The Struggles of Co-Parenting, Blended Families, and Picking Up the Slack as a Step Parent

Standard

I am no stranger to blended families. Both as a child and an adult.

When I was little my mother passed away, a few years later my Dad started dating again, and eventually married my step mother. While we had a rocky relationship at first (mostly because I was a angsty jerk from 14-22ish) I now can talk with her about anything, and I do have to say that she’s had a significant role in who I am as a person.

My Dad also helped raise her children, my brother and sister. So both my parents have experience in being step-parents, and both have excelled at it. Not only that, but they have both perspectives. Raising other people’s children, and raising their own with one of their exes and current partners. So needless to say, over the years I’ve asked advice from both of them.

That advice is needed as I’ve been a step parent twice now. Once with Ryan, and now with Jon. I do have to say it was much much easier with Ryan and his son’s mother. She played a very active role in her son’s life and had very similar parenting styles to Ryan and I. Sure, there were tiffs, and I was new to helping raise other people’s children, but all in all it was a good learning experience. Regardless of how we all felt about each other, it was very apparent that the kids come first no matter what.

It’s a little more difficult now. Jon and his ex do not get along most days, and neither of them have really co-parented despite their daughter being 9 years old now. Jon is very non-confrontational and his ex likes being in control. So once they split up, he just agreed to everything she said (including paying child support for the child she had with another man while they were together) because he was afraid that any fight they had she would refuse to let him see his daughter.

That had to come to an end when some very troubling things happened two summers ago, that spurned Jon into trying to co-parent with his ex. These were very severe issues, the kind that we should have called CPS for. However, once Jon vocalized his concerns with his daughter’s mom, inquired about therapy and requested that she do half of the driving (from PA to IL) she blew off her pick up date for a week with no contact. Once it felt like she was going the abandonment route, we text her and let her know that she could reach us anytime, but since school was starting we’d enroll their daughter in school. She showed up a week later with the police, and then refused her daughter’s visitation for Christmas and the following summer. That’s the kind of stuff we’ve got on our plate.

Just what Jon had feared.

We ended up taking her to court for visitation and other parental rights. It was absolutely ridiculous. During this whole time, she wouldn’t return Jon’s calls, or let him speak with his daughter, but had their daughter call Jon’s parents and read a legitimate script explaining why she wouldn’t come that year. I say script because when his parents asked her why, she re-read it. Word for word. To say at that point I lost whatever remaining respect I had for the woman is an understatement. Any mother who puts their children square in the middle of a dispute, and makes them explain that they’re not coming to see their family this year instead of being a grown ass woman and doing it themselves, doesn’t deserve to be called a mom.

Court thankfully went smooth, albeit slow. The end result was Jon got his visitation back, his ex has to do half of the transportation, and no more of these shenanigans. That doesn’t make it any easier though. Since then (last summer), it’s been nothing but petty passive aggressive attacks. For instance, the previous summer, when their daughter was 7, we taught her how to ride a bicycle (and a electric motorbike). This past Christmas when she came for a visit, she got a bicycle from us for this summer. We find out a couple of weeks ago, that she hasn’t ridden a bike since we taught her. Two years ago. The reasoning? The seat was rotted, and she couldn’t afford to buy a new one. (I just bought Noodle one for the same reason, $18 for a plush comfy seat on Amazon.)

The problem was is that while she couldn’t afford a $20 bicycle seat. She could afford to buy their 9 year old a new cell phone.

The secondary problem with that was Jon and his ex had discussed, and decided against a cell phone since she’s 9 and (too young to) doesn’t stay at home alone. It makes me question what the hell the point is? Why even bother having a conversation with your child’s dad and child if you toss it out the window later? We didn’t even find out she had a cell phone until she texted Jon from the airport.

It’s extremely difficult for us as anything we manage to implement (in agreement with his daughter’s mom), ranging from outdoor activity, playing with other kids, to rules on cell phones and at the dinner table is undone with a shrug from her mother. We don’t even have her medical records or a contact number for her pediatrician at her mom’s house. Can you guess why?

As a mother myself, I just want to scream when I hear about these things. I raised Noodle without a father, and their child is super lucky to have both parents in her life. However watching her being thrown in the middle by her mother and then neglected on top of it, just makes my blood boil. It’s like starting over every visit. It honestly kicks me square in the ass to find out she’s not given outside playtime, healthy food to eat, or the attention she deserves at home. Her mother even refuses to put their daughter in therapy during her portion of the year.. despite the fact that the child has suffered through a divorce, losing two of her siblings, and then not being allowed to see her Dad (via her mom). Everyone needs someone to talk to, especially when being dealt such a traumatic hand so early in life. To think about a mother denying her child mental health services makes me irate.

Yet that’s the hand we’re being dealt. All I can do as a step mom is try my best to provide a healthy home, someone to talk to, and give Jon my advice and thoughts. It just sucks on so many levels.

