Tag Archives: blended families

Adult Children of Remarried Parents

It occurred to me this morning that I have been a member of a blended family for nearly than 16 years. I am dense, I know.

My father remarried in 1995, exactly one week before my first wedding. Sadly, I have never met my three bonus siblings. It wasn’t until we all connected on FaceBook that I had any regular communication with them. Proximity is the issue — and money for travel. He was married out of state and wound up relocating to the state in which they were married. I have only seen my father once in the past 10 years for this very reason. Travel is too costly.

I have heard of adult children having issues when their parents remarry, but this wasn’t the case for me. I was happy that my dad had found a new partner. I was sad when they moved away, but as adults that is their choice.

The thought that I am pondering now is how adult children of blended families can try to hold their parents hostage. I saw my ex do this when his father remarried. Not only did he badmouth his future stepmom, but he also felt very put-out that his dad would have a teenage stepdaughter — as if she was usurping his place with his father. It boggled my mind. How selfish can one get? Parents have the right to find love, security, and companionship.

Can it be that even adult children of divorce still hold out hope for their parents’ reconciliation?

Maybe it boils down to insecurity… jealousy… competitiveness. My ex certainly has those qualities — in abundance. Or perhaps it is the belief that the parent is choosing the wrong person. How is it though, that children will presume that they know better than their parents? That is simply presumptuous and arrogant.

I didn’t make those judgments when my dad remarried. I am genuinely happy for him.

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Finding My Parenting Niche ~ part two

The internet became central to my growth as a parent. I am most comfortable interacting with people via the printed word. When I was young my family moved a few times and I always had pen pals. That experience led naturally to my involvement in message boards. As soon as I discovered message boards I was inspired to start my own board for Stay at Home Moms. Discussing mothering with women online became my social outlet.

Following the birth of my second child, four years after my first, it soon became apparent to me that I needed to spend time with other like-minded moms. In real life. My insecurity has hindered my ability to socialize throughout my life. However, I mustered up my courage and attended my first La Leche League meeting. Going to the meeting was like stepping into a warm bath. So comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable. I had found my “peeps.”

Not everyone will feel comfortable hanging out with “granola” types. Not all mothers who are involved with LLL are of the crunchy variety. But all are breastfeeding moms. As a wise woman wrote, a breastfeeding mom is a breastfeeding mom. Aside from that, our parenting styles may be vastly different. To be a breastfeeding mom, there is no other requirement than having breasts that lactate and a child to latch onto them.

So there you have it. I am a crunchy, gentle, sleep sharing mom. I am one of “those women” who breastfeeds her children well beyond infancy. It is what I am comfortable with. It has worked well for my children. They are confident, healthy, bright individuals. The had years of cuddling and snuggling with me, both day and night.

Have the fathers of my children been onboard? Not always.

With my first three children, I argued frequently with their father about my parenting choices. I believe he was jealous of the attention I gave our children. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t let them cry. He would be angry when I put their needs before his. He did not like sleep sharing. He did not like co-sleeping. I insisted despite his protests.

Thankfully, my current husband is different. He does not like it when our daughter fusses, allowing her to cry is out of the question. He had not shared sleep with an infant in the past. He had reservations at first, but after our daughter was born he found that he felt better with her safely tucked into our bed beside me. It may turn out that he becomes uncomfortable with extended breastfeeding. If that hurdle appears, we will jump it.

Nearly 14 years elapsed between the birth of my first child and my fourth. Yes, my parenting style has changed a bit over the years. Mostly due to age. I simply do not have the stamina to carry my daughter in a sling all day. I was able to do that with two of her older siblings. I am over 40 and it has made a difference. I also no longer use cloth diapers, which I did with my first three children. One thing that has not changed is my philosophy of mothering.

I am an attachment parenting mom. Always have been. Always will be.


Letting Go of my Kids

At one point in our premarital relationship, my current husband and I were both searching for employment. We extended our search to a neighboring state. My kids told their father that we were looking for jobs in an area about a two hour drive from where we currently lived. I received an angry phone call from him. He ranted for awhile and then finished with, “Over my dead body!” His rancor was wasted, we didn’t find employment out of state. I stuck with working as a substitute. My husband found another local maintenance job.

Fast forward … my ex remarried in June of ’09, shortly after my MIT graduation. In order to expediate bonding with their new stepmom I agreed to lengthier visits. They spent full weeks with she and their dad. I knew that she owned a house that was in a rural community — a two hour drive away. My ex also still owned the house we had lived in. Since I had custody of the kids I wasn’t concerned about the distance between our homes.

Unbeknownst to me, my ex had already put his plans into motion.

