Entries tagged with “co-parenting”.

What would you do?  This is a new series I’m launching where I’ll be sharing some real stepmom dilemmas from real stepmoms and asking you to share your insight and encouragement with them.

I get emails frequently from stepmoms sharing a difficult situation and asking for my advice. As stepmoms, we all know that one of the greatest blessings of finding a stepmom community is not feeling alone in what we are going through. So I’ve decided to share stepmom struggles (with the stepmom’s permission of course) and am asking all of you to leave comments and words of encouragement, support and positive advice.


To start this series off, I’m starting with a question I have. Yes, I’m turning the tables and asking a question from my “mom” perspective to all my stepmom friends. Here goes:

Late last week, my ex sent me an email asking me if he could have our two eleven year old sons for a big “road” trip over Memorial Day weekend. Knowing my ex, in the seven years we’ve been divorced and the nine years we were married, he doesn’t take road trips. We had agreed earlier in the year to split the kids that weekend and cafesmomknowing I have no business in his schedule or control over how he spends his time with the kids, I said yes. But I had a feeling…..

To give you some background, my ex and I get along well from a co-parenting perspective. He moved in down the street and we are flexible with the kids’ schedules. While I miss my kids like crazy when they aren’t with me, I know they NEED to spend time with their dad. I don’t agree with some of his choices but I do believe that he loves the kids and enjoys spending time with them. And above all else, I respect that he is their dad. I chose to have kids with him and I choose to nurture his relationship with the kids. As their mom, I believe it is my responsibility to ensure they spend time with their dad and his family.

The one thing I wish I could get through to him is that he should communicate directly with me via email and not through the kids. Having said that the kids came back this weekend and the boys said “Dad is taking us on a nine hour road trip with Angela and her son. We’ve never met her before but her son is our age and he loves basketball and video games. Oh, and dad rented an RV that we will sleep in.”

My one son was super excited and the other had guarded enthusiasm as he was hoping for a “boys” weekend. They were both shocked their dad rented an RV as we all know he doesn’t like camping. I figured there were some holes in the story and as the details have unfolded it turns out that his dad’s friend rented an SUV not RV for the trip.

Back to the story at hand… I’m thankful there is someone going with my ex. Two adults are better than one when it comes to wrangling kids. And I’m thankful the boys will have a female present. Women just bring a different dimension of care.

But I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous. The boys have never met her or her son (and today I found out the son is bringing a friend… everyday brings new tidbits). He is taking them to a major amusement park/waterpark which he’s never done and with someone that the kids have never met. I also know that my kids (generally my youngest) get attached to the women their dad introduces them to and rightfully so. My kids are starting to get guarded with new friends because of the pattern on having them in their life for awhile and then they are gone.

So here’s my question(s):

  • I typically pack snacks/games/books/etc….. for the kids when they drive with their dad to grandma’s or go on short drives and I do this on all of our camping trips. I want to do the same as I usually do and don’t want the two other boys to feel left out so I’d like to add extra snacks for her son and his friend but I don’t want to offend their dad’s friend. What are your thoughts?
  • I asked my ex if I could meet her before they go and he said that’s not going to happen because of time constraints. I told him that I really wanted to meet her in front of the boys and even give her a hug so the boys could see that I was truly happy about the trip. I conveyed that I think this is especially important for our one son who is a “runner” when he gets angry and I fear he could “run” at the amusement park if he gets upset. He wanted a boys only weekend with dad.
  • One of the reasons I’d like to meet her is because I feel it will give me a sense of comfort. I know that may be selfish. I want this woman to know my kids. I want her to know that my one son is heat senstive…. he needs to drink water constantly when out in the sun or he can get sick. I want her to know the signs to look for. I want her to know that he needs to wear a hat when he is outside and that one needs to be kept in the car in case he forgets it in the hotel (which he typically does).  I want her to know that my other son will over indulge in junk food if given the chance but will be sick, sick, sick, if he does and that will prevent people from leaving the hotel. I want to ask her to apply and reapply sunscreen to the boys (I’ve asked their dad and he thinks sunscreen is a waste. My kids can come home toasty). I want her to know that if my son with eczema swims in the hotel pool and/or at the water park, he needs to take a shower shortly thereafter and apply his eczema cream or he will be in extreme pain. Etc…

I want her to know my sons so she can care for them. 

