Entries tagged with “coparenting”.


It’s November. A time for giving thanks. A time to reflect on the blessings in our lives. This month I want to pay it forward to all of my readers. I will be sharing some wonderful Smoms I have met on my journey and their stories. Personally, I’ll be focusing on the blessings of being a Smom and of having an attitude of gratitude. Putting our focus on the positives in our lives and the things we can change is essential.

So without further ado, please welcome a person I think of when I count my blessings, Deesha Philyaw, and her witty take on extending a special Thanksgiving invitation. Enjoy!

If You Invite His Ex To Thanksgiving Dinner…

If you invite his ex-wife to Thanksgiving dinner,                                                                                                   she’s going to ask you if you’ve lost your mind.

When you reassure her that you haven’t lost your mind,                                                                                       she’ll want to know if you’re planning to give her a pox-infected blanket.

When you promise her that there will be no blankets, just turkey,                                                                     she’ll tell you she’ll think about it.

Then she’ll call all her girlfriends                                                                                                                               to get them to weigh in on your invitation.

Her girlfriends will remind her of the stuff you wrote about her on your smom blog,                               and she’ll wonder why she’s even considering your invitation.

But one girlfriend will have a different take on the situation;                                                                               She’ll say, “Maybe this is her way of offering you an olive branch.                                                                   Besides…you’ve blogged some snarky stuff about her too.”

All her girlfriends will have strong opinions.

So she’ll chew on it for a while                                                                                                                                     and realize that there’s no single “right” response.

She’ll imagine what it would be like for the children                                                                                             to have their parents and step-parents seated around the table together.

When she’s done imagining,                                                                                                                                         she’ll give you a call.

When she hangs up the phone,                                                                                                                                     you’ll either be relieved, nervous, frustrated, excited, angry or some                                                                 combination of these.                                                                                                                                                       You’ll need to take deep breaths.

You’ll sit down at your computer,                                                                                                                                 and log in.

And chances are,                                                                                                                                                               if you go to her blog,

You’ll find a post that reads, “If His New Wife Invites You to Thanksgiving Dinner…..”

~

Stepmoms, would you (or have you) ever extended such an invitation?

Have you ever received such an invitation? What would you do if you did?

~

Deesha Philyaw is a freelance writer; an adjunct writing professor; a wife; a stepmom with two bonus daughters; and the mom of two daughters who have a stepmom.  While the above piece, inspired by If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff, is a work of fiction, Deesha does spend Christmas with her children, their father, and their stepmom.  She is the co-founder (along with her ex-husband) of CoParenting101.org; the co-host of the “Co-Parenting Matters” online talk show; and the co-parenting columnist for The Faster Times.



Had to borrow that famous one liner. Sorry couldn’t help myself. Also had to write a post in response to the sassysinglemama’s piece. Her comments caused quite a stir and prompted many stepmoms to weigh in. Many diverse opinions were shared. Love the honesty and variety of our community. Makes us so interesting….

One lesson that jumped out while reading her guest blog and all the comments is this:

there is no one way to be a stepmom and there is no one way to define a mom and stepmom relationship.

What works for the sassysinglemamma doesn’t work for others. And that is OK! We can determine that what might work for her might not work for us. However, judging another person or their motivation isn’t our place. We are all in this together and we need to encourage and support one another but we don’t have to agree. The latter is actually impossible!

The important thing is having a relationship with your stepkids and their mom that works for you and your family.

I know that many smoms took issue with #12 which spoke to the stepmom’s husband helping his ex-wife.  This one is a tricky one. One thing this magnifies is that we, as stepmoms, are protective of our husbands and rightfully so. We are his wife. We love him and his first priority is with us.  That is all so true.

I try to never use the ex-wife label. Personally, I prefer to refer to her as my stepchild’s mom or by her first name. Every time we say ex-wife, we are verbally connecting our husband with this woman. They are no longer a couple. Period. However, they are the mother of our husband’s children and sometimes on occasion it may make sense for him to help his kids out (which on the surface may appear that he is helping their mom out).

Let me share a personal situation that I had in this regard.  One night I was driving home with all six kids in tow at 8:30pm and my husband was out of town on business. I was at an intersection and my van just died. We happened to be on a corner with businesses and a nice guy helped me push my car into the parking lot.  It was getting late and all my kids were young and tired. I called my husband and told him what happened. He actually suggested calling my ex to see if he would come and jump my van so I could drive the short distance home. He said it would take to long for AAA to come and he didn’t want me and the kids sitting there alone. He even said, “his kids are in the van. I hope he will come and help you out.”

In my situation, my ex did come and help. But he was helping out for the kids, not for me and I had discussed it first with my  husband. We’ve had other things come up where my ex has helped out for the kids sake but I always ask my husband first out of respect for him and for our marriage.

