Youth Group Edition #BFHOE

I like to outline basic “day in the life of” scenarios for people considering getting involved in a blended family. With divorces skyrocketing, remarriage with children is very likely for many. Some are fortunate enough to co parent successfully like my ex spouse and I used to be able to do. Others, not so much. On Hubs’ side, he’s definitely in the “not so much” category and sometimes the “not at all” category so they parallel parent.

Today’s blog is the youth group edition.

We’ve always attended churches that have well structured youth programs. The schedule is online and available to all youth and their parents. They send weekly email updates to anyone who is signed up. They have social media pages where things are public to everyone.

Baby Mama has the kids attending a very small Pentecostal (AOG really) type church (more about that later since the kids have said they are tired of being pressured to courtesy fall up front) and there doesn’t seem to be any structure with the youth program outside of them advising Baby Mama of events. Hubs has primary legal custody of both of his son’s and other than holiday breaks, they’re only with their mom 4 nights per month. We have made contact with the youth leader, met her in person at the Easter egg hunt event, and she knows how to reach us. However, she continues to only update the boys’ non custodial parent who is a deacon at the church except for one time when she asked if we were going to let the kids go and pay for the kids to attend youth camp (at least the message sure seemed geared that way. On the financial side, Hubs’ has paid over $1500 for child support, Birthday, graduation and medical bills this month alone and we are tapped out! I had 3 jobs as a single mom to send my kids to camp. Why in the world won’t their mom help them financially? Also a separate blog).

We found out last week that our 15 year old son taught Sunday school class for the youth and the class was recorded and shared on social media with Baby Mama ONLY (and other church friends of course). They did not let us know or send us the video or contact us at all. From the outside looking in, it feels like they are intentionally excluding us from updates about our kids due to their personal friendship and relationship with Baby Mama.

When the 15 year old had some serious issues with Baby Mama, I asked for a meeting at the church with the 15 year old, our family and his moms family. I emailed them. No response. I called them and left a voice mail. No response.

I’ve seen churches engage in this type of behavior before and it’s not right. My husband is these kids’ FATHER and primary managing conservator yet the facility doesn’t work with our family about the kids at all. We don’t even know when their activities are or what they are doing. No email updates. Nothing.

Y’all, be VERY careful when selecting a church home. Any church that only works with 1 parent should be on your radar of concern.

Iced coffee cheers your way ☕️

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Truth Bomb … No Enabling Here

Hubs and I made a list of goals and house rules about 8 years ago. We decided that whether it was 1 of our 6 kids or one of our ex’s that we were going to put it all out there to reach an agreement of how to handle blended family life. No favoritism allowed (even if it involved a favorite) and we outlined consequences. We also outlined rewards. The age or maturity level for social media, cell phones, driving, etc. How we would handle discipline. How we would handle finances.

We have been steadfast in those goals, in our expectations and with the rewards and are finally really starting to see it at work. But it took 8 years to see it y’all.

A few years ago I was certain this blended family life would never work and some days I wanted out. Some days he wanted out. But we stuck to our original plan from the meeting we had 8 years ago. And I’m so glad we did.

You are NOT a bad parent for sticking to your goals, setting boundaries and enforcing consequences.

Stay strong and #slayallday

Don’t quit. Don’t give up.

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Jealousy & Hatred – Blended Family Edition #CreateinMe

I’m in a Stepmom Group on Facebook that has around 15,000 members in it and time and time again the same topic comes up. Bio Mom’s unbelievable jealously and hatred toward the new Stepmom. It can be relentless at times.

Today I was reading a weekly devotional by Amie Dockery of Covenant Church from her new bible study called Create in Me. She went on to tell the story about King Saul, the ruler of Israel, and a young shepherd boy named David who was a man after God’s own heart (despite his personal sin issues and mistakes including adultery and murder… It’s really such a redemptive story that everyone should read y’all. Anyway) She said,

After David slayed Goliath, King Saul became obsessively jealous of David [As Baby Mama did with me after I married her ex]. King Saul lost sight of who he was [the biological parent] and his insecurity [compared to the new wife] drove him mad. He resorted to strange games [lies, false testimony, perjury, theft] and tests of loyalty [head games with the kids like “you need to choose between me – your real Mom – and her”]. He stopped leading and gave into jealousy and comparison and hardened his heart against David. At one point, David snuck into Saul’s tent while he was sleeping and took Saul’s spear and water jug but did not harm Saul. Had David wanted to kill Saul he could have, but he didn’t. [We have had MANY opportunities to wound bio mom if we wanted to. We even have new info now but haven’t done anything with it yet while we pause and process everything].

