The Case For Therapy

“You’re crazy! You need therapy!”

Okay, let’s face it….therapy carries about as much stigma as….oh I don’t know…being a STEP or BIOMOM in the eyes of a blended family member?! Right, exactly. Now, to be fair, there are some childless stepmoms who are THRIVING in their blended family! Biomom and dad are working it out together, and they’re just ‘dad’s friend’ (not a battle of who is the child’s mother) and happy to be it. NO drama, NO name calling, NO alienation, NO PROBLEM! So, I totally know they must exist, I just don’t KNOW of any personally because they certainly aren’t seeking out support pages like MINE 🙂

So here’s to the people like ME who haven’t found it to be all candy corn and hay rides (sorry AUTUMN on the brain folks)! Often times, when someone suggests talk therapy, you would like to remind them of how much THEY might benefit from it themselves lol That’s the beauty of it though. That is what I would love for people to understand about therapy…it is beneficial for ANYONE who is willing to honestly put in the WORK and effort that it takes to get something OUT of it.

“It never worked for me. Therapy was a waste of time”. Perhaps it was. But I would bet you didn’t find it successful for one of three reasons, if not all. First, you didn’t like the therapist. They made you feel stupid. They asked questions you didn’t want to answer. You didn’t trust them. They didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. Okay, no problem, ALL valid points and not all people work well together. HELLO!! ENTER STEPPARENTS IN A BLENDED FAMILY BECAUSE ANOTHER RELATIONSHIP FAILED BEFORE YOURS….okay sorry. But not all therapists are alike. How many did you try? We have found many different therapists who have helped us along the way – all have been wonderful and unique. Though each of us haven’t seen all of them, and as a family, FOUR have touched our lives. FOUR. Each therapist specializes in different things and can bring different viewpoints to the table. If you went a few times and found the therapist sucked for you, okay, but do yourself a favor, TRY ANOTHER.

The second reason therapy may have failed for you is because YOU weren’t honest about why you were there. Too many people are utilizing therapy for an added layer of ‘protection’ for court. They aren’t doing it for the right reasons, they are doing it simply for some BS third party viewpoint in which they have done NO real work and are using it out of spite- OFTEN getting back at the other parent.

If that wasn’t you, but your experience was still so poor, I imagine it was because of the third reason: you didn’t put in an HONEST effort. “OF COURSE I WAS! I TOLD THIS PERSON EVERYTHING” – you protest. Oh really? You told them ALL about your biggest fears, even if you thought you be judged? You told them ALL about what your stepkids said to you or what biomom did and how it HURT you? NOT how she is a ‘dumb bitch’ and you effing hate her and she is ruining your life. No, I want to know if you talked about how it HURT you, and you TRULY examined YOURSELF and your own shortcomings? Because if you didn’t you didn’t try hard enough.

Plain and simple.

Whoa. The Childless Stepmom is rowdy today and shooting everyone straight? Yes. Yes I am. Because I personally believe in talk therapy so much that I don’t believe I’d be where I am today without it. For a while, we sent Little Bear to a beautiful private Christian preschool. It was the best thing that ever happened to our family because it was during his time there that we were a WRECK as a family. Biomom was dancing in and out of our lives as she saw fit, my husband and I were at each other’s throats, I was terrified to really BUCKLE down and form a BOND with Little Bear for fear of where things would go with court, and my own insecurities were eating me alive.

“Have you been to therapy?”

The words seemed like an insult, although coming from the school’s director who took an HONEST interest in our home life, and was an incredible Christian mentor. Of course we had gone to therapy we fired back…Little Bear had been in child therapy for a long time, and it seemed like we were doing ENDLESS work trying to fit the pieces together as a family…..around what he needed. WE even paid for BM to go to the child’s therapist so she could add HER own side to the story and stop saying it was ‘rigged’ and ‘one-sided’. I was filling up with irritation at the idea that WE hadn’t tried!

“No, no”, he persisted. “Have you and your HUSBAND gone to therapy…either marriage counseling, or your own personal sessions?”

Sure we had, a time or two, but mostly still around Little Bear, what he needed and what our responsibilities were with regards to him, parenting, court, his slew of behavioral issues, his BM failing to keep him safe and also failing to keep her promises to him, and how we were expected to address it, etc.