I think if our husband consults with us first before doing something that might be helping out his kids’ mom is vital and also gives us more power and say in the situation. And let’s face it as stepmoms, we often feel that we yield little control over things. At least that’s how I feel a lot of the time.

What is important to remember is that our stepkids’ mom and our husband will always have their children as common ground. There is no denying it. Nor should there be any denying it.

But that commonality or connection, if you will, is a working relationship not a romantic one. A positive working relationship between two parents whether they are married, divorced, or never married benefits the kids.  When I work with my kids’ dad it is not because I want to or because I enjoy it but rather because it’s important and vital for our kids to see us get along.

Kids never ask for divorce yet they bear the brunt of the impact of divorce. They shouldn’t have to carry the burden of two parents who don’t work together.

Whatever type of relationship you have with your stepkids’ mom, I hope it is one that brings you peace and not pain. I hope that it is one that is beneficial for your family and all your kids.

In the end, I will always support open, healthy and honest dialogue. It is my hope that by feeling comfortable to share our true feelings as stepmoms, we can connect with one another and feel the support of our wonderful stepmom community. We each come from different places, different life experiences, different backgrounds yet we have one common thread – to love our husbands and nurture and care for his children. Love that we are all so diverse yet all so committed to our husbands and our families. Let’s disagree on issues but not on the character of someone. I never want someone afraid to share their true heart out of fear of being judged.

We are all compassionate women and moms/smoms and I am so proud to be a part of this community.

Now, what say you???? I really want to know what’s on your mind:)

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful woman who is a real inspiration to many. Jessica is the Sassy Single Mamma and she has begun a blog of her own. I so love the way she has embraced her children’s soon to be stepmom and asked her is she would like to write a guest post. I was thrilled when she agreed.

So here is Jessica’s words of wisdom to stepmoms. Please note, her words are from experience as she used to be a stepmom herself. Enjoy!

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A stepmother is a very unique breed of woman! She is a woman who has courage and honer running through her huge heart! A heart large enough to let in children she never got to bond with as a baby! She loves her husband’s children but knows she could never say (s)he’s mine.  Because of her love, being a stepmother is a never ending battle in her mind.

Never knowing where you truly fit in or what your exact rule is to the stepchild can cause friction in the household! I know so well because I was once a Smom to a little girl. I loved her as my own. When she hurt I hurt, when she was happy my day was brighter. It was hard for me sometimes to step back and remember I’m her stepmom and a mother to her soon to be brother.

Now my rule has changed to a mom of two boys who are about to be blessed with a smom of their own. Honestly, I’m not worried! My children’s father would not bring a woman around unless she is a good person. I have also met her on several family dinner nights!

Yes that’s right I’m a very unusual woman who wants nothing but the best for my kids father and part of that is getting to know his new love.

I wouldn’t say I’m the controlling type but family means the world to me, and making sure my boys have stable loving homes is priority. So I plan to have a “normal” friendship with this new woman. And that includes the three of us sitting down and coming up with rules that will please both households. We must also go over strict guidelines on what punishments will go along with the rules.

I feel my children will see her with more respect if she is not stumbling around. I want this to be a smooth transition for everyone. I would hate to see her punish the boys for something they are usually allowed to do. Even worst is the idea of hearing “but she let’s us do it!” along with these new sets of rules I sat her down the other day to talk about what our ideas on Smom means.

So here is my list of what  a Smom should do/be:

1) Be a role model. Show the children how a woman acts and takes care of the household. My kids had to see a relationship fail once, so make sure they see love and respect.

2) I am their mother. Don’t ever try and take my place! Be there for them but know your role and never introduce them as YOUR kids!

3) Keep communication open. As hard as it might be sometimes make sure you talk with the mother about her kids (good and bad)

4) Don’t talk bad. Yes there are bad mothers out there! But its not your business. Don’t make a child feel they have to choose between the two families! Children are innocent and have the right to love someone even with faults

5) Be apart of their lives. Weather its full, primary, or partial custody its your job to be there! It will show the child and mother you want to be a great influence. Pluses you got something to talk to the child about!

6) Love them for them. Don’t try and change them. Don’t try and turn them into what YOU believe they should be.

7) Don’t compare them to your child. Every kid is different! They learn, play, and socialize in a way that’s comfortable for them.

8) Be a mediator. They will fight with their family and friends. Its your job to listen not to put fuel on the fire. Tell the father or mother what the child is telling you what’s going on.

9) Learn from them. Children have a remarkable way of showing us our flaws. Don’t take it as an insult or reason to run away.

10) Be willing to negotiate rules. Yes each house will have different rules but really look at how important it really was before you punish the other house with keeping up with a grounding or taking away of a favorite toy! I bet the mother will see your flexibility and will become more supportive and flexible with you as well.

11) Selfless! You must be able to share your husband with his kids. Yes there are days you will come home and want to talk to your husband but wait till the kids go to bed! (That’s if he doesn’t get them all the time) If he has a annual camping trip with the kids before school starts up, don’t invite yourself or complain a week is to long.

