House Rules

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When you get married or come together in a home. House rules need to be established along with consequences in case rules are broken.  It’s very important to have rules in a house because it provides all of the children with structure and teaches them respect and responsibility for their actions. Children with rules in a house tend to appreciate and have more respect for things.  They also place value and worth on things which are really good. Make sure when you do create rules that both you and your husband agree to them.  Also make sure all of the rules apply to all of the children not just the biological children but the stepchildren as well.  If you can’t agree to have the same rules for all of the children, then probably having no rules is best for now.  Because the children that have to obey the rules will resent the children that don’t have any rules at all.  Here is an example of our house rules that we use in our house for our blended family.

House Rules Example
  • All homework must be done right after school
  • No Name Calling of any kind. If it will hurt someone’s feelings keep it to yourself
  • No Hitting/Kicking of any kind! That also means no Hitting/Kicking back
  • When a door is closed, knock first, wait until you are told you can come in. If no one answers do not go in
  • No locking anyone in rooms or out of the house
  • Share all toys
  • Take Turns when playing a video game or any kind of game or toy
  • No running or screaming inside of the house
  • No standing on any furniture at any time
  • No throwing any balls or toys in the house
  • If it’s not yours, ask permission to use it, before using it
  • When borrowing or getting something, put it back when you are finished
  • Play Fair – No gaining up against each other
  • Always ask if a friend can come over before they come over the house
  • Always ask permission to go to a friend’s house and be home at the time told to be home at
  • If changing to another friend’s house while at a friend’s house always ask us first before going
  • You can’t go over to a friend’s house without us meeting the parents in person first
  • Always be kind to the cats, don’t lock them up in a room
  • Always come home at time given, no exceptions
  • When it gets dark outside you need to be in the house
  • Put your bikes or toys back inside the garage/house when finished with them
  • No food in any rooms, eating food is for kitchen only unless permitted too
  • Water only is allowed in rooms, other beverages stay in kitchen only
  • Don’t exclude one another from playing
  • Bedtime during the week is 9:00 pm, and 11:00 pm on the weekends
  • Clean up after yourselves – means anything: toys, snacks, garbage, dinner and cups at the sink
  • What we say goes and that’s it
  • Don’t interrupt when we are talking on the phone or talking in person with another adult
  • If one parent says no, don’t go ask the other parent the same question
  • No Swear Words of any kind
  • All electronics (iPod Touches & Tablets) need to be on the kitchen counter at bedtime

Consequences Example
1st Offense: A warning to stop!
2nd Offense: Time Out away from the situation!
3rd Offense: A toy, electronic device or privilege is taken away for the night!
4th Offense: In your room for the rest of the night!

 
These are just examples of the house rules and consequences we use in our home. Feel free to use them if you’d like too.  Some of these house rules and consequences may need to be changed depending on the age group you have. For teenagers, for example, you might want to take away their cell phones or laptops as a consequence for breaking a rule. Pretty much anything that they play with or use often is what you should take away.
If you have different age groups, you might want to consider creating two different house rule sets and consequences.  When you are done and both parents agree with them. Get them laminated and hung up on the fridge or somewhere where everyone can see them on a daily basis so they know what’s expected of them.  Before you hang them up, make sure you have a family meeting to go over all of them with all of the children in the family.  When you do have this meeting make sure each parent explains each rule that way it looks like both of you came up with these rules and not just one parent. Please know that creating these rules and enforcing them may be really hard if the stepchildren don’t have any rules at their mother’s house or if they didn’t have rules to begin with.  It’s going to take some time to adjust to the rules when going back and forth between houses with rules and no rules.  DO NOT GIVE UP, be persistent and follow through. Don’t let guilt parenting get in the way of creating rules for your household.
You might also want to consider developing rules for going over someone else’s house, car rules for those long road trips and pool rules (if you have a pool).  Developing rules for going over someone else’s house is really a great help for those you are visiting.  Because I am sure no one wants kids coming over their house and destroying their prized possessions or jumping on their furniture.  You can always tell the difference between children who have rules at home and ones that don’t.  Great example for rules for visiting other people’s house is:

Visiting at another Person’s House Rules Example
  • No Standing or jumping on furniture
  • No Running around
  • Do not touch breakable things
  • Ask permission to use or play with something
  • Don’t interrupt when adults are talking, wait your turn to speak or politely say excuse me
  • If it’s not a toy, don’t touch it
  • Clean up toys or put anything back you got out when it’s time to leave
  • No yelling or screaming while inside of the house, use indoor voices only
  • Always be Polite saying please and thank you

Car Rule Examples
  • No screaming or yelling
  • Always stay buckled at all times
  • No changing or moving to another seat while the vehicle is in motion
  • No kicking the back of the seats at any time
  • No opening doors while vehicle is in motion
  • No throwing garbage or things outside of the window
  • Always take the things you brought with you back into the house
  • Always put garbage where it belongs, don’t leave cups or wrappers inside of the vehicle

If the children always fight over the front seat or certain seats in the vehicle, assign seats for a month or for 3 months that way they don’t fight over a certain seat in the vehicle.

I hope all of these examples really help you in making good rules for your children to follow. Always try to remember you are doing a good thing by enforcing rules in the house.  You are providing your children with structure and it will teach the children how to have respect and responsibility. It will also teach them the value of important things too. Children without structure are often at times very wild, have no respect for others or other people’s belongings, spoiled, and act like they are head of the house. You are doing good by setting rules, will the children like it? Most likely, they will not but as they get older they will learn to appreciate it and understand why.  Children need rules because as they grow up they will always have rules to follow in life such as rules of the road, rules at a job, rules at school and in college. I mean they can’t just drive any way they want to, there are right ways and wrong ways to drive when they get their license else they get a ticket for breaking the law.  Having rules also shows them how much you care and love them. Children need and want to be loved and cared for. If you have been in a blended family for a long time and don’t have rules, it’s never too late to start. If you just got married and became a blended family, now is the perfect time to create rules that make sense for your family. It may be hard for your children but the sooner you do it the better off you will be.

If you have house rules now, please share some of the rules you have for your children.

What to Expect when Expecting StepChildren

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When you are dating a man with children, at first, it seems easy, however as soon as you get married things change drastically.  I have to say the first year is like being on a rollercoaster full of ups and downs. After you reach the five-year mark things start to blend nicely and settle down, but just getting there is going to take a lot of sweat, patience, time and tears. I put together a list of 21 topics of the most common concerns in a blended family to help prepare you for your journey into becoming a successful blended family.  Please know that you may or may not go through some of these, however, chances are you will face all of these at one time or another.  I am going on seven years of my third marriage, so I know I have faced all of these at one time or another. Just remember you do not have to do this alone, there are many Stepmom groups out there that can help walk with you through your journey.
Realistic and Unrealistic Expectations within a Blended family
Unrealistic Expectations – Try not to have any unrealistic expectations when going into your blended marriage such as the stepchildren calling you Mom. They have a Mom already and it’s just not you. Do not force them to call you Mom either. Expect the unexpected to happen when being in a blended family.  If you are expecting to be recognized for Mother’s Day, you need to say something to your husband about it, don’t just assume he knows how you feel.  Don’t expect the stepchildren to get you something for Mother’s Day, they already have a Mother and you’re not it. If they do recognize you, make a big deal about it. There is more to learn about expectations and discovering the difference between unrealistic and realistic expectations by clicking here.
Hard Adjustments – The Stepchildren will have a hard time getting used to a different house, different rules and getting used to having a Stepparent.  It’s even harder if there is a difficult biological mother that may put the children through PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome). Even though the Stepchildren may not say it verbally but they really wish their parents would get back together.  Given the fact that you married their Father they may be mad at you and resent you for that. You also have to remember that the divorce of both of their parents is like a death to them.  They process divorce a lot differently than us adults do. Over time things will change and your Stepchildren will adapt to the blended family.  Some Stepchildren take longer than other Stepchildren.  If you are noticing them withdrawing from their regular activities they once loved to do, doing poorly in school, isolating themselves, depressed or have sudden outbursts of anger, it’s time to consider taking them to therapy. Seeking out therapy for your Stepchildren would really help them to be able to express their feelings and work through them.
You can learn more about PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and Blended Therapy by clicking on the words.  For more information about how to overcome hard adjustments, click here
Money talks within a blended family
Money Matters – When dealing with money issues, you need to understand that even though your husband pays child support that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be additional costs.  Expect additional costs for sports or other after school activities that the stepchildren are involved in or even doctor bills where the insurance only pays so much. When paying for extra things for the Stepchildren, pay money owed directly to the bill and not just give cash to the biological parent that way you know for sure that the money is going to the right thing. When trying to figure whether or not to combine bank accounts, please click here to read more about money matters.