You may be thinking that is their dad’s job. And you would be right. However, in the past even when he’s known this he doesn’t do these things. He is not a details guy. I’m not angry at him over this. It’s a fact I know about him and I work with it.

As I’m writing this I feel like it comes across as I’m trying to control the situation and in some regards maybe I am. I recognize that I have no control over my boys for the next four days and as their mom it isn’t easy. I sincerely want them all to have a great time and I want my boys well cared for.

I also want this woman to like me. And I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable when I call the kids via their dad’s phone this weekend. The kids have told me that dad always picks up the phone when you call if he doesn’t have a friend over but if your number pops up and he has a friend over he won’t pick up and says stuff like “Oh, it’s your mother again.” That not only puts the kids in an awkward position who want to pick up and talk I believe it sends a message to the friend that I’m a “bother.” I call my ex’s number for two reasons: to talk to the kids and to communicate anything regarding the kids.

So what would you have the mom of your stepkids do in this situation? Think back to when you first met your stepkids…. if you were going on a big trip, how would you feel about the mom wanting to meet you and give you some insight on the kids? Would it be insulting, encouraging, etc….?  What advice would you give a mom who wants her ex’s girlfriend to be well prepared to help care for her kids?

Would love your feedback.  Thanks.

Write to me at heather@cafesmom.comto submit a stepmom dilemma to share.

Day 17:   30 Days of Life in the StepMom Trenches

Thanksgiving is one week away. This year my four kids will celebrate with their dad. I put up a brave front for the kids but inside my heart sheds some tears. I will miss them terribly. I didn’t marry their dad thinking we would have kids, divorce and co-parent! 

But that is where we are now. Sure, I could focus on the fact that the divorce wasn’t my doing or that I shouldn’t have to share my kids because of that but that would be putting the focus on me and not my kids and that is not where my focus is.  Furthermore, I don’t think that way and I’ve forgiven and that is a powerful tool in co-parenting. The reality is that I am happy and content with my life. I was able to forgive and move ahead with my life and because of that I found a love I never knew could exist and am now happily remarried.

I choose to focus on the blessings and joy my kids will have while they are with their dad and his family this Thanksgiving. That doesn’t mean I won’t be a little sad on Thanksgiving. I will. That doesn’t mean that I won’t miss them. I will. The four empty seats at the table will be a visible reminder that they aren’t with us.

But I am very happy for my kids that they have two parents who work together for their benefit and who recognize that the kids don’t make adult decisions and they shouldn’t have to “pay” for the decisions made by the adults in their life. Yes, my ex and I are no longer together as a couple but we are a co-parenting team who puts the kids needs first.

That is something to be truly thankful for!

Lessons from the StepMom Trenches: It’s not easy not having the kids on Thanksgiving. If you don’t have your kids and/or your stepkids mourn the fact that you wont’ be together but focus on the fact that they are receiving the blessing of their other parent’s family. And remember that Thanksgiving is a date on the calendar. You can have a Thanksgiving dinner any day of the year.

Challenge: As hard as it can be at times, focus your thoughts on the kids and the joys they are experiencing during the time spent with their other parent.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Day 6: LIfe in the StepMom Trenches

Life happens! Yes, that statement is true. Translate it through a stepfamily and co-parenting situation and you could say Life Vomits! And that it did shortly after I wrote my post yesterday. Seems like when it rains, it pours and in a stepfamily the storms can be more intense and more complicated because so many more people are involved.

I had just gotten back from the swim meet and was waiting on my ex-husband to drop off the kids. He had taken the kids to Wendy’s after our daughter finished swimming her last race and he was bringing them over as he was heading out of town afterwards.

