Divorce: the scapegoat for the absent parent.

Just show up. It is actually that easy.

A good portion of this year I’ve spent in reflection analyzing my thoughts, feelings, and actions as a parent. I’ve made many mistakes throughout the past 18 years, many. It took accountability and required the swallowing of my pride to not only be aware, but to apologize for the ways my choices affected others and even my own children.

I remember sitting with them both and defending their father on something because he had every right for how he felt and his distaste and disapproval for my choices. The words flew out of my mouth without even realizing. It was as if I was in the movie Liar, Liar with Jim Carey. Audibly I heard the words that had remained safely tucked away in the corner of my mind for a day I was strong enough to admit my faults. Today was that day apparently. I remember saying, “your father was right and what I did was wrong. At the time I couldn’t see how unhealthy my actions were and how they would affect you both, but he did. And I need to apologize to you both right now” and I did. I remember explaining that the way he felt about me was understandable, however, his hatred for me, being transferred to them, was where the issue was laying unfairly.

When you become divorced, you no longer have a spouse, however, your children are still your children. That relationship, bond, expectation, role, and responsibility didn’t just end when you signed your divorce papers. What your spouse did to you, whatever they put you through must have a line drawn with your children.

Using my fingers on one hand, I can tell you how many events, games, or school activities I’ve missed in the 14 years being divorced and it is less than five. On that same hand, I can tell you how many times my children questioned my attendance, my involvement, or whether I would see them during any moment in their life. And, how many times they questioned their importance or my love for them, all which are zero.

They’ve never waited for a call to see if I could make a game or a call saying that I wouldn’t. They’ve never sat at an event looking into the crowd and not seen me there beaming with pride. They’ve not looked at me with that “did you see that play” seeking acknowledgement, only to see me exiting the stadium. They’ve never sat at school waiting to see if I would attend a conference, an exhibit, or an award being received. They’ve not had me not pick them up when they are sick, comfort them when they are hurting or protect them when scared. I’ve always been there. A constant. I’m not saying this to toot my horn, I’m saying this because I divorced their father, not them. My responsibility to them as their mother never ended.

Parenting time is bologna, it is not about the parent; It is about the child. If more parents made this time about the child, I guarantee you the children would benefit. Sports, school events, doctor appointments, emergencies, holidays – that is a lot to navigate between two homes. If you try to add two calendars to that, and what works for who, it is pure chaos. I’ve never understood why parents don’t view their time with a child no different from being married. If during your marriage you would attend whatever it is, then you should be there. Unless you did something awful to the child, you have open access. That means you can and should attend anything that supports your child, whether your ex spouse likes it.

I would like to think if I did not have full custody that I would not have just slipped into a role of a “sometimes, if it works out, I may make it” type of parent. In fact, I’m certain I would attend everything I could, and everything I should. Making certain my children know they’re loved, supported, celebrated and the center of my entire universe. If their father didn’t like it, or his spouse didn’t like it, too damn bad. I’m not there for them, I’m showing up for my children.

To this day, with two 14-year-old boys and my 17-year-old daughter, I get sick if I miss something important. It feels as if I am letting them down. I would never make them miss something important to visit with me, I would attend the something important with them. We schedule our lives around our children, not our children around our lives. How do you get back that time, that optional involvement and those moments that build and fill a child’s heart with love and worth? Do you realize that 18 years flies by in what feels like minutes? And, you waste that when all you have to do is just show up!

Sometimes life happens, you’re required to work late, or maybe your work refuses to let you off to attend a recital or game. I get that; I do. That is not what I am referring to. I’m referring to the parents who choose to not attend, the parents who have the schedule, and still don’t come.The parents who have the finances for trips, outings, events but not for gas to drive to an away game, or even 15 miles down the road. The parents who attend a function that self-serves instead of giving of their self, and of their time. The parents who manipulate, are dishonest and deceitfully make the choice to honestly just fail as parents. All to blame it on the ex-wife or ex-husband. And, for what? What purpose do those lies serve?

Because here is the thing, right now you are letting them down, not your ex. In a matter of years that will fly by like seconds, there will be weddings, children and life events – and it will be you let down when the invites are no longer extended. It will be you alone without a choice because you chose anything and everything except your children. All you have to do is show up. It really is that easy.

Choose your kids. Show up. The end.

The three four-letter words blended families would benefit from never using again.

Words matter. I’m sure some of you think they don’t but respectfully I disagree. Just the same, names matter too. When a parent first learns they are expecting, they spend countless hours researching origins, meanings behind, and deciding on the perfect name. I’m curious if you have researched the origin of the word “step” in terms of a child or parent? Sure, mostly being called a stepparent, stepfamily or stepchild is harmless in the grand scheme of identifying family having gone through divorce and remarriage. But would you call the child you gained through marriage, orphan-daughter, orphan-son or call yourself father of an orphan or mother of an orphan? I doubt that you would. Unless you are a blended family, which treats each other like orphans. And, if so, that’s a whole other blog post.

