Thursday, November 29, 2012

5 Things To Think About Before You Marry A Parent

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When I read posts on social media by angry, bitter, sad, depressed, frustrated, negative stepmoms and stepdads I feel so sad for them. I feel sad for their spouses and their stepkids too. I wonder why these women and men chose to marry someone with kids in the first place or how much they evaluated what this experience would be like for them before they jumped in.

Becoming a stepmom or stepdad may be one of the situations you need to think most deeply and honestly about in life. Sure it's great to fall in love with a guy or gal, but you really have to look at the family dynamic that already exists, because, Sister (Brother), you are going to get dropped right in the middle of it and you are going to sink or swim. There are no two ways about it. No matter how great your guy (gal) seems, there are going to be a lot of other people and situations involved in your relationship, your household and creating pressure from outside as well.

When you are dating someone with kids, here are a few honest issues and questions you need to consider BEFORE you decide you are head over heels in love with him or her.

1) Listen to what he/she says about his/her previous relationship. Talk a lot about his/her hopes for a future relationship and how they have changed to make that more possible. Ask them what lessons they have learned and what changes they have made. Ask them why their previous relationship failed.

This speaks volumes about where you are potentially headed. Was it all the other's fault? Did the relationship die a slow miserable death over a long period of time due to mutual neglect? Was there addiction, adultery, abandonment or abuse? If you have any concerns about what you hear, consider your options carefully.

2) Date for a long time. This is a situation where dynamics will reveal themselves over a longer period of time. Take the time. Rushing may be the fastest way to the shortest marriage and fastest divorce you've ever seen.  Plus taking time allows everyone to try on this new relationship and become adjusted to the idea. Once the infatuation passes in the first few months you must see where you stand with realistic eyes. If you are in a rush to get married, this is probably not a good situation for you to be in.

3) Be honest about how much you like or don't like his/her kids and how they feel about you. No matter how much you and your significant other love each other, if it's bad with the kids, your marriage probably won't survive. Be realistic about who you are, what you can do, how interested you are in trying and how those kids are going to deal with you.

Be honest. Don't lie to yourself and tell yourself it's going to be okay if it's not. If it's bad when you're dating it will only get worse once you get married and move in together. Having said all that, you'd be surprised how much success you can have if you are nice, positive, kind and show genuine interest in them. If you don't feel you can be an influence for good and happy kindness in this family, you should walk away no matter how much you love boyfriend/girlfriend.

4) Ask yourself how mature you are about dealing with the ex-spouse and how well you manage jealousy. This will be one of the most aggravating relationships you will ever have in your life, even if it's pretty good. It will require a huge amount of maturity to manage well - and it will still be hard.

How willing are you to be polite anyway? Can you bite your tongue and put your spouse and the children's well-being first? Are you someone who will be inclined to gripe to your partner about their ex on a constant basis? Will you be able to let it go and live your life? Can you handle this difficult aspect of the relationship? A partner will not be excited about a nagging spouse for long and things will only go downhill from there - you will be the one left out in the cold and maybe even start making that ex not seem so bad after all.

5) Are you willing to forego some of the romance and one-on-one time with your significant other for the sake of the kids? Dating a parent is much different than meeting someone when you are both single and have no children. I'm not saying there won't be magic, romance, date nights and all that good stuff. But I am saying that you will have to swallow the pill that there will not be as much of it as there would be with someone with no children. Anticipate more family movie nights, family dates to museums, amusement parks and soccer games. Be ready to forego some of your expectations for a cloud of blissfulness surrounding just the two of you all the time.

***A warning I must add here, if you are dating someone who is willing to give the kids the heave ho to focus solely on romancing you, consider what he/she will do once you've been around for a while and he/she sees a shiny new object over your shoulder. If the person you are dating is not a responsible parent, they will not be a responsible partner either.

I'd love your feedback on these suggestions if you are already a stepmom or stepdad. Is there something you wished you'd done differently or something you did that made all the difference to your success? If you are dating someone with kids now, I'd love to hear what you think about these ideas and how they got you thinking. I hope through a community conversation we can all help each other along to more peace, love and happiness. Sending you my best wishes for your happiness!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Traditions And Rotating Custody

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One of the hardest parts about being a blended family is having to split holidays with the kids. A Thanksgiving or a Christmas but never both. That also means no annual traditions that you all participate in. You most likely never will have the kids at the same time every year for annual community events. It's impossible to do an Advent Calendar or Christmas countdown chain because the kids aren't in your home every day.

In spite of all those frustrations I believe that the best thing I can do for my family it to create presence and special moments in the holidays each year. We may not be able to do the same thing every year but we can do special things every year. And by spending time with each other we forge a bond and build memories together that I hope will last a lifetime.

I decorate some on my own and then leave some decorating for our little one for when she is here. I know she doesn't have the long-term interest to do it for a day, but if I leave her an hour of decorating and some special things for her room, she's in heaven. I plan  a few special activities that we can attend together on the days she's with us. Most importantly I try to fill our home with love, affection and comfort. I am continually reminded by the thought that people don't remember what they did as much as they remember how they felt. So creating magical moments in our home are my priority.

This includes singing carols around the fireplace, planning special holiday movie nights, baking cookies for friends and neighbors, going to see special Christmas lights and concerts, and making a few simple craft projects. I try to get simple gifts and not many of them. My focus in on showing that I know what they like and what might make them really happy.

Another thing I try to provide is peaceful calm. The world is so hectic. Being traded back and forth between two homes cannot be easy. But I want my family to feel at home, as ease and at peace when they are here. I light candles, I put on peaceful music in quiet times. I hope they get lots of rest, eat good simple food and have time to unwind and decompress.

These are my holiday traditions. While we give up having our kiddo with us every holiday, which is plenty hard in its own right, making the best of every moment we do have has always brought me cheer, comfort and a focus on what is most important.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Things Do Turn Around

image by Inspired Stepmom

We got some fantastic news regarding our long and painful custody fight this week. It's so great that it's almost hard to believe. We still have a bit of a road ahead of us before these good things come to fruition but things are looking great.

It reminds me of the little shred of faith I have held on to these several years. I have always believe that the truth would come out in the end, that we would see the light of day after travailing through false accusations, lies and deceptions. We knew the truth was on our side, we knew our little one knew who was living in truth and who was more focused on taking care of her and providing for her. We just had to keep getting up to fight for another day, day after day, month after month, year after year. We were encouraged on by so many who had been in our shoes or had family members who'd been through similar situations. Everyone kept reminding us to hang in there, have faith and to believe that things would turn around.

One of the most important things we had to do throughout was to make sure we didn't get dragged out into the weeds of all the negativity and accusations. We had to keep our focus on living our truth, being the best parent and stepparent we could be and always focus on doing our best. We couldn't allow the shady efforts of the opposition to drag us down to be lesser people or fill us with anger and destroy us and our family.

In this we have been greatly blessed because we have had the chance to enjoy so much love with our little one and we have learned to enjoy life's beautiful little moments even when everything around us is difficult. This has been a fantastic blessing.

And so we say to all those who are struggling through the dark days of custody battles, keep on keeping on. Put your focus on the well-being of your child and enjoy every moment you can. One day the sun will come up yet again and things will be different and you will see the dawn of a new, better day. Listen to us, listen to the good people who are around you and have faith that things will get better, the truth will come out and you will find peace.