One of the reasons it sucks so much is what I call the “mom level”. His daughter’s mom is going to/has missed out on so many memories. She’s already missed out on teaching her daughter to ride a bike, she missed out on the motorbike. She missed/is missing out on teaching roller skating. She missed out on playing catch with her daughter. She is missing out on helping her kid pick out her first softball mitt, her first pair of blades, her first big girl bicycle (which really should’ve happened before 7/9yrs). All of those memories belong with the mother too. Not just with the father and the step mom.

It sucks to be a step parent where co-parenting is non-existent. It sucks to be the one left to do the things the other parent isn’t doing. It sucks to have to teach lessons only a mom can teach, and hasn’t. It sucks knowing the angst a child is going through, and being stuck on the sidelines while the parents try to work it out. It sucks to send the mother adorable pictures of all the memories she’s missing out on and getting no response. It sucks to see a child get excited about a hobby only to go home and have it quashed when she gets back to her mom’s.

I started this blog to give advice to other step parents, but I don’t have any. I don’t. Step parenting is winging it. We have to learn to love another person’s child, raise them as our own, yet deal with the hand their bio-parent deals. We’re just stuck on a ride, trying not to fall out. Being a step parent sucks, but it’s also super rewarding. You just some how have to stick it through the bullshit parts. Remember, you’re raising a child whether or not their yours biologically. What you do and say matters. You don’t have to be a bio-parent to be the child’s parent & advocate. Buckle down.

 

On that note, shout out to my step mom.. for being a great mom to me, even through all the bullshit. <3

 

Advertisements

Long Distance Part Time “Dad”

Standard

<3

<3

Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a lose-lose situation with my ex-husband.  It’s so incredibly frustrating it literally enrages me, no matter which choice I make, I lose, I look like the bad guy in the end.  It all comes down to protecting my daughter, and either way she ends up getting hurt.

I can’t say “I wish I never met him” because then I wouldn’t have that spunky mini-me in my life.  I’ll never regret her, but christ, couldn’t this shit be a little easier?  Parenting in and of itself is rewarding, even when the little one decided that she likes Asparagus as her favorite food and still will not try a freaking cheeseburger off the grill.  There are tons of little battles in parenting, and it’s become easier as she has gotten older to realize that “this too shall pass” and we’ll be back to normal.

I can however wish that he would get some sense in his head and stop.  Or drive his truck off a bridge, whatever is easiest.  His bullheaded, “parent-when-I-want” is hurting my daughter, and it doesn’t seem like there is a good option for me to prevent it.  That is by far the worst part, is that I don’t have too much control over it.

So it’s been 2 months since we got a phone call from the bio-dad.  The calls before that usually had a couple of weeks between them.  Noodle has pretty much stop caring, to be completely honest.  She rarely gets upset now, and usually it’s only when he calls.  Usually after he calls she asks a couple of questions, now that shes a little bit older (and has some friends who have scum-bags in the place of Dads) she’s understanding a bit more so I can stop lying to her.

“Why did he move?” – Because he wanted to, he thought he had work and wanted to move in with his girlfriend.

“Why did he lie?” – Because he thought it was the best thing to do at the time.  Not everyone tells the truth honey, especially if the truth makes them look bad. (Regarding coming back and calling all the time.)

“Is he coming back to visit?” – I don’t know honey, I don’t think so, Daddy has to get his life straightened out. (This was regarding both him “only going to Colorado for a couple of weeks”, and then again coming to visit.)

“I don’t want to talk on the phone” – Are you sure? If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

Then around mothers day, Noodle and I were looking at cards to get for my step-ma.  She was telling me about the cards and presents she made for me at school (because the child doesn’t know the meaning of surprise apparently, haha).  Then she pops out with this?

“When’s Father’s Day?  I want to buy Ryan a present.  Can we pick out a card?”

I was sitting on my heels reading cards and I about fell over.

-Sure baby, if you want to we can get him a card, and one for grandpa.

“Okay, I wanna pick out a good present! [Insert rambling of stupid shit she wants to buy Ryan lol]”

-Anyone else you want to buy a Father’s Day card for?

“Nope! Just Ryan!”

It was cute.  I almost cried, and I didn’t push it.  That was just the beginning of that.  Since then we’ve had a couple of conversations about Dads.

When Ryan and I first started dating, it was right after Tim moved.  Noodle had called Ryan Dad right away, and we sat down with her and talked about it.  Ry had told her that while he wasn’t her Dad, that he could definitely do Dad stuff with her, and that he’ll be there for her anyway.  She accepted that and they’ve been buddies ever since.

The “Dad Talks” have happened a few times lately, and usually they’re out of nowhere.  The one that stuck in my mind (and completely blew me away coming from a child) was “What’s a Dad?” Conversation.

