As I rummaged the internet for research, and advice on step-parenting I couldn’t help but snicker to myself as the many Do’s and Don’ts of step parenting popped up with the hundreds of different search options. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely cynical I do think that some of them are in fact good tips but I also feel that a lot of the do’s and don’ts are based on the perfect scenario. Ya know, the ones where the parents bow out gracefully, and decided that the separation is best for both them and the kids. Ha, not that that doesn’t happen but I know a lot of separated couples and it didn’t exactly go down that way.
In my experience most divorces are made up of police calls, divorce layers, thousands of dollars wasted, custody battles, bitterness, and revenge. And then we come in, the innocent by-stander who seemingly fell for the right person at the wrong time. News flash step parents, this isn’t your life it’s theirs and your just living in it.
As step parents we have no idea what we’re getting into until we are already too deep into it. Step-parenting is similar to parenting except with parenting you generally aren’t dealing with another parent who tries to un-do everything you do, belittles you, or objectifies you into an alienating pawn.
The many self-help books, and check-lists warrants not taking it personal, knowing boundaries, getting on the same page, having low expectations, participating in family meetings, etc. And that’s great and all but it’s harder to see the end when you are smack dab in the middle of all the chaos.
You’re going to question the point, even if this is all worth it. That’s okay, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.
You’re going to get angry, even resentful, and that’s okay too. Just make sure not to hold it in, or allow it to explode towards the children. Find an outlet. Anything to destress. Believe it or not, I found Buddhism during my journey I relied heavily on Buddhism books to help me let go of my anger, and find happiness in myself. Make sure to talk about it with your spouse, and when they don’t want to listen, maybe try therapy.
You’re going to feel lost, confused, and alone. In your family dynamic you are, you’re the outsider. But find a support group, a friend who has been through it, an online community, anything. Because although you are the only one in your family that understands how you’re feeling you’re not completely alone.
You’re going to want to over compensate. Try not to, I think I did a bit too much in the beginning, and as the many self-help books state don’t overstep boundaries, I did. The problem is, as I stated above far too often you are in over your head before you know it, try taking a step back especially when you feel yourself slipping into it all.
In my journey as a stepmom I have seen ugly times, very sad and alone times. I felt like no one understood me, and when I found someone who did, or a support group I felt vindicated. This is my motivation to write to let similar woman, or even men know that they aren’t alone. That what you’re feeling is okay. I felt like I got a double whammy, for as I was not only making the venture into a step family, but at the same time fighting the stigma of having a child with Mental Illness. I sure don’t know it all, and by no means am I a professional. But in my opinion the most relevant experience is field experience and that is what I have to offer you.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to write!
Sara, Mommsie Knows Best
Let The child be your guide
You have mom, and then there is dad. Two very typical socially known titles for the two individuals who parent us. Parents don’t have to figure out what their children are going to call them, it is what it is.
When it comes to being a step parent and your namesake to your stepchildren you’re stepping in territory that you may want to stay clear from for quite a while. However it is inevitable to come up into conversation.
I remember sitting at my mother’s house, drinking a cup of coffee, while my son, and the new little humans in my life played together, when I was approached with the daunting question of "can we call you mom?" There in front of me sat two bushy tailed, wide eyed sweethearts, what was one to do. Not knowing what to say, I simply diverted it to their father, "let’s ask your dad when he gets home”, I muttered to them. I didn’t really know how to react, I mean I was new to these two, as they were to me. I wasn’t their mom, I mean I acted as one by merely playing the role when their father was at work. Many questions started running through my head at that moment, Was it that they heard my son call me mom? Were they confused? What was the right thing to do? What if their father and I break up?
None the less, this is a tough situation yet using the child as your guide can really help direct how all parties involved should handle the matter. Adapting to a new family dynamic is hard enough, expecting too much could be just that, too much. Pushing the children out of their comfort zone could cause them to retaliate and go in the absolute other direction. Children don’t ask for their parents to split, heck they want anything but that so ensuring that this transition is the most comfortable for the children should be priority. My step children refer to me as mom, they are comfortable with this, and their father and I both agree and don’t mind. However, because mom is generally a title that is given once you birth a child, for their biological mother this was quite daunting. It’s hard for someone to hear their child call someone else mom. I was never there to replace her, or resolve who she was in there lives, I was a different mom in a different family dynamic, I wasn’t her, and I think making that clear is very important.
In the name of respect, I have offered the children alternatives to calling me mom thinking that the alternative would be the better. Mama Sara, Sara, etc. The children always made it clear when they were in our presence that this is what they wanted to address me as.
