Hindsight is 20/20 – Life Lessons versus Divorce #BFHOE #Divorce #BlendedFamily #Stepparent

I was talking with some fellow blended family peeps last week who “just get it”. However, there were other couples in the mix who have never been divorced, have traditional families, and who just cannot imagine going through the types of things our blended families go through. Often times, they will ask “do you regret getting married” or will say “why don’t you just get divorced”.

Ya’ll, first of all, those are two TOTALLY different things. I think MOST blended family married people regret getting married throughout the course of their marriage. At least on occasion. Heck, traditional marriage people regret getting married, too. But that does not mean that it’s necessarily “better” to get a divorce or that divorce is the answer (though sometimes it absolutely IS the answer especially – most definitely – in cases involving abuse, lies upon lies, unknown criminal behavior, when you must protect yourself and your bio kids, etc).

woman in gray tank top

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Secondly, MUCH MUCH MUCH of blended family enlightenment, life lessons, or misery can simply be chalked up to the fact that “hindsight is 20/20”. Once you’re in the mix – God bless your soul – you can help encourage, give advice & warn others. You will have a group of people in your mix for support and to support. If you’ve had a child, think back to when you became pregnant and how other pregnant women who were further along in their journey or who had since given birth or who had since had multiple kids would give you support, encouragement, tips & tricks for all things pregnancy and newborn related. That’s what this big ole blended family world is like.

Receive the good. Dismiss the bad. Support, encourage, and WARN others along the way haha. Tips & tricks are always great too.

Coffee cheers your way. We are better together. We’ve got this.

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Fathers are NOT Second Class Citizens #BFAMHOE

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a lawyer and do not pretend to be one. I do NOT play a lawyer on TV. That said, I’ve seen at least 100 family law cases play out at one of the law firms I worked at for 15 years. And in doing so, this is what I observed. These are my personal opinions only based on those observations.

A friend of mine in Frisco, Texas contacted me last week to see if I knew any attorneys in her area that would be good for her best friends brother. Before I had ANY facts I said: Men often get the brunt end during divorce and custody even if they’re the better parent. They’re often treated like second class citizens, sperm donors and paychecks. I’ve seen them required to pay up to half their paychecks to ex-wives who don’t even use it for the kids, pay for all health insurance, pay half of out of pocket medical bills, be required to do all of the driving for drop offs and pick ups of the kids, and baby mama often doesn’t even have to notify dad about the kids events or doctor appointments and usually doesn’t even get a slap on the wrist if she engages in serious parental alienation. I really do feel bad for the men during divorces.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it over and over and over. I have seen 5-10 occasions where dads really did stand their ground and worked hard through litigation to get things made “right” or at least balanced. But I also saw their legal bills, credit card debts and 401k loans to do it. It’s just not right y’all. Moms and Dads are EQUALS. Both are so important to a child’s overall makeup. Yet, Texas seems to be a VERY mom friendly arena.

On a personal note, I’m divorced with 3 kids and never, ever, ever made my ex follow anything “Texas Standard”. I agreed to a much lower child support amount than required and paid for all of the kids out of pocket medical expenses as long as he carried their health insurance. I also agreed that the kids could go to his house everyday after school since he was home from work by 2 pm and then I picked them up from him when I got off work at 5 pm. We even continued to attend events with the kids together even after I remarried. The 3 of us adults loaded up in my SUV and away we went. Moms don’t HAVE to be high conflict. Some just are.

I wanted to jot this down in my online journal really quick because I think it’s good food for thought and makes valid points (in my opinion). Fathers, you are NOT second class citizens even if the courts make you feel that way 🙂

P.S. I am not talking about deadbeat dads, dads that don’t visit their kids, dads that don’t care, dads that don’t work, dads that don’t help, etc. The end.

 

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Street Credit #BFHOE

Repeat after me. I promise (I promise), to not get offended (to not get offended) by this post (by this post). This is one of those “here’s the facts” type of posts that will require you to put on some big boy pants.

Street credit is everything y’all. Soooooo many people – especially women – have advice to give based on head knowledge, college training, seminary school, or what they “believe” to be the correct answer to certain scenarios. Even regarding situations that they’ve never been involved in. It’s true.