Anyway, he brought the kids over and my son looked awful. It had been about 24 hours since I’d seen him. My ex told me that our son was complaining of an upset stomach and that he had been outside playing all day and he feared he was really worn out. It was then that I found out that my son went to a friend’s house after his basketball practice and not to the swim meet with my ex and I trust my ex to make those decisions. My ex told me he would call in a little while to check on our son. That was the info that I got.

My son looked and sounded terrible and he asked if I would help set up a bath for him. I walked upstairs and drew a bath. He told me his neck was sore and his stomach hurt. Next thing I know he is throwing up. A lot. Not to get gross but it was all green. I asked him what he ate today. He said he had pancakes for breakfast at dads house and then an airhead at his friends. That was it. Now the mom (self-induced) guilt is starting to run through my mind and the fact that he hasn’t been in my care the last 24 hours is weighing on me, “If only he had been with me, I would know what is going on,” ran through my mind.

I just had this bad feeling and I called my ex to tell him that our son had thrown up and see if I could garner more info from him. When you are co-parenting, it can be so hard to make a call on what to do when you don’t know what your kid has eaten, how much they have slept, how they were cared for since they were out of your care, etc….

A reality of co-parenting is that you often don’t have the “whole picture” when trying to figure out how sick your child is and what they have that is making them sick. I totally understand that and know that there is no blame to be dealt anywhere. I’m just trying to figure out what to do.

My ex seemed very concerned. We talked and he told me that our son was hit in the head by a football last weekend. This was the first I had heard of it. He said he had been paying attention to him when he saw him and he seemed more fatigued this week. The head injury put a whole new spin on my thoughts and while I also thought my son was a little more tired this past week, I had been looking at it through the lens of multiple basketball practices not an injury to the back of the head.

Then my ex tells me that I should take him in to urgent care. I’m weighing what to do. I know that I am the only parent in town as he is driving out of town and my husband is on an airplane. I know that my oldest is supposed to swim tomorrow and I’m supposed to time and I’m thinking that my ex (if he is so concerned should turn his car around and come back and help out) but I don’t tell him what I think he should do. The realistic option to me is that he watch the kids tomorrow while I time my daughter’s meet tomorrow and I’ll take my stepdaughters with me and they can hang out with the other kids and moms there that I know. I’m making this assumption thinking that my son is worn out and not seriously in need of urgent care. I’m going off the info that I had.

Holding my tongue got a little tougher when I felt like he was lecturing me. Telling me to cancel on swimming and to drag all the five kids to the ER. And I’m still trying to figure out whether he should go to the ER or not. Reality is that I was once married to my ex and so I know him. I know that when he gets stressed he projects it on to others and if I’m nearby, I’m usually the target. I’m sure he is feeling stressed. He’s on his way to visit his girlfriend while his son is sick and he’s the one who knows best why. I’m sure he was torn. I reassured him that I always put the welfare of our kids first and would cancel timing tomorrow and at the very least be available to care for him 24/7 while still weighing whether to take him to the ER. My ex says to me that he never doubts that I’m a great mom. He knows my heart is for all my kids.

If I had superglue in my mouth yesterday, it was gorilla glue today. I so badly wanted to say “if you are going to lecture me on what to do then turn the car around and come back. You can either watch the kids, and I can take him to the ER or you can take him in!” But I didn’t. I know that telling my ex what I think he should do will get me no where plus I’m not his wife so I don’t have that role anymore. Where the line can get grey is the fact that he is the father of my children so when decisions impacting the kids are involved then I feel like we really do need to work together. Talking to him as the mother of his kids is different from talking to him as his ex-wife.

Ten minutes pass and he calls and says “are you taking him to the ER?” I told him I hadn’t decided. He didn’t have a fever and I thought I would watch him through the night and maybe take him tomorrow. I told him I had cancelled timing for tomorrow as I knew at the least I needed to be home with him.