Truth be told, on a marriage level, I’m about to say something that is likely to get you to exit your browser. But because those of you who have been following this journey of mine know I must be completely authentic, I’m going to share. My husband and I are kind of perfect for one another. When you remove the blended family BS from the equation, we’re that couple people hate. We don’t fight about any normal marriage crap – like ever. We NEVER fight about money, sex, housekeeping, etc. The things that tear a normal marriage apart? We don’t have those problems. So WHY in the WORLD would WE need any kind of therapy to work on US together OR individually? The ISSUE was the stepfamily troubles, and BM and the crap most people don’t deal with in a ‘normal’ marriage.

“We get training for our jobs, why wouldn’t we expect to need training for life?”

I will never forget when the director of this amazing preschool spoke those words to me. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. WHAT IF he is suggesting all of our issues can’t be packaged into one box…or onto ONE person or ONE thing?

I fought it for longer than I’d like to admit. He’s wrong, I thought, the problem is ‘x’. The problem is not ME. I WORK MY ASS OFF FOR THIS FAMILY. WHAT MORE AM I EXPECTED TO DO?!

Until one day…I realized what he was trying to say. And I went to work. I decided if I was going to survive in this lifestyle, I had better make an HONEST effort to strenghten myself mentally, spiritually and physically.

I have known too many people who TALK. Oh they talk. Oh they have words. And they talk so damn much THEY even believe the BS that is spewing out of their mouths. I was determined not to be one of them.

Today I’m getting there. I’m not there yet. And I don’t expect to ever be fully mature in this role until perhaps I am an old lady in a rocking chair with great grandchildren bouncing around me, a family who loves me and is now taking care of ME as I did to THEM for so many years. That is my dream and I look forward to that dream.

But before you reach that level of life fulfillment, you need some training. Some AUTHENTIC training. I see my therapist quite often and intend to continue doing it for years to come. (We are blessed with amazing health insurance, if you are not, do not make excuses, there are MANY options available for those that honestly seek them out). I tell her everything. I do not hold back and she helps me HONESTLY assess myself. I have learned to take criticism exceptionally well, for the sake of myself and my family.

Now, many of you are entirely against therapy. To that I use the example of church. We are not ‘pretend’ members of a church just around court time or when it comes up conveniently in conversation. We are members of a church that we attend weekly, serve at, give to and people actually like KNOW us when we go there 🙂 I decided for me, this alone was not enough for me in the spiritual department. Plenty of people GO TO CHURCH ONCE A WEEK! And would you know it by the way they behave?? So I joined a weekly bible study group to connect with other women. MANY of whom are stepparents or have been touched by a blended family in some way…including of course my mentor. A sixty-something woman who has seen all angles that this complicated lifestyle can throw at you….and she got through it with loving, satisfied and happy adult children.

“Real uplifting lady, but that crap isn’t for me. Therapists have no idea what they’re doing and I’m not much for God, so what I can’t be fulfilled?” You laugh, but some of you, EVEN IN SECRET are saying that right now while reading. Okay no problem, take those two things out of the equation. Would you fight me if I said that eating well and exercising are good for your health? Would you tell me I was wrong if I suggested you try and incorporate a vegetable or two into your day and get outside and move once in a while?

Of course you wouldn’t. While it’s not always a priority, our physical well being puts it all together. For me, I am not feeling my best when I neglect my health. You don’t have to pick up running or be a Jillian Michaels clone to be in good physical shape for yourself and your family. I look at ALL of these things (therapy, church, exercise) on the exact same level. Life training – life strengthening. Therapy helps my mind, my soul and viewpoint so I can thrive in my home each and every day. Church does the same, but it adds a layer of strength that no one can touch- if I’m growing and maturing AUTHENTICALLY within my spiritual life. And when I make sure my physical health is a priority on top of all these other things, I can’t be shaken.

I spent YEARS putting everything else ahead of my own strength and well being because I was convinced if *I* wouldn’t do it, who would? I am NOT suggesting you don’t be there for those kids because God only knows, they are hurting and having a lot of their own issues. ESPECIALLY if you are in a boat like me where BM doesn’t even drop in to see if the child is ALIVE let alone remain an active part of their lives. What THOSE kids need is a strong, attentive and unwavering mother figure. It’s a tall order and can break you. It almost broke me. BE PREPARED AND ALLOW YOURSELF to ask for help. You will need it. And it is when you are humble and out of your comfort zone that you are able and ready to grow. You may think being a brick wall and being the only thing holding your family together is your job. Sure. But who is holding YOU together? I choose to be not only strong for my family, but strong for myself. And I’m not afraid to discuss my love of therapy even with the most close-minded individuals. The world is changing every single day. As women, as stepmothers, we can’t be expected to fight through, tongues bitten, losing every ounce of ourselves in a situation bubbling with bitterness and resentment. NOT making a change in ourselves and allowing ourselves to be stifled and turned into background noise. I won’t do it. I will fight for my needs so I am a contributing and strong member of this family. I don’t TALK about doing it. I do it. Are you?

