{The Ordinary Moments 2015} #23 – 4 Years On

{The Ordinary Moments 2015} #23 – 4 Years On

We’ve just closed the door on the Grandparents (James’ parents) as they go off to their local hotel for the evening after a lovely weekend all enjoying each other’s company.  Nothing particularly planned so we hung out at the park for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon and today we showed them the local woodlands that we always like to walk around.  As I looked around downstairs and checked the doors were locked and turned off the lights, I felt a twinge in my heart as the house felt empty and so quiet (the babies were just being settled in bed by James upstairs).

I walked up the stairs and glanced at the girls bedroom, the door was open and there are a few clothes on the floor as they just got changed to go back to their Mum’s home and I realised why my heart aches.  I miss them.  Desperately I miss them. My home doesn’t feel complete when they’re not here.

It’s so strange because these two little girls who have woven themselves deep into my heart must now have pierced through to the deepest layer.  I wrote recently about how I ‘feel’ again.  I am on anti-depressants just 10mg a day which is a very low dose according to the GP but it seems to work for me.  I am so much more balanced now.  I was worried when I reluctantly agreed to take them that they would make me numb to my emotions.  As my heart is finally healing after years of abuse and hurt, they seem to have done the opposite.  I ‘feel’ so much more.  I am not numb at all, in fact I’m laughing again, really laughing, I am getting goosebumps when I listen to singers I love, I’m crying when I read something moving.  I’m me again, and I’m definitely not numb.

The only problem with this seems to be that what used to feel normal (the girls going home to their Mum’s each week) now feels heart wrenching.  It’s been 4 years since these princesses came into my life and their names are now so deeply engraved on my heart, I’m weeping that they’ve gone home.  Of course this isn’t the sort of situation where they go home to an evil household and we should be fighting for full custody because I love them so much.  No, that is not the case at all.  The girls are deeply loved at both homes and they need their Mum and Kerry (Mum’s wife) in their lives as much as they need us.  This is something that I just need to adjust to as this is our normal life.  This is the way it is as a blended family.  I’m just so sad this evening because 4 years on, I just don’t feel complete without them here.  We are half a family.  We don’t see ourselves as a separate unit when the girls aren’t here, we see ourselves as one big family and we just don’t always get to be together because we share the girls with another happy family.  This has always been the aim as I made the active choice to love and treat the girls as my own all this time, it is now 100% a complete reality.  I would sometimes wonder if this was really true, but tonight has shown me although I did not birth them, I love and see these girls completely as my own.

We’re so fortunate that we have the girls as much as we do.  The girls pretty much have shared parenting.  We have them less at the moment as now James has the car for work and we live so far away, it’s not practical for me to do the school run with two toddlers, (it would be 2 buses and an hour each way Thursdays and Fridays), but as soon as we have a second car we will have the girls Thursday to Sunday again.  When it’s a Bank Holiday we usually get to keep them longer, in the holidays we will have them for 2 weeks straight which will be lovely.  I can’t wait.  We get to share Easter and Christmas and all family special occasions with them, they’re always here, they’re never excluded from any important events.  We’re really lucky that this pretty much shared parenting works so well for us all and that their Mum allows us to have so much time without having to go through messy court cases.  We’ve arrived at a really balanced happy place where whatever we can manage is what we do.

It took a lot of trial and error to arrive where we are.  It has been a long journey of swapping days, seeing how the girls responded, Isis being happy, Shayla being unhappy and vice versa, but we are now where everyone seems truly happy.  I feel so blessed to live this life.  It certainly did not always feel this way.  There have been times that I have felt it is too hard.  Trying to get two parents to agree on some decisions can be difficult for most families, we have moments where all four of us are at luggerheads., there’s no doubting that it is hard.  There are things I could share but they don’t belong on our special place, this blog is for us all and the girls read it regularly when they are at their Mummy’s.  Please if you are a step mum who is struggling though, especially at the beginning of the journey feel free to email me (dontcallmestepmummy@gmail.com) if you need some encouragement, or to know you’re not alone.  There are many support groups out there as well as on facebook.  There are many negative spaces on the internet for stepmum’s but also some supportive ones.

I am crazy happy with our lives and this afternoon as we were all walking through the woods I watched the children holding hands with James walking ahead of me as I talked to my in laws and said ‘Don’t you just feel like you need to pinch yourself?’.  It really does feel like a dream.  When I remember where I was 5 years ago and where I am now, I thank God for blessing me with such an amazing husband and wonderful family.

