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I just wanted to let you know that BFSO will have a new virtual address soon! Our new home will be located at http://www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com, but you will still be able to access it from the current address. Get ready for a more visually appealing site with insightful content to match. We’re so excited to show you around!
It is hard for me to write on controversial subjects using my own blended family situation because my situation is very different from most of our readers. I get along very very well with my husband’s ex-wife. She is very good about including me in all decisions that she feels may need input from all of the parents in my step-daughter’s life. But, in reading our blog and listening to other readers describe their feelings and concerns, I feel the need to ask…..Don’t we step-mom’s have a right to have a say in what goes on in our step-children’s lives? I know we didn’t give birth to our step-children and we may or may not have been in their lives very long, but we are, most of the time, their main caretakers when they are with our family.
Don’t ex-wives want to know that their children are safe and loved during visitation with the non-custodial parent and vice versa if the father has custody? So shouldn’t all step-parents have a say in what goes on in their lives? I just think that step-moms sometimes get the brush off more than step-fathers because usually, that step-father is the main father figure in the step-child’s household and the bio mom almost always never second guesses herself and allows him to be included in decision making.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this. I want to state again, I don’t personally have this issue, but I am always somewhat baffled at some of the responses and comments from bio moms that don’t think their children’s step-mothers deserve any say in anything with their step-children.
Traveling and chauffeuring back and forth between homes, complicated visitation schedules and combining blended family traditions can make it darn near impossible to focus on the true meaning of Christmas in the blended family. In addition to the ‘traditional’ stresses of the holiday season, blended families have to deal with the stress of ex-spouses, multiple sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and children who have to bounce back and forth like ping pong balls usually during Christmas Eve and Christmas day. In my own family most of our time is spent just figuring out and arguing (with my husband’s ex-wife) about the logistics than it is actually enjoying the holiday with each other.
In an ideal world, Christmas in the blended family would consist of bringing the entire family together, on one accord, just for one day. Ex-spouses, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles would embrace each other and our children would see all of their parents together, not just getting along, but celebrating an important holiday together. Unfortunately, our world is far from perfect, but in some blended families the above-mentioned might be an optimal solution.
In my case, holidays are very complicated, to say the least. My son’s bio-dad is often times working, out of the country, and his wife, son and our son are left behind. As a result, I don’t mind including his wife and son in our plans. For example, I called to invite them to spend Thanksgiving with us, this year. She also makes every effort to include me in certain activities as well. She threw a big Halloween party and not only invited my son, but me as well. It works for us because there is no tension between us. There are no unresolved feelings. There is no emotional baggage that spills over into our family. On the other side of my blended family (my husband’s ex-wife, her current husband and stepson), however, this would never work. Whenever we’re all in one room the tension is so oppressive that the kids leave debating how much we hate each other, and this is when we’re all on our best behavior. As such, I realize that each family has to do what works for them, keeping in mind that whatever solution you come up with shouldn’t negatively affect the children.
The holiday season should be the one time of the year when children shouldn’t have to feel as if they have to divide their loyalties, and parents, like any other day of the year, should work especially hard to make their children feel at ease during this time of the year. Additionally, parents should avoid dealing with their own emotional issues concerning the holiday. Children will use how the parents handle the blended family stress of the holiday as an example of how they should handle it. Remember, that holiday traditions are often tied into people’s core identities. If your children do have to divide their time, be sure to communicate with them, in advance, what time and for how long, they will be with each parent. Avoid arguing about it and use basic courtesy and thoughtfulness, especially during this time of year. Each parent should keep in mind that the other parent is also going to want their child with them and their family during this special time. As such, both parties should be flexible to make certain that the child has ample time to spend with both families. Arrange a pick up and drop off time that isn’t too far out of the way for either party so that the majority of the time isn’t spent just traveling back and forth.
Presents used to produce an enormous amount of tension between my husband and I. Christmas became a competition of which one of our children would receive more or making sure they received the exact same amount of gifts on Christmas day. As you can imagine, even without us directly telling them, this is what Christmas was about for our children as well. We both had good intentions as we didn’t want either child to feel bad because they didn’t get as much as the other. But, we handled it the wrong way, and were beginning to create some very selfish, spoiled kids in the process. After many discussions we realized that something had to change. The true meaning of Christmas, for us, wasn’t about how many presents our children got, and we didn’t want them to think of Christmas in this way either. We decided that we would just communicate with our children. The truth was that since my ex is usually out of the country during Christmas he sends all of his gifts to my house so that our son can open them up. As such, he doesn’t go over there to open up gifts. But, my stepson does go somewhere else to open up his gifts. In actuality, they probably get around the same amount of gifts, but my son opens them up in one locations, and my stepson opens his up in two locations. As a result, my husband would always try to match what my son got from his biological dad. It was way too stressful!! So one day we just sat the kids down and explained the situation, and they both said that they were aware of the situation (meaning they knew that K went somewhere else to open up gifts and M opened the majority of his gifts at our house). It was so silly how we were acting because we thought the kids would feel a certain way, yet they were much more aware of their reality than we gave them credit for.