The word “step” originates from the old English word – steopcild which means orphan. Not having parents and that is not the case with stepchildren as they belong to one spouse now remarried.

The word parent means: brings forth, offspring and relates to DNA. The act of parenting means: bringing up, caring for, promoting and supporting. There is a clear difference. One can be a parent in the word’s sense and not be a parent by definition of actions. The ones requiring clarification are the parents, not the children. And, when all are acting in the best interest of the child, why some refuse to acknowledge and celebrate even that another person cares for, loves, and supports their child just blows my mind. I’ve never understood it.

At first, the word “step” never occurred to bother me, the meaning or otherwise. In fact, when I first started writing about being a “step” mom, I playfully used the term in my title, “That’s Mrs. StepMom to you!” and I loved it. Being both a biological mother and now gaining a son through my husband, the way parents treated, spoke of and disregarded stepparents disgusted me. It still does to be honest. The only time I reference being a stepparent is when someone needs clarification or when writing on this topic.

Now when I hear it, I cringe. It is like cusswords for blended families. Step, mine, and your are all words that blended families should limit or not use entirely when speaking of/to a child. It discredits, disregards and makes it known they don’t belong to you or come from you. Why would that be necessary or even a desire? It surely is not a loving or kind desire. Let’s be real here for a moment, there are some families who fondly speak of each other with “step” and this is not for them. This is solely for the ones who can’t figure their own feelings of inadequacy and insecurities out. And who furthermore places those feelings onto their children who innately want to be loyal.

Saying “your child” does more harm than good. Using terms such as “my child” and “your child” are used to separate the child, parent, fault, and involvement. Why not just tell your spouse their kid sucks and yours is better? I mean, that is what your actions are doing and saying. Because when they are pleasing and doing something we are proud of, we wouldn’t say your child is smart, or your child played great in their game – that is how you talk about someone else’s child in another home, not someone in your own family and home.

When I speak of my sons, I speak of them as my sons, both of them. I do not address one as my husband’s son, or as my husband’s ex-wife’s son, or as my stepson – just my son. Our children call us both Mom and Dad, because we are both a Mom and a Dad. Children can have multiple parents without the need to differentiate. That need for differentiating comes from hidden insecurities in other parents and people unfamiliar with how blended families work. With the utmost respect and kindness for those who don’t understand blended families, it is not our job to make them more comfortable because they either don’t understand and cannot see themselves calling someone else aside from a biological parent, Mom or Dad.

The hidden or even visible insecurities that some parents have gives them this need for the world to know that they were the parent first. Let me tell you something – biological or otherwise, if you are a good mother/father, your title will never matter or require clarification. Being a biological parent doesn’t exalt authority over another parent except in cases of the law, and even then only if acting in the best interest of the child – when the parent can’t manage it on their own. The title or biology of a parent doesn’t make someone a parent anymore than standing in a garage makes them a car. And yes, I know that some judges and lawyers put ridiculous clauses in orders such as, – the child cannot call the stepmother, Mom. I’ve read these orders and they are ridiculous and assumptions lead me to two things. First, the mom was insecure and felt entitled to her role, and second, the child will resent one of these parents at some point.

I’m curious how many parents speak to their children and ask their feelings, opinions and desires about the other parents and really listen to their hearts. If a child wants to call someone else, Mom/Dad that is something that requires attention and consideration. A child desiring inclusion in something created by division of something which directly impacted them takes guts. It comes from a personal desire for connection and being part of a family, and that is beautiful.

We will never have a role superior to one-another because of marriage or biology. Countless times people have told us that a decision or action being made by us was the “main” parents’ place in our home. And, we smile and disregard it every time for two very good reasons: first, most often this advice comes from non-blended families and respectfully the will never understand, and second, we are the main parents in our home, as one united family.

I guess for me; I choose my son as my son. I choose him on the days he acts in such as way that screams he has other parents that raised him differently. I choose him on the days it takes the act of love and patience to love him. And I choose him on the days he acts just as I have raised him both good and bad. The moment he asked to call me Mom, I made a conscious decision to treat him as a mom would, as a mom to her own children would. The same goes for my husband and the way he loves, treats, supports and raises the two children he gained through our marriage – as his own; a daughter and a son. Not as orphans or steps – one united family acting in the best interest of raising our children with love and to love whoever they choose.

The Disqualified Christian – Part One: The Divorcé

“So you’ve got a past, who doesn’t? What I need to know is if there is a place for me in your future?” – Andrew Hennings, Sweet Home Alabama.

That is one of my favorite quotes from the movie Sweet Home Alabama. The southern twang, the idea of first loves being our once in a lifetime love and the idea that what’s meant to be will find it’s way. That and I like to imagine that this is God talking to me as well, asking if I have a place for him in my future, regardless of my past.

