him in that way in casual conversation. I'm not going to force him to refer to me as his 'step-mom.' Wanna know a little secret? You'll think this is exciting! Mike and I are planning on expanding our family! Yep, you heard right! We're crazy and want more children! But you know what we don't want? A family that feels divided. We never want our children to feel like they are anything less than family. I won't promote the start of that ideology by using labels like, step or half to my kids. And I won't allow my new son to feel like he will EVER mean less to me, or be treated any differently than my own biological children just because I didn't give birth to him too.

Because I don't need anyone's approval but his.

The first time I heard Ry refer to himself as my son was about ten or so months ago, while we were in a store. I was playing a little game with him, saying, "Uh, who are you kid? Why are you following me? I don't know you." And he cracked up instantly and responded, "Uh it's me, Riley, your SON. You do live with me, you know!" And I just paused right there, because it was such a beautiful thought. He had no boundaries placed on our relationship just because I didn't give birth to him. It's very evident that my new son happily accepts and reciprocates the love I give to him. And I'm pretty sure that's absolutely all that matters. 

and finally... 

Because I'm my own person.

I'm my own person dammit! I'm a big girl. One of the coolest things about being an adult is that you get to make your own decisions. And my decisions? They aren't hurting anyone. Quite the contrary actually, they're BENEFITTING someone. And anyone who disagrees with my beneficial behaviors, that's okay. You don't have to agree. We were all raised with different beliefs and morals. I was personally raised to be inclusive and give the people you love absolutely everything you've got. So that's what I'm going to do. If that's not how you were raised or you don't like it, well that sounds like a personal problem! I don't like to engage in other people's personal problems, so leave me out.

 

So there you have it. No, I will not "know my place" in my new son's life. I will not submit to the requests of people who don't have my family's best interests at heart. Treating my 'step-son' as anything less than my own, is not in his or my family's best interest. So I won't have any part of it. My goal is to create a life that is positive and fulfilling to those around me, and to have a positive impact on whoever I can. And that starts in my own home.

A huge thank you to those who DO continually support my actions in and concerning my family's lives. Your continued love and support really keeps me going. I'm lucky to have so many incredible people on my team. And to the mamas out there feeling criticized, YOU know your intentions and YOU know the impact you have in your child's life. If you're doing what's best, don't let anyone tell you different.

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the Bio-Mom: Things I'll Never Stop Doing

First and foremost I’d like to say that OUR blending is a unique experience in it’s own. Any writings are relayed in a manner that fits our family’s particular situation. While not ALL blended family characteristics are the same, I THOROUGHLY attempt to broaden my horizons and write in a way that is helpful to all. It is my UTMOST priority to convey a message that is indicative of such.

DEAR BIO-MOM,

It’s with hesitance that I write you this letter. We’re confined to a situation with so much gray area in-between, that it is hard to know what words may be said. Our story began long before I came into the picture. Years of history entwined with the present. Now here we all are.

Now I’m a figure. I’m a permanent fixture in your son’s life. For much of the week he wakes up, and mine is one of the faces he sees. These decisions we’ve made have molded our lives into something new. More importantly, they have transformed a child’s life. So it’s important to me that I speak to you. It’s important that I reach out to you as the future step-mother to your child and let you know who I really am and what my intentions are when it comes to your son. I’m writing you this letter. A letter I’ve designed to give you an idea of all the things that as a ‘Step Mom,’  I’ll never stop doing.

I’LL NEVER STOP LOVING YOUR SON.

This decision I made- to become a part of your child’s life, was a decision I did not make in haste. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to, ‘just go with the flow.’ Because I don’t think relationships that involve children should be taken lightly. Children deserve normalcy and stability in their lives. They don’t deserve to develop trust or gain love and affection for a parent’s partner- only for that person to be stripped from their lives. When I entered a relationship with your son’s father, I entered a relationship with him too. That means I’ll love him. Everyday, through the good and bad I’ll love him. I’ll never stop loving him. When I decided to become a part of his life, he then became the very best part of mine. And I’m never giving that up.

I’LL NEVER STOP FIGHTING FOR WHATS BEST FOR HIM.

