Guest Blog: Building a Stepfamily

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

Stepfamily Balancing Act

by Anne Burt, the editor of My Father Married Your Mother: Writers Talk about Stepparents, Stepchildren, and Everyone in Between (including an essay by me). Anne's essays and fiction have appeared on NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Talk of the Nation" and in Salon, Working Mother, and The Christian Science Monitor. Anne lives with her husband, daughter and stepdaughter in Montclair, N.J.

My second husband and I both have six-year-old girls. Just a few months ago, I returned to work full time. My new job (which brings in the health insurance and 401K) requires a commute of 90 minutes each way. Since my husband works locally, the responsibilities of school transporter, homework monitor, dog feeder, grocery shopper, and dinner prepper have fallen largely on him.

Here's the wrinkle: My daughter lives with us 100% of the time; his daughter 50%. His daughter attends school in the town where her mother lives. On the mornings his daughter stays with us, my husband packs both girls up (I'm gone by 7 a.m.), drives to the next town, then hightails it back home to get my daughter onto her school bus on time. He performs the reverse commute in the evenings.

Before my return to work, we had an unspoken division of labor centered around which children slept in the house on any given night. When my daughter was here alone, I was in charge of all child-related duties. We shared duties when both girls were here. On the occasional night my daughter visited her father and my stepdaughter was here, I retreated into the background.

Those days are gone. I have to say that so far, we're a closer family for the change. I never want to retreat when I'm home because I miss the hours I've lost with the girls; as a result, my stepdaughter and I have greater intimacy. I worried that my husband (or my daughter) might dislike his having to care for my child more often than he cares for his own, or that my stepdaughter might feel jealous. I underestimated everyone.

On the heels of my divorce six years ago, my daughter clung to me, fearing that if her father could move away, maybe I could, too. Now that she knows her stepfather is reliable, she seems to accept that although I leave in the morning, I always come home at night.

How do other working stepfamilies handle the delicacies of childcare when there's a mix of his, hers, ours, theirs? What are the upsides and the downsides? I'd love to hear more.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 30, 2006; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Division of Labor , Guest Blogs
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Hi there,

A little over a year ago, I married a wondeful man with a terrific daughter, who's now nearly seven. We'd been dating since 2002, and I've known Teresa since she was two. Early in my husband's and my dating relationship, he shared custody with his ex-wife. However, before we talked about marriage, I encouraged him to search his heart and figure out if he wanted full custody (we were both concerned with how Resa was treated when she was at her mom's), and he decided to file for custody. I thought it was really important that he do this before we talked about our future together. Ultimately my husband won custody and we were married about a year after his success in court. My relationship with my new family has always been wonderful, and there are no childcare or housecare issues to speak of. Occasionally our work schedules (my husband and I both have full time jobs) become difficult, but we make it work with the childcare we've arranged, plus my husband has lots of family nearby to help, which is lovely for our daughter. My husband and I both spend as much time with Resa as possible, and she is introduced as our daughter whenever the occasion calls for introductions. Now...issues with Teresa's mother are for another blog entirely, but we manage! Resa is also looking forward to when Daddy and I add to our family--and I think she'll be a great big sister! As a side plug, I would encourage men and women alike, to not as a rule write off single parents as dating choices...if it works out for life, the satisfaction is immeasurable. Thanks for the chance to comment!

Posted by: Erica Snipes | May 30, 2006 10:03 AM

I'm glad it's working out for you Erica. I'm not involved in any step-family issues, but in all honesty, as a mother, I cringed when I read that you encouraged your now-husband to file for full custody. Divorce is often kinder financially to men, so I'm left wondering whether a mom was bullied into relinquishing custody.

I also get the willies when you describe that you introduce your step-daughter as your daughter. She's another woman's daughter. Someone else gave birth to her. She did not willingly give her up for adoption to be raised by you.

I also feel you're violating some boundaries by posting your full name and the first names of your step daughter.

This whole step-family business leaves a lot of broken hearts behind from what I'm reading.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 10:15 AM

Ask yourself, would you have the same objection to a single mother, who had gone to court for full custody, remarried, and whose husband referred to the children without that pesky word "Step"?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 10:24 AM

My sister after years of living with an alcholic womanizer met and married a nice man with two small children. He has full custody because the mother did not want the responsibilty.

