The Unintended Consequences of Divorce – Child Empowerment Edition #BFHOE

I am blessed with many acquaintances who have been married for over 15, 20 or 30 years who only have children with each other and who work as a team to raise their teenagers TOGETHER. When the teen begins testing and challenging EITHER PARENT, the parents unite together and support EACH OTHER and get that teenager in check. Unfortunately, that is often not the case with children of divorced parents.

As always, there is a DISCLAIMER here. Not every child of divorce acts this way or is given power by one of their parents to dominate and control their raising. There are plenty of situations (like my personal divorce was) where the parents maintain communication and continue to raise and discipline the children as a team. But then there are the horror stories such as ….

The teen years. We live in Texas and have been told by numerous attorneys that at the age of 12 the teens will be able to have a voice on which parent they reside with. The attorneys said that as long as either home is stable and can provide the basic needs, the judge will likely side with what the child decides. Post divorce, MANY parents begin to tell the children “you can come live with me when you’re 12… you can always move in with me … you’re always welcome in my home anytime”. Ok. That’s your right as a parent to say. But there are many many many occasions where the non-custodial parent will also groom the children, be a disneyland parent, let the child rule and reign in their home. For example (a case I know), the teen was skipping class, not doing homework and his mom took his phone away. Then for his weekend visit with dad, the dad refused to enforce the grounding saying the event didn’t happen on his time, it may not even had happened had the child lived with him, and he wasn’t going to enforce the discipline during his weekend. After all, he only gets the teen every other weekend and doesn’t want to spend his 4 days enforcing misconduct. Then dad proceeded to take teen boy to a football game, dinner, etc. along with how much he loves and misses him and “don’t forget you’re welcome to move in with me”. Now that is only ONE of the good TEN stories I know personally from the law firm I worked at and with the small group I host. Fast forward a few weeks and custodial mom corrects teen boy again and now the teen boy spouts off “I’m going to live with Dad, I don’t have to listen to you anyway”. Dad gets a lawyer. Dad sues mom. Dad wins case. Teen boy is now rude, disrespectful, demands “his way or the highway”, and is fully aware that he is in control and in charge of his own life and HE will let his parents know how it will be OR he will move. Child support plays a huge factor here. Money is a very big motivator for many. If Dad was paying $1,500/month to mom in support but now that teen boy lives with him, he’s often willing to let teen boy slide by with unacceptable behavior and character because the teen only has a few years left of school anyway and it’s saving dad a ton of time, stress and money dealing with this ex. (P.S. this works both ways including dads who have custody and the mom is playing disney land mom making promises to the kids and trying repeatedly to get the kids back along with a fat check from dad).

Again, this is ONE of MANY situations I’ve seen. Right now another girl in my small group is dealing with this because of the new stepmom who wants this perfect fairytale life as the custodial stepmom to “her girls”. Now, these are teen girls and she hasn’t even been married to the kids dad for a year, yet she’s blowing up her social media on mothers day so thankful that “these girls who made her a mom” are in her life. No princess. You are NOT a mom now. You are married to their dad. You are a stepmom. A bonus mom. An influencer, but you need to sit down and be respectful. Oh and yes, now this teen girl is being very heavily influenced to “come live with dad”. I’m certain of it. Shopping trips. Promises. Special dinners. Not because the child is special (mom and dad have been divorced for 4-5 years and Dad wasn’t doing that. He only began doing it when stepmom stepped in and decided to push HARD to be mom.). And, of course, teens are impressionable and would love to be with the parent that worships them and places them on a throne at the front and center of the family as opposed to being a united teammate with their ex spouse to be sure the child doesn’t grow up manipulating them.

If I had one dollar for every story that I’ve heard where the teen begins this “my way or the highway” attitude with the parents AND they are encouraged by one of their parents to be that way, I would be a wealthy woman. And it’s sad. If half of traditional marriages end in divorce and seventy five percent of those kids have this “my way or I’m moving out” control over their homes and custodial parent, that is a very large group of teenagers being molded into disrespectful, manipulative, narcissistic young adults who believe the world should revolve around them… OR ELSE.