Because I love him, I’m never going to stop doing everything in my power to provide for him the best life possible. I’ll fight for it. Even if one day that means fighting you on it. And I hope you understand that. I want nothing more than for him to live a love-filled life with endless opportunity, positive influence, and success. I’m a fighter. I always have been. I want him to have the best education, the best resources available to him, and the best people in his surroundings to emulate. Rest assured that as long as I’m involved in his care I will never stop fighting for what’s best for him.

I’LL NEVER STOP WISHING IT HAD BEEN ME, NOT YOU.

There will never be a day I won’t be jealous of  what you’ve had with what is now my new family. Just like I’m sure there will never be a day where you won’t be jealous of what I now have with them. We’re women, and its in our programming. But I promise to never let it get in the way of giving your son a loving and supportive family unit, all around.

I’LL NEVER STOP CONSIDERING MYSELF A MOTHER FIGURE TOO.

Regardless of my marital status, how long I’ve been at it, or whether I have children too, I will never stop considering myself as a mother figure to your child. That’s just an opinion of mine and those around me that will never change.

While I may not have given birth to your son, he is consistently in my care . Every morning I wakeup early (although my job does not require it of me) and pack his lunch before school. I’m at parent conferences, open houses, and soccer practices. I’m always there supporting him. I pick him up from school each day, do schoolwork with him, and make him a home cooked meal each night. I  contribute in buying him new clothes and school supplies, and gift him tremendously. I help tuck him in each night. I help teach him table etiquette and always aid in helping him learn the difference between right and wrong. I continually make an effort to enrich him with every opportunity I can. I’m no babysitter. I’m not a glorified nanny. I am another mother figure to him. Most importantly, he sees and acknowledges that too.

I’LL NEVER STOP BEING INVOLVED.

All those things I do? I’ll never stop doing them. I’ll never stop emailing his teachers for updates on his progress, or texting you for updates on how he’s doing when I think he may be getting sick. I’ll never stop scheduling his doctors appointments and I’ll never stand back whenever it comes down to making major decisions in his life. It’s important to me to be in the front row showing him the support he deserves. In twenty years when he looks back on his childhood, I want him to see a woman who never once treated him like anything other than her own child.

I’LL NEVER STOP TRYING TO FORGE A POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.

There will be times we might disagree. The world wasn’t meant for us all to have the same thoughts and ideas. Regardless of whether we always see eye-to-eye or not, I’ll never stop trying to bring forth a positive relationship with you. My parents split when I was thirteen. To this day they still hate each other. I don’t want your son to ever wonder if both sets of his parents will be there for his graduation, or his wedding day. I don’t want him to ever worry that we won’t all get along. I’ll never bad mouth you in front of him, and I hope you’d do the same for us too. Life is too short to harbor hate and negativity. And your son deserves nothing but happiness surrounding him.

This journey we’re embarking on is life-long. You and I will always be there. I want nothing more than the very best for your son, just like I’m sure you do as well. Every day I’m so happy to be a part of his life and to continue to watch him grow. It’s my hope that we can spend our days positively providing him the most loving life possible. He deserves the world and so much more.

I’m so thankful to you for bringing this wonderful little person into this world. And I can’t wait to see what his future holds.

The 'Step-Mom' Meltdown

After our class time yesterday morning, Riley and I ran out to do a few errands together before dad came home. Michael and I have been gradually re-decorating the house, so I decided to make a trip to Home Goods with hopes of finding some good deals. Riley was being so incredibly patient and just an all around joy throughout our whirl around the store, which was quite the surprise because keeping a six year old happy and attentive during a shopping trip (that doesn’t involve toys) can be quite the challenge.

We finally found ourselves in the checkout line, and were called to the next available register where the disaster unfolds. As I placed my array of plates and hand towels onto the checkout counter, I couldn’t help but notice the wide eyed glare our cashier was giving us. And then, she asks something; something that puzzles me still. “Is that your mommy?” directly Riley’s way. Is that your mommy?

