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I have an issue that I’d like to reach out to the BFSO Advisory Board (that’s you readers, by the way) for advice on. It’s about my ex and his relationship with our son. Most of you know, by reading the blog, that my ex is an overseas basketball player and has been since I was pregnant with our son. As such, he’s been living out of the country ever since our son was born and he’s now 11. As a result, they pretty much don’t have a meaningful relationship. My ex wants to change that and so do I, but we clash on how to do so. He is only in the states about 8 weeks, maybe a little more on occasion, out of the entire year and has been since I was pregnant. Therefore, my son has never had the opportunity to develop a meaningful bond with him. It took my son a long while before he actually wanted to go over to their house, without being forced.  Over the past few years, however, it has gotten better; especially since his wife and son stay behind while he goes to Spain to play basketball. It has allowed my son to spend more time in his second home, with his second mom and little brother. Now, he loves to spend as much time with them [his second mom and brother] as he can, and I certainly don’t mind. As a matter of fact, my husband and I are both very happy that he asks to go over every weekend, holiday or whenever he has a break from school. It confirms that his second mom really makes him feel at home when he’s there.  I thank God for that…what a relief! The problems occur when my ex returns for his 8 week visit. My son almost instantly withdraws and doesn’t want to go over.  Last summer, he even said, “I’ll just wait until dad leaves before I go over there again.” When I asked him why he said that he just didn’t feel comfortable when his dad was there. He said that he’d like for him (his dad) to get to know him better.

Let me explain…my son is a highly intelligent, straight A student. He started booting up the computer (on his own) and playing educational games at age 18 months, putting together 100 piece puzzles before age 2 and reading, fluently, by age 3. He’s our brainiac who loves anything having to do with science. Some of our conversations are even over my head! Additionally, he’s the sweetest, most kind-hearted, compassionate, wise individual (not kid, but person) that you’d ever meet. Most people (his teachers, friends’ parents, etc) literally compare him to Ghandi. His bio-dad, on the other hand, is a jock. He’s the professional basketball player, who like most (I don’t mean to stereotype, but it’s true) are self-absorbed individuals, who think that world starts and stops around their schedule because they play basketball. Are you starting to see how the two completely clash??

With that said, I can really tell, especially since my ex is getting older and finally growing up, that he desires a more meaningful relationship with our son. But, he wants our son to do so on his terms. He thinks that by forcing him to stay the entire summer (the 8 weeks that he’s here) that their relationship will automatically improve. I told him that forcing him would potentially do more harm than good. By the time my son gets over the shock of being forced to stay in an environment that he’s not comfortable in, it’s time for the ex to skip town again, for a year, and they get to do it all over again the next summer. I explained to him that forcing him to be with him will not do any good until he decides to stay put for more than 8 weeks in the summer. Additionally, being a parent is much more than just having him in the house with you. You have to spend time with him and even do things that he wants to do at times.  And, because you’ve never had an opportunity to bond, alone time is essential as well.  My ex just doesn’t get it at this point. I will say, however, that I can really tell that he’s making a concerted effort to understand where I’m coming from. I’m so happy that although we don’t agree on everything or even always understand each other’s points of view, we both talk about it like adults and then attempt to work out an optimal solution. And, at the end of the day, we both really want what’s best for our son. What a blessing to have finally arrived at this point!

My question for the BFSO Advisory Board is, should I force my son to stay the 8 weeks in the summer, if he doesn’t want to? Legally, I am not obligated to do so because the judge ordered that he give 60 days notice prior to arriving in the states, which he has never done because he said that he just can’t. However, I’m always flexible with the parenting time schedule and allow my son to see his dad and/or second mom as much as he wants. My thoughts are that if dad were doing everything that he was supposed to do, we wouldn’t have to force him. I’ve told him to call regularly, not just from time to time. Use email to communicate with him on a regular basis. I even suggested a webcam for more frequent contact. But, he’s acted on none of my suggestions. Why should I be flexible and bend over backwards to achieve this goal [my son spending more time with him], and why should my son be forced to be uncomfortable, if dad can’t hold up his end of the bargain? Whether it be because he can’t or isn’t willing? What do you readers think?