* This post is dedicated to all the blended families out there beginning their journey.  Keep going it does get easier and I know for us, even still, the best is yet to come.

blended family, siblings, dont call me step mummy, mummy blogger, step mum, four children, beautiful field, the ordinary moments

The_Ordinary_Moments.PNG

10 Ways to be a Successful Blended Family

10 Ways to be a successful Blended Family

raising a blended family, dontcallmestepmummy, mummy blog, how to raise a blended family

1) sod the expectations

So everybody will have an opinion on how you should live your life and raise your children and interact with your step-children. I read an article that infuriated me. Saying that calling it a blended family pretty much dooms you to failure… wrong, giving something a name isn’t the problem, it’s what that means to you.

2) what do the children need?

Be prepared for this to evolve as the years go on.  Yes, fair enough if you come into someone’s life and they have teenage daughters who have been getting on fine without a mother figure at Dad’s house then, of course don’t waltz in expecting to be one. If the children are little then to help them feel secure sometimes you have to step up and love them as your own even if you don’t want to. You should at least try. I have always treated the girls like they’re my own. I understand not everyone can do this, maybe because I had adopted siblings come into my life when I was a teenager, and I loved them as my own siblings, I’ve had practice. I watched my Mum, love as though they were hers, even when it hurt. This does not take away from the fact our girls have a mother when they are with her. I do this so that when they’re with us, they are secure. The girls have more free time with me than any of the other three parents in their lives, just because of the way our contact works around school and everyone else’s work. As I have two little babies, I am the stay at home/work at home Mum in their lives, so when they are with us, they need to feel secure, and not like second class citizens. I plan EVERYTHING as though they were here permanently and as though they were mine. 3 and a half days a week I can switch off and concentrate on the babies.  Isis and I text sometimes (she likes to check on the babies) but their time with their Mum is their time with their Mum. Unless hubby wants to bring up an issue that has come to our attention (at what age Isis should have access to certain apps etc) we don’t get involved in each other’s lives.

3) put aside differences/arguments to come together on the big stuff

Now I’m not saying this can happen straight away. There is a lot of hurt involved in a marital/civil partnership breakdown, especially when there are children involved. This one took us about three years to be able to work successfully as a team. When the children need though, it is important to at least TRY and meet together to discuss the issues. This doesn’t always work, and that’s ok too. You need to know when to just admit something isn’t there yet, and know that in the future you may get there. When everyone loves the children though, it is important to try. It does get easier. We had to all come together when Isis was having issues at school. School was terrible at playing both sets of parents off against each other to get the result they wanted. Only when we all came together did they take us seriously and efficiently deal with the problem at hand.

4) do NOT speak negatively about the absent parent

This is SO important for children. I have failed in this in the past when I’ve been angry about something, where I have voiced something around the children that I shouldn’t. I would NEVER say something to the children directly to bad mouth their mother. Even if the mother is out to get you (which hasn’t been my experience) and wants to destroy your marriage, the child does not need to know that.  In fact if you think you can convince the child their Mother is evil and then they’ll side with you. Wrong!!! You’re so wrong. Especially at a young age, however terrible a mother/father someone may be, the child will ALWAYS look to their parent for affirmation, identity, security, stability, and it’s from there they form their attachments. Believing their own parent to be terrible is only damaging to the child and their sense of identity/self-worth. I appreciate this must happen more when the other parent isn’t in a relationship.  My experience was that James’ ex is still with the partner she left him for.  They are a happy unit together as are we so there’s no scorned woman.  I do know that it was difficult though for her to accept another woman in her children’s lives.  That is completely normal, but it didn’t last long.  If you’re upset or angry find a friend you can whinge to, which brings me to my next point.

5) find a great confidante

As I stated earlier EVERYONE has an opinion, I have had clashes with family members who see the toll it’s taken on me going from zero children to four in a very short time, and I know they’re trying to protect me but when people think that you can start messing around contact agreements just because you’re having a bad week it’s not helpful. Find someone who understands and maybe isn’t as emotionally invested in the outcome of the advice they give. Look to those who may have walked the path before you and that are living the way you want it to work. You may know a lady down the street who has a ‘blended’ family and hates being a step-Mum. Now as nice as it may be to go and complain about problems to her, if that’s not ultimately who you want to become like, then don’t choose them. Just saying.

6) Get help

If you’re really struggling, the weight of issues is affecting your marriage, or you personally are struggling. Maybe read a book, go to a course/workshop, or even invest in some counselling. Statistics are against us here, but don’t listen to them. There is no shame in asking for help or getting counselling. James and I have attended two marriage courses in our time together and attended counselling as individuals and a couple. This process isn’t over. We believe in investing into us as a couple and trying to break the generational cycles of failed marriages.