Have you ever noticed that on the show Beat Bobby Flay they always have 3 judges to test the final meal. Why? Because most of the time, people don’t agree unanimously about ANYTHING. The same goes for the Courts of Appeals and even the U.S. Supreme Court. They work in odd numbers so that if there is a disagreement (which there usually is), there can still be a majority rules decision.

Yet, I have talked with so many women who like to give advice about toddlers who have never had children, advice about teenagers when they’ve never raised teenagers, and advice about blended families when they’ve never been in a blended family. Nah. I’m good.

Once upon a time, I used to say that when I had a toddler they’d “never act like THAT out in public”. And, guess what? Oh, yes they did. And one was REALLY bad in public. In fact, I wouldn’t even take that toddler to the grocery store with me. For YEARS. Now that I have street credit about toddlers, what I’ve learned to say is: when my toddler acts that way, I will address it and do something about it. Same with teens. Same with blended families.

If you have never been in a blended family, you simply CANNOT give advice about it. I mean you can have an opinion of how you “think” you’d handle something, but I assure you that once you reach that stage or situation, once all of your emotions and the people you love the most are involved, you will end up having a completely new perspective. And it will only be through your STREET CREDIT, actual life experience, that you will then have the wisdom and understanding to truly give advice.

I say that to say this, find YOUR PEOPLE. They ARE out there. It took me YEARS to find “my people”, but I’ve found them. I have connections with those who have gone before me, that have lived those experiences, and can now truly mentor others with kindness, compassion and an open mind.

This journey is too much to endure alone. Find your STREET CREDIT people and hold onto them. Oh and … it is OKAY to disregard all of the opinions of the well-meaning people who like to give guidance and input but don’t have any street credit 😉

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The Narcissist Child

This…. All. Day. Long. For a decade now we have hoped that once our kids became adults they would mature, be respectful of both parents’ homes, and accept parental guidance, correction and input from both sides of their family. However, in the arena of strong loyalty binds, sometimes that is just not possible.

I have watched my spouse go above and beyond to parent his children post divorce. In fact, he’s been relatively fair and balanced to all of our kids whether the kids belonged to him only, me only, lived with us, or lived with their other parent (though sometimes he has been partial to his bios which is also to be expected but that’s another blog entirely). Meanwhile, when it came to his own bio child, he has only been used for what he could give and what the child had to gain. Never once have I ever seen the child do anything for my husband. Never. Not even for his birthday or for Christmas though she would do that for the family she lived with full time. On Red Table Talk recently, TI gave an interview where he said that sometimes it feels like fathers are really just used as sperm donors and a paycheck and are expected to be otherwise “hands off” when it comes to raising their kids especially their daughters. When I heard that I literally wanted to stand up and give a standing ovation, hi five, preach boy, and Madea hallelujer. Because I feel every bit of that statement.

It’s always a little disappointing when things – relationships – don’t work out like you’d hoped. But, it’s also VERY good to have clarity and revelation because from there you can move forward as an enlightened and awakened participant.

NOTE of ENCOURAGEMENT: when you begin to set boundaries with a narcissist, they will begin to hate you even more. Their loss of control and manipulation over you will make them crazy and angry. That’s ok. Once you cut those puppet strings you will begin to experience a freedom of your soul. Keep moving forward.

Coffee cheers your way guys.

 

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Boundaries 101 – A Note to Self

I saw this on social media and completely agree 100%. For the first time in a very long time, Hubs and I have been working on releasing toxic and negative people from our inner circle. Not as a form of punishment or payback but because you can only allow so much control and abuse before it takes a heavy toll on everything that is within your realm of responsibility. We have a responsibility to our employers, marriage and the minor children that reside with us to work to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. When other people & their ongoing dramatic situations continually run over into our circle of responsibility, it causes too much strain and takes a toll on everything else. It makes life exhausting.