2009 was the worst summer of my life. I was without employment, having just graduated with my teaching certification. My current husband was looking for work. My ex had stopped paying child support several months earlier. We were renting a large, beautiful house in a quiet neighborhood and we had to leave it. Fast. Our only decent option was to go live at my mother’s house. Not what I wanted to do. I knew how difficult it would be. I cried and cried about it. Not only is my mother a very challenging person, but she lives 6 blocks from my ex. I did not want to return to the neighborhood where I had lived with chaos and abuse. But go, we did.

My ex and I had a telephoned child support hearing during this transitional period. He was livid and put down the phone more than once to walk around and rant to his wife. He specifically told the attorney that if I got the support order he would make my life “shit” and would take the kids from me. Well, guess what?

I bawled my eyes out after that phone call. I knew what he was capable of. I knew how he was about money. Within a month he had brainwashed the kids by telling them that they would have more money and more things if they lived with him. He fabricated abuse and sent CPS to my home. But the worst of it was that he took my kids. I got my youngest son from him. He tried to take him back, but I was vigilant about not letting that happen.

I soon found out that I was powerless to get my children home. We didn’t have a parenting plan. Under our state’s laws there is nothing to protect one parent from taking the children from the other. You simply cannot “kidnap” your own children. There is nothing in the law that requires one parent to allow the children to see the other — in the absence of a parenting plan, that is.

Sigh …

I think it is time to make a long story a bit shorter.

At the time when my ex took my kids we were living only 6 blocks away from each other. It seemed like it could be ok. The kids would be nearby, I could see them after school. I had already enrolled them in school before their dad announced that they would not be returning to me. But he took them to live at his wife’s house. Two hours away. And I was powerless to stop him.

I had to let go of my children. Physically and emotionally. Far earlier than a mother should have to. My son was 13 and my daughter was 9. I didn’t see them or speak to them for more than 3 months. I was utterly heartbroken. I spent many of my days lying in bed, reading and watching tv. And sleeping. I did a lot of sleeping.

I found that the only way to get through it and go on living was to let them go. I had to stop worrying about them. I had to let go of my attachment to them. Part of me had to stop loving them.

I know that all of this seems farfetched and unreal. The sad fact is that it happens. It happens to good parents. It happens to loving moms. It is all too common.


Second marriage, second chance

I stand in awe of my husband. Sometimes I stand in frustration. At all times I stand in love.

My husband is an immigrant to the U.S. He is bilingual. He is biliteral. He is bicultural. He has overcome more difficulties than I can imagine. He truly comes from a world that is foreign to me.

Most of the time he seems just like me. White, middle class, educated …   and then I see him interact with people from his home country, in their native language, and I am struck by the fact that he lives a dual life of sorts — and that with it he possesses a skill far beyond my understanding. He’s had experiences that I cannot fathom.

Sometimes that duality feels like a wall between us. Other times, I think that maybe I will never run out of things to learn about him.

Embarking  on a second marriage is a huge risk. It is scary. Throw six kids into the mix and it is downright terrifying. There is so much at stake in creating a blended family. For those of us who have always dreamed of having a large loving family, but watched that dream die on our first attempt, it is a risk we have to take. I, for one, cannot let that dream slip away without giving my best effort to creating a successful marriage.

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“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”   Ephesians 4:2 New International Version

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8 New International Version

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18 New International Version


Evil Exes

When a divorce with children happens, there is always an ex to contend with. Whether the person is present or absent in the life of the child, they are forever intertwined with our lives. I always advise young women to be careful who they choose to have children with. We so often make poor choices and our children suffer for it.

My ex has done just about everything in his power to destroy me. Funny thing is, he’s the one who wanted out. Yes, a marriage is made by two people and I am not blameless. But vindictive? No. Desiring to deprive him of involvement with our children? No.

My evil ex has used our children as pawns. He has used them to get back at me. He has used them to entice a childless girlfriend and two childless wives. He succeeded in taking custody of all three children, simply because I obtained an official child support order. I am not making this up. He is on record at our child support hearing saying that he would, “make her life shit” if the order for support went through. It was no coincidence that abuse allegations were fabricated less than a month later.

I mention three relationships of my evil ex. The first, the girlfriend, was established before my kids and I were driven from our home. I was ignorant of her existence. She moved into our house a week after my kids and I left. Less than a year after our split, my ex married a woman he met online. That marriage lasted less than a year and then he was quickly remarried to a friend from high school. With each relationship he would threaten to take the kids from me. In each relationship the new woman was pronounced better able to care for our children than I was.

All of this was about money. All of it was about child support.

