Step-Parenting: Working as a Team

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I don’t think anyone really sets out to be a single parent. I know I didn’t. I had delusions of a wonderful husband, 2.5 kids, and white picket fence.. unfortunately the man who I chose to be my husband was actually too full of himself to treat my daughter and I right. So here I am, or was, a single parent.

As a mom, my kid comes first. She comes before me, she comes before my boyfriend, friends, wants and even needs. I will and have burned bridges for her, and have made sure she was cared for and happy even in my sickest days. My daughter is even the type to like to be tucked in at night, so even when I was in the hospital (if she wasn’t with me), I’d call just to say goodnight and sweet dreams. She is my first thought upon waking up, and last thought upon going to bed. I would cross the world for her, because, that’s what mother’s do!

So when I meet a man I’d like to have a relationship with, I make it known that my kid comes first. I make it damn well known that we are a packaged deal, and if he doesn’t want responsibility down the line, or to forge a relationship with my girl, then he knows to take a hike. I’m very up front about it.

(Jon’s and my first conversation went like this – on both sides: Hi, I have kid(s) and a chronic illness. If that’s a deal breaker.. bye.)

Now days, well, we’ve been dating for almost a year I think? We work as a team. He relies on me to help with his daughter, and I rely on him to help with mine. We may be step-parents to each other’s children, but we work as a team.  Our end goal, is two happy, well-adjusted kids in a stable home. Now that’s not to say that a child can’t live in a stable home and be happy with a single parent, (she did, trust me) that’s just our goal since we’re living together.

We’re a team in our love life, so we’re a team in our family life as well. The point of bringing someone into your home, is to envelope them into your family, so we both raise both children.

This came up recently because someone we know doesn’t feel that way. She’s in a long term relationship with someone, and she also has 2 kids with another on the way. She doesn’t feel like it’s responsibility to help care for the kids since he didn’t father them (oddly enough, she has another guy paying child support for a kid that isn’t his.. so that doesn’t make much sense to me). That baffles me, you have someone that you love and supposedly loves you back, that is living with you and your children, and you don’t expect him to help out with your kids? You don’t have your boyfriend care for them? Does he not pick them up from school? Comfort them when they have a fever? Does he not love your children as part of you? If not, then why be with him?

That baffles me. As a mother, I try to be there as much as possible, but with working full time, I’m not. What I can’t fit into my day, Jon does. He cooks meals, drives her places, picks her up, and has basically taken on a fatherly role for her. The love between those two makes me so happy it’s ridiculous. I know he would go to the end of the earth for not just his daughter, but for mine. I am so proud to have him in our lives, he’s a great dad (Noodle doesn’t call him dad, just Jon FYI).

To think that there is a child out there, with a step-“parent” that can’t be troubled to pick his girlfriend’s daughter up while she’s indisposed… disgusts me to be honest. It just continues the horrible step-parent stereotype! “That’s not my kid, so I’m not doing it”. The worst part is? It shows the child that she isn’t loved, it shows her an unhealthy relationship, which of course she will model as she gets older.

I don’t know, it just really confuses me. Why create a family with a man, but exempt your previous children from it? Why be with someone who you don’t trust to care for your kids, or who doesn’t WANT to? Why fail your children like that?

I’m just confused and disgusted.

 

I’m also grateful for the man I have, and that he and his daughter are part of my family. I will kick some ass for that little girl of his, she deserves the world, just like my Noodle.

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We are a Team, We are a Family.

Society and it’s high expectations – aka: You’re not a bad parent.

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There’s a constant mental war going on inside my head.  I believe every mother (and father) deals with it at one point, but for me, it seems like it’s waging every day.  A rifle shot sounds as soon as I drop my daughter off at school, I mean come on, I must be a bad mother for working?  Especially when I made a promise to stay at home with her when I was pregnant.  On that note, another rifle shot sounds and I don’t know if a blended family is right for her.

Hot damn.  The enemy line is approaching, when I yelled at her yesterday for sassing me when I asked her to clean her room?  I must have wasted precious weekend time fighting with her.  Hell, when I made her go to school when she was upset that other morning… that surely was the wrong choice.  Explosion.  Telling her we’d play outside tomorrow when she wanted to ride bikes and I was exhausted from work.  More wasted time.