In the handout homework, the question was: You and I can find ourselves in either role. Which one, David or Saul, do you most relate to in this story and why?

From my Stepmom position, I very strongly relate to David. I honor and respect Baby Mama’s POSITION with the children though I don’t respect her behavior just as David honored Saul. When the kids asked if they could call me Mom, I told them that might hurt their mother’s feelings and they would need to talk to her about that. After Hubster got custody of all of their kids, I felt empathy for her and warmly invited her into my home with all of my family, my children, and her children for Thanksgiving. When she called me crying pleading with me to convince Hubs to let her daughter move back in with her at the age of 12, I felt sorrow for her and worked on her behalf because she was so upset about being “all alone” and promised that although she couldn’t handle all 3 kids she could handle 1 (which was a fiasco but that’s a different blog). And then as soon as the ink dried on the new agreed court order, she turned on me. Hard. And she’s pursued me as Saul pursued David ever since (for about 6-7 years now). The attacks, lies, and division she sowed in our home was unbelievable. The false allegations made against my biological children were unreal. And unfounded. And the Judge did not believe them. One of my bio kids even wanted to pursue slander and perjury charges against her on his own (not only do her kids see her issues, her own stepkids and my bio kids do too).

In the Bible, the enemy is a liar, a deceiver and works to create division, & to kill, steal and destroy. And that is all we have seen in our blended family situation from Baby Mama and now from her new husband as well. (We aren’t alone though. She attacks me, my husband, my biological children, her new husband’s mother, her new husband’s children, her new husband’s ex wife, her own sister, and anyone else that she feels gets in the way of her King Saul position or that she feels threatened by. In fact, she repeatedly says “don’t threaten me” even when no one threatens her because she FEELS threatened – insecure – by others).

One thing I’ve learned about Blended Family Life is WE ARE NOT ALONE. This Saul and David battle often occurs today. Though it can “feel like hell” some days, it’s not. It’s a SEASON.

As for me and my family, we are going to keep pressing on despite the attacks and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day.

Iced tea cheers your way.

P.S.  I often encourage others in the Blended Family Groups to have all of the parents and stepparents meet together with a counselor or pastor present and I encourage the use of parenting apps such as TalkingParents.com or OurFamilyWizard. We have been asked how that has worked for us, but in truth we still have not done it yet. We have asked Bio Mom and her husband to meet with us with a third party present and we’ve asked her to sign up for the app so that communications can be verified, tracked and used in court but they have refused to do either of those things. For whatever reason, they don’t want accountability. When they are finally ready one day, we are here (accompanied by 6-7 kids and lots of documents).

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Be a Warrior

I firmly believe that it’s an honor to speak up for others who don’t have the strength or courage to speak up for themselves. Especially when they are minor children.

For the past couple of years, one of my stepsons has really struggled with his relationship with his bio mom. He’s asked on many occasions if he can stop going over for visitation. Now the other, younger stepson is asking the same.

They’ve lived with my spouse full time since birth except for a brief 1-2 year period immediately following Hubs’ divorce in 2008 which was really due to Hubs not having the finances to fund a trial. The kids are now 12 and 15.

Y’all. This is such a struggle for me. I firmly believe that kids should not be in control of their visitation schedules and that the adults in their lives should work together to encourage the kids to build strong relationships with both of their parents (and stepparents if applicable). On the flip side, I’ve personally watched these boys have unnecessary emotional meltdowns, stress, anxiety, hurt, anger, and fear over the continuous mind games and guilt their bio mom puts on them when they are with her. Spring Break this year was a doozy for them. Rather than a 48 hour visit, they were there 9 nights in a row. And they returned beyond upset because Bio Mom is now bullying the younger boy and making him feel guilty for not wanting to live with her full time. He says she “whines and cries” to him to make him feel guilty. Then the 15 year old chimes in that she’s done that MANY times but it doesn’t work on him so now she only talks to the younger child alone.

In 2011, Hubs initially had a TRO and bio mom didn’t have them at all. For the next few years she only had 1 weekend per month and no extended visits. For the past 2-3 years she’s had every other weekend and extended holiday visits and the kids are far more stressed out now than ever. They really don’t want to see her at all anymore. At least that’s what they tell us.

