My blended family started out like many others… I came around too soon for many, including my stepchildren’s mom. My [now] husband and his ex had a nasty fight for custody, which ultimately was determined as joint legal and shared physical (i.e. 50/50) in court. She was one of those moms who challenged every move that we made. She repeatedly told my husband that he didn’t deserve as much time with the girls as she does, simply because she is their mom. Now, they never had any knock-out-drag-down fights, but my husband and his ex have had their fair share of verbal conflict in front of our kids. Every day was a battle.
Small Parenting Differences: It’s Time to Let Go!
Throughout our most tense of times, which really encompassed most of my first two years in the picture, I was stressed beyond belief. I gained control the only way I knew how, by taking on the role of “paralegal,” and meticulously documented every single thing. My husband and I were always rock solid, but the stress of exchanging the kids, or making any decision about the girls consumed my thoughts every single day. In the spirit of being “open and honest,” I talked about my concerns… a lot.
My husband told me several times, “You think about [BM] way more than I do.” I refused to believe this was true… but it was. He was right (as usual …don’t tell him I said that). As time went on, the anger subsided from the communications between my husband and the girls’ mom, but every small parenting difference was still debated when any opportunity presented itself. From bedtime, to soda intake, to frequency of baths… every single topic was… passionately discussed.
Like every good millennial, I turned to the internet. I started following every blog I could find on “stepparenting” or “blended families.” I even started a blog of my own… initially as an outlet, rather than a resource for others. I read countless articles about how “time heals” and about “letting go of the things you cannot control.” Writers shared words of wisdom about how they let go, became friends with their stepchildren’s mother, took shared vacations… about the overwhelming peace they found. While these achieved goals sounded great, I knew this would never be the case for us. I knew we would be high-conflict forever.
Sound familiar? I thought so.
About a year into our marriage, our youngest (age 3) broke her arm at preschool. That night and in the month to follow, we, for the first time, were forced to work things out as a parental unit. There was no “us versus her.” There was no time for the petty, “Exchange time is 5pm, and it is 5:05pm… Where are you?” text exchange. We had no energy to worry about every article of clothing coming back to us immediately. We could care less if a lunchbox didn’t have the ideal Pinterest-approved foods in it on an exchange.
We had a toddler in a full-arm cast, who we (jointly!) wanted to keep out of school for at least 3 weeks. We went from no communication unless it was absolutely necessary, to regular, daily communication, all for the sake of our kids. It was in this time period that the mom and I started texting each other for the first time. Although I thought I was already nailing this, it was here that I began seeing her as a real person with real feelings. We finally started sharing stories about the kids in an honest, friendly way (as opposed to a jealous, “See how they prefer being with us?!” way).
You know what the craziest part of this was? How much happier both of our kids immediately became. We noticed an immediate change in the girls’ moods at both homes once we put petty differences aside. We began sharing pictures and having real, genuine conversations about the kids. We have attended school events together. A miracle has occurred: my husband and his ex haven’t argued… at all. Not even about vacation time or holidays. Nothing. Neither of them have even mentioned topics that would have led to a week long debate previously.
Now here’s the real kicker for me as a stepmom… the mom has referred to us as “Co-Moms” and suggested we do monthly “girls dates” with all four of us. We’ve been doing this, and our girls are in heaven. The craziest thing that’s happened… drumroll please… is that she invited me to spend Mother’s Day with her and the girls! Mind blown, right?! I repeat- MIND BLOWN.
Y’all, I knew this would never happen for us. We would never get to this point… yet here we are. Are we perfect?! No. Will this happen for everyone? Unfortunately, no. But I’m here to tell you if it can happen for us, it can happen for you, too. This progress, in addition to a clumsy child and a broken arm, is largely in part to letting go of small parenting differences. The girls’ mom and I have actually discussed this, and agree that we are all so much less stressed. We have openly discussed how we have no control over each other’s homes, and that is okay. Like at school and home, kids adapt to different rules between their two homes. Your homes do not need to run identical. As long as you know your child is safe and loved at the other home, then LET IT GO. Breathe in, breathe out.
Spoiler Alert: The myth you read online about letting go actually works! If you are in what feels like a hopeless place right now, I urge you to look at your mindset. Not your husbands, and definitely not BM’s… but yours. Another cliché thing you read is that you are only in control of your own thoughts and actions… totally true! It has taken all three of us buckling down and not calling one another out for dumb things to get to this point. Truly, let it go, Mamas!
If you’re reading this, I hope you find a small amount of peace in knowing that what feels impossible, can be possible. I hope you have an “ah-ha moment,” and your blended family dreams become a reality… I just hope your ah-ha moment isn’t a broken arm.
PS: Still seeking your happily ever after? Sign up for our FREE 5-day course to learn how you can take back control of your own life – even as a stepmom!