Tag Archives: step 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.


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.


The more you love them, the harder it is

… navigating the challenges of loving your bonus kids, but having no power to do what you feel is best …

As a mother who has given birth to four children, then lost custody of three of them, I understand on a deep level what it is like to not be involved in the daily life of my children. I feel intense grief over my distance from them. I feel anger towards their father over his neglectful parenting. I believe that my children are not receiving the loving attention that they deserve. I don’t think he makes the best choices for them. But I am powerless to do anything about it. That power was taken away by our broken family courts.

These feelings of dismay and frustration that I experience are the same as those I feel for my bonus daughters. They are currently both with their mother, several states away. One is an adult with a baby on the way. The other is a “tween” who is very sensitive. I love both of them. I’m sure that at times it is a burden they don’t want to carry. After all, what kid wants a second mom who is concerned about their safety, schooling, friends, etc? I know I can be a bit overbearing in my concern. I try to quell it.

What I struggle with most is akin to my current situation with my own bio kids. I love and care for them deeply, but have no influence in major decision making or even daily decision making. I watch from a distance as they are pushed aside by their mother, in favor of her social relationships. They are appeased by treats, but a genuine concern and investment in their well being seems absent. I know that my younger bonus daughter feels unloved and unwanted. I know from witness accounts that her mother yells, swears, and hits her when she seeks attention. This breaks my heart.

As an educator, I have felt so very frustrated watching the neglect of education in their household. Their school absences were shockingly high. Homework wasn’t completed. Regular reading and trips to the library were nonexistent. This is the polar opposite of how I raised my children. It is the opposite of what I know is best for assisting children in becoming successful. This breaks my heart.

As a mom, I hear reports of birthday parties and baby showers that revolve around the mother and her friends. I hear that the adults all get drunk, the parties last late into the night, and the center of attention is not the girls — it is their mother and how she can impress people. What is wrong with people? How can they use children as an excuse to further their personal interests? My heart aches for them. I nearly cried the other day when I heard about my bonus daughter not being the center of attention at her baby shower. I am starting to cry now.

The more you love them, the harder it is.


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. 🙂


Love Blooms by the Trash Compactor

My husband and I met where he worked and I lived. I’ve been mulling over how much to share about our history. I’ve concluded that since we are a blended family because of our romantic relationship, more details are better. 🙂

My husband was the maintenance man extraordinaire at the apartment complex I moved to when I left my ex. His duties included collecting all of the dumpsters and depositing the contents into the compactor. My parking space at my single mom digs was located near the trash compactor, so we saw each other a lot. Whenever he saw me he would smile and wave. I usually approached him to chat. There was something soothing and comforting about his demeanor. I enjoyed listening to him talk about his daughters. His fatherly pride and love for them impressed me.

I remember nearly every detail of each of our “chance” meetings. I say “chance” because I would often take my preschool aged son out for a walk, hoping I would run into him. And he reciprocated. Whenever he drove by in the maintenance vehicle he would pull over to talk to me. When I brought my trash out he would declare a smoke break so we could chat. I always made sure that I stood up-wind. It was strange, really. Me, a self-professed germaphobe who gagged at the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke, hanging out by open dumpsters to talk to a cigarette smoking man.

He had really caught me.

Next time, I will tell you why.


InterCultural Challenges

Challenge #1

Only half of my husband’s family speaks English.

Have I mentioned that I am only proficient in English?

Challenge #2

Differing gender role expectations.

Have I mentioned that in my 20s I was a self described radical feminist?

 

Let’s tackle the language challenge first. My husband is biliteral, not just bilingual. A biliteral person is proficient in speaking, reading, and writing more than one language. I knew him for months before I became aware that he was from another country. No kidding. It’s true! And when the person told me, I didn’t believe her.

When we started dating I was not made aware that many of his family members did not speak English. In fact, I believe we were driving to his sisters’ house when he mentioned in passing that she was just starting English language classes. Did I feel awkward when I met her? Yes. Was I worried that he would think I didn’t fit in because of the language barrier? Yes. To a certain extent the language barrier has been a problem.

It has also been a blessing. There have been times when I just felt like spacing out. Since I don’t speak the other language no one expects me to follow the conversation. I also stink at casual conversation and chit chat. No worries there! No one expects me to be chatty. I tend to be shy and a bit of a wallflower. Ahh! Being ignorant of the language suits me perfectly.

And then there are the times when it really stinks. Like when I met my mother in law. I could only say that I was pleased to meet her. After that we were not able to communicate. I spent a lot of time smiling and nodding. I’d like to say that my husband did an excellent job of translating for us, but he didn’t. And still doesn’t. Over time, and with a little study, I have gotten to the point where I can identify about 25% of a conversation. However, I still cannot participate and I am still struggling to learn the language. I am looking forward to the day when I can hold my own in a conversation. Then I will feel like I am really a part of the family.

We’ll tackle gender roles next time …

 


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