My sister is raising the two children, one is a teenager and the other one is 11. However, she is not their mother. Their mother sees them on the weekends. She is very irresponsible and doesn't pay any child support to my brother in law, even though she makes more money than him.

They are my niece and newphew, I love them and treat them like the other children in our family. My sister does the same, but she is "Kathy" Not mom, mommy, or mother. They have a mother already.

That being said, My sister does have problems with the kids. She tries to make them listen and they don't. Their father is so afriad that they will want to live with their mother that he doesn't say anything either.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 10:25 AM

anxiously awaiting the collective wisdom from my former home..... where is everyone this morning? as my children (all of them) are young adults, and the grandchildren only know me with grandpa, I look forward to reading how others are dealing with these issues now. Perhaps to re-evaluate what I did and didn't do.

Posted by: Mom-2; stepmom-3; step grandma-4 in Columbia MO | May 30, 2006 10:28 AM

Leslie --- SHOCK! Of course Resa is Erica's daughter - she is being cared for, loved and nutured by Erica. The "hurt" you cited in your response usually comes from "others" who insist in labeling every nuance. In public settings, when Resa is with her parents (whether it be Erica, Erica and her husband, Resa's mom, Resa's mom and her husband/partner) Resa is the daughter. Shame on you for promoting walls.

Resa's mom loves her too. Cares for her too. If there was a full custody awarded to Resa's dad, it was not a easy decision for anyone. Whether Resa's mom was bullied into reliquishing custody is not for us to judge --- someone else already did that. And if they were wrong, they have to live with it. But there was nothing in Erica's post to suggest this was a particularly neferious decision. Since the custody decision only took a year, I wonder how difficult it really was.

As for fathers being financially better off after they divorce --- tell that to my spouse and my son-in-law! My daughter must delay starting her own family and my 60+ year old husband had to take a second job.

Posted by: Mom in Columbia MO | May 30, 2006 10:38 AM

I wish it was this easy for us. My stepdaughter is now 14 and long distance. This year we have heard NOTHING about her summer schedule, and it's almost June. We have family asking about reunion dates, when is she with us, not to mention family vacation time that is about to be made without information other than "I'm researching musicals" (that would be information from April) It's frustrating to say the least, because we try to plan time for us to be together as a family and my son has 2 sleep away camps that I've signed him up for because I don't have any information. When she has been here in the past, my family has helped out with her childcare, or his relatives have come to visit. Where is her mother in this - abdicating all parenting to the 14 year old (and this started at 10)

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 10:39 AM

as someone who played the role of stepmom for three 9 - 15 year olds over three years (when i was pretty young), it's not easy.

you have to make it work how you can, and everyone has to be flexible. when it comes down to it, remember that every family is different. issues run amok, and communication is truly the most important thing.

i think the anonymous poster is being rather hard on the first commenter. there may be some things she's doing wrong (please don't tell me you're perfect or understand all there is about every step family), but it seems that these things are working for her and her family right now. she merely needs to be ready to spin on their head at some point in the future.

my advice for any person seeking to blend a family (both man or woman) is to keep a vigilant eye on the children. what is a good arrangement one week can become a big problem the next. realize your imperfections, and be ready for conflict so you can deal better, especially as they grow older and see their own (and family's) imperfections. remember that you're an adult who enhances your step-children's life and act accordingly. also, you don't have to be a mom to be in the mom role in your house. it is your house, not theirs. finally, communicate, talk, listen, have family meetings, eat dinner together, and maintain your relationship with your significant other. support each other. don't leave the other hanging out to dry.

good luck.

Posted by: kate | May 30, 2006 10:48 AM

After being a single parent for about 12 years and numerous dating cycles, I met someone special. We met during a Women's month event, in which I was interviewed and I talked about my daughter, who I considered an importatnt women in my life. Well, a co-worker was nudged by a mutual friend and told we had so much in common, that ultimately we met and started dating. We have been married about 9 years after dating 3 years. I had two children and my spouse had 3. Needless to say, there were plenty of spirals and joyous days these many years. All the children are now adults, forming teir own families. We have family day each Sunday for those available for these get togethers of sharing. Yes, a lot of communications and mis-communications have occurred, but we all are family.