Growing up all I wanted was a family, a husband, children, sitting around the table eating dinner together each night. That is it. Sure I had thought about what I would do for a living but nothing mattered more than being a wife and mother. My grandfather also told me that I should never date someone who I couldn’t see myself marrying. Which now makes sense, but then it did not. So, I set off searching for my head of the table and my perfect relationship. Blindly, it was a path set forth by generational curses that I was unaware existed. A path littered with infidelity, divorce, deceit, abuse – everything that seemingly disqualifies a woman to herself, a potential spouse and God.

Being divorced again rocked me to my core. All I wanted was a family and it caused me to hide from God, I was humiliated and ashamed. It would take me some time before I realized that I didn’t need to hide what he already knew.

Divorce to some is not a big deal, but to me it was. It meant that I had failed more than once at making a vow to God, and a vow to my husband. It meant I lied, it meant I let the three of us down and under it all – it meant I was impossible to love.

Being divorced once or twice seems more socially acceptable these days. In fact some religions require you to remarry immediately. But it is no secret that God detests divorce, in fact divorce was created by man, not God. So for me it was easy to assume that God detested me as well and I was doomed to hell.

But I was so wrong. In fact for those of us who have faltered and lost our way only to be found and repent, Jesus shed his blood to cleanse us and our sins – ALL SINS not just a couple that he sees fit.

Divorce does not label you as a person. It does not disqualify or discredit you. Maybe your spouse left you and you feel like no one could ever love you – that is not true. Maybe your spouse cheated and you asked him to stay because you wanted to work on things, and the cheating never stopped. Maybe you were unfaithful, you just grew apart, both wanted different things, couldn’t manage finances, agree on children – maybe you had different faiths. There are a variety of reasons that lead to divorce. And, they are all emotionally destructive. Even the amicable ones, can still sting.

My advice to you is just take it to God. Release it and release yourself. God cannot heal what you don’t reveal. And God is the ultimate restorer. You don’t need to carry the weight of yesterday into tomorrow.

Our experiences that did not work out as planned are not a label you wear that reads unworthy, failure or unlovable. Those moments that our plans failed are actually full of love, mercy and grace from God. That was Gods way of saying, “Okay, I let you try your way even though it was wrong and now I’m taking over because I love you enough to close this door for you.” God does not label you as anything but worthy. You say those lies to yourself and allow when others say them to you, to matter. Just like the lies I said to myself each time I failed, “I’m a failure.” “No one will love ever love me.” “I’m too damaged.” “Who wants to marry someone whose been married before?” “God must be really punishing me.” Wrong sister, Wrong!

Try to remember these four important truths when you feel like you failed or are unworthy of self love, Gods love or love from a spouse.

  1. God does not punish, he loves you entirely. All he wants is your heart. All that time I spent hiding away in shame, he knew. It is so funny when you wake up and realize GOD knows EVERYTHING – and he still pursues us. Read Jeremiah 29:11
  2. You control your self-talk. My goal for other women is being the drunk girl in the bar bathroom at 2 am – minus the drunk, and the bar. Those ladies are kind, they compliment, they care, they talk – zero comparison and zero judgment. I want women to feel loved, empowered, and valued just as they are. I need to talk to myself the same way. Try it. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
  3. Trust me, there are good men who marry flawed women and vice versa. Oh this one is true. I should know. It took me 14 years of brokenness to find the one person who could hold me together – God. And, then my husband. My husband could care less about my past. He just loves me. And, that right there is proof of Gods grace.
  4. It is important to heal, to sit in your pain for a period and process it. Don’t place a bandage over something that is hemorrhaging – it won’t hold. You can’t move forward when so much crap is holding you back. You want to sort it out, to feel it, to experience the emotions and all that go with loss, heartache, and anger even. It is okay to feel disappointed.

All of this to say you are not disqualified as a woman, in this world or in God eyes for being divorced once, twice or more. In John chapter 4, there is a story of a Samaritan woman at the well. She had been married five times and was living with a man that was not her husband. Jesus sought her out. Jesus spoke to her. And, for the first time in the Gospel of John shared that he was the messiah, to a woman no less, who had been rejected, disqualified and discounted. If Jesus spoke to her, you are no different my friend.

The Man That Stays.

Thank you.

The biggest disadvantage in my life has been loving temporary people, permanently. I’ve done this my entire life with not just loved ones but also romantic relationships and friendships. Friends excite me. There is this enjoyment I experience in meeting new people, hearing their stories and the connection that follows. You know that feeling when you really click with someone and you just want to experience everything with this new friend?! That is me. And, I come on way too strong. Every time. It’s like I stick a fork in a light socket – its explosive, bright and exciting – until all power is lost and I’m left alone sitting in the dark.

So, when I decided to try yet again with not just love, but marriage –  the majority of people thought (maybe still think) I was crazy. But as we continue our adventure in this life, our 7th year together, I’m pretty sure God provided me with a blessing of a man who carried a couple extra buckets.

The love of a lifetime is worth at least a million tries. I still believe this. Now, let me preface this with saying, no, I don’t think he loved me enough for the both of us or that I think someone has the capability of loving us back to normal. But what I am saying is that while I was learning what real love was and commitment meant, what it entailed, and the seriousness of my vows made to him – I also saw the person in myself that he was choosing to love each day.