Many people also question whether or not it’s appropriate to get the ex-spouses gifts. I say, why not? It’s the one time of year that difference should be put aside in order to focus on the true meaning of the holiday – giving. I always remember my ex and his family at Christmas time. And one year, I even bought my husband’s ex-wife a gift. If you’ve read this blog, you know that was a huge step for me. Often times this is an issue for women rather than men. For me, it boils down to an issue of insecurity. Why should it bother me that we get a gift for my husband’s ex-wife or my ex’s son, etc.? Isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be about? Having said that, I will have to admit that it is difficult to do when you’re in constant conflict with an ex-spouse, be it yours or your current spouse’s.
All in all, the holidays are about spending time together, enjoying good food, creating memorable traditions for the family, and giving back. Things like competitive gift giving, complicated visitation schedules and arguments with ex-spouses shouldn’t interfere with the meaning behind the holiday. If divorced parents would use a little thoughtfulness and common courtesy and remarried couples would communicate with their children and each other, it could help minimize the stress and maximize the enjoyment of the holiday.
As I sat down to write this post all I could think of was 3 things: 1) My heart completely aches for fellow blogger and second mom, Morocco. 2) Tomorrow is never promised. 3) Most importantly, what else can I do to help blended families peacefully coexist by respecting each others’ roles? Life truly is too short to waste time battling over the insignificant. Time is much better spent by loving your spouse and children, cooperating with your ex-spouse in order to co-parent effectively and overall, creating a family unit that your children can not only thrive in, but be proud of as well.
A few days ago I posted an entry just to notify you [readers] that I hadn’t fallen off of the face of the earth. I wanted to assure you that I am doing everything that I can to be a better advocate for our type of family, and the children that exist within it. Before logging off I decided to do my routine blog favorites (I have them listed on the left) check. The first one I checked was Full Moon, and as soon as the page popped up my mouth hit the floor and my heart immediately followed. It read, “Say a prayer for Morocco and her family. Morocco lost her husband last night…”
“WHAT,” I screamed! I couldn’t believe what I was reading. So many thoughts ran threw my head. I wish I could help her was my immediate thought. Just through this blogsphere, I feel like I’ve grown to know her and her family. I’ve appreciated her insight. I’ve admired her patience and strength that she displays when dealing with the ex-wife in her life. I’ve hoped that her situation would get better, and that she and her husband would finally begin to live in peace. I can relate to her. As such, I am deeply and genuinely sorry for her loss.
My next thought was my husband. I ran to give him a hug and expressed how much I truly love him and my family. My final thought…my husband’s ex-wife and my ex’s new wife! I thought about how they would feel if anything like this ever happened in our family. I thought about how much we would still need each other! My stepson would still need me to remain connected to his father; to help keep his memory alive. We’ve been a family since he was 4. He has spent summers with us; gone on vacation with us and has created holiday memories with us. It would be traumatic to just act like this part of his world doesn’t exist if we ever lost my husband. The same holds true for my ex, if we were ever to lose him. I would need his wife to keep his memory alive for my son. I wouldn’t want to pretend like his second mom and little brother never existed and would be absolutely devastated if they wanted no part of him if his father were to pass on. All of these thoughts, as incoherent as they may seem, really did drive home a central point; the blended is truly a family that is made up of not only our immediate family units, but the extended portion as well. Ex-spouses, new spouses, children (both bio and step), grandparents, step-grandparents…are ALL apart of our unique family. It is a family with a synergistic foundation; a bunch of parts that can function alone and those parts’ respective functions are very important, but it works a lot better when all of those parts work together. Think of it in terms of our bodies. The heart does its’ job; the lungs do theirs; the liver has an important function and so on. But, the heart never tries to eliminate waste from your body, like the liver. Yet, the liver can not function without the heart. All the organs must work together in order to give you life. If one organ fails, you die, unless you get a new one. But, it’s pretty hard to find a replacement. Our children are our bodies and we [parents] are their organs. We have to all respect each others’ roles, never trivializing each others’ important functions and work together to give our children life! We need each other more than we think, and it’s crucial that we realize that.
BFSO readers, this is your wake up call! What will you do with your time? Will you spend it arguing with the ex in your life; be it your ex-spouse or your husband’s new wife? Will you spend it arguing with your current spouse about his or her ex-spouse? Will you spend it arguing over things that really don’t matter? Or, will you direct your energy towards making it better? It will not only improve the quality of life for your children, but it will improve your quality of life as well.
And so, here’s the BFSO Call to Action: I want all of my blended family friends to spend at least one day, November 21, 2008, being positive about whoever you’re in conflict with within your blended family unit. Think of at least one positive thing to say or write about them, and either send it or say it to them or just send it to me, if you can’t make that step yet. You can email it to email@example.com or leave it in the comments section. This will do two things; it will force you to view your situation in a more positive light and it will hopefully throw up that truce flag between you and the person you’re in conflict with. Remember, tomorrow is not promised, and it’s up to you to determine whether or not you’ll live in turmoil or peace. What will you do with your time???
