I am the step mother in my blended family situation. I have been co-parenting with the three other parents in my blended family for almost four years now. I would love to be able to say we are the story book fairy tale of a divorced family situation, because that is what everyone seems to assume. This divorce must have been an easy one, is usually what I hear. But that is far from the truth. It has taken a lot of time, effort, respect, consideration, forgiveness, and dedication to get this family where we are today. We have not shared all the emotional details of our situation. Not because we are trying to hide things but because we are keeping all of the details private until our girls are old enough that we feel it is the right time to discuss the details. Which, we plan to do in the future. Especially, because we are working on writing a book, about our story. But just because we haven’t shared those details doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Four years ago I walked into a situation that I was completely unsure how the bio mom to my step daughters was going to react towards me. One because I am 14 years younger than she is, two because I was the other woman in her children’s lives, and three because the divorce and the situation leading up to it was not all that easy. Much to my surprise she seemed to take my presence very well. Later learning all the struggles she went through to put on that smiling face for her children. To be the stronger, bigger, better person in the situation. Probably more so then my husband or myself. And just like in any other divorce situation I heard the negative stories about her, the one-sided story etc. But I made a choice long before those stories were told that I would not judge, that there is always two sides to the story, and that I would treat her with as much respect as I would anyone else I was meeting for the first time. I made it very clear to my now husband that if we couldn’t all get along this is something I couldn’t do. I came from a blended family myself. I was four when my parent’s very messy and very emotional divorce happened. I lived my childhood with a lot of negativity and hatred going on around me. I did not want to be a part of something like that and live my adult life in the same atmosphere. It took months before Trish and I spoke on the phone. And the first real conversation was a negative one because our oldest put us in a situation where she was playing one against the other. But that was the first and the last time that ever happened. I was smart enough to know in that situation I was in the wrong and I reacted before I had all the facts. From that point forward I tried with everything I had to make a relationship with the person that was going to be such a huge part of my life because she was the mother of these two girls. She at the same time, not knowing this, was doing the same thing. She was putting her strong face on, her feelings aside, and trying the best she could to just make every conversation a smooth one. It was with both our hard work and dedication to this family and to our relationship that we are where we are.
We started out doing it for the children then began even doing it for our own well-being. We have had our moments, disagreements, even arguments and not speaking for a few days. Just like in any “normal” relationship/friendship. And this relationship we have now is no different from any other friendship you would have with someone….except that we co-parent two kids together and she is the ex of my now husband. Now four years later I can say whole heartedly that she is by far one of my best friends. I could not get through these teen years with our oldest, or the emotions or normal day drama events without her. Trish and I talk on a daily basis. We talk about the kids, we talk about our husbands, we talk about work, our goals in the future, etc. You name it we talk about it. Just like any other friendship would. While people sit and call us “not normal” I choose to call us “the perfect friendship”. None of my other friends care to listen to me complain about the daily drama of our teenager, or the anxiety with school homework that our ten-year old has, or the day-to-day tantrums of my toddlers. But she does because she is going through it too. That is why I call this the perfect friendship. Because while no one else cares to listen to these things yet we so badly need to vent about them, she does. Let’s be honest even our husbands don’t want to listen to us bi*** about these things. She is the perfect friend.
There is one example in particular I would like to share. My daughter who is now 19 months old was born with Turner’s Syndrome this is a birth defect that caused her to have three surgeries thus far, one of which to remove her ovaries. The night I had my daughter and found out that something was wrong with her all I wanted to do was die inside. My husband had to leave the hospital that evening to go home and care for our two girls, while our son was at my parent’s house. In the morning I woke up alone at the hospital with so much anxiety I didn’t know how to handle it. I sat and stared at my phone, wondering who I could call and talk to because I so badly just needed someone to listen to me. I was scared, more scared than I have been my whole life. The doctors were talking about heart problems and kidney problems. My husband still couldn’t be to the hospital yet. And the last thing I wanted to do was stress him out more because he was going through this too. I didn’t want to call my family yet because I didn’t have all the facts. I didn’t want a bunch of people to start showing up when I wasn’t ready to face anyone, not knowing what was about to happen. So there I sat with my phone in my hand and this little 7lb 1oz baby laying in a basket next to me. I scrolled through my contact list and stopped at Trish’s name. I knew then that she was who I wanted and needed to talk to. I called and poured my heart out to her while she was at work. Half of which she probably couldn’t understand through my excessive tears and sniffles. She listened, she shared positive words, and I truly believe she felt the pain I was feeling. She was my friend in a time that I needed one most. This is just one example of times that she has been there for me. Trish has been by my side so much over the last four years in so many different situations. I couldn’t get through all of this without her. Without her advice, our vent sessions, our constant communication and brain storming. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has definitely been worth it. And not just because of the kids. Trish has truly been a blessing in my life.