This is a letter to my husband –

Broken women, run. We do, and often without notice or even our own knowledge. It is second nature to leave before being left. The thought of being valued, appreciated and wanted is unimaginable. And, the desire to find a man to love you when you are still learning to love yourself runs deep. We just want to be loved and accepted.

That is a whole heck-of a lot of baggage for one man. Yet you picked up each of my bags and built a home with me. You helped me unpack, sort and discard the items that I no longer needed to travel with – because my traveling days were over unless they included you. When my stubborn streaks and independence was full of “I don’t need you” and “I can do it all on my own” – you stepped back and let me do just that. And, patiently waited for me to come to terms with the beauty of wanting a partner and wanting the help – not needing it.

When my days crumble and go to crap and nothing makes sense, you let me collapse into your lap, sink my face into the side of your neck and cry, piss and moan or pout. When my hormones are out of whack and I am throwing a tantrum that makes a two-year-old jealous – you don’t engage. When my actions are full of quit and you see that I am preparing for you to do the same, you don’t. When my words and actions make zero sense or I am just flat out being a pain in the butt, you have no problem telling me to, “cut the crap!” And, then try kissing me. It is super weird, you are super weird  – but I love that.

If we argue – it’s quick. Mostly because my memory is shot – but still. If we disagree – we talk it out and then agree that I was right – okay, okay – mostly right. You laugh at my corny jokes and love that I get mushy over hallmark movies. You make goofy snap chat videos with me, and will retake pictures until my double chin doesn’t show. You watch the Real Housewives, and This is Us with me too – and possibly when I am not in the room. You let my daughter, now your daughter, paint your toes that one time, remember? Oh, and do you remember that time you dressed up as Olaf for Halloween? Yep, you are that man, that husband – that makes his wife happy. That matters you know, more than you realize.

You tell me I am beautiful without even looking at me – which at first bothered me because I thought beauty was visually pleasing. Until the day I was un-showered, hair thrown up in a messy bun, zero makeup – probably looking all kinds of unkempt – and you looked me in the eyes, pulled me close and told me, “I’m so in love with you and you are so beautiful.” It was then that it clicked, you see me differently. You see me with love.

You stepped in as a father, a coach, a friend and a support for my children. You’ve been reminded you are not their father, and then loved as being one. You’ve gifted me another son and afforded my heart the ability to stretch even bigger than I imagined it could. You showed me the beauty of understanding and meaning my vows. Love doesn’t always make sense. But it always makes a choice. It chooses to give the benefit of the doubt. It chooses to trust. It chooses to listen, care and hope. Most of all, love chooses to STAY. Sometimes, to be honest, I wonder if you were dropped on your head as a child, because that is the only explainable reason you could possibly love me as much as you do. Remind me to thank your parents next time I see them for possibly being inattentive.

You are the man that chose the remaining pieces let over. The scraps, if you will. It’s incredible the sustenance and substance you can find in what someone else discarded. I’ve learned commitment from you. I’ve learned unconditional love from you. I’ve learned what a real, godly and faith driven marriage is from you. And, I love you endlessly and want to say thank you for loving and choosing me everyday.

Quote with a sunset behind a view

A fresh (step)parent perspective.

Have you ever felt like blending your family isn’t possible? Or, that being a stepparent is too much work for you to take on alone? That failing is your new favorite pastime and honestly you are unsure what or who you are even fighting for? Do you question if you have what it takes to be a stepparent? If your answer to any of these are yes, then know there is hope. Being a stepparent has days, months and even years where you are and will be tested and pushed. But, when you’re able to see past the step, and only see the parent, those rough days become more and more manageable.

When my husband and I blended our family seven years ago, it was rough. We’d both been divorced more than once before. We both had children and very different parenting styles. (We still have different parenting styles) There were days I was angry, days I cried, days I wanted to give up and say “no this is not my problem or my job” and truthfully a good reason behind dating for so long, well that and our failed marriages.

Did I feel like a jerk and a failure on the days when I couldn’t hang with the super stepmoms? Sure. But you can’t base your days or family dynamics on other blended families or stepparents. It’s okay to not have it figured out, it’s the quitting that’s bad. You have to ask yourself why God has put you where you are and how you can be used for good. There is a purpose to his plan, and you are more than capable.

When Cole first came into the mix he was struggling in school, and as harsh as it sounds it was a huge cause of friction in our home. When you blend children who’s parents have different expectations or even the lack of, it can rock even the most sturdiest of ships. Gracie and Gage were expected to come home right after school, homework was done first, playing was second. Cole had his own idea of how it should be done, which was not at all. And, to be honest there were days, weeks and months that felt like the only person in the entire universe who cared about his education, was me, and it was exhausting. My husband and I fought, the school and I fought and Cole and I fought. It was awful.