We’ve moved to www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com. Find this post and a host of new ones at www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com.

Happy New Year to all of the BFSO readers and your families! Let’s all thank God for carrying us through 2008. I certainly know that I could not have made it without Him!

We wish you happiness, good health, prosperity and peace in the upcoming year. A new year means a fresh start, and I hope that all of you take advantage of this fresh start. It’s a chance to do things differently; whether it be bury hatchets, react differently or simply decide to choose peace in the midst of your current circumstances. Remember, all of our feelings and beliefs are truly based on our internal thoughts and conversations with ourselves. WE ARE IN CONTROL whether we know it or not. If you are feeling overwhelmed about any aspect of your blended family, the first step to changing your attitude is changing that inner conversation. 2009 is your fresh start!

Also in 2009, BFSO promises to bring you more insightful posts, guest bloggers in the areas of relationship coaching, family law, tips on how to teach all of my blended family wives how to keep it spicy (use your imagination) and much more. In 2009, we are focusing on the entire family; from how to keep it spicy in the bedroom, to how to decorate your favorite room. From how to deal with the ex-spouse in your life, to how to maintain peace in what some perceive as an insane existence. We want you to know that your blended families’ problems DO NOT define your families. The operative word in blended family is family, and in 2009 BFSO will show you how to keep the focus on your family!

Lastly,  I want to sincerely thank all of my readers! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, which just started out as my way to vent my frustrations. I never expected it to be as helpful to others as it has been. Nor, did I ever expect to learn so much from all of you, too!

And so, let’s gear up for a fabulous 2009! No more looking back as the best is yet to come.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

From the Blended Family Soap Opera Family

We’ve moved to www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com. Find this post and a host of new ones at www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com.

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.

Finances

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.


It is so hard to put into words what I felt when I read J’s entry below because I feel the same way and more. Although, I know that many of you reading this blog  might think “Wow, that is too good to be true…..they must be making this up.” But, we’re not. I have often heard from co-workers and even other friends of mine that my relationship with my husband’s ex-wife is odd, peculiar, too close for comfort and even weird. That how could I be best friends with my husband’s ex-wife. Some of you may be thinking the same way. My answer to all of these is this…. Why shouldn’t we? I think other people are the weird, peculiar and odd ones to NOT have a good relationship with their current husband’s ex, especially when there are children involved. I believe that a lot of mothers and step-mothers have insecurity problems and that is the root to a lot of broken marriages and failed friendships. For those of you who try hard to establish good relationships with your husband’s ex’s or current wife with no good return, then that is the other person’s loss, for sure, but keep trying. No good deed goes unnoticed in the eyes of God.

In our case, I couldn’t be more proud of the relationship that J and I have. Before my husband and I married, we all decided to be on one accord – one family. As we often say, “We don’t do steppers in our family.”  The most important person between the four of us is our daughter. She is the most caring, loving, kind-hearted little girl that I have ever met, and all of those qualities are a reflection of her mother. She is the exact same way. Our daughter has 2 little sisters by way of her mother’s current marriage. Those girls are my girls too, and I don’t care what people say. If you don’t get anything out of our story, get this….CHILDREN LIVE WHAT THEY LEARN. I believe we are teaching and bringing them up the way God would want us to. We are showing them that just because divorce has been one part of their lives; it doesn’t have to ruin their lives or their relationships with their parents and step-parents. Step-parents don’t have to be the enemy and our daughter doesn’t have to be pulled between us or feel guilty for loving all of us. I know that I am not her mother. I know that I would never ever try to fill those shoes. But, I also know that I am what God wants me to be in her life, and I will be there for her as a standing rock to which she can depend on, no matter what. I will always do what is best for her. I believe if mothers and step-mothers will allow themselves to open up and know these things about one another, they too can have what we have. Of course, there are those few crackpots out there that shouldn’t have children or be around children and those we cannot change, only pray for.