My evil ex is a dirtbag. I cannot count the number of times I have longed to turn back time and change my decisions. Run the other way when I met him.

Our exes can continue to abuse us long after we have removed ourselves from their daily lives. They abuse us with the courts, they abuse us by manipulating our children, they abuse us emotionally, verbally, and spiritually. Any small window of opportunity is thrown wide open and the abuse floods through. We think that by getting away physically we can escape. They don’t let us.

When we start new relationships, evil exes will do whatever they can to impede them. My ex tried threats, bad mouthed my husband to my children, spouted racist comments regarding my husband, and finally, when all of that failed, he fabricated wild stories of child abuse.

He won, in his way. He got the kids. I pay him child support. But he didn’t destroy me. My older children may not live with me, but they are still my children. He cannot take that away.


Losing “the Dream”

I don’t think that I can do this topic justice. There are so many feelings I have that are tied up in my dreams of family. I know that I will need to edit this later, but this is so essential to blended families that I want to get it off my chest and get it out there.

I had a dream of how our blended family would look. We were on our way, things looked beautiful, then it all came crashing down.

Valentine’s weekend 2009. My husband and I took a road trip to visit his family. We had a great weekend, bonded like crazy, enjoyed his family, talked marriage. The marriage thing was settled, we would marry before the end of the year. We had never felt closer or more in sync.

On Wednesday afternoon following our weekend of bliss … call from his older daughter … they are moving in less than two months … 6 states away …

There went my dream. My two bonus daughters were taken away by their mother. My husband didn’t fight it. He was depressed. He was frustrated. Our relationship took a turn. He became emotionally distant. I could not fix it.

Around this time my ex was fired. He stopped paying child support. My husband was able to carry the burden of our expenses. We lived in a big, expensive, rental house. It was ok, but then he lost his job. Boom.  It was summer. I’m a substitute teacher. We had to move.

With no work and no savings, we made a temporary move to my mother’s house. I was despondent. I cried daily while we were packing up. I did not want to live with my mom. I did not want to return to the neighborhood where I lived with my ex. Nothing about it was ok for me. We had no choice.

Shortly after we vacated our rental house my ex and my children fabricated abuse allegations. I lost two of my kids. With no parenting plan in place I could not force my ex to return our two older children to me. In turn, he could not force me to give him our younger son. We lived in a state of extreme stress. I had my younger son, but had no idea where my two older children were living.

This was the beginning of the most painful year of my life. I did not anticipate the outcome. I don’t think anybody who knows me could have.


Challenge #2 Differing gender role expectations

I have been avoiding this topic for awhile. Even though it is one of the first things I thought of when pondering intercultural challenges in marriage, I really have not wanted to tackle it. Why? This issue is at the heart of all the conflicts or arguments in my relationship with my husband. It is intensely personal. I am taking the plunge now because I believe it is important to share, for those who are interested in such things.

Gender role expectations …  my background taught me that men and women should share the burden of household chores in some equitable manner. As an adult I have been a slacker with regard to household chores, in part because my ex was as well. I am a clutter-bug. I am not all that conscious of things — if something is out of place, I don’t notice it. I also don’t believe that it is my job to pick up after everyone in my household. This is regardless of whether or not I work outside the home.

My husband would beg to differ. He firmly believes that women need to cook, clean, serve, care for the children, and work. To him, a man’s responsibility is to earn money at a job (or two) and relax at home. He gets very bent out of shape if food is not served to him. He believes that moms who don’t work outside of the house should have immaculate homes because all they have to do take care of kids, clean and cook. Apparently, in his cultural background, the women do all of these things. They clean constantly, cook every meal of the day and give the children all of the attention they require.

But something must be falling through the cracks. I just don’t believe that it is possible to do all of those things to his high standards. My cultural background says that it just is not possible! Not only that, but I don’t believe that it is right.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like a clean and orderly home. Parts of my home can be that way, for a brief period of time. But I choose to pursue other interests and to spend a lot of time with my children. For instance, our infant daughter will not sleep by herself. That means that when she naps — as she is now — she does so on my lap. She is still primarily breastfed, which means that whenever she eats I sit with her to feed her. No handing her a bottle and getting busy with housework for me!

My attachment parenting style does get in the way of meeting the gender role expectations of my husband. We talk about it nearly every day. Sometimes he seems to accept  that caring for our baby really does take up most of my day. Other times he insists that the computer is the problem. Well, we were without internet at home for two days. The only additional thing I did was vacuuming. I did that while wearing our daughter in a carrier.