The other day I saw the statement “Be able to discern your Judas from your Peter. Peter had a bad day – Judas had a bad heart. Peter you restore – Judas you release”. I have discovered that releasing the Judas’ from my inner circle has brought me so much peace, joy and excitement about life that I haven’t felt in years. It is amazing how good life is when you’re free from the baggage and weight and burdens placed on you by others. That’s simply no way to live.

Having boundaries and exercising self care is not selfish. It’s wisdom. And it’s ok.

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What Have You Done for Me Lately

I can hear that Janet Jackson song in my head every single time I hear this story in my small group. A divorced dad who always paid support, attended events, bought Christmas and birthday presents ends up getting treated like an ATM only hearing from his adult kiddo when she wants something. She doesn’t seek relationship, time with her dad, visit on Fathers Day or offer to take HIM to lunch. She just calls when she wants him to fork over finances and gifts.

How do you combat this? You stop allowing yourself to be used. At some point later in life adult children should realize that the parent child relationship is more about advice, counsel and quality time spent together and that it is a two way relationship. Not simply a “hand out” what have you done for me lately ATM cash advance relationship.

There are at least 4-5 women in my small group whose stepdaughters are now adults and their husbands have put a stop to the handouts. And guess what? Most of the adult kids have stopped coming around. It certainly appears that unless the kids have something to GAIN, they aren’t interested.

If that applies to you, I’m sorry. It hurts. It’s sad. It’s disappointing. But it is not unusual or abnormal by any means. Hope for the best that later in life they will mature and gain a much bigger understanding of just how important their father truly is and they will seek relationship rather than material things … eventually.

Coffee cheers your way.

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Blended Families are Like Sonic Drinks

I saw a “first day of school” post on social media the other day where a woman who gets along very well with her ex went on a little rant about how she shared all of her back to school photos and experiences with her ex-husband and that’s how all divorced parents should be (because her way was the right way). That’s great and all but….  nah. I respectfully disagree and did not appreciate the lecture. It doesn’t always work that way. I’ve learned that blended families are like Sonic drinks. If one person is a Limeaid and the other is Cherry syrup and you blend them together and have a Cherry Limeaid, that’s GREAT!!! But I’ve also learned that blended families are not “one size fits all” and many blended families need a little more empathy, support and encouragement as opposed to some holier than thou, high and mighty judgmental outside opinion.

Let’s take my personal situation for example. My ex-spouse sexually abused one of my children, admitted it, plead guilty to it, spent 6-7 years incarcerated for the crime, and is a lifetime registered sex offender. Do you still think that “all families” should be like you and share back to school photos? Or did that added information that does NOT apply to your situation change your perspective about my situation and give you more understanding, empathy and clarity about why I DON’T include my ex in my life anymore. Don’t you think I would LOVE to have a good co-parenting situation free from abuse and trauma? Because I would. But I don’t. I have a very difficult, layered, muddled, complicated blended family situation that is more like mixing a Limeaid with Black Licorice. And sadly and unfortunately, many other blended families do too.

Please stop throwing stones at divorced parents who choose to disengage, set up boundaries, and parallel parent. Unless you know all of the facts and behind the scenes information, you have no idea what some divorced parents are going through or how sad they are that they DON’T have healthy, amicable, co-parenting situations.

Hugs to you all on this difficult blended family journey because like Stepmom Magazine says, “even when it’s good, it’s complicated”.

Coffee cheers your way. I hope your Sonic drink blends well. But if it doesn’t, I understand. No judgment here.

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Children are Not Assets for Wealth Distribution

I saw an article the other day that went on and on about parental equality post divorce. Some things I agreed with and some things I didn’t. But one of the statements that I really found to be profound was this: Children are not assets for wealth distribution. Oh my gosh YES!!! Working with a family law attorney for 20 years, I saw so many people who used their children as assets to (1) control or (2) for wealth distribution and in both cases it’s absolutely disgusting. Children are people. Human beings. And they did not ask you to bring them into this world and they should not be used as bait if your relationship with their other parent fails. I cannot tell you how many people – usually women – I’ve seen use their children in an attempt to gain or maintain control of their ex or to gain wealth from their ex spouse. So, I’m making this little journal entry so I can remember this phrase.