Challenging Situations – Let’s face it when combining two sets of kids along with ex-spouses, there’s going to be some challenges along the way.  A few examples of these challenges are picky eaters, sharing toys, house rules, chores, and even taking family pictures.  You need to learn what things to let go of and what things need to be resolved.  Also learn to know what things you can can change and accept the things you cannot change.  Learning to how to compromise is definitely key in getting through the challenging situations that come up.  Learn how to compromise without feeling like your giving into the child’s ways may be hard to do. When faced with a challenging situation try to offer two compromises or options to the child. Trying to find resolutions that benefit the whole family is important.
chosen love within a blended family
Chosen Love – Is a love that will develop over time with your Stepchildren, it will not happen overnight. Chosen Love is a different kind of love than the love you have for your biological children. Chosen love may be better because it takes a lot of work and time to achieve. The older the Stepchildren are the longer and harder it takes to develop.  It’s not something that can be rushed.  To learn more about what it takes to achieve chosen love, click here.
Blended family therapy
Blended Family Therapy – In the first year of a blended family, I totally recommend seeking therapy to help with issues that may come up that are hard to resolve. It’s better to be prepared and educated on different areas of a blended family than to go in without any knowledge.  You don’t have to do this alone; there are a lot of great books that can help along with great Blended Family Therapist. To read more about the benefits of therapy click here.
having fun with your stepchildren
Fun with Stepchildren – Try to do at least one fun family actvity during your time with all the children in the family. Over at my house, we call it Family Day/Night on Saturdays. Every Saturday we would randomly draw one family activity out of our “Fun Box” and do whatever the activity is. The kids love the fun box because they got to put their own suggestions of fun actvities into the box of what they would like to do.  To learn more about how to create your own “Fun Box” click here or to get ideas on what fun things you can do with your children, click here.
Bumps in the road in a blended family
Bumps in the Road – The first five years of a blended family has bumps in the road.  The bumps in the road are what make you stronger as a blended family.  It’s inevitable that there’s going to be a conflict that will arise. Find out how to resolve the bumps in the road and what things to avoid by clicking here.

Feeling like an Outsider – There will be times where you the Stepparent will feel like an outsider in your own home. For example: when the Stepchildren are talking about something that happened in the past. Always try to find a way to include yourself in the conversation or just change the topic into something that happened when you were in their lives. There will also be times where your Stepchildren feel like they don’t belong when they are visiting for the weekend.  Try your best to make their presence known in the house; one way to do this is to have many pictures up of them around the house or artwork they created.  To learn more about how to cope with this, click here.
loyalty conflicts within a blended family
Loyalty Conflicts – Stepchildren’s loyalty always remains with the parent they live with the most.  They will always speak the good of them and protect them no matter what they do wrong to them.  Stepchildren often feel like it’s a tug-of-war between your house and their Mother’s house. In order to gain a Stepchild’s loyalty, you need to have an emotional attachment to the Stepchild. Emotional attachments take time to develop. Loyalty conflicts for Stepchildren can be emotionally destructive at times. Try to respect their loyalty to their mother just like they have loyalty to their Father when they are at their Mother’s house.  To learn more in depth about loyalty conflicts, click here.

Difficult Ex-Spouses – Nine out of ten times you will have a difficult biological mother to deal with.  The biological mother will tend to hate you automatically. Sometimes it may feel like the biological mother has more control of what goes on in your house than you do.  There are ways of trying to overcome it and change it around.  Please read the talk and the other woman to learn how to change it around for the better.
boundaries, defining your boundaries
Boundaries – Need to be established early on in your marriage in order to protect privacy and personal space. To learn more about how to establish boundaries, click here.
Share Husband – Make sure you always make time for the Stepchildren to spend 1:1 time with their Fathers else they will feel resentment towards you and say that you took their Father away from them. To read more about establishing 1:1 time and why it’s vitally important, click here.

Step Sibling Rivalry – There is going to be times where all or some of the children will not get along. Don’t be alarmed and think that’s it’s not going to work out.  It’s normal for children to have a conflict with one another.  Every child is unique and different from one another.  It’s going to take time for all of the children to get comfortable and used to one another. Don’t rush it; it will go at its own pace.  What helps two sets of children bond is doing family activities together. When faced with sibling rivalry it’s best to separate the children that are not getting along. If things continue, it’s best to have a sit-down and have a family meeting to address the issues and try to resolve it.  Don’t overlook issues because they will only get worse, always address issues and work through them.
discipline within a blended family
Discipline – In the first two years of marriage, I recommend that each parent is responsible for disciplining their own children until a bond and trust forms with the Stepparent. Disciplining one another’s children too soon will result in children hating and despising their Stepparents. As Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge said that it is a misstep to insist on a rigid structure in the home that differs from what the children are used to.  You and your husband may have been raised differently and it may be hard to enforce fair discipline.  To learn more about discipline and how to be successful at it, click here.

Jealousy – There will be times where the Stepchildren will be jealous of you and their Father’s relationship or even jealous of their step siblings.  The stepchildren tend to feel this way because of fear of being replaced.  To help try to avoid this from happening try to make sure your stepchildren are getting enough 1:1 time with their Father that way they still feel connected to him.  They will feel more secure with their relationship with their Father if they are getting enough quality time with just him. Always try to encourage your husband to take the time to spend with his children without you around. You as a Stepmom should also spend 1:1 time with your own children to prevent jealousy on that end too.

Guilt Parenting – Happens a lot with Fathers where they feel like they want their children to have a good time at their house, therefore, they struggle with correcting bad behavior and often times do not punish them when they need to be punished. The Fathers it happens with most are the Fathers who are the ones that go the divorce. They often feel guilty for seeing their children’s pain or hardship from the divorce. Often times, these Fathers are “Disney Dad’s” where they buy everything and anything for their children to make them happy.  Us as Stepmoms can’t make our husband’s parent their children but we can offer up suggestions and point out why he might be overlooking issues with his children. If your husband struggles a lot with guilt parenting, it’s best that he seeks therapy. Another great idea is buying some books on guilt parenting and setting boundaries with children. There is a great book called “Boundaries with Kids” by Cloud and Townsend that I think would really help educate him on how to overcome guilt parenting. To learn more about how to talk to your husband about guilt parenting, click here.

co-parenting within a blended family
Co-Parenting – Learning how to be a successful co-parent with an ex-spouse is crucial for the well-being of all of your children.  Being supportive, flexible, respectful are just some of the guidelines of how to become a successful co-parent. To learn about more guidelines on how to be a successful co-parent, click here.