So You Think You Know Your Kids? REAL TALK: BLENDED FAMILIES From the KID’S Perspective

fighting377204As stepmoms, we constantly say that we want what’s best for the kids. We want them to be comfortable, to feel secure, happy and like they are loved by everyone….um okay well, if they are being nice to us we do…last week when little Timmy told me he hated me…I guess I started to feel a little bit of resentment. But I swear I didn’t show it. I want what’s best always! Unless…well, when biomom starts in on her shit, I’m pretty much ready to GO. I don’t HAVE to be here anyway….wow and a few months back, when Sarah came home from her first day of 9th grade and I tried HARD to have a snack ready for her and wanted to take her shopping so we could talk about how AWESOME it was to be in high school but she yelled “You’re not even my real mom!” and slammed the door in my face…I cried for about an hour but its cool, because maybe her REAL mom will do a better %$*#! job than me ANYWAY.
All jokes aside, in this role we are always questioning. And we are ALWAYS ASSUMING (whether or not we’d like to admit it). And we SAY we’re patient, understanding and available for what this lifestyle might throw at us, but many of us are actually more available when things are GOOD, otherwise we’re sort of one foot out the door. ESPECIALLY us childless stepmoms. I want to be 100% honest because I think it’s the only way to grow. I too am guilty of thinking like this and wondering WHY IN THE WORLD I am not appreciated every moment of every day like I DESERVE TO BE, having chosen to raise someone else’s child FULL TIME in her absence. UGH!  Doesn’t anyone understand how HARD IT IS TO BE A STEPPARENT?! And how DARE these kids have even an OUNCE of disrespect when we work SO HARD!
Right? Does this sound like you?
If you look back to one of my blogs regarding some Twitter posts (http://childless-stepmoms.blogspot.com/2012/08/i-hate-my-stepmom.html ), this was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. And, to be blunt, I WAS PISSED! Just WHO do these kids think they are?! I bend over BACKWARDS for my stepson and to think he could treat me like this makes me physically ill.  But a friend of mine was, much to my surprise, displeased by my post 🙂 And I’m happy she was.
See, when I said I need perspective from EVERYONE, I wasn’t just stringing pretty ideas together, sometimes you have to get a smack in the face to learn the truth about yourself and your situation. She opened my eyes up to a reality that I truly THOUGHT was my biggest concern all along….what it felt like to be a CHILD in this situation and how my child was being affected.  She challenged me to think from the CHILD’S perspective and to understand more of what this really looked like from a different angle.  After speaking with her, not only was I embarrassed by how angry I got at some stupid Twitter shit (especially since I’m SO ACTIVELY AGAINST THE SOCIAL NETWORKING DRAMA!), it made me think of how much good it does me to honestly assess the situation with fresh eyes, CONSTANTLY.
So I went to work. I myself have a half brother, who is 18 years my senior. As such, obviously, we were not raised together. His father passed away several years ago and he was an adult by the time I was born, therefore, I have never seen any interactions with my mother and his father. To say I am part of a blended family is technically accurate, but it wouldn’t help me for the purposes of exploring this issue.  So I decided to branch out to those who KNEW what it felt like. I asked many of my own personal friends and also went out to this AMAZING fan base that has made its way to the Facebook page I administer (www.facebook.com/childlessstepmoms). There I received an OVERWHELMING response about the topic. ADULTS who were once CHILDREN in this situation. MANY of whom are parents and even stepparents today! And who would know better how to parent while keeping some of these issues in mind than those that have been there?
I put my humble hat on and took it all in. Pages and pages of notes and ideas have led me to this blog. Probably one of the most important that I will ever write. I am out to at least chip away at the SURFACE of what is happening in the head of the CHILD you are raising. Not what we THINK they are feeling. Not what we HOPE they are THINKING.  No, what are bare bones honest and REAL in their life.  I had so much information it was difficult to piece it together cohesively so bear with me…this is just SOME of what I heard.
“Don’t ever (no matter how mad or frustrated you are) talk badly about the other parent in front of your kids. This makes the kid feel like it’s not ok to like both parents and also make them feel like they can’t talk openly about their own feelings about the other parent.”