It started by talking about the stuff her and Ryan had done over the course of the weekend.  They have several activities that I have dubbed “Ryan Noodle Time”, mostly stuff that he enjoys doing with her, whereas I prefer to do by myself.  So they had cooked, gardened, and played all day, and she had apparently decided that that was “Daddy stuff” and asked me why Ry did Daddy stuff with her when he wasn’t her real Dad.

I started really slow.  I explained to her that Ryan loves her just like Mommy does, that Ryan likes doing stuff with her, just like how Dads do.  I asked her if she knew how long Ryan had been in our lives, I got “2 summers” as the answer.  I explained that two years is more than enough time to love someone.  I asked her if she liked him, if she said good night and I love you every night before bedtime, and I asked her if she liked when he fixes her owwies.  She nodded, and I asked her if she was happy doing so called “Daddy Stuff” with Ryan and she laughed and “Duuuuuuuh”.

So I asked her what she thought a Dad was, what she thought mattered most.  I got a bunch of answers ranging from spending time together to buying ice cream (too funnny) and I told her that it doesn’t matter sometimes who you’re related to.  I told her that it matters who is there for you and who loves you.  I talked about her Grandma, and how even though Grandma isn’t my real mom, I still love her all the same.  I talked about my (step) Grandpa, and told her how I still did Grandpa stuff with him even though we weren’t blood-related, how he raised my mom and did Daddy Stuff with her even though he wasn’t her real Dad.  I reminded her of her aunts and uncles, who are reality not blood-related, and how they all love her and spend time with her even though they aren’t my real sisters and brothers.

“So even though Ryan’s not my real daddy, he can be like my Daddy?”  -Yes babe, sometimes you get to make your own family out of the people you love, and that’s what matters.

She went to bed smiling that night.

So we haven’t heard from her Bio-Dad in about 2 months.  He just fell off the face of the planet, which is cool with me.  Noodle hasn’t asked about him and has been fine, and I was glad to not have to deal with it as mean as that is.  Her birthday came around and she got a gift from my ex-mother-in-law (wonderful lady) and the day before we got a package from him too.  My temper flared sooo bad I considered “Return-To-Sender” and I about threw it away after reading the card.

He had wrote in it some sob story about not having a phone for 2 months, and *that’s* why he didn’t call.  His phone has been off.  He promised to tell me as soon as he had one again.

Deep Breath. 

That is the biggest bullshit excuse I have ever heard.  I’m sorry, if I didn’t have the phone, I think it would take all of 3 days to find one.  Ask a neighbor, give them a few bucks for the bill, use any of the free apps for phone calls via internet.  Payphones.  Work phones.  SOMETHING.  Send an email, letter, tell your mother to call or write.  Having your phone shut off of 2 months is NOT an excuse for not talking to your kids.

Deep Breath

When he decided to resurface after a year and a half of no contact, I told him it was his last chance.  He had destroyed my daughter’s heart and its taken her a long time to get back to normal.  He wasn’t the one who had to listen to her cry at night because she missed him for the first couple of months.  I told him it was his last chance, that I’d give him one more chance to do things right and that was it.  The only reason I was giving him that chance is so that when Nood grows up and looks back, she’ll know that I didn’t keep him away, even though he did horrible things during our marriage and then abandoned her when she was little, I still gave him the opportunity to fix it.

I gave him a break with child support.  When he dropped off the face of the planet, I didn’t file.  I figured, good, if he wants to stay gone, I don’t need his money.  I’m completely content with Noodle growing up and finding out that her dad couldn’t even contribute financially.  When he popped back up, I asked him if since he was going to be around if he was going to pay his support, he said he needed time, I gave it to him.  Since our divorce, I have paid for *every-single-fucking-thing*, weekly tuition for daycare and school, clothes, food, toys, doctors, and now school supplies and registration.  So 6 months after him popping back up… still nothing.

I gave him a break when he started calling every 3-4 weeks.  I told him he needed to call more, and left it at that.  When he stopped calling, I didn’t harass him, I let him be.  I let him make his own choices, and focused on making my family stronger.  I figured if he wanted to be gone, fine, as long as he stayed gone and stopped hurting my daughter, that was fine.  It’s way better than having a long-distance dad who calls when he feels like it.  I figured, I didn’t need child support anyway, if he’s not there, no big deal.

Deep Breath

I’m tired of playing games.  We have a stable loving family, with everything Noodle could want and or need (besides *another* ice cream from the ice cream truck).  I’m tired of Tim deciding that he wants to be a Dad every couple of months and calling and turning Noodle’s happiness upside down.  She’s a well-adjusted, happy child until her Dad calls… and I’m tired of it.  If you’re not going to call for 2 months, 6 months or a year and a half, just stay gone and stop hurting her.  She has a Dad as far as we’re concerned, one who has raised her since her bio-dad ran away.  We don’t need a part-time-long-distance “dad” too.