I have three boys. Two of which are over 18 and one who is 9. When I was pregnant with my nine year old, I lost my children’s biological father/my husband in a motorcycle accident. God led me to move away to a new city to start my life anew. I met my current husband when my little boy was 8 months old. We didn’t marry until he was 5.  Although my son knows that his biological father lives in Heaven, he has only known my current husband to be daddy. My step-daughter is only 14 months older than my little boy so they are very close. I used to worry in the beginning that she would feel like my son gets her daddy all the time and she doesn’t. My worries were for nothing. She shares her daddy with an open heart and open arms. She is so unselfish. She is the big sister that my little boy needed. She watches out for him just as she does her own little sisters at home. She is a brilliant young lady and God has DIVINELY blessed me by putting her in my life.

I came from a broken home. My parents were selfish at times for whatever reasons, i.e., my dad was young and my mom was bitter. They divorced when I was 6 years old.  I will never forget my father seeing us off at the airport in Alaska because my mom was taking us to live with my grandparents in Atlanta, and he was crying while waving goodbye.  My dad later married a lady named Carol and she was a horrible step-mother. She emotionally battered me from the time summer started until the day it ended. It may not have seemed that bad to my Dad but, his mind was clouded. To a 10 year old, however, it was more than bad, it was horrific!  Needless to say, the last time I saw her was thankfully that summer when I was ten.  She only thought about herself and not the children she was affecting. She would say bad things about my mother, she was abusive and she made it clear that my father was her husband and now her childrens’ step-father.  We were just visitors and she made sure we knew it.  She caused a lot of the kind of drama that I see happening all the time in my adult life with my other friends who are divorced, and some of you readers have experienced the same.  THANK THE LORD IN HEAVEN, my dad divorced her but unfortunately, my mom alienated us from my dad after that, and I didn’t see him again until I was in the 8th grade. However, in my mother’s defense, she was doing that with the premise that she was protecting us and always did the best job she could.  So, I can relate to a lot of issues that children of divorced parents go through.  A shining light, however, is that my dad married a wonderful woman years later, named Dean, and I now have a step-mother that I cherish.  She is a strong woman and has taught me a lot about being a step-mother.  She is a quiet teacher.  She let us come to her on our own terms and didn’t force herself on us.  That was a great lesson and one that I implement with my step-daughter.  I vowed that if I ever had a step-child, I would NEVER become that kind of person like Carol.  I never want my step-daughter to ever feel about me the way I felt about Carol.

You know, I guess my final words would be that I hope our story has inspired some of you moms and step-moms, dads and step-dads to do your best to try to make your children’s lives better instead of more complicated. It’s all about RESPECT. I respect my step-daughter’s mother and her husband. I respect my husband. I respect MYSELF and by all of us having respect for one another, it makes life for all of us less confusing and teaches our children humility.  Most importantly, if our children ever become step-parents one day they will have a great example to go by.

I am not saying that our family’s road map doesn’t have bumps and bruises along the way. We aren’t perfect. There are times when we disagree, but work really hard to see each others’ point of view.

I guess I also would say try not to judge so harshly if you are a step-mother or a current wife of a man who has an ex-wife or baby’s mama. Try to put yourself in her shoes and see through her eyes. How would you want your children treated, if you were in the same situation? How would you want to be treated? If you are an ex-wife of a man who is remarried and you two share a child together, don’t automatically think that the new wife has to be the enemy. She will be the one taking care of your children when you aren’t around. How you see her in your eyes means more than you think it does. She can really end up being an ally, a comrade to you. She may even end up being your best friend……Be blessed.

Where do I begin, with how bad I feel for the women out there who have this family drama in their lives? As women, we need to stick together and build each other up or no one else will. Men are wonderful companions, but there is nothing like the true friendship of another woman. We understand where each other is coming from and our feelings come from a place of sincerity and love. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband but there are just some instances when my girlfriend can give me a better perspective on the situation.

