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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Why I Didn’t Want My Kids to be Stepparents

For YEARS I have taught, trained, and repeatedly told my adult children, “DO NOT date anyone with kids”. It simply adds too much unnecessary stress to your young adult life. You’ve never been married, you’ve never had kids, and you’ve worked very hard preparing yourself for adulthood and I just think it’s best if you avoid unnecessary trauma and stress and marry someone like minded who doesn’t bring so much extra, added baggage to the table. And by baggage I’m not talking about the kid(s). I’m referring to voluntarily adding a bitter, jealous, controlling, insecure ex spouse to your life. It’s just too much and I don’t want that for my kids. DISCLAIMER: I am aware that some people are amicably divorced, get along well, and won’t be controlling, manipulative or abusive post divorce. Some people will get divorced, get remarried and wear those cute shirts to little league games (you know like I’m the mom, stepmom, dad, stepdad, and they look so cute). I’d say it’s a very small minority group of divorced people who can all be mature enough to pull that off. And, in my opinion, it’s just too big of a risk to take.

So, guess what? Oh yes. It’s true and I cannot believe it. One of my kids is dating someone who has a young child. [Insert a gasp, face palm, and sweaty hands here]. There is not much I can do to change that, so I’ve edited my advice to include the following (and I’m aware many people will disagree with this advice and that’s okay because this blog is just one of many perspectives, but this is my perspective, my viewpoint and my advice so … here goes):

  1. Do NOT meet the child in a dating capacity (being introduced as a dating partner) for a very very very long time. Like, unless or until you are getting engaged and plan to marry this person. You have plenty of time to build your relationship with this person when the child is with their other parent. Enjoy the time you have with it being just the two of you without extra pressure.
  2. Do NOT meet the child’s other parent ever (ok, this is not realistic because if you DO get married and plan to attend the child’s events you will eventually meet the other parent at some point. But, if I had it my way I’d say- do not meet the other parent EVER – or at least not until you “have” to).
  3. If you do “have to” meet the child’s other parent, remain guarded. Of course, be polite. Use your manners. Say nice to meet you. But protect yourself at all times and remain guarded indefinitely. Remind yourself and understand that this person had a difficult relationship with your partner before you ever entered the picture. That was not your fault and you cannot fix it or change it. Being added to the mix of their already difficult relationship can make things harder and worse.
  4. Expect jealousy even though they are divorced. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but it could be and you need to be prepared for it. Often times, when the ex sees you living what was supposed to be their life (happiness, family time with the kids, the new house you get when you get married), the ex may very likely get jealous and jealous people will do some very crazy things directed at you, your partner and sometimes even the child (though I’d hope not).
  5. So many people will tell you that you knew what you were getting in for when you started dating (or married) someone with kids. That is a lie. Just like you WILL NOT know what you are getting into when you have kids of your own, you have NO IDEA what you’re getting into when joining an already existing family. You’re just riding the roller coaster of life along with everyone else. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened because there are going to be tunnels, twists and turns that you NEVER expected. And that I can guarantee you.

I will continue to add to and update the list as things pop in my ADHD brain, but I think that covers it pretty well for now.

Iced tea cheers your way and enjoy your day.


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Life Lesson 2438 … Know Your Opponent

Have you ever heard the saying “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”? One of the BEST things about high conflict divorce and child custody situations is that you know your opponent and, over time, you learn their strengths, weaknesses and methods of manipulation.

One of the girls in my small group had always been very cordial and completely open with her ex-husband. Since her ex lives 4-6 hours away from her, she always allowed her ex to have her son every spring break, every Christmas, long summer visits, etc. Then one day the ex came out of nowhere (though I had warned her to be cautious because I’ve seen so many people get attacked out of thin air) and sued her for full custody. He lost. The Judge saw right through his games (lucky for her). But, it changed the dynamic of their co-parenting relationship forever. He provoked her which made her hold on tighter than ever before to her son. Now she follows the court order to a T and keeps her son with her for her holidays. Not to keep the child from his father, but because she had been so lenient for so long and her ex took advantage of it and of her. He seriously underestimated her, and now he’s playing the poor pitiful, woe is me victim game.