School nights consisted of tears, frustration, too many erasers and both of us going to bed defeated. Cole did not have confidence in his work or himself. Sports were his priority, and schooling was mine. It didn’t take long before I saw things differently. One of the great blessings of being a stepparent is you see things from a different perspective from your spouse who is more intimately connected to situations with their child. You are a fresh view, and that’s a blessing. I could see Cole was capable of much more than he was letting on, I could see he knew more but something was holding him back AND, I could also see how at times he was working both the school and my husband.

Admitting that you need help or that your child needs help, is no easy feat for some. With that in mind, imagine how it felt for me trying to persuade my husband into understanding (his son), our son needed help. Ours, was not a word he heard, he only heard, his, help, and failing. It was as if I was telling him Cole was damaged and it was his fault. He was against it all. Cole’s hesitance at least made sense because kids can be awful to anyone who learns differently, and he knew that. But, after my incessant pleas, we eventually approached the school about getting him into an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Coming from a place where I wasn’t directly or personally connected to a false sense of ownership, I could see this was a need not a fault, and it was in his best interest and would help him. And, luckily the school agreed.

The days of missing assignments, lies about homework, bad report cards, all the times Cole would say “I don’t know”, “I’m confused” or “I’m just dumb” were enough for all three of us to want to give up and run in separate directions. There were days I would go to work and cry because I was so frustrated, and felt like it would never change or get better. But, it did change. IT GOT BETTER. SO MUCH BETTER. The school has been incredibly instrumental and supportive along the way.

Cole was now not only getting the help he needed, but it fed his confidence and made him see he was capable of more, he did know more and understood more. He just needed to be expected to try by us, and then taught how to do things in a new way at school until eventually it all clicked. He will be a freshman next year and has all A’s and B’s this year so far. He had all D’s and F’s…even in PE. That’s how I knew this little turkey was capable of much more!

My point to this is, it may not be school you’re struggling with, and it may not be homework that your crying at work about. But whatever it is, if it’s going to benefit your child/stepchild, don’t quit advocating for it, even if it is with your spouse. The day you committed to your spouse, you committed to being a parent who looks out for and fights for the best interest of your children as a whole. You may start off as a fresh stepparent with no idea of how to parent differently than you did before blending your families. But, being new and fresh is a hidden gift in itself. You are a fresh set of eyes, ears and a fresh heart even, which is necessary when your new family may come with broken or bruised ones.

When I talked to Cole’s teacher the morning of our annual meeting she said somethings to me I will never forget, “He had such great things to say about you. He talks about you a lot and even shared you’re writing a book, he’s very proud of you, so you should know you’re doing great!” Yes, my little kiddo who used to battle me on everything was PROUD OF ME! It did feel great to know that as he’s making me proud, I’m making him proud too! And, I’m (just) his (Step)mom “technically”… So don’t think that restricts you from wanting and being more or doing better for your kiddos.

Keep fighting and love until it’s natural, you’ll be glad you did!

– Jess

This post talks about custody and divorce. The hassle of shared parenting visitation and co-parenting with a narcissist.

Life on pause.

Imagine every other weekend, your life and family is put on hold, hindered and incomplete – that’s life with divorce and visitation.

It’s easily one of the most frustrating and difficult situations in divorced families with children where co-parenting is not an option. And, unless you live this life, chances are you don’t understand.

You won. You were awarded full custody and now you are in charge and everything just goes your way, right? Wrong! First, winning shouldn’t be a term in child custody, and neither should awarded. When my ex-husband took me to court for full custody – I was sickened with worry, stress, potential heartbreak and fear. Basically, I am expected to go into a court room, with a stranger whose sole purpose is to judge me, going against the only person in the world who gains a sick satisfaction out of manipulating, emotionally and mentally breaking me down and hates me for sport. And then, convince this judge in a limited time frame that not only am I a good mother, but that I am a better mother, than their father is a good father. That is essentially what is comes down to; who is the better parent for the children. And, one wins and one loses – but truthfully in our case, one wins and three lose, either way. There are a handful of days in my life that I can remember in vivid detail – and the day I “fought” for full custody is one of those days I still play back regularly.

While that day is not really the point of this post, I will just say a couple things that are relevant. The words “full custody awarded to the mother” echoing in the half empty courtroom were the loudest, emptiest, angriest and most relieving words I had heard up to that point. That morning I came prepared to fight for my life, for my children and I was not going to lose them. Thankfully for me, I didn’t lose them. But, their father did, and looking back now you can see that day was the beginning of the quit. The beginning of all the “I can’t make it’s”, the schedule conflicts, the manipulation tactics, reverse psychology and narcissism that I , we live with today. And, when someone else see’s it, or hears it, they say the same thing – “don’t let your children go there, stop the visits” and I have to explain that is not how it works.

There are a set of unspoken (but written) rules in divorce decrees that have a trailing visitation order. If you are the custodial parent you are expected to encourage and foster a relationship with the non-custodial parent and the children you share between you. This includes their family and friends as well. You are expected to not speak ill of the other parent, or withhold visitations out of pure distaste of the other parent. Sports, extracurricular activities, school events etc. are supposed to be avoided if at all possible during their weekend, and if they do land on the other parents “time” they are not required to take them – because it is their time. Their time, not your child’s time.