Small Victories – First off, they do happen often more than not.  Examples of small victories would be when all of the children are getting along or even when a Stepchild is getting along with you, the Stepmom. Cherish the victories when they come and discover how they happened so you can try to repeat them.

Shared Time – It can be very difficult to share time with an ex-spouse especially during the holidays or other celebrations.  If you alternate holidays and celebrations write it out on paper and have both parents sign it to say they agree to it.  Plan vacations, at least, six months out and give plenty of notice to the other parent that way you are able to have the children for the vacation.  It’s all about compromise and trying to make the best of the situation.  You need to learn to accept that some things you can change and some things you cannot change and try to be okay with it.  For example Christmas can be celebrated on a different day, it’s just a day, don’t make a big deal out of not being able to see the children on that day. Just make your Christmas on another day instead and make a big deal out of that way. Make sure when communicating about special plans and dates of upcoming events make sure to send an email that way you have a paper trail.

Rewards – The rewards will come later down the road when you realize and know your role as a Stepparent.  When there is less stress in the children that’s when it will bring more harmony to the blended family and in your marriage.  In Galatians 6:9 it says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”.

I hope these 21 topics of the most common concerns in a blended family help you with your success in your Blended Family. Just remember it takes a lot of time, sweat, tears, patience, love, compromise and prayer in order to be a successful Blended Family. Don’t give up hope, your victory lap will happen soon and then you will know it was all worth it.

References:

Ron Deal & Laura Petherbridge (2009). The Smart Stepmom. Practical Steps to Help you Thrive. Published by Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Copyright 2016 StepMomsAreUs

Fun with your Children

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When is the last time you turned off all electronics for a whole day and spent some family time with your children? After all, they are growing up fast. Before long they will be teenagers and won’t want to do much with their parents…meaning you. 
I recently asked my children ages 10 and 12 what they liked or remember the most growing up so far.  They both said going camping at Yogi Bear Campgrounds. They loved sleeping in tents and having camp fires at night and doing all of the activities at the campground.  They also love family game night where we play a family board or card game on either a Friday or Saturday night.
Enjoy the younger years while there’s still time with the children.  Now I’m sure you’re asking what I can do with them to have fun with them that doesn’t involve electronics. I’m glad you asked. There are several ideas that I have researched and put together to help give you some great starting points. Some of these ideas cost money and some are free.
36 Fun things to do with your Kids
  1. Play a board game such as: Apples to Apples
  2. Play a card game such as: Uno or Skip-bo
  3. Bake something together and have everyone help decorate it afterwards, from scratch, not from a box
  4. Water gun fight
  5. Nerf gun fight
  6. Hide in Seek
  7. Go Bowling
  8. Go Zip Lining
  9. Go Roller Skating or Ice Skating
  10. Go Paint a Ceramic together
  11. Put a 500 Piece Puzzle together
  12. Have a Bible Study together
  13. Build a Lego set together
  14. Cook a big meal together from scratch such as: Sweetish Meatballs
  15. Go do Laser Tag
  16. Go Bike Riding or Hiking at a Metro Park
  17. Canoeing or Kayaking (You can rent one if you don’t own one)
  18. Paint as a family – Buy some canvas’s and everyone create their own art
  19. Camping Trip w/out electronics
  20. Go to the Zoo or Art or Science Museum
  21. Rent a Hotel Room with a pool for the weekend to go swimming
  22. Apple Orchards
  23. Indoor Waterpark for example: Kalahari
  24. Picnic at a Park – Play games such as Tag while your there
  25. Go Fishing
  26. Sky Zone – Trampoline Indoor Park
  27. Home Improvement Project together as a family like paint the family room a new color
  28. Tour a local factory for example: Jiffy or Kellogg Factory
  29. Visit the Sand Dunes for the day, rent a jeep or walk the dunes for fun
  30. White Water Rafting
  31. Go Carting either indoor or outdoor
  32. Putt Golf
  33. Horseback Riding
  34. Rent a bounce house for the day
  35. Go play a game of Whirly ball, Volleyball or Tennis
  36. Skiing, Snowboarding or Sledding

Here are some more things I found to do just in the State of Michigan that I hope will help give you even more ideas on what to do with your children if you live in Michigan:

What other suggestions or things that you have done with your kids that don’t involve electronics?

The Perfect Mom

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There is no such thing as a Perfect Mom unless it is in the movie world.  I am not a perfect Stepmom! Are you surprised? Well to the biological mother, us Stepmoms are never perfect or the best Stepmom to their children. Yes, I admit I am not a perfect Stepmom but the stepchildren aren’t perfect children either. No one can be perfect. We all make mistakes from time to time in being a parent. That’s how we learn to be better parents. There is no such thing as the “Perfect Parent”.  If you really know one, please feel free to share it in the comments at the end of this post. 
I have made some mistakes as a Stepmom; I have made some mistakes as a biological Mother too. I have owned my mistakes and apologized for them.  It’s what we do after we make the mistakes and it is how we learn from them.  We need to learn to try to better ourselves from the mistakes we have made.  I don’t think any of us Stepmoms when we were little and playing with our Barbie dolls played “Stepmother” role with them.  It’s a role that we never thought we would be in.  But this is the life we chose after we said “I do take him to be my husband”.  We might not have known everything we would be getting ourselves into at that time.  After all the Brady Brunch can do it, we can do it, right?  I was a stepdaughter myself and knew what it was like to have a Stepmom.  I didn’t make the same mistakes as my Stepmom did with me, but I made other ones.  Being a Stepmom is very hard and there isn’t a manual on how to do it.  Maybe there should be one and call it: “What to expect when expecting to be a Stepmom”.  You can be a successful Stepmom if you do a lot of research on all of the complications and join a support group of Stepmoms to help prepare you for the issues, struggles and obstacles you will face.  You need to be prepared for everything and learn to be able to accept the role.  It’s okay and good to make some mistakes as long as you own it, apologize, and learn from those mistakes.  The overall take from this post is: when you make a mistake, Own it, Apologize for it, and Learn from it.
Yes, Stepmoms may make some mistakes, we are only human and being a Stepmom is much harder than being a biological mother because we have all of the roles as a biological mother but none of the power or authority.  Please show me a biological mother who doesn’t make mistakes too?  Why are the mistakes that a Stepmom make much worse than if a biological mother made them? I think there’s a double standard here.  I know us Stepmoms didn’t give birth to our stepchildren but that doesn’t mean we don’t have their best interests in mind.

Steps to take when we make Mistakes
  1. Own it. Suck in that pride and admit that we made a mistake.
  2. Apologize for it. Very important to do because it shows the stepchildren to admit when they are wrong too.
  3. Learn from it.  What could you have done differently for a better outcome?
  4. Educate Yourself.  You can purchase books on how to be a better step parent or get blended family books.

How can we avoid making Future Mistakes
  1. Educate yourself.  Purchase books about being a Stepmom and other blended family books.
  2. Join a Support Group for Stepmoms either online or your local church.  I have a great support group I started on Facebook called: Stepmoms Are Us. Come check it out and join there are over 100 Stepmoms already.
  3. Think of these three things always before you speak
  4. Is it Nice? Is it True? Is it Necessary?
  5. Pray to God for wisdom, strength, and direction. When you seek him daily, you will get the help you need.
  6. Take an Adult Time Out. Yes, sometimes when we get heated up and full of anger, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation and take the time to calm down. Don’t respond in anger over something, always be calm, cool and collected.