In blended family hell, you WILL be provoked. Sometimes often and repeatedly and sometimes simply out of thin air unexpectedly. What I’ve learned, is that the same people that provoke and cause so much damage are VERY quick to capture your response and play victim. The BEST thing you can do in that situation is LEARN your opponent as you would a chess game so that you can handle your response in the best way possible to avoid the victim game. Now, it’s a process. Trial and error lessons. But it is possible. With each life lesson comes wisdom and you can either grow from it or drown in it. Choose growth.

Hugs to each of you during this journey and be looking for my book hopefully in the summer of 2023. It may seem far away but it goes by fast. 9 years down. 4 to go.

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The Kids Activities … Who Knew It Could Be So Difficult

The Kids Activities… You have no idea what a HUGE nightmare struggle this is among some divorced couples.

My 3 bio kids are grown now but thankfully I never had one issue with my ex about their activities or schedules. When he and I were still married my youngest was in soccer, my daughter was in competition dance and tumbling, and the oldest was in boy scouts and city league baseball. Once they reached middle school age they also had school related activities (band, cheer, etc.). When we divorced, the kids stayed in all of their activities and whichever one of us had the kids, took them or we would divide and concur. Many times, I would end up at competition dance practice and he would take the boys to scouts because with 3 kids in activities their schedules would often overlap. But, it never once crossed either of our minds at any time that because we divorced, our kids should be removed from activities. In fact, the last thing either of us wanted was for the kids’ lives to have to change because he and I couldn’t make our relationship work. That was between us and had nothing to do with them.

A good friend of mine has a daughter in competition softball. Now, I’m not familiar with that realm but it seems to be A LOT and is year-round. The daughter’s father got to the point where he no longer wanted to work his visitation around softball and he threatened to stop taking her. As far as the child was concerned her dad was “ruining her life” and it made her hate him. After hiring lawyers and having hearings the dad finally agreed to arrange visits around the child’s softball schedule. What an expensive and unnecessary thing, right? OMG. But it happens every single day.

Today in the very large stepmom support group I’m in, a stepmom posted asking if her husband HAD to cooperate with his daughter’s competition cheer schedule because it is year-round and 3 days a week and she doesn’t feel like they should have to spend their visitation periods taking her to that. Within about 15 minutes tons of us cheer moms were like (1) then leave her with the mom on cheer days, but don’t punish the child, (2) why wouldn’t you want to be involved, (3) so you’re just going to make the kid hate you because you’re the reason she can’t do anything, (4) let her dad take her and be involved and you stay home if it’s not your thing. Needless to say, this stepmom deleted her post within 10 minutes because no one was really on “her side” at all.

The founder of the group said she has heard lots and lots of stories that some judges will order (1) both parents to participate in providing transportation to kids activities (my former boss was able to get that added many times for clients), (2) that the parents must AGREE to activities and if they agree they must split the cost and each provide their own transportation, and (3) some will say they will not require visiting parents to provide transportation and the kids are just out of luck and will miss events.

It sounds like – based on the groups feedback – that when parents cannot agree about this issue, then the kids’ activities situations are simply based on the court system’s luck of the draw, what court your case fell into, and who the judge is that particular day (the associate judge, primary judge, visiting judge, newly elected judge). Isn’t that just grand?

If you have an ex that WILL NOT allow the kids to participate in events during their time, I am so very truly sorry. I’ve personally seen how badly it hurts the kids and how much resentment they hold because of that. And if you have an ex that voluntarily cooperates with the kids activities and schedules like I did, BE THANKFUL. Be so very thankful because not everything is that lucky.

Wherever you find yourself today and whatever you are going through, just know this IT DOES GET BETTER. Eventually. Later.

9 years down. 4 to go.

We are almost there!!!