Which brings me to my next point. We share many family events together. We do birthday parties together. We have helped our 14-year-old get ready for homecoming together. We go clothes shopping for the girls together. We took family pictures together. We went out on Halloween with all four kids and did the whole trick or treat thing together. We are even considering having Thanksgiving together. We try to do as much as we can together as one big blended family as we can. So that, these two girls, do not have to miss out on having one parent present. At times yes it can be awkward. But it’s usually not because we feel awkward around each other it is because of the feedback we get from others. I have heard more times than I can count that we are NOT NORMAL. I even get the “its just not normal” comments from people in my family. Well I guess in some ways compared to most divorced families in this society we are not the norm. But why does that make us NOT NORMAL. We are doing everything in our power to make these girls feel like we are all in this together. That what affects one household affects the other. Which that is true in every divorced family, but in the NORMAL divorced family it is usually negative, negative, negative. We are trying to make it positive all the way around. To make it consistent. You can read a thousand books about raising children and almost all of them will say children need consistency. We are trying to make the normal negative effects that divorce has on children not happen to our children as much as possible. We do this by making decisions together, planning together, and doing things together. We try to make it so one parent never has to miss out on an important event because it is the other parents designated day. Yet we are the ones that are NOT NORMAL. Why is it considered normal to hate the other parents in your blended family? To speak negatively of them? To make life difficult and in constant turmoil for your children? How is that normal. Why is that even considered okay? I am in no way trying to judge anyone else’s blended family situation. I do fully understand that not in every situation is it possible to come close to the type of relationship that I have with my blended family. Everyone is not willing to move past the past. And I truly believe that some people are just not capable of it. Do I think that makes them a bad person, NO! But I do think that it wouldn’t hurt to put the effort in to at least try to make the situation as positive as possible. It not only good for your children it is good for you. I just don’t understand why so many people who are unwilling to try this in their own situations even if it doesn’t work out like this situation has, have to judge us for doing so. It is as if we are the outcasts for getting along. I have read numerous blogs from both step moms and biological moms bad mouthing the other. Negatively talking about people like us who try to make it work etc. We are told not to judge those people for their situations, and I don’t. But why then are we so judged by ours? I have a lot of questions marks throughout the end of this post. I am truly opening this up for conversation and would love the feedback on this. Positive or negative. I truly believe I can learn something from everyone positive or negative. I am asking these questions because I am truly irritated that people can’t seem to get past the fact that we do things as a “FAMILY” meaning my husband, myself, my four kids, my step daughters mother, and her husband. So whether you are one who agrees with our situation or whether you are the one that thinks we are “not normal” I would like to hear your opinion. Because, if you are one of the ones that sees this situation as “not normal” I’d like to better understand your point of view. The family pictures we took a few weeks ago are hanging in my house. Not just the ones with my husband and four kids. The ones with my family… that’s right all eight of us. I put them up to show my step daughters that we are a family, all of us. If that makes me “not normal” then so be it. I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Our situation works for us.
I also mentioned early in this post that I came from a blended family myself and that my parent’s divorce was extremely messy. And that my childhood was filled with negativity about the other parent. Constant turmoil and heartache. It was very rarely a positive situation. My parent’s still for the most part won’t be at the same place at the same time. But I had a comment from my mom recently that really made me want to write this blog more. She told me how well she thought I was doing in my blended family situation. That she really thinks we are doing a great job, and she wishes things would have been that way with my dad and her. She is also a psychologist now and sees many divorced families and hears the constant negativity. Which she says makes her applaud us all the more for doing things the way we do. Because in her words “it truly is better for those girls”. This is a conversation I will remember for a life time. My childhood situation made me fight all the more to make the situation in my blended family the way that it is. Because I wanted these girls to have it different from I did.
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Molly Heng is Step-Mom to Trish Eklund’s daughters, ages 10 and 14, and Mom to her two children, ages one and two. Molly is the primary parent in her household, and the full-time Office Manager of their lawn and landscaping business. Molly and Trish co-parent the girls with Jeff and Bob. The youngest sister of five girls, step-sister to her brother, she has experienced the heartbreak of divorce from a young age. Molly knows first-hand the importance of co-parenting and putting the children first.