So I’m not giving an inch anymore.  I am following my court documents, and sticking to my guns.  If he wants to run away then fine, go away and stop coming back.  If he wants to play this pop-up game, then fine, he’s going to follow the rules.  The next time I hear from him, I’m turning all of his info into child support enforcement (thank god I saved his ssn, DL#, addy and birthdate.  Hell, I even have a recent picture of him.)  I’m tired.  If we have to deal with him disrupting Noodle’s happiness, he’s going to pay his fair share and he’s going to follow the rules.

 

As sad as it is, I just want him to stop screwing with Noodle’s head and stay gone this time.

 

 

An Open Letter To The Ex-Wives

Standard

[Explanation:  This is not a hack on all single mothers or all ex-wives.  This is for those women who divorce a man for whatever reason but then refuse to let go.  This is for the women who get mad when things start going right for the man that *they* walked out on. This is for those mothers who spend too much money on frivolous shit and then complain when they don’t have money for their half of their child’s necessities.  Take offense if you must but if you do, think about why you’re offended. ] [ This is also not a dig on mothers who want their ex-husbands to pay child support or their half of the child’s expenses.  I am also a mother, who unfortunately has an ex-husband who doesn’t pay a dime. ]

 

Hey you,

Yeah you.  I’m sure this will get around to you some how.  Someone you know will see it and link it to you, and that’s okay.  I’m cool with that.  I am also writing this so other ex-wives understand what they have signed up for.

I just wanted to explain something to you.  I am an ex-wife too, I, like you decided to end my marriage and continue on, on my own.  More power to you!  However, there are consequences to your actions, especially when your ex-husband decides to enter a long-term relationship with a girl like me.

I am a single mother.  I do it all with out any child-support or assistance from the state (not that that is wrong, unless you abuse it… ahem).  I have worked my ass off to get to where I am today, which includes a mortgage, car, as well as day to day expenses.  I am proud of the fact that I’ve managed to make it this far, and if my accomplishments bother you, too bad.

So lets get down to what is bothering you then shall we?

From what I guess, you’re kind of salty that the man you divorced is living a stable and happy life.  My mistake, but what you could do is maybe get a “real” job, you know one with benefits and hours that let you actually spend time with your kid.  You know, the kind where you don’t drink *and* pay your taxes?  It’s not his fault that you’re broke and it’s not my fault that you’re in the same place as you were when you left him.

Speaking of money.  I’ve told you numerous times that I’ll give you half of the money that is needed for something.  I offered to pay for half of the school supply package, I have no problem paying half of baseball, I have no problem buying the kid clothes.  Hell, I called you a little over a week ago and asked what clothes he needed, “Just maybe some basketball shorts, he’s fine other than that.”  Apparently you forgot that information since “Well he needs a whole new wardrobe” popped up today.  I am not a fool.  I will not be bailing you out of whatever financial hole you have gotten yourself into.  One of the consequences of getting a divorce is becoming financially independent.  It’s called budgeting.

Also, as you may now know, money does not grow on trees.  I understand that you want to send your child to some camp that magically costs $400 (which by the way, I have internet, you shouldn’t lie).  We unfortunately do not see that as reasonable, so we cannot come up with that large of a sum of money.  We do have bills to pay, remember, we’re *not* on welfare?  As a mother myself, I cannot favor one child over another, and since I cannot afford to send my daughter to camp, I cannot afford to send your kid either.  I’m a huge fan of avoiding favoritism.

Also, I need you to remember that you’re the EX.  You are no longer apart of my boyfriends life.  You left him, so there should be no bitching.  I can’t believe that he has repeatedly had to explain to you that he doesn’t want to hear about your day.  There is no need for daily phone calls unless it is from his child or about his child.  I need you to realize that beyond the fact that you’re still alive and at least attempting to provide your child with a good life, neither of us care.  I’m sorry this seems to bother you so much, but you’d think after 2 years you would’ve gotten used to this.  I’ve tried to stay out of it, but apparently you need to hear it from me as well.  I will call you if I have to, and as you already have learned, I will tell you what’s on my mind, how things work with me, and you will listen… again.

You know, we’ve already had this conversation once.  I figured you’d get it, but apparently not.  I realize that there is an adjustment period to getting over the fact that your ex-husband is happy with out you, but honey it’s been 2 years.  Time to get moving.  You can call me the wicked-step-mother or whatever you may, because frankly it doesn’t bother me.  You just need to realize that I’m not going anywhere, I’m here to stay, and I am most definitely not a fool.  The man you left has changed as well, he’s made himself stronger and refuses to be a doormat again.

So I guess what it comes down to is – Suck it up buttercup, because this is the way it is.

 

Sincerely,

A very aggravated girlfriend.