 

In my case, my best friend is my daughter’s step-mother. Yes, that means my ex-husband’s wife! I have been blessed to have this woman in my life and in the life of my daughter. There comes a time in your life when you have to realize, as hard as it is, that it is not always about YOU. It is about your children. My ex-husband and I had been divorced for about 5 years before I got re-married and he did as well. He and I have had our differences (obviously because we are divorced), but in the end it all comes down to what is best for our daughter. I do have to say our choices of spouses fit us both much better and make each of our homes better for her.

 

The friendship I have with my daughter’s step-mother is unusual and we get plenty of questions and looks and confusion abounds. “How can you be friends with someone who is married to your ex?” is an obvious one. My answer is that it is easy to be her friend. She is such a wonderful person, who would want to miss out on an opportunity to have friendship and support in their lives just because of who they are married to? Another answer to that question is that I have no romantic or emotional feelings for my ex-husband. Most of the problems women have in these types of scenarios is that they are in some way still attached or want to be with their ex. Some will never admit it but it comes out one way or another. And, one way it does rear its ugly head is in the form of jealousy. That is why some women are unable to be friends or even have a civil conversation with the other woman involved, be it a girlfriend or second wife.

 

I remember trying to find a minister or pastor to marry my current husband and I. I belonged to a church but he didn’t and he didn’t agree with my pastor and so on. So I was on the hunt for someone to marry us. I had an appointment at this one church to speak with the pastor. Little did I know they had a policy that you had to have counseling before they would begin to speak with you about getting married—counseling for those who had been divorced that is.  So, I sat and listened and answered all of the Pastor’s questions politely while thinking to myself the whole time, “what does this have to do with me getting married a second time?” At the end of the session he says to me “I believe from all you have told me that you are completely over your ex-husband. I would be happy to be a part of your ceremony this time around”. Again I was thinking what is going on? Of course I was over my ex-husband. I love my husband now more than ever. My point to this story is that sometimes it takes another perspective for you to realize the truth about yourself. Your truth may come to be different than mine. You may find you have unresolved feelings for your ex and that is why you feel bitterness, resentment, anger, etc. for him and for his new wife or girlfriend. Just food for thought.

 

At any rate, I truly don’t know what I would do without her in my life. The positives far outweigh the negatives (if any) in our friendship. How nice it is for me to never worry about my daughter when she is over at her dad’s? I know if she can’t be with me, that my best friend is there to take care of her. There was a time when my ex-husband wasn’t married and if he had my daughter for the weekend, I did not sleep—at all—until my baby came home Sunday night. Not only does my best friend love my daughter I share with my ex-husband but she loves all three of my girls. They both do! My two little ones go over to their house and play and they baby sit for my husband and I. Again, I trust them both with my most precious gifts—my girls. My girls love them too and they only see the positive side of our situation. They don’t yet understand divorce and that my oldest daughter has a different dad. They look at it as my oldest has two dads and two moms—how great is that?

 

Soccer games, parent/teacher conferences, school plays, graduations, etc. get crowded with all of us, but I believe that people who think we are strange, don’t understand how much we are helping our kids. On Father’s Day we have made it a tradition that we all spend it together so no one has to choose between anyone. My daughter loves and adores her father and my husband has never tried to take his place. She is one to not want to hurt anyone’s feelings and my husband has loved her like his own from day one. Mother’s Day, we split too. No one is threatened, no one is jealous because we all are secure and confident in ourselves, our children, and our situation. My husband and my ex-husband play basketball and X-box together, too.

 

On top of this, my best friend has three boys she bravely raised on her own before she met her husband. Her youngest son never knew his biological father and my ex-husband has raised him as his own and we respect him for stepping up to take that role seriously. I love all of her boys too. We share birthdays, holidays, school events, births, deaths, etc. all together. How can that ever be a bad or weird thing? The more support and love you have in your life the richer your life will be.

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