THIS WAS THE NUMBER 1 MOST GIVEN RESPONSE IN ALL MY SEARCHES ON THE TOPIC! You probably think you don’t do this. Are you sure? Walls in homes are thin. You think your child doesn’t know you think the other parent is an incompetent flake who doesn’t deserve to be treated better than the dog shit left in the park by a lazy non-poop-scoop-rule-following patron? They do. It’s cruel, it’s immature, and it’s a bigger deal than you may realize. I KNOW this can be hard. When you’re attempting to co-parent, no, better yet, like me, there is no “co-parenting” , she dug herself in such a deep hole she wasn’t even an active ‘visitor’ in his life. Our bills were piling up to pay to fight a CLEARLY one-sided fight in court and to get HER help, tempers rising, resentment bubbling, and my GAF (give-a-fk) was BROKEN for her. I know how hard it is to keep your mouth shut.

But have you ever slipped up and seen the look on their face when you even allude to the fact that you believe half of them is a joke because they are HALF the other parent? I have. Guilty. Right here folks, I have. And it’s not pretty. This KILLS those kids. He already KNEW she made promises she didn’t keep. He already KNEW she wasn’t quite following the rules nor doing things like me and my husband did, or his classmates were or his teachers or his church family were. He knew he wasn’t being given everything he should have or being cared for in quite a way that he deserved. He already KNEW that. Voicing it to him is a shameful act. Nobody’s perfect, it happens, yes, and some offenses are admittedly worse than others. But there is no reason to speak poorly about the other parent. Not only does the kid already know the truth more clearly than you give him credit for, but you attempting to ‘remind’ them, makes them angry at you and less likely to open up. KEEP IT NEUTRAL. BASHING IS NOT PRODUCTIVE. Do not think for a second you are doing these kids any favors by bad-mouthing their parent. THEY ALREADY KNOW. Spend your time building your relationship with the child, not tearing apart his relationship with someone else. Today I’ve resolved to NEVER speak poorly of her even on my WORST day. My little one knows he is able to talk to her or about her if he wishes because it is HIS RIGHT. And I learned the most valuable lesson of all, not speaking poorly of her led him to not only trust me, but to share his feelings, and to build a relationship with me without the rift of guilt he was carrying about her.
 “I liked my stepmom, I thought she was cool, but she just tried too damn hard. I HAVE a mom, I love my mom and I just wish I could have been told it’s OKAY to love everyone. No one ever bothered to make that clear. So I was always trying to make everyone happy at the expense of my own happiness. I didn’t want a replacement mom, I wanted adults who cared about me enough to let me love everyone.”
Are you trying too hard to replace their mom? I can’t stress this enough, just STOP. You are special on your own. Didn’t you EVER watch the Julia Roberts Stepmom movie??!! Well get on it. Stop trying to buy their love, their affection, or your position in their hearts. Stop thinking you’ll WIN them over by uncovering all the HORRID ‘truths’ about their REAL mom! The kids need to know everyone loves them and they don’t HAVE to pick sides…if you don’t adopt this way of thinking…it will lead to parental alienation…and you will regret it. The best thing you can do is try and ENCOURAGE a healthy relationship with the other parent. My little one is currently in a position where he doesn’t want to have that relationship TODAY, but our situation is unique. Perhaps he will in the future and that is HIS RIGHT. But I spent hours helping to make her cards, bake her cookies, and reminding him he CAN feel however HE WANTS to feel about her.Even though at times his father objected to me going out of my way like this because her lack of involvement was so prominent. I appreciated his concern for my feelings and for the feelings of his son (our spouses are often terrified their child will be heartbroken by an uninvolved bioparent so they are cautious about encouraging their relationship any more than they have to), but there have been times I just kept trying because it was the right thing to do, even if she did not return the gesture. My husband tried to foster a healthy relationship between his son and his BM but often times there is so much nasty past between parents, it is hard. THAT’S THE BEAUTY OF BEING A STEPPARENT- IT’S NOT PERSONAL! I didn’t break up with her, HE DID, so I could try and be a neutral third party to many issues, INCLUDING the issue of keeping positive relationships alive. There are times where you’ll try your best and it won’t be good enough. I’ve had to come to terms with that myself. I could not MAKE her parent him, BUT I could encourage a bond with no hard feelings for her to the best of my ability. And I do.  He can NEVER say I didn’t try or go out of my way to make it work and that is important to me. He has always been appreciative of my attempts to encourage a relationship with her, even if it was not reciprocated. This is something between HE AND I that’s done wonders for our relationship. I don’t care if it kills you, a little kindness goes a long way.  Be the bigger person, ALL OF YOU.