Posted by: JJ | May 30, 2006 10:50 AM

I think people need to be careful about judging their SO's exes, especially when step-children are involved. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your husband/wife and you are better parents, more fit, more responsible, etc. than the other parent. That may be so, but you need to realize that even if that is the case, the children love and are loyal to their other parent, and you should not try to take that away from them. Step-parents are additions to the family, and they need to be very sensitive to the situation that they are entering. The do not replace the other parent, even though with time, they may become loved and dear to the children as well. I had a stepmother who very much wanted to take over, and could not understand why I resisted. She wanted to take on the mother role not for my own good, but for her own ego. It was very frustrating as a child having to set boundaries with her, because she of course had most of the power since I was a child. But you canno force a child to love you or see you as the parent. Building a relationship with stepchildren takes patience, and a willingness to step back and realize that the child already has a mother or a father.

Posted by: linda | May 30, 2006 10:59 AM

My former boyfriend and I dated for many years and our relationship suffered because of ongoing struggles and emotional battles over the kids with his ex-wife. She moved them away, was uncommunicative (except for the time the check was two days late), and put them in unstable living situations. My ex could have stepped up and fought her legally but he was afraid of her so he often gave in and then got upset and depressed about everything. I had to listen to it all but could do nothing. I realized I wanted no connection with such a woman, who always put her own needs first, and that although I loved her kids, I couldn't stand the heartbreak of trying to parent them when I could see the damage she was doing -- to them and to her ex. It was way too stressful and I saw it wouldn't ease up until the last child turned 18.

I blamed my former boyfriend because I never felt we were a couple, I always felt that his ex was part of the relationship and that at any time she could swoop in with another newsflash about her life and throw him and us into an emotional whirlpool. It was exhausting and unpredictable. To this day my former boyfriend thinks that I "didn't want his kids" when the truth is that I loved them dearly. I didn't want to be stuck in a "relationship" with his ex-wife.

I am so glad that I don't have kids whenI see so many ugly and unhappy situations after the divorce. Most of my friends hated the shuttling around that became their routine lives after their parents divorced. Couples, if you can't work out your marriage, do whatever it takes to give your kids your best, and stop the endless bickering with your ex. Grow up.

Posted by: No custody battles for me | May 30, 2006 11:05 AM

As the child of divorced parents I STRONGLY oppose joint custody arrangements where the child moves back and forth between two homes on a regular basis (weekly, semi-annually, what have you).

Also, parents with children from previous marriages have no business making new babies with their new partners. Love the children you already have. (Aren't they enough?) Please.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 11:16 AM

I don't think the annyomous poster said anything wrong. I just wonder how all the mothers out their would feel if their children called another woman "mom."

I'm not divorced, but unless I was dead, I wouldn't like it.

Also, i'm just wondering if when Erica and her husband have a child of their own, should that child call Resa's mother mom too?

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 11:18 AM

Re: shuttling kids between parents. I don't know anyone who grew up having to go between parent's homes and liked it. I didn't see the piece, but one of the morning news shows was promoing something on a divorced couple who shared their children's home. The father and mother did all the home-switching, not the kids. Bravo! It's about time parents realized that their kids suffer with all this moving around.

And yeah, sometimes one parent is really "bad" and perhaps should have very limited visitation. That happens. But for the most part, I think both parents are probably about equal in parenting and, as one poster wrote last week, no one can replace Mom and Dad, so step-moms and step-dads need to accept that and not perpetuate the "so and so is a terrible parent" conversations.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 11:23 AM

"Friend", you're so right! Divorced spouses who have children should only be allowed to date and marry other divorced (or widowed) parents! No way should anyone who is divorced or widowed marry a woman or man with no children and attempt to create a "second family". Ugh. How terrible. If you divorce, you should give up your right to have more children.

You know, I actually understand what you're saying, and I realize that second (and third...) families sometimes cause pain to the first children. And Friend, you might have experienced this pain. But it's ridiculous to say that a divorced woman or man with one child shouldn't be allowed to have other children with another spouse. People marry, have kids, part, and marry again. I've seen a lot of families where there is one child from a first, failed marriage and then a joint child, and they are happy families.

It's not the situation, it's how ALL of the parents handle the situation.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 11:32 AM

I agree with Friend's first comment about the whole "joint custody" mess. I'm another person who has never heard a good word about having to go back and forth between parents from friends who experienced it as children and teens. It's a shame that kids can't live with both parents, but if they parents can't get along, then they need to be the adults in the situation and choose one home for their children. Seems to me that it's one parent who wants "out" more anyway. So, if you want your freedom so much, then you can't expect to have your kids live with you "every other weekend". Stop punishing your kids for your bad choices.