P.S. I’m not talking about child support or providing for the child. I’m talking about situations where a child is used FOR money or to control the other parent. There is a very big difference.

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The Empty Promises Game

 I had a teenager tell me the other day that “my parent tells me all year long that they will do it for me on my birthday, but every year when my birthday comes around, they don’t do it”. I have a small group of about 30 women and MANY people in that group say their kids experience that with their ex-spouse as well. The ex-spouse promises things (a cell phone, vacation, movies, etc.) but then doesn’t do them. I think one of the biggest problems with that is that the kids start to see their parent as a liar. The parent loses all credibility and the child no longer believes anything you say. There really is no reason to try to win over a child with empty promises. They may be appeased temporarily, but I promise you that they do not forget. They may not bring it up in order to avoid confrontation, but they do not forget.

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Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts… Blended Family Edition

Though blended family life does have good parts, highs, and some great memories, those are not the seasons that lead to this blog. This blog and my book outline were created from the lows and the painfully difficult seasons of blended family life. Maybe the best way to describe my particular blended family situation is “death by a thousand paper cuts”. I love this online definition of Death by a Thousand Cuts: a figure of speech that refers to a failure that occurs as a result of many small problems.

You see, blended family life is not necessarily miserable because of 1 or 2 particularly difficult things. It’s the thousands of small (and often large), difficult things that continuously overlap and rarely seem to improve. Even when you think a difficult season has ended, it’s usually really just the beginning of another even larger event. It’s like labor pains. That painful one ended but just wait … it gets worse.

I’ve lived in poverty in the projects, have been dirt poor, have been a single mom, have had a child nearly die on me, have dealt with unbelievable family betrayal, and some other really difficult things that may be revealed later. But none of that was as hard as blended family life has been collectively this past decade.

Granted,  I am a perfectionist and want to get this right. But I’ve also learned that the blended family life game is simply not a game that can be mastered like Chess. It’s really more like The Hunger Games where the rules are ever changing and the situations get more difficult. Once you’ve mastered Level 1 and survived your first night in the wilderness, the sun comes out again but with a new set of increased challenges. Those fresh berries you thought would nourish you ended up to be poisonous and your district teammate and partner that joined the game with you often ends up becoming your opponent (especially where their respective biological children are involved).

If I look back at my inner child, the little girl that I used to be that had never ending hopes and dreams, I can honestly say that growing up, getting married and having children was never it. Even when I became pregnant in high school I sat for my GED, went straight to college and graduated in the top of my class as a young, single mom ready to join the workforce. I went back to work doing the work I loved when my third child was only 12 days old because we had a large case set for trial that I had worked on for 3 years. I loved my kids more than life itself but I balanced work and home, hobbies and fitness for years. Getting remarried a decade later and becoming a work from home stepmother did not change the fact that I am a career woman, not a homemaker, and nothing is going to change that. I have never wanted to be a SAHM. Not then with my kids. Not now with his kids. Yet I feel like that is the box that my spouse wants to check off of his list. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a bad@$$ stepmom. I encourage, support, chauffeur, chaperone, prepare meals despite hating it, buy clothes, decorate rooms like a boss, and attend nearly every single event they have, but in the back of my mind I have that nagging feeling that it’s still not enough and that my husband should have married someone else. Someone different. Someone less like me. Someone more like Susie Homemaker. Maybe I should have married someone more in line with my life who had grown kids or older kids or no kids so that I wouldn’t feel forced to fit in a box that was never suited for me in the first place.

I say all this because I know for a fact that I am not alone. I know that half of my small group feels now or has felt in the past that maybe they should not have gotten married and joined the blended family circus. Some have left the game. Some are still fighting for their marriages despite the difficult journey. And that’s what it is. A journey. And there are good times and bad times. We can choose to fight the fight or walk away but that doesn’t change where we are today, right now, in those tough moments.

Hugs, support and coffee cheers to each and every one of you that has “those days” “those seasons” or “those moments”. One way or another we are going to make it. We are going to survive. If it all works out, hopefully we will even get to see the view from the top of the mountain one of these days. Even if it’s not today.

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