“I knew my mom was alienating my dad and my stepmom. She never let me talk on the phone when he called, and refused to let them come to any school functions. When I asked to have them there, she put me on a guilt trip. It hurt, and I hated it, but she is still my mom, I love her and I didn’t want to have to pick sides. What she didn’t know though was after a while, I would become and adult and see the truth. Even when I called her out on lying, she tried to cover up everything she did over the years and STILL tried to get me to pick sides. As soon as I was forced to pick sides…I did….the other side. Come to find out my dad and stepmom were really trying all those years, and I was forced to remember what HAPPENED, not what was SAID, in order for ME to see the truth. You WANT to believe your parents so it’s a dangerous and cruel power play. The only thing that ultimately saved our relationship was the fact that my dad and stepmom remained neutral and didn’t talk bad about my mom or try to make me choose. That was how I knew someone was lying…sadly it was obvious who it was. I now know how hard that must have been on them but I appreciate so much that they were strong enough to let me grow and think on my own. And that is the only way to combat parental alienation in my opinion…..doing the right thing, no matter who is looking, and fighting through the BS brought about my the alienating parent.”
Parental alienation is very real. Parents engaging in this behavior need to understand they are not doing anyone any favors (especially themselves) by trying to keep the kids from forming a relationship with the other parent. In the end, the parent who alienates will be the one forgotten and without the respect of the children. Kids are SMART. The only way to truly squash an alienating parent is by being GENUINELY neutral and a bigger person. When the kids get older and the parent starts talking badly, they will look back and say, ‘that’s not true, they never spoke poorly of you, they did everything they could for me…someone’s lying’. It’s really NOT that hard to figure out. But if you get caught up and start the bashing back and forth, you have no leverage against an alienating parent and you are just as bad.
“Don’t communicate to the other parent through the kids… I hated that!”
I know a lot of these relationships are broken down so far that ever having a normal conversation seems like an impossibility. That’s too bad; it has nothing to do with your kids. If you can’t call, text. If you can’t text, email. If you can’t do any of those things, form a relationship with the stepparent to attempt to get ADULTS communicating in a positive fashion. A lot of times the other parent/ stepparent won’t cooperate. Also too bad. This is not the kid’s fault and it is not their problem. We NEVER used him to communicate (granted he was very young), but this is just gross and childish. “You know how your dad is”  “Ask him for more money I don’t have the money right now”… “You tell your MOM that I need…”…no. Honestly. Look at how ridiculous this looks. Just stop. Find SOME TYPE of common ground and communicate without involving your kids.
“Always stay in your kids’ life. You divorced your partner not your children!”
Do you think you’re doing what’s best for your kids by just giving up the fight with the other parent because you honestly believe that they don’t need you?
Really?
I speak from firsthand experience with this one…some times….YES it is much better for a parent to keep their distance WHILE THEY ARE GETTING HELP, OR BECAUSE THEY’RE INVOLVEMENT IS DETRIMENTAL TO THE HEALTH OF THE CHILD. But be honest with yourself. Are you just giving up because you don’t want to deal with the other parent? Are you blaming everyone but yourself? When you are this parent, or have a spouse who is this parent, take some time to HONESTLY assess your situation. Your kids need you. If you’ve been ordered to make some changes to better YOURSELF and the lives of your children, why aren’t you doing so? The ex is too tough to deal with? Or is it just easier to tell people that so you don’t have to put in any work? I’m not badmouthing anyone, I’m suggesting an HONEST self-assessment. We all need them. Heads up when it comes to court, “she wouldn’t let me see or talk to the kids” is not a valid argument. You should be doing everything you can, if you aren’t, you have no leg to stand on. Stop saying you CAN’T be involved with your kids. I don’t care how awful the other parent may be, I’ve seen some pretty NASTY custodial parents. But where there’s a will there’s a way. Period.
“I watched the relationship between my parents dissipate for years before she filed for divorce and when she finally told us I just remember thinking ‘finally’.”