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Parent Defender – Part 2

Y’all I LOVE blogging so much. I’m definitely a writer, a note taker, a journal keeper, etc. When I blogged The Parent Defender the other day, I was having a particularly emotional moment and felt very frustrated about a conversation that is probably fairly common in the blended family arena (and lead me to that dreaded feeling of unfairness about “my kid versus your kid”). In hindsight, I really don’t think Hubster meant that at all so I considered going back to delete the post altogether. But I’m actually glad that I did blog about it because it (1) reflected a feeling and situation that was going on for one brief moment in time, (2) it did lead to a follow up conversation and open communication in my marriage about the topic and we were able to clear the air in a healthy manner, (3) it gives me hope and encouragement to see how I felt that day versus how much better I feel now, and (4) it makes me laugh out loud big time because now anytime Hubs goes to defend a child in any way I quickly joke and say “oh here he comes, the parent defender is getting tagged in”… bahahaha.

For real though, if you can’t laugh and joke with each other about life and all of the roller coaster moments in marriage, you’re going to grow into a really grumpy old person one day haha. You know that one old grumpy neighbor that never smiles or talks to the kids on the block. And who wants to become that person?

Note to self: take this rollercoaster ride one moment at a time, one day at a time, one season at a time, and enjoy the journey as much as possible. It will all be over before you know it.

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Baby Love & Mommy Shaming

Someone posted a quote today by Wednesday Martin, Ph.D in StepMom Magazine that said “you’re going to prefer your own kid, period, and that doesn’t make you a bad person, a bad mother, or even a bad stepmother.”

Most of the women talking in support of that statement had stepchildren when they married, but no children of their own. Then when they had their first biological baby they experienced that unbelievable love and mama bear bond that is so strong which nothing else in the world can compare to. It sounds like some women, once they become birth moms, may feel some guilt because they realize they do not feel that same way about their stepkids. Truly truly truly, there is no guilt necessary. It’s ok to “feel” different. It really is. Even in a traditional family with multiple kids you will have different relationships and different bonds and different feelings with each kid.

Women, moms, stepmoms – I think we should work harder to let go of the mom & stepmom guilt, mom bashing and stepmom shaming. So often is seems like women are in continuous battle over “the right way” to parent (bottle feeding versus breastfeeding, vaccines versus anti-vac, how long you should stay home from work after childbirth, home school versus public school versus private school, day care versus home care, etc). Yes, I do have my own opinions and beliefs (I can hear them when I start giving my adult daughter advice) but that doesn’t mean I will be ugly to another mom for doing things differently. There is no “one size fits all” and it really is okay to support one another along this journey without always agreeing with others 100%.

So hugs and support to each and every one of you moms today. Birth moms, stepmoms, adoptive moms, all of you. Let’s give ourselves a break today and not beat ourselves up too much. (Oh yes, I’m preaching to myself too LOL).

Coffee cheers your way.

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The Nacho Kid Theory – The Stepparent Child Care Controversy

I’m in a very large Stepmom Support Group on social media that has over 15,000 members. One of the theories and concepts that’s been tossed around often in that Group is the NACHO KID method of step-parenting. That is definitely a controversial topic with many stepmoms in full support of and many stepmoms completely against The Nacho Method.

I firmly believe that in this season, people get way too offended by words and terms that really aren’t meant to be offensive or personal. For example, I’m a middle of the road Nacho Stepmom. I will handle certain things with my stepkids but other things I won’t touch with a ten foot pole for my own protection. I told someone in the large group the other day that “I provide child care services to my stepchildren for my husband” and that person was just furious over the term “child care” because I’m a stepparent and that’s still a parent by golly and if I wouldn’t provide child care to my own kids how dare I call it child care when it’s for my stepkids (and honestly, I would say I provide child care services to my bio kids too. Like – hello – I am the nanny, maid, chauffer, all of that). Y’all…. as far as I’m concerned, if the term “child care” bothers you, just keep scrolling and move on with your life. Thankfully, there are MANY stepparents that understand the concept, what I meant by it, are not offended by it, and feel a little better and supported that they are not alone in that.