You learn to maneuver around the schedule and you do your best with what you get. There were a few civil standbys when the selfish stubbornness kept my children from attending games simply because their father didn’t feel like going in the beginning. Those days sucked for everyone but him, I’d ultimately have to leave without the children, the kids would miss their games/events and he would essentially win. The officers didn’t enjoy it either, they know the situation, they see it, but they can’t get involved and most don’t want to. It started with school events and games, and then slowly oozed into birthday parties, family events, holidays etc. The first time I had to tell my child they couldn’t attend something because it was important to spend this time with their father it was okay – but the more frequent they became – the harder it was. And, no because they shouldn’t want to spend time with their father – but because he refused to spend time with them doing the things they enjoyed.

Co-parenting with a narcissist is like being the tin man from the wizard of oz, having motion sickness, on the downward spiral of a roller coaster, with a loose harness, after eating ice cream and 5 corn dogs – doing the tango with a peg leg and an eye patch all the while sewing back together and re-stuffing down feathered pillows your dog chewed up and scattered throughout the back forty – it’s freaking difficult!!

Not everyone is able to join the elusive and all inclusive co-parenting club, no matter how hard they try or pray. And, people don’t register the impact this has on your families life. What looks to friends and family like a minor schedule change, is an asteroid headed for earth sure to destroy life as we know it. I always love when someone asks if I would like them to call dad and tell him he needs to bring them to an event – as if that would do anything?! He doesn’t care, plain and simple and there is nothing anyone can do to change that than God, and he isn’t a believer, so… ya!

So what does a parent do when you really have no control or say every other weekend? We don’t. We literally don’t do anything. We found that we stopped doing things. We stopped making plans. We stopped inviting people over, or going out as a family – because eow someone is gone. And, truthfully that hindered the weekends the kids were home to because we wanted to be with them, so we would not do anything, ever. Plus, everyone always asks “where are the kids? Why aren’t the kids here? They get out of everything” etc. And, sometimes I want to scream “No, they don’t get out of anything actually, they didn’t choose this life, we couldn’t fix our “issues” and now they are innocent bystanders who are paying the price! They are with their other parent who doesn’t give one shit about what they want or need, and they’re missing out on everything and we are here just trying to not focus on that fact, thank you very much.” But, just a much as people don’t understand, we can’t expect them too either.

They can’t just decide – there is a COURT ORDER that requires them to go. It is not a suggestion, it’s a requirement. The only way they are allowed to miss or skip a visit is if they get permission from that parent – or go back to court. Which makes our situation all the more complicated because my daughter did just that – she requested through the court to not be required to visit her father anymore when she was old enough. He will never tell this story because no one wants to say the part that makes themselves look bad – but he had to okay it – which he did. So, we have one child who is still court ordered and one who is permitted to not attend. Navigate that one…

As a parent, a normal parent, you want what is best for your children. It is your job to not only provide for them, but teach the importance of opportunity, achievement, dedication, commitment, work ethic all while loving, encouraging and supporting them. When you have one parent who is against every part of these – how are you supposed to make it work? We have our children in 4H, FFA, sports, etc. to teach them the importance of responsibility, the importance of teamwork and working hard for the things they want in life. But every other weekend – it’s a headache. And for my son, every Wednesday too.

My son was excited to sign up for Track, which he has never done, and to be honest I was slightly dreading it because track meets drag on all day. But, I was supportive because it was something new, something he was interested in and running keeps him active – so heck ya! go for it bud! Then Wednesday comes around and he is gloomy because his dad already questioned him last week if he was going to get his Wednesday visits back now that basketball was over – and he didn’t have the heart to tell his dad he signed up for track. So, now he stands in front of me at 6:30 am and has to choose – either track and telling his dad, or quitting track and going to his visits. Our family is serious about sticking to a commitment, once you start a sport and the fee is paid, you have to finish it out. But, I can’t force that in this situation, so I tell him my thoughts and that I support him in whatever he chooses.

On the car ride to work I am having a serious discussion with God and I get a text from my son saying he chose to give up track so he doesn’t upset his dad – and I am equal parts heartbroken and pissed. He asked if I was mad and for the first time I responded with he truth about his dad, “No, I am not mad at you for wanting to not upset your dad, I’m mad that your father has put you in the position where you care more about letting him down, then letting yourself down – and I can’t fix that and it breaks my heart for you.” And, that is the truth folks – we are stuck a lot of the time, and we aren’t supposed to say the other parent is bad, or wrong, but damn it – he is wrong and it is not fair. But as the repairer, I called his coach and explained the situation and we were able to come up with a plan for him to still practice 4 of the days and remain on the team, and make visits with dad.