Why are so many people making the mistake of marrying the wrong person and having kids with them? If everyone would think more realistically and less selfishly, I think we'd have far fewer "broken homes".

Posted by: Tanger | May 30, 2006 11:40 AM

Anonymous - Why is it ridiculous to for parents to care for and sacrifice for their children? Divorce is damaging to children. When parents make new children with step-parents the existing children become biological outsiders in the new family unit. Parents and step parents who make new babies without considering the needs of existing children are being selfish.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 11:43 AM


I am concerned about your opposition to divorced parents who have remarried having children of their own. It sounds like you are rather concerned with "being replaced" when that is the farthest thing from any parents mind when they choose to have another child.

As a divorced mother who is remarried to a divorced father, who adores her stepchildren and still wants nothing more than to share a child with the man of her dreams. Wanting a baby has nothing to do with my children not being "enough" I adore the children that I have and the bonus children that I have aquired. Having a baby is not going to make me love my children or stepchildren any less than I do right now. If anything the baby will be the one thing that we all have incommon. My children and stepchildren are excited that we want to have a baby.

I am sorry that you feel a new family is a "replacement family" that isnt always the case.

Posted by: BK | May 30, 2006 11:50 AM

I am the child of a step-father. In my case, however, there was no divorce - my father died when I was young and my mom married a wonderful man a few years later. Naturally, I hated him, forbid them to have children together, and made their new marriage and all attempts to meld a family absolutely miserable. When I was entering the era of teenage angst, I got into a fight with my step-father and told him that I did not have to listen to him because he was not my father. Very calmly, he told me that I could make a decision - I could reject his attempts with fatherhood and he would retreat to the background and just be my mother's husband, or I could accept him into my life - for better or worse - and we could work on a relationship of mutual respect. I wanted so badly, in my anger, to take choice number one, but I could not hurt my mother like that. So I choose number two. It was hard, but then again - life always is. Fifteen years later, I remember and hold my biological father in a special place in my heart, but the man who married my mother is truly my dad.

I know that it is different, and can be much more difficult, when there is a divorce and a living parent involved, but there are situations when love and respect can overcome the anger and grief that accompanies a loss of a parent. I think it is important for step-parents - regardless of why the first marriage ended - to realize that they are an important part of their step-childrens' lives, even if their biological parents are around and involved. For a step-parent to simply retreat into the background and leave all child-rearing duties to the biological parent can be very hurtful.

Just my two cents.

Posted by: scr | May 30, 2006 11:52 AM

As usual, this blog has some helpful, instructive posts. Unfortunately, it also still has the same venomous posts by people who want a cookie cutter solution to every situation.

First, the poster who ripped apart Eric. . . . are you kidding? While maybe she shouldn't be so critical of the ex, no one is perfect. That is a difficult situation and if she is not bad mouthing the mother to "Resa" (which she hopefully is not), then she is entitled to her opinion. She clearly loves her step-daughter and is trying to make that situation work. So what is the problem?

On the issue of men faring better in divorces, I'd like to see the stats. I have PLENTY of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

On the issue of calling step-parents mom or dad . . again, it depends on the situation. It may be more comfortable for the child to refer to the step-parent as mother/father in public settings rather than explain the situation. I know a child who ASKED to do this so as not to feel like there was the asterix next to her name (this is our daughter but this one is only my step-daughter. . . ) As for how the biological parent feels about this, to me that is really secondary to the child's comfort with the term. I would hope the entire, extended famiy would come to some compromise on this. But, in the end, you simply cannot say NOT to use the term in every situation. In some, it works. That's a fact. My husband is a perfect example: mother's day cards are sent to both the mother and the "step" mother b/c both have had a hand in raising him. He loves them both. Both are fine with it.

On the issue of divorced/remarried people being allowing to procreate. . . you people need to REALLY get a life and a dose of reality. Not all people are single again by choice. Are you saying a woman (just using that gender b/c I am one and not to the exclusion of men) cannot procreate with a second husband if:
1-they are widowed with children
2-they are divorced with children after a horrendous situation like abuse to her or the children
3-they are divorced with children following being left for another person (i.e., an affair)

If that is what you're saying, then I say how dare you? You are stigmatizing those individuals and make GRAND assumptions that blended families cannot work. They can. I have seen it. Perhaps you need to go to a "I am right all the time" blog. You'll feel more comfortable looking down your noses at people there. (BTW, I'm happily married for the first time and so your judgments would not apply to me.)