Realizing why you make the mistakes you make is half of the battle.  Sometimes we make mistakes because of our backgrounds in how we were raised.  I know most of us say we will never do what our parents did with us when we were growing up, but in reality, we do often make the same mistakes our parents made with us.  Even though our hearts are in the right place, we often times follow the same example.  We need to write down all of the negative things in our childhood that we think our parents did wrong in raising us.  Then write down all of the positive things they did in raising us when we were children.  Are the negative things something that you struggle with now? If so, we need to realize it and stop it now.  It’s never too late to change course and stop making the mistakes your parents made with you. Share these lists with your spouse and even have him write his own lists up and you can both compare with one another.  Make each other accountable for each list and give each other permission to tell one another when one is doing something off of the lists.
As for my list, one of the negative things on my list was that my mom used to call us children names a lot when she was angry with us.  And as you guessed it, I struggle with that too now. I sometimes call my children and stepchildren “Brats”.  I am trying my best to stop myself from doing it.  I am happy to say I haven’t done it for over a year and a half now and I’m hoping I will overcome it.  You can overcome anything you put your mind too.  Trying to change is going to be hard, but you can do it.  Sometimes we made mistakes as Sue Patton Thoele said: “anything that is unrecognized, unresolved, wounded, or disowned within us is likely to be projected onto another person or situation”.  That’s why it is so important to take a look at ourselves and our own upbringing. Sometimes there is hurt there that goes deep. If you do experience that in your past or childhood it is best to seek help with a therapist to help resolve it.  You can become a better Stepmom if you heal those hurts and unresolved feelings that happened in the past.  Break the generational curse of being just like your parents. 

If we educate ourselves more it will change the sixty percent divorce rate that is among blended marriage right now.  Blended families can’t do it alone; we need help to be successful.  The good news is that there are more books, resources, support groups and help within our churches are increasing.  Which also means that the rates of divorces within blended families will slowly decline.  I would personally like to see every church have a small group for Blended Families.
You will not be able to undo the mistakes and hurt you caused already, but you can make a difference right now and for your future. As Jackson Brown Jr. said, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”  Just remember when you do make a mistake to Own it, Apologize for it, and Learn from it.  There is no such thing as a Perfect Mom or Parent, educate yourself and learn from the mistakes you make.  Let’s make a difference in our stepchildren’s lives and avoid leaving scars of hurt and pain from the mistakes we make.
Have you ever made a mistake in parenting? Please share how you overcame it.


References:
Sue Patton Thoele (2013). The Courage to be a Stepmom. Finding Your Place Without Losing Yourself. 

The Talk

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When this New Year came, I decided that I wanted to try to reach out to my husband’s ex-wife who has been nothing but very difficult to deal with over the past seven years.  I knew her birthday was coming up and decided to get her a nice birthday card and a gift card to one of her favorite stores and send a little note inside of the card asking if we could start over fresh.  I know I was taking a big risk and was unsure how she would respond back to me.  Three days after I mailed it to her, I received a message from her and of course, she appreciated what I did and was surprised to receive it. But did say she was open to meeting with me.  I decided to not meet in person, but to talk over the phone with her.  And she agreed to do that with me, she did warn me that it wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation due to everything that happened in the past, but I still wanted to make peace with her.  To give a brief history here, she and I have never had a conversation before, only Hi and Bye and she never really acknowledged me. I know having this talk with her would be pretty difficult to have, but I was up for the challenge because of the goal I wanted to accomplish. My goal is to be a part of my stepchildren’s lives again.  Leading up to this phone call with the ex-wife, it was nerve racking and I was full of anxiety and my mind would not stop thinking of what things is she going to bring up and how far back would she go with this. I got so much advice from my counselor, friends, my husband and other stepmoms. All of the advice I received was very helpful to me and it really helped me prepare for the worst. 
If you haven’t spoken or met the mother of your stepchildren, I highly recommend doing it. It may make things a lot easier in your blended family if you do try to communicate with her. The sooner you meet with her the better, don’t wait seven years like I did.
When and if you do have any communication with her, make sure you tell her these two things:
  1. I respect you as their mother, I will never try to take your place. 
  2. I view my role as one of support to their father and that your only desire is to be a blessing to them.  

If you do plan on trying to have a talk with your husband’s ex-wife depending on how bad the situation is instead of meeting with her in person, you might want to do it over the phone or send her an email.  I have found talking on the phone to be less stressful and less emotional for me.  If your not sure what you should ask her when you talk to her, here are some questions that can help get you started:

5 Questions to ask ex-wife: (biological mother of your stepchildren)

  1. What do you feel I could do in order to make this situation more comfortable for your children?
  2. How do you see our separate families co-existing for the sake of your children?
  3. What is your plan for your children in the next 5 years?
  4. How do we coexist as biological mother and stepmom?
  5. What do you see my role in your children’s life being?

These questions should help get you both started with the conversation and hopefully it doesn’t get to out of control.  If it does get out of control you can always tell them this “It looks like we aren’t going to be able to resolve things right now maybe we can talk again when you are ready to be more peaceful, respectful and calm.”  Here’s another thing you could say if it’s get heated: “Stop, you may not speak to me that way. If you want to discuss an issue, I am more than happy to work through it with you, but you may not criticize or judge me that way.”  I also made up index cards with positive things on them and to help keep me on track and to help me stay calm while talking with the ex-wife.  The index cards I made in which helped me prepare for my talk with my husband’s ex-wife are in the image below.

I hope these tips help you with your conversation with your biological mother of your stepchildren.
The phone call with my husband’s ex-wife wasn’t that bad as I thought it would be. I did tell her in the beginning that I know I haven’t been the best Stepmom to the children and have made many mistakes, but I still love and care for them and want to be a part of their lives.  I told her being a step parent is very hard.  Then I told her that this past year and a half I have been going to counseling and have been reading a lot of books on being a stepmom.
Then she said she had more of a problem with my husband than me.  She said there were problems with the kids and my husband before I was even in the picture.  Then she started explaining what had happened in the past and when they were married and how he wasn’t a good father when they were married and how she felt like he didn’t want kids to begin with.  Then she started talking about my husband’s family and how they treated her and the kids.  It was awful to listen to her put down my husband, but I did listen to her, letting her speak her peace.  She talked about how there were a lot of issues before I came into the picture, but then after I came into the picture there were more issues. 