Now of course, I’m not Riley’s mom. Nor would I ever try to claim that role. This is the first time I think Riley and I have ever been out and anyone dared to ask such a question, so of course he did not take the inquisition so well. “Uh no! No! She’s not my mom! She’s just my parent!” Although quite loud and startling to those around us, it was an answer I was satisfied with. It’s really heartwarming to know he thinks of me as a parent figure to him. But it didn’t stop there. Oh it could have, but it didn’t. Because one of the next words our cashier was about to mutter was a word Riley detests. Now we’re not quite sure how he grew to loathe this word so much. We actually aren’t even sure where he heard it from because it is not a term that has ever been used in our household. But she said it. Right then and there. “Oh I see! She’s your step mommy!”

It was like a bomb went off. Riley does this thing sometimes when he’s attempting to get his point across. If you don’t respond immediately or he thinks you can’t hear him, he’ll repeat whatever it is he’s saying over and over again. If you have kids you understand. This is what happened. Four minutes worth of “Uh she is not my stepmom. Just my parent, okay? She’s not my stepmom.” At the top of his lungs he said it. Of course I’d purchased stacks of dishes that needed to be safely wrapped before being placed into their plastic shopping bags. At this point our cashier looked extremely uncomfortable, and people around were staring. The woman at the counter finished bagging our items, I paid and we exited the store. My head hung low.

It was really important to me to get to the root of what really upset Riley during this event so that in the future we might be able to avoid it. After a long talk with him, I discovered it was the “mom” word that bothered him so much. In our house, we don’t need titles to describe who I am to him. To him, I’m Courtney and I’ll always be okay with just being that. In reality I’m not his mom. I’m not even his stepmom. I’m just a person who has chosen to love him and his father and decided to become a full-time fixture in their everyday lives. But the episode that occurred yesterday really got me to thinking-this scenario could have easily been avoided.

My first thoughts about ways this could have been avoided revolved heavily around others. What if others were more sensitive about the things that they said? Why don’t people just stop asking questions like that? And they are fair thoughts, but at the end of the day-they aren’t realistic, and they place blame on everyone but myself. Was it an odd question? Sure, but was it spoken with any kind of malicious intent? Of course not! The reality is, not everyone knows your family’s dynamic. Strangers don’t know you. That’s why they are strangers. We can point the finger at those who don’t know us for their accusations all day long, but in the end these scenarios can only be avoided by YOU. If Michael and I would have sat down with Riley and explained to him that a scenario like this might eventually happen, and had developed a plan with him on how to react to it, it all could have been easily avoided.

Kids are creatures of habit. They thrive on structure and regularity. So when someone throws them a curveball, it freaks them out. They don’t know how to react. It’s our job as parents to prepare them for those curveballs. I’m really happy now that this has happened because it’s really helped me to understand what my responsibilities are and how I can help to make this huge transition in his life much smoother. It’s shown me the bigger picture and helped me to see that theres so much more to parenting than taking care of them here and now. It’s about preparing them for whatever will come their way tomorrow, and the next day.

Anything similar ever happen to you? What did you take away from the situation? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

Developing a Voice that's Heard as a 'Step-Mom'

First and foremost I’d like to say that OUR blending is a unique experience in it’s own. Any writings are relayed in a manner that fits our family’s particular situation. While not ALL blended family characteristics are the same, I THOROUGHLY attempt to broaden my horizons and write in a way that is helpful to all. It is my UTMOST priority to convey a message that is indicative of such.

No one could have told me all the struggles I’d face becoming a step-parent. Even if they could, I’d never have listened. I’m just stubborn like that. One of the biggest struggles I’ve seen across my feeds and in some of the small step-mom groups I belong to, is finding your voice as a step-mother. With the lines of step-parenthood so blurred, and so few resources available for aid in these areas, how do we know how to cross that bridge into becoming new conductors in our step-children’s lives? How do we develop a voice that’s heard?

Often at times, I think its difficult enough having your voice heard as a biological parent. I see Michael struggle with it all too often. Kids sometimes, just don’t listen. But being a third party can complicate things even more. I’ve really thought about the things I’ve done in our home, and the differences they have made when it comes down to bridging the gap between just being ‘Dad’s girlfriend’ and being a true parental figure with a voice.

Here’s just a few things that have really helped me develop a voice that’s heard in our home. Hopefully they can help you too.

