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.

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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.

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