One solution does not work for everyone. People need to recognize this fact.

Posted by: JS | May 30, 2006 11:53 AM

In response to the comments on whether divorced parents should have kids with future partners: of course it is unreasonable to expect that they won't, but I kind of understand where the poster is coming from. My dad remarried and the son he raised full-time is much more his son than I am. They have much more in common because they lived together for 18 years, where I was always in and out. I would never begrudge the two of them their relationship, but it still hurts to know that in some ways I am less his kid than my brother is. I can't imagine if my mom had also started a second family, and feeling this way on both sides. Still, I would never trade my own relationship with my (half) brother and I'm glad he's here.

Posted by: Another kid | May 30, 2006 12:04 PM

JS - I'm an advocate for children and I believe that divorced parents (no matter why they're divorced) have an obligation to consider the emotional needs of their children before their own. I know this is difficult for many parents to hear, and I'm sorry. Divorce is hard on everyone.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 12:07 PM

I am a single mom to an infant. The child's father and I decided that it would be best for us not to get married. We are friendly toward one another however I suspect that might change once we start hammering out custody issues. (nothing formal in court yet. The baby lives with me)

I am plagued with guilt that my child will end up hating me in the future for this decision. I sincerely believe it was in her best interest though instead of risking a divorce down the line.

So according to some posters, I should never be allowed to marry and have more children?

How can I avoid the joint custody and shuttling issue? Obviously the father will want to spend time with his child.

I just want my child to know and feel loved and to grow up to be a good and happy person. Is that possible?
am I not allowed to pursue the same in hoping to find someone to spend my life with?

Posted by: stressedmom | May 30, 2006 12:07 PM

Another kid - Thanks for the support.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 12:10 PM

scarry posted: "...should that child call Resa's mother mom too"

uh, yeah, if two things are in place: 1) the relationships are mutual with Resa's mom taking an involved, active role in Erica's child life; and 2) if Erica's child wants to call Resa's mom by a special name.

One set of my grandchildren have 3 grandmothers, and the other has 4 grandmothers. We are all "grandma" whether in conversation, while walking in the park, and at family get-togethers. The kids aren't differentiating, they are talking to us. However, the kids KNOW who's daddy's mom and who's daddy's stepmom. It is about what THEY are comfortable with and the adults in their lives supporting them.

I was a nanny for 5 years to a little girl who's parents were VERY involved in her life and activities. Yet, since I was the daily, day-time presence in the little girl's life -- she called me "mommy." She knew who was her mommy, and who was ultimately responsible for her -- she loved her mom no less. As she grew older and became aware of the "differences," she chose, I repeat, SHE chose to call me by my given name. She loved me no less, just was more comfortable with it.

It reminds me of my Italian upbringing -- everyone was Zia or Zio. Didn't matter if they grew up in the village near my parents' home or were blood relatives. Everyone was Zia/Zio.

Posted by: from Columbia, MO | May 30, 2006 12:12 PM

Anne Burt's book about stepfamilies is very realistic -- discussing the exact same kind of awkwardness and unresolved situations people are discussing rosy "blended families" hyperbole. This stuff about finding a loving and supportive moniker for stepchildren and step-parents can be really stepmother introduced herself as my mother to everyone at my wedding, when my biological mother was just a few feet away...stepmom meant it in a loving, inclusive way, but it created an awkward situation for me and a hurtful one for my mother who had to explain that she was actually my mother. The better solution came when my stepmom asked me to refer to her as "my other mother" since she didn't like the term stepmother. This was a great solution, that didn't hurt anyone.

Posted by: Leslie | May 30, 2006 12:17 PM

stressedmom - I love both my parents dearly even though their divorce has been difficult for all of us. And I'm a good and happy person (most of the time) too.
I don't have a thing against re-marriage (knowing my father has a caring partner in his life has a source of tremendous relief to me). But I'd carefully consider your existing child's needs before moving forward with more children.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 12:24 PM

Joint custody never works for long. Avoid it like you would a case of herpes.

