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Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I admit it, there are many days I resent my stepdaughter, her mother, and the fact that they are even in my life to begin with.  There I said it.  I know that makes me an evil person, but I believe the true measure is what you do with that resentment.  Clearly there have been many days when I have wanted to lash out in anger and just yell, "Why are you doing this to me?" I normally don't.

Yesterday however was my breaking point.  Everyone has one and I definately hit mine.  After the last couple of weeks with my stepdaughter making all of us walk on eggshells because she is hormonal, I was already near the edge of the cliff.  Here is how it happened.

Husband calls, says his ex refused to sign the stipulation she agreed to sign to keep her out of court.  Keep in mind this is the same stipulation I told him not to waste time on because she would never sign it.  Suprise, Suprise, she is refusing to sign.  So after spending $600.00 that we don't have on getting a stipulation drawn up to try and get the money his ex owes us, we now are back to where I told him we should be from the beginning, yep another Order to Show Cause, let's see how many is this now?  Way too many to count.  Anyway, Miss Attitude comes home from school following a very hectic morning of her crying and refusing to do her chores.  Her immediate sentence, "Why are you dressed up?"  in a snotty tone of voice. 

I was dressed to go to my third job of the day, yes I am now working three jobs to support this selfish child because her father is spending all our money on things I told him not to do in the first place!  (Can you sense the resentment here?)  I answered I had to go to work, to which she demanded that I buy her candy for her Halloween party at school before I go. 

Here is where the Jackie O hat not only fell off but flew to the ground and was trampled on by a herd of running bulls.  I let her have it.  I told her straight out how much her mother had cost us just that day, that I was working three jobs to support her when her mother hand't paid a dime of child support in months.  I told her how unfair it was that I was standing there in the kitchen in high heels, skirt, and blouse doing dishes before I had to go to work when it was her chore to empty the dishwasher.  I told her how sick and tired I was of doing her laundry, taking her places, spending every penny I have on her when I need new clothes and all she had to say was, "Sorry."  and then walked away.

I could have accepted the apology had it not been for the attitude behind it, that "sorry" came out as sarcastic and bitter. 

My point to this whole horrid story is that when we let resentment build it finally explodes and not in ways that are positive for us or our kids.  Looking back I see where I could have walked away, but I didn't.  Instead I created a situation where my stepdaughter resents me because she honestly believes all the lies her mom has told her about being "caught up" on child support.  A stepparent can never compete with a birth parent, no matter how much we do for these kids.

As to me and my resentment, well I am finding new ways of realeasing it, such as venting to you all for the future.  I am also secretly praying that one day this child has a stepdaughter and her husband's ex exactly like her and her mom. 

Until next time.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Redifining Family

I have found that in a blended family, the term family becomes lost in translation at times.  The word "step" seems to automatically create boundaries.  Some parents go out of their way to define what family means to the kids in statements such as, "he isn't your real brother, she isn't your real grandmother, and she/he is not your parent." These statements are a defensive mechanism meant to keep us as parents right where we believe we belong, NUMBER 1 in our kids lives.  When a new family is created, it is just that family.  No longer can people say family is defined by mother, father, and children all living in the same home.  With more blended families than traditional families we must redifine what family is in terms that do not create feelings of conflict.

It is our job as parents to make certain our children know that family can be friends, aunts and uncles, grandparents, step siblings, step parents, step grandparents.  Family is those people around us who have our back.  They are the people you call when you can't pay a bill or need to talk.  Family are the support system we build around us to make us stronger and better people. 

During and after a divorce that support system is critical!  If you can't turn to your family when you are having problems who can you turn to?  Your family, who can be made up of any person close to you who wants what is best for you, will always be there for you when you need a step up. 

As for your children, your family will be their mentors and cheer leaders.  Your family will help them grow into the adults they will become.  Remembering that your children cannot have enough positive people in their life, helps you to break down the barriors that you may create simply by refusing to accept someone as part of their family.  Once you realize that the people in your children's lives including your ex are there to help your child, you can stop using those phrases that only hurt and confuse your children. 

Warning: The only time a child should be removed from their family is if that person has a negative effect in their lives or is abusive in any way.  In most cases, those we call our family will never hurt our children. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Building Your Own Family Holiday Traditions

As Halloween approaches, I take time to consider some of the holiday traditions we have created with our blended family.  Holidays for divorced parents can be hard.  With visitation and custody schedules forever changing, some holidays you may be alone.   Regardless of the situation following divorce, it is never a bad idea to create some of your own new traditions.

Traditions we have come to love for Halloween:

1. Halloween Witch.  One of my children has food allergies and the mere thought of trick-or-treating throws me into a panic.  We created the Halloween Witch to go along with the Easter Bunny.  She leaves a bag full of toys, treats, and games for each of the kids on Halloween.  We then spend the night as a family watching scary movies, eating popcorn, and handing out candy to the children who come by.