I do believe this teen issue is an unintended consequence of divorce. I do not think many parents divorce believing that their teen is going to maintain control, refuse to respect and honor the rules, and dominate their lives or relationships. But it does happen. Time and time again. To the absolute best of parents.

If your teen has done this to you, I am sorry. I’ve seen it. With one of my own teens. With one of Hubs’ teens. With multiple teens in my small group. It’s hard. On a positive note though, it DOES STOP EVENTUALLY. Now that all of mine are grown adults and live independently from both parents, that game has ended. For others it is just beginning. I hope and pray you find your peace, people, and support (and always a good cute dog haha). It sucks. But you will survive it. We will all survive it. Maybe with many battle scars, but we will come out on the other side eventually one day.

Coffee cheers your way and, as always, hugs to you. You are a whole person and you matter despite your blended family hell days.

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Total Bellas – #BFHOE Style

Blended Family life is all over reality TV (Tamra – RHOC, Little People Big World, and most recently on Total Bellas). Most people keep their struggles private but not The Bellas. Are you watching the current season? The twins are really struggling with handling a baby shower, who to invite, if they invite everyone some people won’t attend, but they also don’t want to make others feel excluded. Y’all. This is REAL life stuff that many blended families deal with regularly. I know we do!!! Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings, Baby Showers… it goes on and on and on. It’s difficult and complicated but we aren’t alone and it can be handled one day at a time, one event at a time. The Brady Brunch was a lie (no ex’s, all 6 kids accepting each other, no division or loyalty binds with the other birth parent). These shows today are FAR MORE the norm. Haha.

Link: https://www.eonline.com/shows/total_bellas

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It’s One of Those Days… or Seasons, Weeks, Months and Years #BFHOE

I’m learning that this BFHOE life is cyclical. It goes through highs and lows and the basic storms of life but it’s often worse and more difficult to navigate because there are SO MANY additional opportunities for storms. You know how California is an earthquake zone, Florida is a hurricane zone, Alabama is a tornado zone, etc.? Blended family land is like living in an area known for ALL of those types of storms AND within any given week, month or year. “Storm season” isn’t limited to the spring y’all (though holidays can be worse for many), it is YEAR ROUND. And it starts to make you weary. If you aren’t in a storm at the moment, give it a week or two tops, it will show up.

Today I went back to a blog I flagged 8 years ago for encouragement during the tougher days and thought I would share it here also in case anyone else needs it.

The Faith Perspective Reminder of BFHOE (note to self #9875). Though I will add that I have adjusted my line of thinking and no longer agree to suck up the grenades. Like The Unapologetic Stepmom says, I am not a stepmom martyr and I will not set myself on fire to keep others warm any longer. It’s a balance walking this out. On a tightrope with sharks swimming underneath, but a balance nonetheless.

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You Don’t Have to Love Your Stepkids Like Your Own #BFHOE

When I first met Hubs, my kids were older (ages 12, 15 & 18). I had a realistic view of blended family life. I did not expect my husband or my kids to have an unrealistic, disneyland utopia love for one another. I followed the guideline of Kevin Leman who said “they don’t have to love each other, but they do have to respect each other”. Yes!! I wanted my teens and my new man to simply treat each other with basic respect and manners. If love grew, it grew. If the relationship bloomed naturally, great. If it didn’t I wasn’t going to take it personally or force it. They were teens after all and they were meeting a new man that I had a connection with. They did not. I married him, they did not. I did not put pressure on my husband OR my bio kids.