7) your partner comes first

An important lesson we learned on the most recent marriage course we attended had a session on ‘Blended Families’ and they stated that ‘marriage only works in first place’. I have to agree, as easy as it is for me to say it as I don’t have children independently of James, but he also hugely agrees with this point. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy, especially if your children are older and see you choosing to stand by your new wife as direct rejection of them. This can be heart-wrenching but you are only doing the children good in the long-term if they see that marriage is a strong bond. Should be the strongest and it will help them to have healthy relationships in the future. Be sensitive in how you deal with it. Now I’m not saying if you marry someone who says “it’s me or the children” then you should abandon your children.  I see that too much in society and it breaks my heart.  In a healthy relationship though, that will NEVER be asked of you. Maybe when the child is older they may hate your new spouse so much they make you feel you have to choose. Be a supportive partner and allow your husband/wife to have time with their children away from you if that’s what they need, but the child needs to know that they will never come between Mum/Dad and their new spouse. This one requires working together as a team.

8) don’t try and replace Mum

Even if the child’s absent parent is deceased do not try and replace them or cut them out of your life. The children can speak freely here and always talk about ‘the other Mummy’, as they call her when they’re here, as much as they want. They may not do it often but if they’re excited about something that has happened some weeks they will chat about their other home more than others. Don’t deny the other families existence. People often say to me when I’m throwing the girls a birthday party, they have a mother for that. I am well aware that the girls have a mother and their time with her is precious and is their time with her, that doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate milestones whilst they are here. Dad is their parent too, he should get to celebrate too, just because he may not be as adept at party planning as I am, or at baking cakes doesn’t mean we should ignore the milestones. I get it, not everyone wants to throw a big party but that is a personal resolve I have determined because I choose to love the girls as my own. I mostly can say that it’s true that I do, but as my own children are only really coming into their own and having more complex needs as they grow I’m not sure how it will all outwork itself, but I consciously put things in place to make sure my actions line up with my heart and intentions. This does not mean that I am “pretending” the girls don’t have a Mum, or trying to replace her. They know I love them and they know Mum loves them. They are secure in knowing that they are blessed to have so many parents who love them.

9) choose love

Your step-child may seem like the spawn of satan sometimes especially if you abhor their mother/father but they’re also half of the man/woman you married. When it’s really difficult and certain personality traits are clouding your vision… choose love. Choose to believe the best. Choose to see your spouse in them. Obviously this is very ‘turn the other cheek’ and is a lot easier said than done, but it all comes down to the end goal. Most of us want our marriages to work, most of us want our step-children to be happy, most of us do not want to be part of the 76% of remarriages with children that end in divorce. So, with that in mind in the difficult situations….choose to believe the best…choose love.

10) relax… it does get easier

Admit to yourself, this is flipping hard work and I’m doing a great job. Every anniversary is another successful milestone, every birthday is another chance to celebrate. You’re doing it, whatever form it takes or however it looks from the outside, you’re raising a blended family and you’re beating the odds. You’re not trying to be a FIRST family or trying to make people believe that’s what you are. You’re a blended family or whatever word you’d prefer to use and you’ve survived another day. This may seem strange terminology but to those of us who are in one, we know, it is not for the feint-hearted!!

*This post was fuelled by an article I read that shall remain nameless that I strongly disagreed with, this is my personal opinion based on various research and experience.  I appreciate not everyone will agree but I have found these points to help me and as I pointed out, I am prepared for it to evolve as the girls grow and their need for me, or lack of need adapts.
//
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

It has taken me a couple of days to be able to write this post. Wednesday morning the girls mum and partner came to collect them from James’ parents house whilst we were down in Worthing. This is not too unusual although it is usually myself doing all the drop offs to them and usually when we’re all at home (up North).

Pick ups and drop offs have become a normal part of our blended family life, but normally we haven’t had the girls for nearly 20 whole days. The girls were very excited to see their Mum after so long of course, but also sad for our time to end. Emma was down for her sisters wedding so we exchanged in the part of the world where she and James had been a couple. We were so excited the girls were going to be bridesmaids. They haven’t seen this side of their family much as they’ve been living up in Preston since before Shayla was born. It was all very exciting.

When they left, Judah was confused, we had all been conversing in the front garden and then they left. He just stood there not understanding where they had gone and why he wasn’t going. He has seen Emma’s face many times before but this time he was confused. I don’t know how it works in the mind of a 2 year old, but it was almost like he’d forgotten a time where they weren’t around all the time.

I brought him to the house, cuddled him on the sofa and just sobbed. I had always said to James loving the girls as my own and marrying someone who already had children from a previous relationship wasn’t as massive an issue to me until we had a child of our own. The fact that the girls live split lives is not ideal, but it is unavoidable. They need to see their Dad and they need to see their Mum. Judah’s pain at also having a split life by default seems so much more unfair. That’s why (although we had stopped trying when Eden was conceived after I had miscarried again) we had wanted to have two close together. The girls are each other’s constants as they go between both homes and I wanted Judah to have someone who didn’t leave. It was like he understood this too. He left my side to sit beside Eden and gave her a kiss on the head. My heart wrenched. They had each other but I could see he was sad.

image

The silence was deafening. I never realised how constant noise for 20 days could become normal and once the incessant chatter of the girls was no longer there, it just seemed so still, almost eerily. Very unnatural all of a sudden as we returned back to four from six. The six we had been for our 18 Days of Summer (and a cheeky bit extra). I was reminded how blessed the girls are as I sat there sobbing, to have so many people in their lives that love them so much. I guess it’s a good problem to have.