That’s when he said “I’m turning around and I’ll come watch the kids and you can take him in. I really think he needs to go in. I talked with my father and he told me to get him in now!” That’s when my heart sank. I knew then that the injury he had at his dad’s last week was more serious than I thought. For his dad to turn around and head back meant it was serious. I thanked him and I told him to thank his girlfriend. I knew this was impacting their scheduled time together and he knows that I never interfere with his personal time. He knows that if my husband was in town, I would be keeping him up to date but I would not be asking him to help out.

And as in every situation, there is always two sides to every story. I’m thinking my ex should come back and help and he’s probably thinking I should handle everything if I really cared. I learned a long time ago not to worry about what others think or how they view me. If someone wants to think something about you, they are going to think it whether you try to help them see things your way or not.

He told me that he would take the kids as he knows I always want to be the one to take the kids in for any medical issue. But I also knew the reality of this situation. First, my ex probably had more information on this situation moreover I had my two stepdaughters. So my ex picked up our son. I knew it would be a long night at the ER on a Saturday night. I told him I wouldn’t hound him and asked him to keep me updated. Three hours passed and I had to check in with him as I hadn’t received any information and I was going a bit nutty with worry. I texted him and I waited. Then I got a text that our son was getting a cat scan. I called.  His dad said he was doing better and he would call when they were out.

An hour later, he called and they were on their way home. Thankful to God. He said the scan was clear and gave me the discharge info. We talked for a little while and I thanked him again for turning around and helping me out. He told me that he talked with his parents and they told him that he better get him in ASAP. It took his parents to turn him around but I don’t’ care what it took. I told him that when he called to say he was turning around that I knew it was serious. He told me he didn’t care who didn’t understand but he knew he didn’t want to be two hours away and get a call from me that our son was very ill or in the hospital. I’m thankful for his commitment to the kids.

I had kept my mouth shut when he was telling me what I should do. Not speaking up for myself is not a sign of weakness for me but rather a sign of wisdom. When he figures things out himself it is powerful. When I tell him what I think he should do, it’s worthless. Furthermore, he is not my husband and I can’t and don’t want to tell him what to do. If my husband would have been home, I wouldn’t have wanted him to come back to help. Actually, my husband called and when I told him that my son was in the ER he offered to get on the next flight back. I thanked him for the offer and said that would be okay.

Now, I have found a ride for my daughter to her swim meet. Cancelled my job at timing and I will be home with the five tomorrow. My son is okay and that is what matters. And my ex-husband and I were able to work through another situation involving our kids in a mostly positive way. I am thankful that we can come together for the sake of our children. My son told me when he left that he knows we both love him and he thanked us both for taking care of him.

Lesson from the stepmom trenches: another post more from the co-parenting trenches. From the stepparent’s point of view, often we have to reorganize our time to accommodate our stepkids. I choose not to go to the ER so I could care for the other kids and keeping my stepdaughters in mind. I could allow myself to get bitter that having them home with me prohibits me from doing all I want to do but that would be a poor choice. I really wanted to be at the ER with my son but I made a choice to be a mom and a stepmom and I had to put all the kids needs first. I knew my ex was capable of taking our son in and I had to trust him. I also know how upset my stepdaughters get in any type of hospital, etc…. and I didn’t want to put them in a situation where they would be emotionally uncomfortable. When I made a choice to get remarried, I made a choice to consider the needs of my stepdaughters just as I consider the needs of my children.

Main lesson is to know that what you might do in a “traditional” family is going to be different from what you can do in your more complicated family. Eight years ago, I would be the one at the ER with my son (and I was with the other three in tow in years past) because I knew everything that the days held for my kids. Reality says that because we co-parent we only know what happens with our children and stepchildren when they are not with us by what they tell us and/or what their other parent tells us. Our knowledge is subject to what is told to us. We must parent with that knowledge and not feel guilty about what we don’t know.

Challenge: next time your ex spouse or your husband’s ex-wife says things to you that make you want to climb the wall, try holding your tongue and waiting to see the situation out. Reflect on how things turned out when you held your tongue compared to what might have happened if you said something.

I apologize for the length of this post. I included all the details and decisions because I believe it illustrates how complicated making decisions and doing things can be when you live in a stepfamily and are managing the emotional and physical wellness of so many.

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