That’s what we do I guess, we rearrange, we maneuver around and come up with other options to still afford them the normalcy of childhood, opportunities and a healthy life – even if we are the only ones doing it consistently. So, the next time you see a blended family jigsawing their way through life – maybe you’ll understand a little better that they are simply attempting to navigate a different normalcy.

This post and quote talks the six friends we all have and about suicide, loss of a parent, loss of a child, divorce, empty nest, depression and life in general

Six friends we all have.


I support you.

When was the last time someone stopped you, looked you in the eyes and I said, I support you? I’m willing to bet it has been a long while. It’s overdue and you need to know you are supported.

I also believe in you.

When was the last time you felt that someone truly believed in you? That they had your back without judgment or something to gain? Continue reading “Six friends we all have.”

I never…words from a bio/step mom that hit home.

This morning I received a letter from a fan of my Facebook page named Bobbie Ann Phillips and as I read it I knew instantly this needed to be read by all of you. This is her story and its an honest account of how it feels, of what we don’t expect, our fears and our goals. Enjoy!

” I never imagined I would have to co-parent with an ex of mine, much less an ex of my new husband. I did know I would be co-parenting with my own husband. I never imagined my husband would be someone else’s ex husband. I never thought I would have to share some of “my” weekends and “my” holidays, separate, from “my” son. I never thought I would have to long for the chance to do those same things with and for a son whose dad is dead. I also never thought my deepest fear would be that my third son may someday meet the same fate of a broken home. I never thought I would be fearing completely loosing two of my children if my marriage ever did fail. I never thought most of my scheduling would revolve so much around picking up one set of kids at 6p on Friday, meeting to drop off another kid before or after that, and then meeting back on 6p Sunday for drop off of two kids and then meeting before or after that to get another kid back. I never thought I would both look forward to, and dread those weekends at the very same time. I never imagined I would explain to two of my three biological children why daddy can not be here, or does not live here and the reasons be because of such different circumstances. Circumstances that would cause as much hurt for both of “my” boys and myself as both situations do. I never even imagined my children would have different dads. I never thought I would have “other” kids ask me why my husband, their dad, is not with their mom. I never thought I would be making beds, cleaning laundry, preparing meals, buying necessities, and supporting “other” kids. I knew “my” kids may look past all I do for them and it would hurt some. I did not know having “other” kids look past those same things would hurt as much. I never thought I would have “other” kids sometimes resent me for my role in their lives. A role they only want their mom, and their dad, to have. I never thought I would feel so much hurt for them, and for my husband, because they too come from a broken home. I never thought I would love each person in “my” blended family so much that I would wish each child could have their mom, and their dad, in one home. If I had that wish though, several of my biological children would not exist, and I would never have a chance to even meet two of my “other” children. I would have never met my husband. I never thought I would have to accept that because someone I loved died, and because a different relationship failed I would find new love and create a new family. I never thought I would agree that when one life ends another begins. I feel as though I have personally lost two lives and began a new one each time. I feel I am on my third life, and feverishly pray for it to be my last.

I never thought I would be the “other” parent that another parent would resent. I am that parent whose mere presence in a child’s life causes another adult resentment, and pain. Though “her” family ended long before “mine” began, I never imagined my place with my husband would be a stark reminder of another woman’s lost place with her husband. I never imagined That my place with my step children would be a reminder of “her” time she “has” to share, with me. I never thought my loving them could hurt her as much as it would if I did not love them. I do acknowledge that my presence does cause these things, though completely unintentional. I never imagined two children who “are not mine” would have me so wrapped around their little fingers. I did not know I could love a child I did not give birth to so much that it literally hurts. I did not know I would want to fight so fiercely for my time, my bond, and my place with two children who I feel with every bone in my body are mine. I knew I would have children that would fill my life with love, joy, hope, chaos and clutter. I knew I would do everything in my power to protect, love and cherish every moment with “my” kids. I knew I would become a mom by choice to children I gave birth to. I did not know that I would have that same desire to love, protect and cherish children not born to me. I knew there would be times my children would be angry with me. I knew I would make mistakes and cause hurt. I knew I would mend the hurt, calm the anger and explain why I do what I do to “my” kids. I knew I would both reward and punish “my kids” with no remorse because that is my job as their mom. I did not know I would feel so guilty by my own presence that I would overly reward, and seldom punish the children I did not give birth to. I never knew I would feel I don’t have the right to demand and earn respect from “other” children as much as I do from “my” children. I never thought I would always worry my actions and words would favor “my” children over the “other” children so much that I actually show more favor to “other” children over mine at times. I never thought I would say I am an ex, a wife, a mom, and a step mom, All in one. I am all of those things and I am these things at the very same time. I sometimes struggle to decide which hat I am suppose to wear at which time. All of these inner struggles are real, and part of my life. I am exactly where I want to be. I realize I am exactly where God planned me to be. I do have the husband and children I did always long for. I am thankful for all the good and bad that comes with this life and these roles. Yet I have no idea how to navigate my happiness and love without someone else being hurt, or resentful, in some way because of it. I have no idea why I even care that my presence, my role, and my place effects any person other than my husband, and our children. I just know that I do care.