Have a dirty break-up or divorce from your partner? Your kids already know! And they are probably hurting from it, trying to come to terms with it, or are simply carrying a lot of issues around because of it. Stepparents: KNOW THE PAST THAT THESE KIDS COME FROM. They might not be ready for you yet for a slew of reasons but try and LEARN what their past is from THEIR perspective. Kids coming from broken homes have had to deal with A LOT. Don’t add to it, don’t underestimate it, and don’t pretend they don’t know what’s going on.
“My advice is to make sure the bio-parent gets quality time with his or her kid(s) alone, not just with the s-parent. I never got that from my father and the smom didn’t even want us around. She got her wish and we don’t have a relationship with them.”
AND
“One of my step moms (I’ve had 3) would compete with me to get my dad’s attention. Ultimately she & I hated each other and I had zero respect for her. Remember that the relationship between 2 adults is completely different than a relationship with a child & parent. There should not be any competition…the child isn’t going anywhere and should never be made to feel like they are a burden to the marriage…i.e.: treated like baggage.”
I coupled these two because they seemed to fit together. I work hard to ensure my little guy gets lots of alone time with his father. Are you doing this? Or are you being jealous and trying to take over the entire blended family model? Kids know when they’re not wanted….are you trying to shove them out? Often times as childless stepparents we are mourning the loss of a ‘normal’ first family and want some time in the marriage we dreamed of (without kids for a while). That’s not part of the deal. What are you doing to come to terms with this, and make sure the kids are not feeling left out or like a burden?
“Older kids are used to a way of life and when it’s shaken up, it freaks them out. Even the strongest kids are affected, they might not know how to express it, but they’re affected.”
Depending on the age of these kids, their response to you will be different. I was lucky enough to begin step parenting when he was only 3. He took to me quickly and fairly easily. Once we were married, we offered him a stable and consistent life that he hadn’t had up until then. But what about the older kids? You’ve come into their life, changed everything they’re used to, and now they don’t know what to do. They have bitter nasty feelings toward you and don’t know how to express them. Teens are tough, you were there once too, remember? I’m not suggesting you should accept the games, the trash talk or the hostility. I’m suggesting you try to understand where it comes from. A lot of times I’ve learned these kids just want things to go back to the way they were and YOU are the only thing they think is standing in the way of making that happen. ALSO, they already LOST one parent. WHY should they trust YOU? If you think about it, it really does make sense. You may REALLY have to prove yourself. But it seems the best way to do that is to be who YOU are, not try too hard, not allow them to walk on you, but keep yourself in a very humble state. If the kids see you’re not the enemy and you aren’t trying to shake their world up any more, they’re more likely to come around.
 “What do you want to know? How shitty it feels that one day you are part of a family, and the next you are a latch key kid coming home to an empty house because dad left, and mom has to work? Or now dad has a new family and loves them more? How you always feel like an outsider in your own family. How now you are an angry brat who hates the world so you attack your step mom the worst since you blame her? Or hate the new sibling and tease them that their dad isn’t really their dad?”
Does this sound familiar? I’m learning, often times, the kids have it the hardest in this situation. Are you HONESTLY taking time to see what they’re going through? To understand them? Until now, I am ashamed to say I wasn’t. I figured since I walked in and have taken care of him a zillion times more than his BM, really, he should be thanking me for all that I provide and for the life he would have never had without me. Sounds cocky doesn’t it? There is some truth to that statement, because yes, his life would be different without me. But why am I here? To learn just as much about me as I am to teach him.
I hope this at least sheds SOME light on the perspective of a child in a blended family. NO they don’t have the right to be rude and disrespectful, NO they shouldn’t be allowed to manipulate, bark orders, or otherwise belittle you. But the next time you think they’re unappreciative spoiled brats who need to learn a lesson, I hope some of these examples will pop into your head, and you’ll exercise a little patience and understanding. You might find it’s the difference between making this work and fostering a real relationship, or living in an ugly environment for who knows how long, or worse, you being just another one of their parent’s failed relationships to them. Once and for all, put your swords away, take the high road, and HONESTLY work in the best interest of the child. I’m so sick of those words being MEANINGLESS when I see the trash some of us get caught up in. Be the bigger person and THINK before you speak, THINK before you act, and most importantly THINK before you parent. The kids deserve it.