Yup.  That’s it right there.  That, is just a small portion of the mommy-guilt-war that wages inside my head.  Being a parent is tough sometimes, I know for me that I feel a lot of guilt for what we *don’t* do, despite all of the fun stuff we actually *do* do.  I think that no matter what we mothers do, how we act, or which decision we make, there is always the lurking thought when things settle down that maybe we could have done better.  Maybe we could have made our child(ren) happier, or maybe we could have handled a melt down a better way.  Parenting is not easy folks, at least not for me.

Growing up, my parents made it seem way easier than it is.  My mother cooked dinner more nights than not, and my Dad never seemed to complain about work.  Despite being booted out the door to go play as soon as we got annoying, I still held my parents’ .. well… parenting at top notch.  Being children, we don’t realize that our parents were struggling too.  Now that I’ve gotten older, and have heard some of the stories, chuckles, and tears about raising my sister and I, I realize that we just didn’t know.  However, that doesn’t mean that the parents I was lucky enough to grow up with didn’t set some impossibly high standard for my own life.

For example, society has brainwashed us that a happy, healthy family eats together every night.  That home-cooked meals create healthy, happy children.  I know I’m speaking for more than myself here, but I know after a 14 hour day when I finally get home, just glancing at the ingredients to make dinner makes my brain hurt.  So we’ll order something and eat something in our respective places.  Later on that evening, when I’m back to work at my own desk, that guilt kicks in.  I should have made dinner, we should have eaten at the table together.  Despite the fact that we do more often than not, I will feel guilty for taking the easy route.

Of course I don’t remember the nights when we were kids that we got Wendy’s for dinner (one had just opened up by our house) because my parents were too exhausted to cook.  Nope, I remember my mother’s home made chili going for hours and the corn bread from scratch.  Instead of realizing that it’s okay to be lazy once in a while, it’s okay to be tired, I hold myself to that latter standard.  My parents did it, with a lot more on their plate than myself, so why can’t I?

The end point of all of this, is that I, as well as too many other parents, might be being too hard on ourselves.  With social media, technology as a whole we have too much to compare ourselves too.  If that’s not enough, we have endless articles on what, who, how we are damaging our children.  So we go about our days, pushing ourselves to line, and if we don’t accomplish what society has set up for us, we beat ourselves up.  We double think what we are doing, and instead of enjoying the little moments, the happy moments, the good we *do* accomplish we are left feeling inadequate and lost.

No parent is perfect, and no childhood is perfect.  As long as our kids are happy (despite having to clean their rooms, eat their dinner, do their homework and not be little miniature assholes) and healthy (as can be), we’re doing a good job.  I’m not a bad mom for working my ass off or creating a blended family.  You’re not a bad mom for not buying the latest gadget, and you over there?  You’re not a bad dad for yelling at your kid for talking back.  Go ahead, take a break, just because your kids aren’t eating dinner 7 days a week at the kitchen table doesn’t mean you’ve ruined them.

Now if society and social media could just let parents know that once in a while, I think we’d all breathe a bit easier.

Milk Glass and a letter

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Tomorrow is Father’s Day. With my Dad enjoying the lake house with his wife, we’re keeping it pretty relaxed at my house.

The boyfriend’s family is coming over tomorrow to grill out so Noodle and I have him our gifts. Mine wasn’t much, I wrote him a letter and he’ll be getting a framed picture. Noodle had decorated him a milk glass at school with squeeze paint at camp.

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She was so excited about it the day she made it. She about plowed me over when I came to pick her up, yelling about how she got to hand make him his “prezzie”. She had been talking for weeks about getting him a father’s day card so the cup was icing on the cake.

I never used to be one for the hallmark holidays, but now I think that since life has settled down, become more stable and most importantly happy… there might be something to them. I’m definitely enjoying celebrating the little things.

The fact that Noodle made him a gift warms my heart. He’s raised her for the past 2 years now and loves her like his own. I’m glad that she’s comfortable with him as a father figure and thrilled at how life has worked out. I’m so happy I found someone who not only loves me, but the little one as well. 

So Happy Father’s Day to a wonderful dad and a great man.  I’ll look forward to many more years to come hearing little chirps of “Love you Ryan!” Followed by “Love you too Monkey!”

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