Becoming a Friend First

When kids begin inhabiting with someone who was not formerly so involved in their lives, it’s a huge adjustment. One of the biggest mistakes you could make during this adjustment period, is stepping in and trying to turn your home into some kind of totalitarian government in which you are their new leader. From birth, children hold a deep-rooted unconditional love for their biological parents, but that love does not automatically extend to a child’s step-parent. Only when a child has truly and repeatedly bonded with a person, do they begin to love and trust them. If the relationship with your current or future step-child does not first begin by gaining the child’s trust, the relationship is bound to fail and your voice will most certainly not be heard the same.

So be a friend first. Listen and learn. Discover things about your step-child to be. Find out their favorite things. Spend one-on-one time with them. And put off the hard  parental responsibilities until later. By taking a step back from the disciplinarian role in the beginning, you get to share a bond with your step-child that their parents don’t necessarily have. You get to be the good guy. And kids love good guys! For so long when Michael and I first started living together, I wanted nothing to do with being the disciplinarian. I didn’t want Riley to immediately see me as this authoritative figure in his life. And while Michael always kept my opinion in mind and asked for help when it came to rules and boundaries in our home, I never wanted to be front and center handling punishments. I always made sure that whatever happened, he handled it. I think this was one of the biggest contributions to the loving and trusting relationship that Riley and I now share. Since I took the time to develop the love and bond we share in our home, Riley now knows that when I tell him something, it comes from a loving place. Because I was the good guy for so long, my voice is now louder in my home.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha Franklin sang it. We all want it. Respect is detrimental to developing a voice that’s heard in your home. But how do we obtain it? The answer is simple: You have to give it. There’s no way to ask for respect from your step-children if you haven’t first given it to them. Respect the child’s space and boundaries. I was fortunate enough to develop a relationship with my to-be step son early on, but I can only imagine if I’d come into the picture five years later how things might be different. Older children require more space and time to adjust to new changes. If you don’t respect these boundaries, it will only come back to bite you later on. Respect is one of the truest ways to show someone you care. By respecting your step-children they will in turn respect you more. And you’re more likely to be heard by someone who respects you than someone who does not.

Sitting Down and Having, “The Talk”

No. Not THAT talk. I mean the one where you and your significant other sit down with your current/future step-child and discuss your new role in the child’s life. This is really important, and it changed a lot in our home. There came a point in time when it was necessary for me to start taking on more disciplinarian responsibilities in our home. I began spending more time with Riley. I stayed home with him during the summer time. There were many instances where Michael wasn’t home and I was the only one who could step-in and apply repercussions to a negative situation. At first, I received some resistance. That’s when we took the step to sit down with Riley and talk about who I was in our home and explained to him that my voice mattered just as much as Dad’s did. This really helped him to fill in the dots, and to understand and appreciate my role in his life even further. And I can’t say enough how much it changed when it came down to making my voice heard.

Making Sure Your Man’s in Your Corner

There’s nothing more important when it comes down to having a voice in your home, than being sure that you have support from your spouse. And that doesn’t mean just having permission to have a voice in your home. Your significant other needs to be backing you up every step of the way. Children are mirrors. They reflect what is shown around them. If a child begins to see that they can get away with not listening to you, or that they can skirt around you and get a different answer from Dad, that is exactly what they’re going to do! Dad isn’t backing you up, why should they listen? This is important in even traditional parenting arrangements, and even more so in the blended family unit.

Being Genuine

Lastly, you need to be genuine. Kids are intuitive. They can tell when you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Be in it for the right reasons. Reach down inside yourself and think about the reasons you want to have a voice in your step-child’s life. If it isn’t because you truly care and want to help make a positive difference in their lives, stop now. No kid deserves to come into what’s already strange new territory for them, only to be greeted by some kind of power complex. Be the good and emphasize those good intentions. Not only to make your voice heard, but to provide your step-child with some positive reassurance.

Having a voice in your home is important, but if you allow your step-child to help set the pace of development of that voice, you’ll be better off in the end. Keep your step-child’s best interests at heart, and you’ll be just fine.

Remember, I’m no expert. And I try to do the best I can to help others based off the experiences I’ve had in my own home- experiences that could vary quite drastically from those in your home. Have different experiences? I’d love to hear your advice as well! Leave a comment below!