The Court Coast

In the process of going to court for your custody issues?

I call this time while you’re preparing, waiting and losing your mind and peace, “The Court Coast”. It’s about THE MOST STRESSFUL TIME in a life of a childless stepparent! (Or regular step’s, or bio’s for that matter)…

Here are 6 things I wish SOMEONE would have told me before I was in the near-stroke phase during every one of our Court Coasts.

1. Facts, Facts, Facts, FACTS! The judge sees you for like 2.3 seconds and is expected to make a decision off what (s)he hears in that window. The more you fill this time with BS about how homegirl is smoking near the kids and let them watch Jerry Springer (both real issues of ours, not making fun we just had to learn to let some things go!), you’re wasting your time. The judge doesn’t care about what can be deemed an opinion. Bring documentation, CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES WISELY.

2. Stop making a case on Facebook alone. I’ve said this before. It does ADD to a case yes, but if you actually think you’re going to stand before a judge and convince him/her that you deserve custody because she posted something on Facebook, you’re wasting your time. And by the way, why are you still looking at her Facebook? See http://childless-stepmoms.blogspot.com/2012/08/facebook-fail.html , I’ve covered this 🙂

3. The judge LITERALLY NEEDS YOU TO DO HIS JOB FOR HIM. Come prepared with FACTS and DOCUMENTATION. Do not assume he will see things the way you wish no matter how clear you think they are. Do NOT, I repeat NOT go in there with a false sense of confidence. The other party could get right up in front of him and say they’d been doing drugs and not keeping the kid(s) clean and not taking them to school and BLAH BLAH BLAH. YES! Those are awful things. And you are CONVINCED that will ‘win’ the case. Don’t be. The judge needs backup. This is his livelihood. And he WILL enlist EVERY second professional opinion that he can in order to cover his ass. The judge doesn’t want to make a massive custody change on his own. So don’t be surprised when he passes the buck to a counselor, GAL, or other third party. Accept it with grace, it WILL be the best thing you ever did.

4. KEEP YOUR NOSE CLEAN AT ALL TIMES BUT ESPECIALLY DURING THIS PROCESS! Again, get your ass off her Facebook and if you must, stay off yours as well. This goes for ALL social networking, texting, phone calls, email, etc. DO NOT GIVE THE OTHER PARENT AMMUNITION. It is MUCH better for them to have to explain themselves, than for YOU to. Get yourself wrapped up in these games and you take away all credibility you may have.  Remember, we are working with 2.3 seconds here. All it takes is one nasty email from you……Poof…

5. This is NOT about you, it’s about the kids. Do NOT attack the other parent, belittle them or show even a SLIVER of evidence that you are turning the kids against them. They are a parent, they are allowed to be involved. A judge wants NOTHING MORE than to allow both parents in the child’s life. Take one wrong turn on the path to ‘we are the best for the child’ and there’s no fixing it. Make EVERYTHING about the child. I mean EVERYTHING. And unless the other party is in extremely bad circumstances (which they probably AREN’T or it would be cause for an emergency hearing), the judge WILL allow them time with their child. Accept it, encourage it, be the bigger person. Work to make their time ‘healthy’ together, because even if they are an ax murderer, they are allowed time with their children under safe conditions. Try your best to work WITH the other parent and keep open communication. That is TRULY what the judge wants to see, is parents working together. I know sometimes this is impossible but if so, let the OTHER parent be the one making it impossible if need be, YOU KEEP AT IT.

6. Calm the $&%@ down. Do you believe in a higher power? We are extremely faithful in my house, but I admit I did NOT give it to God in this process and I was slapped over and over with things going differently than I hoped. CONFESSION: EVERYTHING WORKED OUT ACCORDING TO GOD’S PLAN AND IN HINDSIGHT I COULD HAVE SAVED MYSELF A GREAT DEAL OF STRESS IF I JUST BELIEVED IN OUR FAMILY AND KNEW WE WERE DOING THE RIGHT THING WITHOUT DESPERATELY TRYING TO MAKE IT SO ACCORDING TO MY PLAN! It will go how it will go. I know it is nearly impossible to sleep, eat, and think clearly during this difficult time. But I promise you, you can only do so much. The truth WILL come out eventually. Keep taking the high road and parenting as best you can. It is truly ALL you can do. The court system is whacked, we already know this. You’d be wise to work WITH them, working against them will never EVER get the result you hoped for.

Keep doing the right thing, you will get through this! Oh and one more thing! It may take more than one visit to court to get the best outcome for the kids. Come to terms with it ahead of time. It will all work out eventually!