A stepmom asks:
I have a boyfriend with 2 kids that are under 18. I get along well with both kids. I do not have kids of my own – my decision I am 44. This is the first time I have had children in my life. I am an only child and I was very up front and honest with my boyfriend about who I am, my personality, being an only child my life is about “me” I am black and white little room for grey etc. Our relationship moved quickly and we have been living together almost 2 years. During some “learning curves” on my end, I was asked to include the kids in my life and I have almost 100%. We have them on the every other weekend deal. I honestly don’t think I am having “kid” issues as much as I am having relationship issues.
Okay here is my question – is it okay for the three of them to make plans and not include me and not ask me to go – even though I would not have gone. Their plans are usually last minute type things and just leave me at home.
I feel left out, not included, and a little used for when I am needed. I brought it up a few times as it has happened before and I get they are my kids. I need to be able to do things with them without feeling guilty. Should I be feeling left out here? It is NOT all the time, but when it happens it is out of the blue and never any notice. I am the planner – he is not. I am the communicator and he is not. I found out we were getting the kids for a 4-dayer by the 16 year old not my boyfriend. I am really, really new at the kid thing and I think I try really hard – actually I was told I try to hard and do too much. I just throw up my hands – thoughts?
I try to find resources, but I am not a step mom, I am not a mom.
Shirley Cress Dudley responds:
You really have a good perspective on this and have thought through it very thoroughly.
Your question is valid and I can answer it with some key principles for you and your boyfriend to follow:
A blended family needs balance- balance of couple time, parent/child time, and blended family time. The couple takes priority (to give the kids a good example of a lasting relationship, and if the relationship isn’t working- nothing else really matters.) The goal is for the couple to work together to do what’s best for the family.
Look for a balance during each visit with the kids:
- Couple time: even if it is the kid’s weekend, there should be some couple time planned in that weekend, staying up later together, getting up early for coffee together, to just taking a few minutes out of each day to connect and talk.
- Parent/Child time: it’s important for your boyfriend to spend time with his kids (without you.) This doesn’t mean that when they visit, everything else is cancelled and the sole focus is on them, but it does mean running errands together, or maybe catching a movie together every now and then, or just playing basketball for 30 minutes together.
- Blended Family time: it’s also important for you as a whole family to spend time together. Even though they aren’t your kids, you are co-parenting as their stepmom, and should be an active part of their lives.
The tough part is figuring out the right balance. (Just a hint: I’ve never had a blended family couple with problems that had too much couple time, it’s usually the ones who have too much parent/child or too much blended family time that have the issues.)
Since you are a planner and your boyfriend is not- then you could use your planning skills to help him with balance. “Honey, I understand the kids are coming this weekend. What time do you want to spend with them, alone- and what sort of things could we do as a blended family? Here are my ideas…..”
and, don’t forget, both of you, to spend time together, as a couple, each day, (dedicated- just the two of you) even if the kids are there.
As far as him doing an activity with the kids and not inviting you- the two of you should discuss the weekend, in advance, even if it’s an informal conversation. (If he plans on spending Saturday morning with the kids, and you agree- then theoretically he could do any activity, within reason, and not mention it to you…. But, it would be nice to mention what he was thinking about, and then ask you if you want to be included.)
I hope that helps. Other resources are reading the articles on my website, getting the book Blended Family Advice, or also, for a little comic relief (laugh out loud, but slightly irreverent perspective-) The Package Deal: My (no-so) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom by Izzy Rose (Amazon.com) or her website Step Mother’s Milk.
Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC
Director of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center
Consultant for Performance Online Marketing Services