2. Special Halloween Dinner.  Every year our dinner on Halloween is the same.  Homemade Turkey Chili, Homemade bread, and for sugar cookies.  The kids love decorating the cookies and look forward to a nice hot bowl of chili on a cold Halloween night.

3. Homemade Costumes.  This is one we are really loving this year with little money.  All three of the kids this year are dressing up as babies.  They get to stay in their pajamas all day, they get a ring pop around their neck as a pacifier, and they stay warm and comfy.  There are thousands of homemade Halloween costumes ideas online just google homemade costumes. 

4. Homemade Candy.  Sometimes the best stuff really is homemade.  The kids all enjoy making taffy, caramel corn,  and homemade chocolates that can be colored for the holidays.  They often give these to some of their best friends. 

5. Telling Ghost Stories.  This should be used for older children as younger children get easily scared, but this can create fun family memories as you all sit in a circle with blankets and flashlights sharing scary moments.  

Finding yourself alone on Halloween try some of the following:

1. Party.  Have a party at your house for other alone parents or go to parties you are invited to.  It is easier to not be alone on those nights.

2. Movie Time. Halloween can be great fun at a movie theater you can go alone or with someone and still enjoy that scary time of year.

3. A few days before send your kids a disposable camera with the following instructions: Scary things can happen on Halloween, so before you start to scream, take a picture with this, and be sure you do not miss, all those fun Halloween moments in the days to come.  Then send them a care package with a little candy, tooth brush, toothpaste, floss, toys, pencils, paper, and games.  Wrap each thing individually for more fun on their end and have them send the camera back to you in the box you sent the care packages in.  Then you can develop the film and share in some of their Halloween moments too. 

Monthly Bills

Every month it appears to be the same way, choosing between such luxuries as food or insurance for the house.  Finances are undoubtedly one of the major causes of divorce in our society today.  So how do we do it?  How do we pay those bills every month without feeling resentment, anger, and hatred?

This month I have found myself in the wonderful position of literally having $30.00 until the next payday two weeks from now.  Yes all the bills are paid, but $30.00 on which to hold a family of five for two weeks doesn't amount to much when you still haven't bought groceries.  Especially when you get the nice welcome I got from my step daughter yesterday, that of, "Mom I lost my jacket at school and can't find it, I need a new one."  Situations like this are where I just have to walk away for a while before I respond.

If I respond how I would like, making her wear one my jacket to school, then I feel guilty because of the response I believe she will receive upon wearing an oversize jacket.   If I respond fine, I will go buy you another one, there goes all the money I have to pay for gas and food in the next two weeks.  Times like this put a huge strain on a step family. 

I am ashamed to say, I called the hubby and let him have it!  I yelled, "how are you going to take care of this?" over the phone while he was at work.  Not my brightest moment, but still a moment where I feel justified.  In the end what did it get me?  Nothing.  I am no better off than I was before and now he is stressed out at work.

Thinking that this just won't work, I have a plan, I am off to the plasma donation center again.  As for the next month well that will hit me and all of us too soon.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Making Visits Easier

Although we all want to give our kids lots of sugar and caffeine and then send them off to the other parent, this is not the way to make visits easier.  There are many things that can make these transition periods easier.  Here are a few of my tips.

1) Kids often have a fear of what they are missing.  This can be eliminated by giving them and yourself a photo journal kit.  This should include a camera, notebook, letters, brochures of interesting things.  That way when they are visiting the other parent they can share their fun experiences with you and come back to see that although they may have missed a few things at your house, they were thought of at every event. You may want to even have a teddy bear with their name on it that you take to all events that they are not with you.  That will allow the child to know you are thinking about them.

2) Cell phones for kids who are older.  Allowing them to have a prepaid cell phone from you will help make the transition easier between houses.  They will know that they can always talk to you if they ever want to.  This does not mean that limits should not be set, phones should not be used to disturb the parent time of the other parent, bedtimes of the children, or any special events.

3) Pack a back with things from home; their favorite stuffed animal, blankets, pictures, MP3 player with music, letters from home, etc.  This will help them feel more secure during the transition.

4) Care packages during visits often let them know you are thinking about them and offer a positive thing for all people involved.  Talk with your ex as to what they will allow or not allow in their home.  Sending some games, candy, stationary, envelopes, stamps, money for activities, crafts, etc does not have to be expensive.  Many of these can be homemade, but will be appreciated by all.

5)  Make sure if they are traveling long distance to give them a standard travel kit.  This should include age appropriate books, music players, stickers, paper, pens, crayons, and a snack and drink that may be purchased at the airport so the child will not arrive hungry or thirsty will make plane rides easier. 

6) Travel documents should be sent with the child, identification, parents name, parents numbers, addresses, medical information and insurance cards, etc.  Don't withhold this information simply to hurt the other parent.

7)  Make a big deal of the welcome home.  Hang banners, balloons, and have a special meal planned.  This helps the child to know that they were missed and you do want them back.