Our ‘normal’ is constantly evolving but I wouldn’t change it for the world. We do the best we can with what we have at each given time. We strive to keep the children and their needs above our own, it helps when potential rows can arise between ‘us and them’ and prevents us from even becoming ‘us and them’ as we all work together to do what’s right for the girls, and James and I remember to focus on how it can least negatively affect Judah and Eden too.

Judah hasn’t quite been himself since they left, but he will adjust as we return to our routine. The girls will have been bridesmaids today and I’m very excited to hear about it. I know they will have lots to tell us when we see them next week.
//

18 whole days

18 whole days

our beautiful girlies are coming to stay for 18 whole days
our beautiful girlies are coming to stay for 18 whole days

This weekend when I go to collect our eldest two from the ‘other mummy’s (not in any way meant derogatory, it’s what they call their mum whilst here) I get to collect them for 18 whole days.

When things got ugly a few years back, when I was new on the scene and the potential reality of another mother figure (not that I could ever replace her, or ever intend to) for the girls dawned on the ‘other mummy’ we spent a whole summer unable to have the girls and negotiating with solicitors. This was a horrible time but as a result we now have an excellent contact agreement that allows us 2 full weeks of contact in the summer holidays minimum. This is to allow for holidays as a family etc, and to break up the summer holidays for the girls too.

In the past we have been to Butlins etc. last year we cancelled due to my horrendous pregnant health problems, this year as we have no idea what’s going on with finances (due to James just graduating and job hunting) so we are going to spend a week with my parents in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire and then a week with James’ parents down in Worthing, West Sussex. Both of our parents live a stones throw away from the beach and within a short car journey of places like Blackpool & Brighton.

the eldest, the princess and the monkey prince hanging out at Nana's
the eldest, the princess and the monkey prince hanging out at Nana’s

With our littlies still being so small ‘the eldest’ just being 8, the idea of doing these seaside attractions is still massively exciting to them. Although saying that we drew up a list a couple of weeks ago of different activities to do in the Summer. I guess our bucket list of things to do and the girls ideas were things like : go for a picnic, go for a walk around the lake, go to the park, go to the beach, have a pamper day (that’s where I do their hair, nails and facemasks). So, anything like going to the SeaLife Center or a theme park would just obliterate their expectations. Nice when the simple things please them and you can just throw in the odd expense to create special memories.

Isis at the attractions in Lytham St Annes
Isis at the attractions in Lytham St Annes

This is the first time we will have had them for so long with Judah being at an age where he understands things. I am wondering how he will feel when they go home. I wrote in a Siblings post recently about how I like the balance we have at the moment. It seems to work for them all. I think I just need to be proactive in planning some activities or sleepovers at Nana’s for him for when the girls go back to their other home, so that he doesn’t miss them too much.

I am very excited to have our girls for so long, seems like ages since we’ve done this. I guess that’s because other than a week at Christmas this is the first time we’ve had them for a substantial amount of time since Eden’s arrival. Christmas was full of seasonal festivities and it wasn’t really just us, just quality time, going on walks and doing crafts etc.

I look forward to creating beautiful memories for them and capturing them on camera. Isis has been enjoying my blogging, she proof reads it, ‘you put is is twice there mummy’. I love that this is their space too, to record memories and look back on them.

Looking forward to 18 whole days as the beautiful blended family that we are.

Any suggestions of things to do in the West Sussex area would be greatly appreciated, as I am definitely a true northerner and would appreciate any recommendations. Feel free to comment below. Thanks x
//

Raising a Blended Family

Raising a blended family

Hello and welcome to our blog.  This is is for my children, those I have born and those I have collected along the way.  I want to keep a record for them of how life was, the fun times, the struggles, the memories of how we lived and how much they were loved in our not so unique family set-up.

I am Alexandra aka Mummy (so far), my husband is called James and we have 4 beautiful children, 2 for half of the week and 2 forever.  We have three princesses and one monkey prince Isis is 8, Shayla-Rae is 4, Judah is 2 and Eden is nearly 9 months.

This is so we can look back and remember what we fought to make a beautiful childhood experience, and maybe we can help some others know they are not alone in the struggles of raising a beautifully blended family.

Thanks for reading

Alexandra

xxx

image
//