Then came the biggest shock of the whole phone call.  She then told me that for a few years my stepchildren were keeping a secret to themselves that they didn’t want to tell her about because they thought it would really hurt her feelings a lot.  They finally came clean and told her recently. They said they know that their father (my husband) cheated on her when they were married. “That their father had an affair with me and that my youngest daughter is their father’s child”.  Who knows how they came up with this, but I reassured the ex-wife that my youngest daughter is not my husband’s and that I didn’t even meet my husband until 2008 and that I met him off of an online dating website.  I was in shock that my stepchildren thought this for a long time, I am still unsure what their reasons are for thinking this way other than my daughter has my husband’s color eyes, but that’s all she has of him.  My ex-husband that is my daughter’s father also has hazel eyes too.  It did kind of explain why my stepdaughter hates me so much since she was thinking that I was the one that caused her parents to divorce.
Then the ex-wife took a jab at me and said if my husband was a good father I (meaning me) would have only made one mistake and that would have been it. This to me meant that my husband would have ended the relationship.  The ex-wife then said that my husband just let it all continue and he never stood up for the children and put them first. Then she shared with me a little bit about her recent marriage and how she put her children first before her second husband (my husband to her was her first husband btw). She told me it was one of the reasons why she divorced her last husband. She went on to say that there were many problems with her second marriage because her second husband didn’t know how to be a good father to his own kids yet alone be a great stepparent to her children.  Then she told me several stories of what had happened in her marriage to her second husband and how she had to call CPS (Child Protective Services) on his ex-wife because of the problems that were happening over there.  Her marriage to her second husband only lasted a year if that, then they got divorced.
She then went on to explain that my husband’s relationship with my stepdaughter may never recover, but it wouldn’t hurt for him to try. She said that my stepdaughter told her that when she gets married she doesn’t want my husband to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.  Hearing that really made me get choked up and I was very sad for my husband that his daughter feels this strong hatred and resentment towards him.  Then she started talking about my stepson and how she thinks that he is a mess and has a hard time trying to open up and talk about his feelings with anyone. She said that my stepson really needs his Dad right now because he is feeling sad since the ex-wife’s father has cancer and is not doing so well.
She told me that the children were keeping secrets from her that my husband told them not to tell her which really made her upset when they told her the secrets. Then she said there are even secrets that my husband told the kids not to tell me even.
She said that my stepdaughter hated when I would buy something the same as her, meaning the same top or shop at the same clothing store as her.  I then mention to her that it only happened one time and it was the same sweater but different colors for a family picture we had taken.
Then we talked about the time where my stepdaughter gave me the middle finger and how it was agreed that if she apologized to me that I would have to apologize to her.  For what I don’t know, because I wasn’t in the wrong. She never did apologize to me for that, but it’s in the past.
Then I mentioned how it seemed like when issues would happen that we never seemed to work them out and that the kids would always go home with unresolved issues which really bugged me and I didn’t want it to be that way, but that’s what happened.  There was only one time that we actually all sat down and worked on an issue and resolved it.  Then I brought up the vacation we took a year and half ago and how I tried to apologize and talk to my stepdaughter and how she didn’t want to talk and work things out.  That issues happen and they just build and build up until it explodes and I never wanted it to be that way, but my stepdaughter never wanted to resolve issues she just always wanted to run away from them.  She said that my husband is the same way and that he never wants to resolve issues but just wants to move and pretend they never happened.  I don’t agree with her on that, he does want to resolve issues. Then I told her right from the beginning we both agreed meaning me and my husband that he would discipline his kids and I would do my kids. But there were a few things that have happened in the past where I waited for him to handle it, but he just stood there frozen, then I stepped in took control of the situations.  I did tell her that my husband is pretty passive and has a hard time disciplining the kids because of guilt parenting which makes it hard when they do something wrong. Then I mentioned an incident that happened where my stepdaughter and my girls were playing and for some reason my girls weren’t playing the way my stepdaughter wanted them to play so then she spanked their butts.  Of course they started crying and she left the room, I went up there and found out what she did to my girls. When I told my husband, he just stood there and didn’t know what to say and he just didn’t do anything. I told my stepdaughter to go to her room.  I know I shouldn’t have stepped in but someone had to do something and not let her get away with spanking her little stepsisters. She just listened to me and didn’t say a word. 
Then she mention that her children felt like they didn’t belong there at our house and that their toys weren’t safe when they weren’t there.  I told her that I remembered that time and we did get a lock on their bedroom door and got a treasure chest for their toys and put them in there with a lock which they had the key too.  Then I told her that any time we were made aware of things they didn’t like, we would always try to find a way to resolve it, but there were things that they didn’t like that they wouldn’t tell us about.  How do we make them happy and make it work when we don’t know what they are not happy about.
There were other things we chatted about, but I don’t want to make this post a whole book.  We never really touched the surface on how I hurt my stepchildren’s feelings. I felt like there is still more to talk to her about and she agreed.  I then told her that I really want to make things right between my stepchildren and myself and asked her what she thought I could do to change things around. She then suggested that I should write a letter to my stepdaughter and maybe that would help change things around. But then she also said, she would like to read the letter before I send it to my stepdaughter (her daughter). In the end I did tell her that it really hurt my feelings that she didn’t let me be a part of my stepdaughter’s graduating high school, I really wanted to be there for that special day. Then she said but her daughter didn’t want me there and she said both of her two kids have said to her that they didn’t want to see me and my kids ever again after the vacation we took a year and a half ago. She said maybe things will change in time and that she’s leaving that decision up to the kids if whether or not they want me to be a part of their life. We did end up ending the phone call on a good note and agreed that we would talk again soon to discuss how I hurt my stepchildren.  So there is more to come.
When my husband got home I spoke to my husband about everything, he really felt like she was trying to come between me and him by saying there are secrets the kids are keeping from me. There were some other things that were said about my husband that when I questioned him, he said it wasn’t true. So I am just not sure at this point if the ex-wife is lying or if my stepdaughter is lying to her mother about things that never were said or didn’t happen.  Stay tuned until the next talk with her, so more to come at a later time.
Have you ever met with your husband’s ex-wife? If so, how did it go?

Valentine’s Day – Gift Ideas

valentines day, blended family, stepmom, step family, gift ideas, valentine gift ideas
Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. I love the holiday because I am a romantic person at heart and also because I love being able to show the people that are in our lives how much they mean to us.  I also love decorating my house with hearts everywhere and making valentine crafts up with the children.  Every year I add on more decorations to my collection.  It’s really fun to get ready for Valentine’s Day.  I love being able to express and show how I feel towards those I love.  Even though you should always look for ways to show how much you love someone every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.  I love getting cards and gifts such as candy for those who are very important to me.  There are times where I get my husband two cards because I have a hard time deciding between the two cards.  One year my husband and I got each other the same exact cards.  It’s so nice to know that we both feel the same way for each other. I love to give more than receive even though it’s really nice and melts my heart when I get something in return.
This year I have decided to book a hotel for the weekend for just the two of us that also has a hot tub in the room along with buying new lingerie. I am going to plan on making it “a no phone/social media weekend” and just let it be all about us and just enjoying one another’s company.  We are also going to write love letters to one another, telling each other how we feel about one another.  Last year, I got him two cards and separately wrote fifty things that I love about my husband, he loved it.  Sometimes our husbands really need to feel like no one and nothing else matters but them. 
I know some of us have a hard time trying to find the right gifts for our children and stepchildren, yet alone our husbands.  I have created a list of gift ideas for our children and for our husbands.
20 Gift Ideas for our Children for Valentine’s Day
  1. Get them cards and write 5 things that you love about them in the card along with a $5.00 gift card to their favorite dessert place such as Dairy Queen, Munchies, McDonalds, Yogurt City, Cheesecake Factory, etc. or just give them $5.00 cash.
  2. Teenagers – a card with $20 in it or a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant.
  3. A Small Stuffed Animal and their favorite candy. An example of stuffed animals would be the TY stuffed animals.
  4. Bake them heart shaped cookies and decorate them and make a homemade card for them.
  5. Bake a Heart Shaped Cake and decorate it and cook their favorite dinner.
  6. New School Supplies or Art Set along with a card.
  7. A New Book that they may have been asking for.
  8. A Bracelet or Necklace with heart shaped charm on it.
  9. Buy some Valentine cupcakes from a bakery for example Just Baked.
  10. Heart Memory Game that can be customized with your child’s pictures on it cost $20 at pinholepress.com .
  11. Buy or Create your own heart shaped crayons.  You can buy them for just $9 at ivylanedesigns.etsy.com.
  12. Valentine’s Cookie Bouquet by cookies by design and gets it delivered to the school or at home.
  13. Fruit Bouquets starting at $29 from ediblearrangements.com.
  14. Have a small Bouquet of flowers delivered to school for them.
  15. Hearts Stamp Set for kids who love stamping, just $7 at fatbraintoys.com.
  16. Nail Polish Sets for $22.50 from piggypaint.com.
  17. Make a Coupon Book – that has coupons that say for example: stay up 1 hour later, no chore day, ice cream for dinner, go to the movies, go to the mall, get a new book, whatever they want day.
  18. New Pajamas or new Outfit.
  19. New Small Inexpensive Toy.
  20. iTunes Gift Card.
20 Gift Ideas for your Husband for Valentine’s Day
  1. Surprise him with new Lingerie.
  2. Plan a Weekend away at a local hotel for the weekend with a hot tub in the room or just go away for the night if you can’t get away for the whole weekend.
  3. Massage Gift Certificate for him or even get a Couples Massage Gift Certificate.
  4. Make up a Coupon Book that says things like Free night to do nothing, naptime, anything they want, cook their favorite meal, make out session, free massage (from you), movie night, no chore night, night out with his buddies just to name a few examples.
  5. Cook their Favorite Meal for dinner and get them a card and write a letter to them telling them how you feel about them.
  6. Scavenger Hunt – put little messages all around the house telling him how you feel about him and have them lead to you naked on the bed.
  7. New Tool Set.
  8. Buy him Something that he’s been wanting and asking for.
  9. New Shaver and Shaving Kit.
  10. New Cologne.
  11. New Dress Shirt and Tie.
  12. Gift Card to his favorite store or restaurant.
  13. Bag of his favorite things he likes or needs (example: candy).
  14. Sexy Boxers or Underwear for him.
  15. Fulfill a Fantasy of his.
  16. Customized coffee mug with a picture of you together or the kids on it just for less than $14 at shutterfly.com.
  17. New Wallet or Money Clip.
  18. Cufflinks with his initials on them.
  19. Get Tickets to his favorite sports team or favorite band.
  20. Take him to a Gun Range and go shooting together.