Yesterday we attended the Easter event at Bio Moms church because the 15 and 17 year olds really wanted to go. They love the youth leaders and have friends there and, even though it was our time, they asked us to take them. However, as soon as Bio Mom showed up the 15 year old crashed emotionally and firmly said that he wanted to leave immediately.

We have tried with all of our might to help them, encourage them, and support them to “be themselves” regardless of which parent they are with but … it’s just not going to work y’all.

I’m not sure what the next step should be but we MUST stand up for these kids. Maybe they just need a break for a short period. Maybe counseling. Maybe time. But something must change.

I firmly believe there is nothing more difficult than seeing people you love deal with pain. It’s hard to watch things you know you can’t fix. My little sister is going through that herself with her son right now. It can be a difficult journey.

My note to self is this reminder: Stand up for others because it’s the right thing to do. Be an advocate.

Be a warrior.

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Love the Kids More Than You Hate Your Ex

It’s no secret that in our personal life we have tons of “blended family drama”. Though I am a very confident and vocal woman, I do actually work very hard to avoid conflict if at all possible. Unfortunately, conflict avoidance has become a habit that has created problems in the lives of our children.

For example, my ex was released from prison a couple of years ago and I have intentionally avoided him in order to avoid conflict (I had a restraining order on him for 6 years so we have not had contact in a very long time). But, avoiding him also meant avoiding my kids at times. When my son graduated, I sat apart from the rest of my son’s family and quickly left when it was over so that he could go mix and mingle with his dad and grandparents. Earlier this month my son told me he was planning to move into a new apartment and I told him I would take the day off to help. He then told me that his Dad was going to be there so I quickly told him I would just stay home and would stop by the next day.

Hubster’s kids attend a youth group at their moms church. They stay the night with the leaders. They participate in Sunday morning performances. His daughter is part of the choir. They’ve asked us several times to attend or to take them and we’ve always declined. Why? We want to avoid conflict. Last week the 17 year old asked us to take her to an Easter event with youth group this weekend since she will be with us on Easter and our first reaction was no. Just in case Hubs’ ex was there which could create conflict or uncomfortableness among all parties.

Honestly, we are done living by FEAR and missing out on our kids’ events simply because the ex spouse could be present. No more. That ends NOW.

I’ve heard it said “love your kids more than you hate your ex” and I think that’s a great reminder to hold onto.

Who knows? Maybe the more we are all present at the same place the more the kids will be used to it so that future graduations, celebrations, weddings, etc. won’t have to be so awkward and uncomfortable for the kids. It’s been a long time coming but better late than never.

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Is there a Double Standard? #blendedfamily #stepparent

In one of the blended family groups I am in, a woman made the comment yesterday that as a stepmother she cannot do enough whereas the kids’ stepfather can do no wrong. That there is a huge double standard in blended family society based on whether you’re male or female.

Can I get an Amen?

As a stepmother, the kids biological mother absolutely, positively trashes me and makes it very clear that she does not think that stepparents should have any rights or rewards (though she doesn’t mind me handling the responsibilities LOL). Yet on Father’s Day, she posted a love message on social media to her husband, the kids’ stepfather, about how it takes a real man to STEP UP and be a STEP PARENT and she posted all of these photos of the kids with their stepdad.

I never really thought about it because, honestly, it doesn’t influence or change my day to day life in any way. But, it is good food for thought. As bio parents, can we accept our ex’s new spouse in the same manner we would want our new spouse accepted? Can we follow the Golden Rule in treating others the way we want to be treated?

Let’s at least give it a try 🙂

 

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Support Groups – Do They Help or Hurt

I recently joined a few stepmom groups on social media and LOVE IT!!! In my opinion, it’s helped (1) make me feel like we are not alone in this, and (2) it’s given me some great perspective. Even in the best, healthiest traditional families, marriage and child rearing is tough and it definitely feels 10 times tougher in the blended family arena. That said, these support groups drive other people batty because there are some people who always complain, or want pity and sympathy for really small things, the occasional drama queen, etc. But isn’t that real life y’all. Whether its at work, church, the gym, or social media there will always be some people who want all of the attention. I just IGNORE them! Move forward. Disregard the negative and hold onto the positive. We can do this!

Coffee cheers to you all 🙂

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