12) You are his wife, but I am the mother of his children. I’m not saying I’m better then you! I’m saying he has a responsibility to take care of his kids, and part of that is making sure his kids mother is okay! So when he says I got to drop my car off at___ because hers broke down and needs to get to work… Don’t complain! Realize its for the good of the kids.

I do know every family is different, and your situation may not allow some of my list. But give it a try! You never know how things may change for the better.

……..

Sassy Single Mama is a 23 year old mother of 2. She just began her blogging adventures about dating as a mother and raising her boys one day at a time!   You can read more about her at her blog:

www.sassysinglemama.blogspot.com

Her motto is “Learn from yesterday, Live for today, Hope for tomorrow!” ~MUAH~

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So what do you think? Please share your comments here!

Now that’s a conversation starter. Yeah, I know. This is a blog not a book. Discipline in general has been the topic of thousands of parenting books. Throw in the divorce factor then add stepfamily dynamics and you’ve got enough stuff to write a book series on the topic of discipline. But today, I bring you a question that is burning in the heart of one mother.

I recently was in contact with a great single mom whose kids are about to get a stepmom. This mom really wants to work with her ex and his fiancé to put the kids first. She is meeting soon with both of them to “draw up plans” on how to handle discipline across both homes.

 Her main question is “what role should a stepmom play in disciplining my kids?”

I asked her if I could throw it out to get comments from the great stepmoms who read my blog and she is happy to get your feedback. What a great person. She truly wants to work with the other home and keep things consistent. If I understand the situation correctly, the kids will be going between the two homes on a regular basis.

Is it possible to keep things consistent between the two homes? What can she expect? As stepmoms, what do you want her to know about how you feel your role is in discipline? What’s your current role? What do you wish it to be?

For me personally, I have to enforce consequences with my stepdaughters as I am a custodial stepmom and I am home with them more than their father is at home. Thankfully, my husband and I recognized that fact before we even got married and made sure we set rules and expectations ahead of time.

Our rules are clear and our consequences are clear so when one of our kids breaks a rule, we don’t even have to tell them the consequence they know it. Setting clear rules/consequences takes pressure off of me to be the heavy. We just need to say “you choose to have this consequence by your choice to do ____________. You know the rules of the house and you know the consequence for breaking them.”

I believe that every stepfamily is unique and that each couple has to agree on how they want discipline handled in their home. This can bring about so much stress for a stepmom. She may often feel disrespected when her stepkids purposely disobey what she says and feels she has no authority to correct the behavior. 

The father is such an integral part of making this work. I believe that is why it’s so important for the couple to set up house rules and consequences for all the kids in the home. This takes pressure off the stepmom and also doesn’t make her the “bad guy” with the kids.

In my humble opinion, if the father is home, he should handle the discipline. But if the stepmom is the only parent home, she should have the authority to enforce already established consequences.

There are many situations where the dad travels for work and/or the stepmom is custodial. Stepmoms need the authority from their husband’s to enforce set house rules and consequences.

I know many people cringe at the idea of family meetings but they are so vital in creating an environment where the kids see both dad and stepmom as a team. They can be used for the dad to share the house rules and consequences with the kids (with the stepmom present).  It’s important for the dad to say that these are rules we came up with together and together we will enforce them. You will have to respect me and your stepmom’s authority.

And wow! What a great opportunity for this mom. Would it be possible to have a family meeting with she, her ex and the stepmom present to say these are the rules we ALL set up and these are how they will be enforced. How cool would that be for all the kids to see all the parents are on the same page?

This can be such a hot topic. I reached out to my twitter community to see if they wanted to share any words of wisdom as I was writing. These are some of the great comments I received:

  • We have a “our home, our rules” situation because we highly disagree with BMs parenting. Also can’t have separate rules for ours than SS.
  • At least be consistent in your home even if the rules are different between homes.
  • Smooth here…they all seem to know the rules upon arrival & knock on wood we have yet to hear but mommy lets me or daddy lets me. (Yeah, for you!!!)
  • Had more trouble blending “our” rules… no more climbing walls, jumpin on furniture, coloring everything, or ham sandwiches for dinner.

One stepmom wrote “2 add he’s taught me many things as well, like patience and lowering my voice-brought just as much to the table, we r a good team.”

I heard from quite a few stepmoms who say that their husband has a volatile relationship with their ex-wife and rules don’t really apply because the mom seems to do the opposite of what the dad says and/or rewards the kids when they are with her. 

Whether we are discussing discipline or co-parenting in general, the parent’s unwillingness or shear inability to separate their role as parent from the conflict they experienced in their previous marriage and through divorce make it extremely difficult for them to make decisions with the kids’ best interest at heart.

So let’s hear it. What is your advice for this mom as she prepares to meet with her ex and his fiancé to put a plan in place? Let’s help her out! Thanks!!!

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