I hope all of these ideas really help you find the right gift for your children and husband for this Valentine’s Day. I really hope all of you have the best Valentine’s Day yet.



Bumps in the Road

bumps in the road, blended family, conflicts, step family, stepmoms, stepmom advice
The first five years of a blended family can be very hard.  There are going to be a few bumps in the road.  The bumps in the road are what make you stronger.  It’s even harder for a blended family if you a difficult ex especially one who shows signs of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome).  I am writing this blog post to tell you that having struggles in the first five years of a blended family are normal.  Sometimes you even still struggle after you hit the five-year mark.  It is how you bounce back and recover is what is going to make your family stronger.   When you have these bumps in the road with your spouse make sure when you go to talk that you do it in private, to ensure the children will not hear the conversation, especially if the conflict is about them. 
How do we handle the bumps?
  • Conflict Resolution – Talk it out with the family members that are involved in the conflict. Do not let it go or ignore it. Always talk with your spouse 1:1 privately before talking with the children.
  • Stay on Topic – Make sure to stay with the current issue, try to avoid bringing up any unresolved or past issues up.
  • Hear Each Person Out – Let them tell their side of the story, make sure they are able to do it without anyone interrupting them.
  • Resolve the Problem – You could either ask them how they would like it to be resolved and do it if it’s reasonable.
  • Hug it Out & Apologize – This step is very important that the guilty party needs to apologize to the person they offended.

The younger the children are the easier it is for them to move on. Children 12 years and up might have a harder time moving on and letting go. It is normal, don’t push it. Let them move at their own pace.
Things you should try to avoid during or after the conflict:
  • Contacting the Ex and telling them about the conflict.  What happens at your house stays at your house. Problems and issues need to be resolved with you and your spouse, not with the ex-wife or ex-husband involved unless it’s about them.
  • Do Not Ignore the Issue – this is a dangerous thing to do because it just builds up within the child(ren). The child or children will have power over the house if the conflict gets ignored.
  • Do Not Argue w/Spouse – During the meeting in front of child(ren).  If you both start to argue stop and regroup the meeting at a later time.  Both parents need to talk away from the children.
  • Do Not Let the Child or Children Go Home – to the other parent’s house without a conflict getting resolved. If that means they go home late, they go home late.


If you allow the biological parent (meaning the ex) get involved, they always side with their children no matter what which makes the child(ren) have an unhealthy amount of control and power in your home.  Whatever behavior you allow will continue in your house and it will continue to get worse. As Ron Deal states “If you cannot govern the family as a team the household is headed for anger, jealousy, and unacceptance”.

We have had many bumps in the road in our blended family. One summer a few years ago we were camping and we were in the middle of playing a card game and I am not sure how it all got started, but my son and my stepdaughter started arguing.  My son said it was their mom’s fault that custody was taken away from us for a year and a half.  My stepdaughter said no it’s your Mom’s and my Dad’s fault that it happened.  At first I was quiet and then I told my son to stop it. But then they continued to argue but then I started getting upset. I finally blurted out to my stepdaughter, you are wrong your mom changed the custody on us, we didn’t do it or want it to happen, then she started arguing with me, then my husband got involved and before long it was a huge mess.  Then he and I started arguing in front of the kids and in front of many other campers around us.  We finally calmed down somehow, but during the arguing, all of the kids were crying and upset because they thought it was over between us.  We all sat inside of the tent and had a family meeting, and my stepson started crying and said he didn’t want us to get a divorce. We all took turns talking about the argument and sharing our feelings with one another about what happened. My husband and I apologized to the kids and my son apologized to my stepdaughter for the things he said.  We ended up hugging it out and then enjoyed the rest of our camping trip.  It wasn’t easy to get through that, but we managed to solve the problem and get over everything that was said in anger and hurt.  I shared my story with you to say that we all experience bumps in the road but it’s how we handle the bumps is how we get past it and learn from them which makes our family stronger. Don’t give up; it’s just a bump in the road.
The challenges of a blended family are real and can be complicated. Gather all your resources that help you get through the tough times. Even if you haven’t been through a tough time yet or a bump in the road it is coming, be ready and prepared for it.  Buy books on blended family topics, invest in blended family conferences, talk with other blended families and even seek a blended family therapist and always keep God at the center of your marriage and family. The success of your blended family depends on both parents to be a strong united front.  Don’t let the bumps in the road turn into potholes. The faster you overcome and resolve the bumps the stronger your blended family can become. 

Please know that bumps in the road are not signs to say it’s not going to work out. Even normal biological families have struggles and bumps in the road.  Don’t put out the white flag up yet, there is always hope for your family. 
Combining two sets of families together that have different rules and different backgrounds are always going to have some bumps in the road until everything can blend together and become one happy blended family.  Ron Deal has given this example of a blended family as a cooking a meal in a crockpot.  It takes a lot of time to cook roast beef in a crock pot, you have to throw in the carrots and potatoes and seasoning after it’s well blended and cooked for 8 hours you have a wonderful meal. Well, blended families are the same way, you have to throw in the rules, backgrounds, discipline, beliefs and love to get the blended family to work right and all of that takes time, forgiveness, patience, compromise, tears, and understanding and most importantly, love.  It takes a lot of time to get a blended family to become one big happy family. So, Don’t Give Up.  If the bumps turn into potholes and you feel like there is no way to fix the road, going to therapy/counseling can really help. So expect the bumps in the road to come. Remember it’s all about how you handle the bumps in the road is what will make you stronger.