I keep hoping he will relent and allow me to be the slacker that I am accustomed to being. Whether this is truly a cultural issue, or merely his personal preference …  I am not sure. It is probably a bit of both. I am doing my best to compromise and improve my homemaking skills, but it is a hard road. I will continue to walk it.


Adding a new member to the blended family

musings on a new baby

Our eight month old daughter was dedicated yesterday at the church where I have been a member for the past 4 years. It got me thinking about the many changes that have happened since she was born.

Before she was born my relationship with my two older children was contentious, at best. They were both unhappy about the impending arrival of their “half sister” who wasn’t a “real sister.” Clearly the parents they lived with were influencing them. I remember my ex’s attitude towards the step-sister who entered his life when he was an adult. I can imagine the bitterness and negativity he spread about my pregnancy. My children were openly defiant about every request I made. They broke things in our apartment. They fought with each other. They picked on their younger brother. They would not hug me, tell me they loved me, or say goodbye when I dropped them off with their dad. It was truly heartbreaking. I dreaded every weekend visit. I did not know how to fix the situation.

But then baby A was born. Her younger brother was there for her homebirth and he adored her. My bonus daughter who lives out of state came for her summer visit and immediately fell in love with her. My two older children, who barely talked to me, met baby A by chance at a softball field. They seemed interested in her, but hesitant. It was as if their new sister was some forbidden thing that they weren’t supposed to like — much like how they behaved towards me.

They came for their first weekend visit a couple of weeks later. They behaved more appropriately. It took time, but they became comfortable around our baby. Eventually they asked to hold her. They fell in love with her too. They stopped calling her “half sister” and now call her “baby sister.” They are all enjoying watching her grow. They have all reconnected with me as well.

It may seem odd to credit a baby with repairing a fractured relationship between a mother and her children …  but that is what happened in our family. Baby A became, and continues to be, a unifying presence. She has blessed us in so many ways.


My custody battle

When my three children and I left our home in 2006 we moved to an apartment in an adjacent town. It is unusual for a mom and kids to leave a home that the family owns. My ex refused to leave. He threatened my life and scared the kids, but he wanted us to stay in one part of the house with him in the other. The house is only 1100 square feet, with one bathroom. He threatened to kill me. How could I possibly live in the same house as him?

For 3 years I took care of our kids. I went to school full time to earn a Master in Teaching degree. I didn’t date until 18 months after our split. The only man I dated is now my husband. I was a good mom and did the best I could for my children.

During that time, their father was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct. He remarried — twice. He obtained a permit for medicinal marijuana use, as did his 3rd wife. Then he took my children. He invented abuse allegations. He successfully took all three children from us, even though CPS determined that there was no abuse. He ripped our family apart.

I write about this now because my attorney was in court yesterday finalizing our parenting plan. I see my three older kids every other weekend. I get two weeks of vacation with them per year. I have alternating year visitation for spring break. I get half of Christmas break.

The miscarriage of justice is reprehensible. My ex has a history of alcoholism, suicidal tendencies, bipolar disease, and recreational drug use. Who in their right mind would give him custody of three children? He and his wife get high every day.

I miss my kids. I don’t get enough time with them. I am burdened with the stigma of being a mom without custody of her kids. I know what runs through people’s minds when they learn that my children live with their father. I want to cry out, “He manipulated the court system and the guardian ad litem! I am a GOOD mother! I am a Masters Degree holding, state certificated elementary school teacher! Please don’t look at me like I must be an alcholoic, druggie, or abusive mom. I am not any of those things!”

What do you think when you hear from a man, or woman, or kids that dad has full custody? Do you assume negative things about the mom?


Bonus, step, bio, blood — what do we call ourselves?

Politics get into every aspect of our lives. Labelling of our family types is not exempt.

While reading on a message board earlier this week, I came across a post that pointed out to a previous poster that the term “bio” had negative connotations and was frowned upon. Really? I’ve been referring to the children I’ve given birth to as “bio” kids for awhile. I like the sound of the word. I think it is descriptive and accurate.

So, if not bio, what? “Blood?” Yuck!  “Natural?”  All kids are natural.  How about “my children from my previous relationship/marriage” or even more cumbersome and obnoxious, “my children with _______.”  No thanks!

Oh, I know! I should just say “my” kids and “his” kids. I really don’t like that at all. It removes our unity and puts separation in our family.

I have been aware for some time that “step” is not favored. I’ve tried out “bonus,” which has a nice ring to it and I am comfortable using it. But when talking to other people, will they understand me if I talk about my bonus daughters? Probably not, unless they have been reading about blended families lately.

So what do we do? Define ourselves and label ourselves as we like. 🙂


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