BFSO would like to extend our deepest sympathy to Morocco and her family during their time of need. Morocco, please know that you are in our prayers. We pray for your strength. We pray for your peace and we KNOW that God will carry you through.
Peace and Blessings,
Kela Price and the Blended Family Soap Opera Family
Maintaining Your Blended Family Marriage
Did you know that the divorce rate among second marriages is higher than that among first marriages? One would assume that if a person has a second chance, he or she would be sure not to mess it up. However, there are some second marriages that breakdown under financial strain; second marriages that are torn apart by children; and second marriages that never had a chance to begin with. Then, there are those that actually do survive and eventually thrive despite the chaotic world of the blended family. These couples work through their communication issues in order to create a marriage that is more solid than their first.
In order for your second marriage to work I believe it’s essential to consider what went wrong in your first. Many times divorcees will get on their “high horse” by insisting that their marital problems were soley their ex’s fault. However, there is hardly a divorce where fault falls exclusively on one person. Because far more challenges will present themselves in your second marriage (children, unresolved feelings, bitter ex’s, etc.), it is necessary to examine your own mistakes in the past so that you are less likely to repeat them in the future.
Nurturing Your Second Marriage
It is so very important to nurture your second marriage!!! Often times remarried couples make themselves the LAST priority by putting the problems with their respective children, exes, finances…first. Remarried couples need to spend time nurturing and building their relationship together just as any “traditional” marriage, without children, would. Schedule date nights together, and take vacations without the children, sometimes. Take every moment that you can to remember and remind each other of why you fell in love in the first place. Remember, that when the children are grown and gone, and there are no more exes to fight with, you will be left with each other. You can not grow old with your children or problems with your former spouse. As such, you shouldn’t spend ALL of your time in these areas. Of course, you have to raise, love and nurture your children. And, you have to work on resolving your issues with your former spouse so that you can co-parent effectively. But, these areas can’t take priority over your marriage. Any good marriage needs to be nurtured and loved if it’s expected to survive. Besides, taking these actions will only benefit your children because you will be building a strong, stable, loving environment in the process.
My husband and I made the mistake of putting everything before our marriage, and honestly, it almost FAILED!! At several points in our relationship we were both ready to throw in the towel. The stress of both of our children not immediately adjusting (this is a unrealistic expectation that most remarried couples have) along with dealing with the exes, almost tore our marriage apart. All of our communication, and I mean literally ALL of it, centered around the kids, his ex or my ex. Naturally, it just wasn’t good for our relationship. We didn’t put as much effort or time into our relationship as we did those other things, and it showed. We realized this one day on a rare occasion when both of our children were gone. Not only did we not know what to do with ourselves, but we began talking about…problems with the children and/or the exes. It wasn’t until my husband said, “We spend way too much time talking about our problems, let’s talk about something else.” The only problem was that we literally did not know what else to talk about. At that point, we had our light bulb moment…ding, ding, ding…WE HAD BEEN SERIOUSLY NEGLECTING OUR MARRIAGE AND THAT’S WHY WE HAD BEEN HAVING SO MANY PROBLEMS, duh!! From then on, we decided to rediscover why we fell in the love in the first place. We scheduled date nights together, even if the kids were in the house. They were not allowed to bother us during our special time. We created a standing rule that we would only talk about our problems with the exes and children if absolutely necessary. We decided that WE are the king and queen of our household, and we would ALWAYS respect each other as such; even when it came to our respective exes. Once we set this foundation our communication issues were a lot smaller than they really were.
Second time newlyweds often bring their own financial resources and obligations into their second marriages; making finances a touchy subject in second marriages. Ideally, it is always best if the couple combines everything together instead of creating the definitive boundaries of yours, mine and ours. Once you do that, you begin to see everything as yours, mine and ours; your children vs. my children; your money vs. my money; I’ll pay for this for my children vs. you pay for this for your children, and we’ll pay for this for our children. As you can see, it becomes way too complicated. As such, it is always best if you view your newly made family as a whole instead of in parts. Having said that, when it comes to each child’s respective child support; that money should be earmarked for that child, alone. For example, we do not use M’s child support money on K. M’s child support money is for taking care of his needs. Just like M never uses K’s child support money. But, the money that my husband and I make is for taking care of everybody in our household. So, when we go on vacation I don’t only pay for my child and my husband only pays for his. It is the same when we go out to dinner or buy Christmas gifts, etc.
It is important to remember that whenever one marries or remarries he or she does so in entirety, not in parts. As such, whenever possible, the remarried couple should view themselves and their family as a single unit instead of divided. It should never be a yours, mine and ours…just ours; our marriage, our children, our money, our family.