References:
Ron Deal (2002). The Smart Step Family. Seven Steps to a Healthy Family.  Bethany House – A division of Baker Publishing Group. 

Stepdaughter

stepdaughter, stepmom, step family, blended family, stepmom advice, step mothers
I was just 10 years old when I became a stepdaughter and my brother was just 7 years old.  Growing up was very difficult for a lot of reasons.  When my parents got divorced, it was very hard on me and my brother because it was an awful divorce with many court hearings between my Mom and Dad. I remember crying a lot when my parents got into a huge altercation where the police were even called. I remember being so scared that something might happen to one of them.  Then my Dad got remarried to my stepmom who was only 17 ½ years old at the time.  She wasn’t even an adult yet but had to become adult pretty fast yet alone be a Stepmom which I am sure had to be pretty hard on her.  She was 16 years old when they first started dating and my Dad is 18 years older than her too.  Adjusting to having a stepmom was very difficult for both me and my brother because of my mother.  My mother would say all of these mean things about my Dad and Stepmom.  She told us that my Stepmom was the one that broke both of my parents up and that I can never trust a Mexican. Yes, my stepmom is Mexican.  I later learned that when I became an adult that, my Stepmom didn’t break up my Mom and Dad’s marriage, my Mom broke up the marriage to my Dad by having an affair with her boss.  But my whole childhood I believed that my Stepmom broke up my Mom’s and Dad’s marriage. My Mom would tell both my brother and I that we didn’t have to listen to my Stepmom and that she wasn’t the boss of us.  She would also tell us that My Dad didn’t care about us anymore and that he loves my Stepmom and his other kids more than us.  I believed everything my Mom would say to us because I was a child.  I never thought that my mom could be lying to us.  Thinking back, I think my Mom was jealous of my Stepmom because she was young, where my Mom was 9 years older than my Dad.  
Before my Stepmom married my Dad, she used to babysit us when my Dad was working on the weekends and we used to like her and thought she was fun until my Dad and her became an item. Then everything started to change and the way my Stepmom would treat us was different and not the best. Every other weekend was very hard for me because I really wanted to try to like my Stepmom but couldn’t because of my Mom. I was so torn and stuck in the middle, I felt like if I liked my Stepmom it would be betraying my Mom.
My Stepmom and Dad had all of these rules and chores for us to do when we would visit them.  For instance, if we wanted something to drink or eat, we had to ask permission first. Then I had to fold and sort laundry, vacuum the house, clean windows, pick up dog poop outside and do dishes by hand.  My Stepmom would inspect the dishes to make sure they were clean and if they weren’t I had to do them over again.  I ended up hating going over there because I felt like I was a slave, felt like I was Cinderella.  I did all of these chores while my Stepmom got fatter and watched her soaps on TV.  When all I wanted was to spend time with my Dad 1:1, I rarely got time with my Dad without my Stepmom there.  In the summer time, my Dad would take us sailing on his sailboat.  My Stepmom wouldn’t go on it because she always got seasick.  Whenever he went sailing my brother and I would go because it was the only time we got to spend with my Dad without my Stepmom there. I loved going sailing with my Dad.  I did feel like my Stepmom took my Dad away from me and my brother.  Anytime we got to spend with my Dad without her around, she became jealous of it. In fact, every time we got home from somewhere we went with my Dad, she had this attitude towards us and my Dad.  Then when my Stepmom started having Babies with my Dad we always had to bring one of them with us everywhere we went with my Dad.  All I wanted was time alone with my Dad without anyone else around.  I really resented my Stepmom for always making sure one of her kids went wherever we went with my Dad. 
My fond memories of my Stepmom were when she was making dinner and would ask me to help her make it. I enjoyed learning how to cook Mexican food and my Stepmom was a great Mexican cook.  She did not know how to make other meals, but she did cook Mexican food really well.  I remember when I was 14 years old she made this romantic dinner for me and my first boyfriend at the time with candles and wine glasses filled with Pepsi.
What I did realize through everything was that being at my Dads taught me respect and responsibility and how to keep things clean.  My Dad and Stepmom were really strict but I learned so much being there.  The only rule I remember at my Mom’s house was to be in the house before the street lights went on.

We went roller skating a lot which we both loved to do with my Dad.  We went camping one summer. We also had a pool at my Dads which we loved using in the summer time and had a camper that we used to spend the night in.  We used to play family games with my Dad and Stepmom which were a lot of fun, but then once my Stepmom started having babies everything kind of stopped. 
There was even a time where I went to live with my Dad and Stepmom. But it only lasted less than a year because I couldn’t take all of the rules, chores and I had a big blowout fight with both my Dad and Stepmom where I called my Stepmom the “B” word.  My Dad then hit me in my face which really shocked me, but looking back at it now, I really deserved it, I was out of line.


Every time I asked my Dad to do something with us my Stepmom would say “we are broke, we don’t have any money” and that they had a lot of bills to pay. It used to get me mad and I got tired of hearing the same response over and over again.  But yet, they would go on these great vacations without us.  My Dad and Stepmom never talked bad about my Mom or put her down like my Mom constantly did about them.  I did feel like I could talk to my Stepmom and open up to her but the moment I felt like I was getting to close to her, I would pull away because of my Mom. I felt torn in the middle of the two of them. Sometimes I would feel like my Stepmom was pretending to like me and my brother but secretly hated us.  I would overhear her talk on the phone in Spanish to her family about me and my brother.  She couldn’t say our names in Spanish, she would every now and then say our name and then continue to talk in Spanish.  It really used to bother me so much that when I was in High School I took Spanish just to learn it so I would know what she is saying on the phone about us.  It got to the point where I didn’t trust my Stepmom thanks to everything my Mom put into my head. Then as we got older they would go on great vacations in the summer time and take my step siblings with them but never included us which really hurt our feelings.  It made us feel like we were outsiders at my Dads.  When we would go to my Dad’s house there were tons of pictures of my stepsiblings but very little pictures of us which made my anger grow even more.  My mom would validate my feelings by making it worse by feeding us more lies about them.  When I turned 16 years old, I eventually stopped going over to my Dad’s house every other weekend.  I just had enough of all of the rules and I had two jobs I was working and they were just more important at the time. I think I stopped going because I felt like me and my brother were replaced with his new kids he had with my Stepmom.
I do really regret the way I treated my Stepmom but I was a child.  I was only just doing what I was told to do from my Mom which was to hate the enemy (my Stepmom) and resent my Dad for putting her first before me and my brother.  Later on, when I became an adult I realized that my Mom was in the wrong for everything she did.  I didn’t know the truth of why both of my parents divorced until I was 23 years old.  It wasn’t until I became an adult that I learned that my Mom was doing parental alienation with us towards my Dad and Stepmom. 
Today, I look back and realize what I did was wrong in how I treated my Stepmom. I did eventually apologize to my Stepmom for everything I did  and said to her that hurt her when I was a child.  It was a great moment we had, and I cried with her.
Now today because of everything that happened in my childhood my Dad and I aren’t very close. He is closer to my step siblings more than he is with me and my brother and that’s mainly because they had him all of their childhood life, when we didn’t.  I have learned to accept it and appreciate the relationship I do have with him and try to build on it when I can.