I do not co-parent with my ex’s new wife or serious girlfriend, not yet anyway. I do know that the day will come when I will. At least, I pray it does. I do want “my” son to have another parent love him. I do want him to have someone else he can learn from, respect, love and cherish. I so want him to know I am okay with him loving some “other” parent. I want her to know that while her presence may cause some stinging, I’m happy to share “my” son with her. I want her to know that he’s “our” son, and that “our” will include her. I know that during my time as a step mom I have learned many things to do, and not to do both with “my” son and towards the “other” parent. I hope I will remember to respect her, and to honestly cherish her. I hope I will remember I should view any person my son loves as an extension of himself. I love “my” son, and so I will love those he loves and that love him. I hope I can remember I should love “my kids” mom because they love her and she is an extension of them. For the love of a child even the most difficult situations on all ends I am involved in will be handled with love and care, by me, for them regardless of how the opposing end on either side of these blended families are behaving. That is my goal anyway. I know I pray daily that God shows me the way to do all these things with Grace in each of the roles I am fulfilling.

~ Bobbie Ann Phillips

Everyone has one more chance for love inside them

It is true, you may be scared and uneasy maybe even willing to self sabotage it once it arrives – but the ability to love someone new, a last ditch effort of maybe this could be the elusive one – is there inside everyone. But, why? Why not just completely rule out the possibility of love, why don’t our fears of rejection and heartbreak – keep our hearts locked down tight? And, what do we gain from loving again?

Read More at http://www.divorcedmoms.com/articles/why-im-not-afraid-to-love-again

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Why I’m not afraid to love again. DivorcedMoms.com

Nine secrets your spouse’s ex may not tell you.

Do you have an ex in your life, which makes your life hell? Does it feel like even though your spouse got divorced, that they are still married? Would it surprise you to find out that you put up with more than you have to, simply because the ex says you do?

Below are nine ways to stop allowing the ex to run your life. And, how to remove the welcome mat from your porch and your forehead respectively.

1.  You didn’t marry them; they are not your ex.

This person your spouse or significant other married and consequently divorced, was not who you planned to spend your life with. The word exclude, starts with ex, do just that.        

2.  The ex does not own your spouse just because they share a child.

If your spouse is the non-custodial parent with visitation; it is difficult, but not impossible. Though no longer a team in terms of marriage, they are a team in terms of the child/ren. The ex can only control what the divorce decree says. If the ex has sole legal and sole physical, s/he has the say over schooling, medical and religion. However s/he is required by law to encourage and nurture a relationship with any and all family members of the child’s non-custodial parent. This includes stepfamily, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Better yet, did you know your spouse has a right to daily phone calls with their child, unless noted differently in the divorce decree?  

3.  If you want to attend a school or sporting event – you can. Doctors’ appointments too.

Sporting events are public; anyone and their grandmother can attend. If you want to go, go. Same goes for school recitals, back to school nights, etc. In fact most schools will do separate conferences so that both homes are involved in the child’s educational progress and needs. In terms of doctors’ appointments you can go with a spouse, or have your name added to the child’s file as someone who has a right to medical care and information. It is really no different than having access to a credit card or utility bill that may be solely in your spouse’s name. You can gain information and have some involvement.

4. Your spouse’s visitation time is your spouse’s choice to spend it how they wish. 

The ex-spouse cannot commit you to anything on your time. This includes sports, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties etc. It is a double edge sword though because if by not taking the child to certain engagements will hurt the child in the process, it is a no win situation. But, by no means are you required to do it.

5. Follow your divorce decree, not the ex’s divorce commands.

It can’t be any more plain stated than this. The divorce decree is your spouse’s bible in a sense. It states what is expected, allowed and forbade. Non-custodial parents have more rights than most realize, like rights to medical and school records. Do your research.

6. If your spouse and their ex share joint legal and joint physical custody – your spouse’s say is just as important as the ex’s.

One is not more than the other. In some cases, one parent may have sole physical custody, while both retain joint legal custody. You need to know the differences of these and what your spouse has.

7. The ex can only control what there is no control over.

If a void is visible, the ex will invade. One place the ex will try to invade is your marriage. This is your territory – be territorial enough to remind the ex, this is not their place, and their existence will not be tolerated. Stand your ground.

8. The ex’s issue with you, is a reflection of an issue with themselves.

Any parent who is content with themselves and their own level of involvement and parenting they provide will never limit or control the parenting or involvement of anyone else. This is a well-known fact.

9. In terms of child support, do your own math and research.

Many parents pay more than they should, and feel as though they have to roll over and take it. If your spouse feels there is a substantial change either in their income or the ex’s, request a review. If your spouse is on disability or the ex is on disability make sure the child support office is aware. You’d be surprised how many parents overpay because they failed to double check or request a review.

There you have it, nine ways to limit or exclude the ex’s involvement in your home, your marriage and the relationship with your stepkids.