8) Finally ignore all the "at my other house I am allowed to..."  Children know how to play one person against another.  They are smart.  They will use that statement in an effort to get away with something or to get something they want.  Every time you buy into this, you add fuel to the fire and make it harder for the kids to readjust.  Consistency during your parent time is the best way to keep your children happy.  The reason is simple, these kids know what to expect.  They will try to test the boundaries, but they are happy to stay inside those boundaries because they know they are loved. 

Child Support

As the spouse of a custodial father, I have learned the hard fact regarding child support.  DON'T PLAN ON IT!  That is right, you can never plan on child support.  Currently my husband's ex is more than $7,000 behind on child support.  With that it mind, the most essential thing is that you have a plan to provide for the needs of your family without support.  Watching every penny, clipping coupons, working two or three jobs sometimes you still are not able to make it. 

I believe that many noncustodial parents think that they pay an insane amount of child support.  Money that couldn't all possibly be used by the child.  Many also believe that the custodial parent spends the money on themselves.  Let me break it down for you.  I have one stepchild, who eats every day (I know pretty insane) with an average cost of $10.00 per day for three meals and snacks.  That works out to $300.00 a month or $3,000 a year for the time she is with me.  She is still growing so new clothes, shoes, coats, jackets, etc work out to be about $300.00 a year.  School fees, supplies, field trips, school pictures, etc work out to around $500.00 a year.  She is also my child who leaves utilities on all the time, so when she is visiting her mom my utilities drop by $75 a month so from that I can safely assume that she costs $75 a month in gas, electric, water, sewer, garbage, etc and since she is only with her mom for two months a year that leaves me with a cost of $750 a year.  Medical bills, as she is a child with asthma and her mother doesn't pay any medical support work out to $175 a month or $1750 a year that I pay for. Percent of housing cost because she has to have her own bedroom works out to $1200 a year.  Then don't forget all of the "askadentals" the things they ask for such as toys, candy, movie tickets, popcorn at the theater, etc just plan on $1500 a year for that. Then you have to figure transportation to and from visitations, to and from school, to and from events etc $500 a year (I know low figure here but stick with me), Also don't forget daycare expenses for after school care $250 a month and then $350 a month during the summer months she is here so a total of $2600 a year (GRAND TOTAL   $$$$$$$ 12,100 A YEAR!!!!

The noncustodial parent is supposed to pay half or $6,050 a year if they were fully helping to support the child that would be around $504 a month with low figures, but in our case she is only ordered to pay $343, of which we see $0.  I know many of you all would say hey, can't you garnish her wages?  The answer to that is No, you can't garnish if they are working under the table to avoid paying child support.  Can't you take her to court?  Yes, we have, but all the courts have done because she is a woman and not a man is simply hold her in contempt and order her to pay our attorney fees which she doesn't do. 

To make a long story short, adults realize that child support is indeed for the benefit of the child.  Custodial parents rarely if ever use this money on themselves when they really are supporting their children.  The cost of a child for both traditional families and blended families is the same.  Custodial parents do not have foreign bank accounts to pay for these expenses.  Money is not used for romatic getaways, trips to Disneyland, or even the purchase of a new boat.  Custodial parents do not win the lottery in paying for these things.  Many custodial parents work hard to pay for all the needs of their child without assistance from the noncustodial parent. 

And as a final note to noncustodial parents, these are your children, these are the same little ones you held in your arms and vowed to love on the day of their birth.  Those of you who have stepped up to the plate and support your children in every aspect, I congratulate you on being a great parent.  To those of you who have yet to step up and support your children or who look for ways to avoid paying child support, I urge you to consider what you are doing to your children.  You are taking their custodial parent out of their lives by making them work harder to do what you are supposed to do.  You are leaving your child in the care of strangers for long hours because you choose not to support these children you vowed to love and protect. 

Child support is not for the parent, and punishing the other parent by not paying is not a way to benefit your children or your relationship to them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Diffusing Bombs Dropped By Our Kids From The EX

If you are divorced or have considered divorce and have children, then you know that they add to the real cost of divorce.  Not just in child support, medical payments, and daycare, children can be much more than that when a marriage ends.  Negative comments said by one parent about the other taint the child's impressions of both parents and create new conflicts in the home.  Stress that children feel from being bounced between homes, lives, friends, and parents, contributes to the stress that parents themselves can feel.  Parents can minimize the hurt and stress their children feel simply by letting the child express their fears and concerns.  Putting on our "big kid pants" and putting our negative feelings aside will help our children feel more secure in our homes.  Regardless of the comments the other parent states, our best defense is simply to ask, "and what do you think/feel about that?," and let the child work this out on their own.  Listening to our children and restating what they have said is one of the best ways to diffuse problems before they begin.  The art of listening rather than getting angry will teach our children that they can come to us no matter what.  If our child comes home and says, "Mom/Dad said this about you."  Simply asking, "How do you feel/think about that?" and then listening will enable our children to come to the best conclusion that based on what they have seen not what they have heard.  Next time your child comes home from a visit with something negative to say, simply turn it into a question and let them work out the rest.