The topic of what the children called me had come up on several occasions by their mother. She really felt compelled in the argument that I was not their mother, and she wasn’t totally wrong. I could never argue her on the fact that I didn’t birth them, however due to our living arrangements I was in sort the children’s mom. I felt compelled in allowing the children to call me mom because my roll was full time, having them a substantial amount of the time, and with a combined family, all children calling me by the same namesake less complicated things, and gave us our own type of bond. What really motivated my husband and I in allowing the children to call me mom, was it was their request. Again, making the children as comfortable in the process can really ease their acceptance and limit the emotional stress that it will have on the children.
My son is a very shy kid, he is sometimes afraid of his own shadow. It takes him a really long time to get use to something, change is not his friend. He really is quite the opposite of my step children. A strong relationship with his father he did not have, but loyalty was there by default. The topic of what he was to call Billy never really came up, he still to this day calls him Billy. Just as we did not address my step children on the matter, we don’t plan on doing so with my son. It’s important to realize that each child is different, and the child should not be pushed out of their comfort zone especially regarding something as sensitive as this.
Before taking on a title so privileged as Mom or Dad, or even one remotely close, really ask yourself a couple of questions.
I am a lover of all holidays, but my favorite holiday of all is Christmas. There is something about giving gifts that makes be absolutely love Christmas. For me, It is a great feeling when I hand someone the gift that I took time picking out, and wrapping, and of course spent my money on. As a parent it is our job to teach our children the meaning of the holidays, and pass on traditions, if my children take anything from me my hope is that it will be my love of the holidays, and the love of gift giving.
As a step mother, and sharing custody of my son with his father, I have found myself feeling very unsure of what to do with the holidays in regards to gift giving. My instinct was always to just leave it alone, and not worry about my son, and my step children giving there other parent’s gifts to alleviate any issues that could possibly occur. I was so unsure of how to handle the situation that I felt most comfortable leaving it alone, and it worked for the most part.
Last Christmas was more of a game changer for us in reference to this. We were out shopping when my step kids asked me if they could pick something out for their mom, they really wanted to get her a Christmas present. Who was I to say no? I would have instilled such a bad lesson to them if I did. Spending the $20 surely wasn’t going to break the bank, and if it made them feel good about themselves it was money well spent. I think gift giving is also a way for an individual to show their admiration for one another, and I as the step mother have two jobs with the first being to ensure that I do not come between their relationship with their mother, and the second to ensure that I do what I can in my power to foster a good relationship between the two. You may be asking yourself why is it her job, and your right in a way it isn’t my job, but when I took on the responsibility of being a stepmother, I took on the role of being a good role model for my step children as well, and to be the best person that they deserve.
From Christmas time on, we now always make sure that the kids buy for their mom whether it is Christmas, valentines, her birthday etc. My son has never asked to buy for his Dad, even when the kids are buying for their mom however he has asked to buy for his Grandmother on his father’s side, and I have always obliged. This year his father has a new significant other, one which JJ my son has really taken too, and he asked if he could buy a gift for her. Again, if I said no what would that be teaching him? So he and I took time and effort to pick out what he would think she would like the most.
It is honestly a beautiful thing, watching your children have generosity around the holiday season rather than greed. It makes be very proud in those moments, and I can with certainty say I may not do everything right, but this is a pat on the back for me.
For those who may think that this is absurd, you’re not going to spend your money on your ex or on your spouse ex, your entitled to feel that way but this is something so much bigger than spending money on anyone’s ex, it is about your children doing something for their parent.
For those of which who may be new to the idea, or those that are totally against the idea but is a great parent and is willing to do anything for your kids, or even the parents that always do gift giving with the kids but just wants some more idea’s here is a great guide or tips if you may to help you guide the children on:
1.Set a price limit.
I’m all for gift giving but I can’t go broke from it either. I generally do a 10 limit per person for the kids, but my step children usually combine their money to get her something
Nothing say’s I love you more than a homemade gift. I love having the kids make at least one thing homemade, and then they will usually pick out something in addition such as a coffee mug, or something else small. It also shows that you do care, no matter what evil things may have come out of your mouth in the heat of the moment you do actually have a heart.
We have done everything from coffee mugs, to coasters with their pictures on them, even a memory box. I think the sentiment behind a homemade gift is so much more.
Not in the receiving back kind of way, but even in the way of receiving a Thank You. You may be the person behind the gift, but the gift isn’t from you, it’s from the children, just make sure to remember that before the ungrateful, and rude comments start rolling.
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