So, what do I mean by providing child care services? I mean, when I am alone with my stepchildren, I care for them as I would a niece or nephew. I make sure they did their homework, prepare their meals, make sure they shower, watch movies, joke around, etc. I also discipline or redirect on minor things. However, when something BIG happens that needs parental oversight or parental discipline, I handle it to the extent I need to in the moment and tag my husband in. I don’t handle it the same way I would with my own kids (because I’d handle them right then!!) With the steps, I am NOT a single parent. For the most part, he and I have already created a list of boundaries and guidelines that we follow with all of our kids regardless of who they belong to. But when there is an infraction and it involves my stepchildren, I tag Hubs in especially with enforcement whereas with my own biological children I would just handle it myself.

I do some other things differently also in that I do not stay in the bedroom or bathroom with a stepchild when they are changing or nude (they are all old enough to bathe themselves now so that’s not an issue) whereas with my bio kids I would stay in the room but turn around. It’s subtle but it’s different. And personally I think some stepparents may be a little naive if they don’t take any extra measures to protect themselves especially if there is a high conflict ex or history of litigation. I firmly believe that you can never be too safe.

Another difference that I’ve noticed with my bio kids versus my step kids is the use of Family Group text messages. With my bio kids I often send a quick private text whereas with my stepkids, I am certain 99% of the time to be sure to put all of my communications with my stepkids in the group text with my husband so that their biological parent (my husband) is fully aware of anything that I have relayed to the child. I’ve found that it also helps keep us all informed and on the same page so that “you didn’t tell me about that” or “I didn’t know about that” stays kept to a minimum and I can say it was posted in the family group text.

Y’all, these biokid versus stepkid parenting differences really are not personal. They’re simply for communication improvement and for my own protection as a stepparent.

So yes, I’m going to continue to provide “child care services” to my stepchildren even if that offends the silly willies because, after all, isn’t everyone in our society offended by something anyway 😉

PS: I’m also an equal opportunity offender about NachoKids. I am NOT a NachoKids advocate really and ignore the majority of their methods because I believe many of them are out of balance. Maybe they started with good intentions but many have gotten off track and are unhealthy in my opinion. But again, to each their own. We are supposed to be supporting one another, not finding reasons for division. Don’t we have enough of that with religion and politics?

Coffee cheers your way.

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The Parent Defender

Trust me when I say that if you attack my child, I will totally go Mama Bear on you. However, if my kids acts like a fool or do something wrong, I WILL NOT defend them or protect them and will hold them fully accountable for their behavior.

Most people know that my kids are the older kids in our blended family situation. They are actually all adults now. When my Kids AB or C acted inappropriately, I had NO PROBLEM saying “that was not ok, that child is acting like an @$$”. And Hubs would agree with me. Support me. Tell me it’s ok, teen years are hard and I’m going to make it and he’s there 100% to support me.

Fast forward almost a decade later. Hubs’ kids are not so little and cute anymore. They’ve hit that teenage zone. The dreaded zone. The alien has landed and I don’t even know who you are zone. The zone that makes you want to pull your hair out or move to another country at times. You know that zone? But now when I tell Hubs that Kids XY or Z are completely acting like an @$$, here comes Superhero Dad Savior to the rescue and he just HAS to defend them. Almost always. It’s like he just MUST say something such as: well all teens are like that, remember how bad AB or C was that one year, it’s nothing “compared” to the way your kid acted at that age, but they’re really just such good kids (insert defense after excuse after almost approval of their inappropriate behavior along with a look of disapproval WITH ME for calling their kid out to him). Y’all… uh huh. No way. Like … I can’t even. Never in the history of – EVER – have 2 wrongs made a right. Never has it been ok for Kid B to jump off a cliff because Kid A jumped off a cliff. Last summer, one of Hubs’ Kids stole several things from my home. That’s wrong. Unacceptable. Not ok. Had my kid stolen, he/she would have been REQUIRED to return the item along with a hand written note of apology. But when stepkid stole from my home, it was “well maybe the child didn’t have everything they needed where they were”. Insert crickets here because theft is NOT ok. EVER. And on top of that, Hubs didn’t even call the child out on it or ask the child about it. Why not?