However, for many years, I felt like the burden and pressure was much harder on me. It was. His kids were younger. His kids moved in full time. It seemed like “the outside world” expected so much more of me than it did from Hubs. I was expected to go from 2 kids at home full time to 5 kids at home full time (3 of which didn’t even really know me or my kids) with nothing but hearts, roses and unicorn rainbows. If I dared to breath how hard it was, or how difficult a child was being, I was viewed as a bitter ugly stepmom when in reality I was losing more of myself daily and it was deeply effecting my mental health, my bio kids, my relationships with my bio kids, and my marriage. Divorce was likely (no wonder 2/3 of re-marriages fail). Life single with 2 kids was manageable for me. Life married with 5 kids with 99% of the parenting duties falling on me (and a full time job) was just too much. I honestly couldn’t do it.

It has taken me YEARS (7-8) to get where I am now and to find a balance. It’s been like learning to maneuver on ice while wearing roller skates (when to speak up to a child, when to take my issue straight to my husband for him to handle, when to represent a stepchild, when to be fully hands off, when to press in and at what pressure. If you go too light you get nowhere but if you go too deep, there will be hell to pay). Not to mention the moments when you walk on eggshells in your own home but are anxious to do anything about it. You just want to survive it. That’s a fun one, too.

So many people say “you should love your stepkids like your own”. I am very much against this unrealistic pressure and did not put that pressure on my husband with my kids. Likewise, I expect the same in return. I am also a stepchild and have that perspective which has helped me in other areas. For example, I do treat all of our kids the same regardless of whether they are mine or his. I have the same standards for behavior, school, chores & rewards but I definitely handle discipline and correction differently for my own protection (which often makes it look to my kids like my husbands kids can get away with murder because I’m so much easier on them than my own).

How did I begin to thrive, not merely survive? By finding my tribe! Your people are out there. I’m very thankful for my small group girls and often have weekly if not daily texts with R & F in the group where we vent, encourage, support and listen on the tough days. They are NOT stepmom shamers but stepmom encouragers. They also have to live the stepmom life personally and have personal life experiences in that area (have you ever noticed that many of the shamers are not stepparents, are not divorced, and do not have to co-manage their lives and schedules with 2 different ex’s – yours and his – with their parenting lives continually being monitoring by a Judge, court order and parenting plan… yeah, ignore those people. It’s like taking advice about kids from someone who doesn’t have kids).

On this blended family journey, you are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm. If people make you feel that way, distance yourself from them. Like Leman said, “you do not have to love each other”…. the same. It is okay to be different because IT IS different. And to be even more successful find your Ice Skating blade shoes (your tools, group, tribe, etc.) because roller skating on ice is NOT easy. You need to trade those roller wheels in and become equipped to handle the blended family ice rink which is nothing like the traditional family rink.

I hope this note to self and note to you helps you on the rough days when you find yourself struggling. Give yourself some grace. Ignore unrealistic pressures and standards. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.

Coffee cheers your way!!

~BFHOE

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Covid Y’all…. Ugh #BFHOE

Y’all. This is the first week we have resumed ANYTHING resembling normal life since Spring Break. The teens have been back to school for only 3 days now and I’m actually beginning to feel “normal” again (peace, quite, mental strength) after 6 of the longest months I’ve ever seen. Life as a custodial stepmom (married to a man with custody) already has it’s own challenges and obstacles. Life as a custodial stepmom when the teenage boys are unexpectedly at home for 27 weeks straight – one half of an ENTIRE year – is brutal. The teens get annoyed with one another over basic holiday weeks when we can be active and do things and get out of the house much less having 6 months together nearly 24/7 (should we even mention the amount of cooking, cleaning and kitchen disasters). Let’s just say that I am VERY glad it’s over and school is back in session. I so sincerely hope things continue moving forward HAHA.

What was your Covid with kids experience? How are you mentally, emotionally, physically? Are you doing a full reset? Getting balanced out yet?

Hugs to all of you and hopefully I’ll be plugging in more soon now that the house is finally quite again. Praise Jesus.

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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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