I wrote this post for Stepmoms to read and understand that all stepchildren want is more time with their Dad 1:1 and to feel accepted and loved as they are.  It’s not about us, Stepmoms; it’s about them and their relationship with their Dad.  If we are supportive of them spending time with their Dads, they will eventually turn around and be more accepting of us.  After all, they don’t get much time with them anyways because of living at their Mom’s house.  Let them make their childhood memorable. They will let you in when they see we aren’t trying to take them away from their Dad.
If only my parents knew how I was really feeling back then when I was a child maybe things would have been different at both homes.  If only my Mom knew what she was doing to us was totally wrong. If only I spoke up and talked to my Dad and shared with him my feelings of wanting to spend more time with him may be everything would have been different.  Don’t have your stepchildren have “if you only knew” statement for their childhood.  Try to give them space, time with their Dad, try to make them feel more accepted and included in everything you do, they will learn to appreciate you more if you do.

Picky Eaters

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Do you have a child or stepchild who’s a picky eater? Well, I am very lucky three out of five kids are picky eaters. Two of which are my stepchildren.  I remember being a picky eater when I was a child to, but yet my parents always made me eat what was on my plate. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to get up from the table until everything was finished.  So what I used to do is take a lot of napkins and slowly put the food when they weren’t looking in the napkins so they didn’t notice.  When I was at my Dad’s house I would just feed my food to the dog. I would sit there for hours sometimes because I refused to eat certain things on my plate such as peas. The food would get so cold, but they wouldn’t let me warm it up either.  I told myself that when I become a parent I will not make my kids sit at the table until everything is done and I haven’t done that even though in the back of my mind I thought about doing it.   
When I first came into the picture with my husband it was very hard on me because I thought they weren’t eating what I made because they didn’t like me.  But the truth of the matter was they are just picky eaters and have always been that way. My stepdaughter would be happy with chicken tenders/chicken nuggets at every meal if we allowed that. It was very hard at first in fact we would end up making two meals for meal times which was hard and a pain in the butt. 
Until one day we started the “One Bite” rule, which is they, at least, try one bite of the food and if they don’t like it, they get two options and we decide what those two options are. After doing this a few times, they eventually discovered that they do like other foods. They also found out that their Stepmom (meaning me) is a great cook after all. Then they started requesting certain meals for me to make on the weekends they were here.  My stepdaughter has even contacted me in the past for certain recipes so they can make something at home with their mother.
I still have one picky eater and she’s the worst one in the house now, which is my ten-year-old daughter. We have learned to say if you don’t like it you can make yourself PB&J or something else for dinner.  Her favorite thing to eat is chicken and ice cream, however, I have recently got her to eat steak and pork chops from time to time. It’s still a struggle with her, though. One day she will like something and then the next time we make it she doesn’t like it. But the “One Bite” rule really works.  I try my best to include foods they like for meal times.  I just learned not to get upset with my children or stepchildren about it and compromise with them.  Yes, sometimes I do make two different meals. But I have learned to give up on the stress and frustration of them being picky eaters. It’s just not worth getting upset about it.  You learn after a while to pick your battles and them being picky eaters just isn’t a battle for me anymore.  For example, one day out of the blue my stepson stopped liking Chinese food when all of us love it still. So what we decided to do is buy him Wendy’s and buy us Chinese food. Yes, it means going to two different places for food but yet everyone is happy and eating, that’s what’s really important. If you have picky eater try the “One Bite” rule with them and then always have two options ready and available for them to eat just in case they still don’t like the food.  Those two choices in the past for us have been cereal and PB&J sandwiches.  Whatever you do, try not to make it hard on you, meaning having to cook two whole meals.

Do you have a picky eater? How did you handle it?

Meet one of my Picky Eaters

Letting Go

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We all have someone we do not mesh well with. We all get hurt from time to time from people we love too.  It’s even harder when it’s your husband’s ex-wife or when it’s your stepchildren.  We need to learn that letting go of the hatred, hurt, resentment and unforgiveness is learning how to free ourselves.  We also need to try to understand that hurt people, hurt other people.  This took me a long time to understand and apply to my own situation.  My husband’s ex-wife has done so many things to us from nasty phone calls, voice mail messages, text messages, emails, and then taking my husband to many court hearings.  Going through it all I have become to realize that she’s a hurting person and what does hurting people do? They hurt others.  We have learned that we can’t control what she does to us but we can control how we will react to it.  Stop reacting to the drama and learn to let it go.  I know us women have good and long memories when it comes to getting hurt by someone. 

It’s even ten times harder when you’re hurt by a stepchild.  But we need to ask ourselves these questions:

  • Am I holding on to resentment?
  • If I choose to hold on to this resentment, how will it affect my relationship with this person or stepchild? 
  • Will holding on this offense help or hurt my marriage? 
  • Is there a way I can protect myself from getting hurt again and still forgive this person or stepchild that has offended or hurt me?
  • If this was your own child would you hold on to the hurt and resentment for long or would you quickly forgive and move on from it? 

If you can move on and let go when it’s your own child, you should be able to move on and let go when it’s your stepchild.  We need to learn to stop playing the offense over and over in our minds on instant replay and learn to move forward and forgive them.  Stop talking about it and move on. Did you know that where your mind goes about is where you go about?

Holding onto resentment and hurt from a stepchild does affect our marriages. It puts our husbands in the middle and it also makes our husbands feel like you don’t like or love their child anymore because of what they did to you.
Does letting go make us vulnerable again? Yes, it may make us vulnerable again.  We are vulnerable in every relationship we have.  We get vulnerable when it’s even our own children. We can never develop a good relationship with our stepchildren if we can’t move on and forgive and forget the past offenses. 
How do we move on? Well, first we need to stop talking about it and thinking about it.  I truly believe that all children can be a product of their own environment and whoever they spend the most time with is who they end up taking after the most.  Our children and stepchildren are watching us see how we deal with being hurt, if we can move on from it, they will also learn to move on from it.  Just like if we were in the wrong for something we said or did to them, we need to own up to it and apologize to them.  If we never own up to our mistakes, the children will learn to do the same too.  Children learn by examples, so what example are you showing and teaching your children or stepchildren? We need to stop playing the blame game and learn to let go and let love in again. I know it is hard to let the offense go, but we need too. If you love God and have a relationship with him, a big part of loving God is loving others too.  God is with us and he will enable us to do the impossible.  All things are possible for those who love God.  So when we face these challenges of letting go and feel overwhelmed by it, God will give us the strength to persevere and trust him for the outcome.  God is with us and God will supply everything we need (Philippians 4:19).
There have been many things my stepdaughter has done and said to me in the past that has really hurt me. But I have learned to let it go and try to understand that she’s a child and a product of her own environment and she can’t help what she has learned from her mother.  I need to move on and let go and let love develop again and pray for her daily.
In the book “The Smart Stepmom”, I read that we need to put on invisible bulletproof vests on in order to protect us from getting hurt from our stepchildren, so when the bullets come which they may, it bounces off of us. Meaning when they try to hurt us by saying or doing hurtful things, let it bounce off of us.  Don’t let it affect your relationship with them, but you don’t have to stand there and take it without saying a word back to them either. A good example of what to say is: “Stop. You cannot talk to me that way, if you want to discuss an issue with me, I would happy to do that, but you may not criticize or call me names or judge me in that way”. Then you may need to remove yourself and, of course, your husband needs to back you up and take over the discipline.
Letting go of resentment, hurt, and unforgiveness is the best thing you could ever do for yourself, for your stepchildren and most importantly for your marriage.  Let it all go and let love in for your stepchildren.  All children and step children need to be loved, accepted, and cared for and it all starts with us parents.  So let go, today, everyone will benefit from it, more importantly, YOU will benefit from it.


References:
Ron L. Deal & Laura Petherbridge (2009). The Smart Stepmom. Practical Steps to help you Thrive. Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group.