None of this double standard parent defender drama is ok. None of it. All it has done is verify in my mind that when it comes to this blended family life, we are NOT a team. We are NOT partners. We are NOT co-parents. There are 2 completely separate teams. Mine and His. Why is it important to acknowledge that? Because until you do, it cannot be fixed. Even then it may not get fixed. Now, that’s not a deal breaker for me this late in the game (we are almost a decade in and only have about 4 years to go. Hallelujah). BUT, for me, it’s definitely a mental check, a serious disappointment and something that – in hindsight – I wouldn’t have gotten myself involved in had I known that’s how it would have turned out. I married for partnership, not to be on opposite teams in parenting.

I also write this to say, I KNOW I’m not alone in how I feel and what I observe. I know MANY other stepparents feel this way at least monthly, sometimes weekly and sometimes DAILY!!! I know it’s something that only the strong survive. Marriage is hard. Blended family marriage is even harder. Having grown kids I also know that eventually these kids will be adults, independent, self-sufficient and will eventually no longer hold any power or control in our home and parent defending will no longer be necessary. One day.

Finally, I write this because sometimes it’s better and wiser to update you guys than vent at home and Hubs agreed that transparency and authenticity are our survival tools which is the sole purpose of this blog. In fact, sometimes he says “can’t you just go blog about it”. So, here it is!!!

And coffee cheers (or wine cheers) to surviving the remainder of this journey.

9 years down, 4.5 to go.

PS: We have worked through this but I still want to keep this journal entry because it does reflect how I “felt” that day and I know others struggle also


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The Unjust Judge… Keeping the Faith

A friend of mine shared a Bible story with me recently that definitely reminded me of the court and conflict side of Blended Family life (for those who do not or cannot work things out amicably). I personally do not have much faith in the family court system or criminal justice system. But, rather than go back and forth about that, I wanted to jot down this reminder because it really helped me focus on prayer.

Luke 18:1-8 – The Persistent Woman parable: 18 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,”he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man[a] returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

I have a dear friend whose son was murdered a year ago and the police did not even arrest, detain or perform a toxicology exam on the person who killed her son (though it was a stolen gun and he fled the scene…. yeah ok). But she did NOT give up. On her own she sought justice and the DA filed charges on their own though the police department did nothing. Today is the sentencing. The Lord heard her cry for justice and it is finally being granted.

Whatever your issue (or my issue) is, we must be persistent.

Hang in there y’all and coffee cheers your way.

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A Day in the Mind of a Stepparent

I’m in 3-4 blended family support groups of all kinds and types. Typically, there are some basic “day in the life of” type questions, but today a very sweet woman just wanted a moment to post some basic questions that roam around in her heart. She knew no one could really answer her, but she needed an outlet. She asked:

When his kids are with me, do I discipline them or just stand back?

If I discipline my 3 and not his 2, am I being unfair by not holding his kids up to the same standard I hold my kids to?

How do I handle jealousy between my kids and his kids when mine think his kids get away with everything because they aren’t here as much and when his kids are jealous that my kids get to spend every day with their dad?

Do I tell people that I have 3 kids or 5 kids when they ask me?

You guys, no one is expected to know these answers, but lets take a moment to empathize with this sweet stepmom because she’s trying her best to work it all out but never quite comes up with any solutions and always second guesses whatever decision she does make.

And isn’t that what being in a blended family is often like? Unless or until you are in that situation you really do not have the ability to understand the magnitude of these emotions or how heavily they can weigh on you. These types of questions hit me really hard when my kids were high school age because even they wanted some answers and wanted to express their own issues.

One thing we do have is empathy, understanding and support from one another. And that is why we small group.

Coffee cheers your way. And many many hugs 🙂

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