Posted by: TC | May 30, 2006 12:30 PM

Sorry Columbia,

It is disrespectful for a step mom to call herself a child's mother unless the mother is out of the picture or unfit. My friend's kids don't call me mom! There is a reason for the name.

I think the other mom thing is better, but I still don't like it. Why can't kids just call step parents by their names?

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 12:31 PM

I'm one of four mothers to a child who is the product of a committed, 10+ year lesbian relationship (which split up when the child was very young - under 5). I'm the only one that doesn't have kids 'of my own' - the other three either were the original parents of said child, or brought kids into the relationship when they joined (other stepmom).

We have an every week switch custody arrangement - our child has two homes, but shuttles a few things back and forth (ipod, cell phone, bookbag). She's grown up with this - the other mother (who left my current partner and the child alone for a few years, and reemerged) has a friend relationship with our child (other stepmom is a great parent, though) and my partner has always been the primary parent.

It's hard sometimes - we also have the other stepmom's ex partner and her new wife in the picture, which also adds more kids into the mix. This means that mothers day is six moms, one biological dad, and a cartload of kids at one house sharing time together. It also means that we have regualr contact with the ex, no matter how ugly the breakup was. It takes time, patience - and meticulous court papers which document everything from who gets the child for Christmas and mothers day to who gets to claim a dependant on their taxes which years. Even if we don't always follow the court papers - we always have neutral ground to fall back on to cope with issues.

BTW, 'my' child is almost a teenager, healthy, happy, well adjusted, popular, and has a great relationship with all four of her moms. She calls me Mom sometimes, but mostly Rebecca. When introduced, depending on the situation, I'm either aunt, mom or stepmom. I think joint custody gets a bad rap sometimes - we're living an example of it working well.

Posted by: Rebecca | May 30, 2006 12:36 PM

My fiance and I both have children from previous relationships. We do not have any children together yet. When we go out we introduce our girls as just that "our girls," we do not attempt to clarify to anyone who's child is who's. Yes it was difficult when we started out, both girls were jealous about having to share their parent with another child but once they realized that no one was taking anything away from them they were fine. Of course some days are better than others but we make it work. We share all the responsibilities for both girls.
My biological daughter lives with us and visits her dad every other weekend - which is what she asked for so she could spend time with "her sister". Her father and I sit down with her and we work out who she will be with on what holidays as well as on school breaks. Example: This summer she will be home half the first half of the summer and with her dad the second half of the summer. She loves it because she gets to spend time equally with both of us.
My fiance's daughter lives with her mom and is with us a few days a week as well as every weekend. I leave her vacation scheduling to her parents. We try to incorporate both schedules so both girls are with us at the same time. For the most part it works.
Both girls are treated equally and know that they are loved very much. They both keep asking for a little brother or sister.

My point: Blended families can work as long as everyone is willing to be fair and work toward a common goal(in my case creating a family where everyone is loved and treated the same).

Posted by: RC | May 30, 2006 12:42 PM

Scarry - no insult intended -- my point was the kids were initiating the name, not the adults. And when the children are small, there isn't a difference in their minds.

My daughters are adults, but there have been women throughout in their lives, who have served as "mom" and they called them "mom" not to hurt me, but to honor them. Did it hurt me? Honestly, no. I always knew I was their mother, but what it told me at that time was my child was responding, to the best of their ability, to another adult in their lives who loved them.

Again, when it comes from the child, I think it's a different story.

As to the step-mom who introduced herself as "mother of the bride" at her daughter's wedding - I attribute that to the negative implication that "stepmom" has in our society and a wish for a more loving nomiker. "Other mom" was an excellent solution. Perhaps if our culture allowed a broader interpretation of parental roles, with more sensitive labels, this problem at the wedding wouldn't have happened. Like the Zio/Zia titles I give all adults in my life.

Posted by: Columbia | May 30, 2006 12:44 PM

"Ask yourself, would you have the same objection to a single mother, who had gone to court for full custody, remarried, and whose husband referred to the children without that pesky word "Step"?"

Yes, but that's me. I find it strange when families and non-family blur the lines. That's just my opinion. (I also don't encourage my kids to call close friends "Aunt" and "Uncle" as some people do. That's their choice.) I'm just saying that regardless of how much a jerk the biological parent may or may not be, it's not up to a new step-parent to present herself (or himself) as the parent.

It's confusing and unfair to young children. There are many intact marriages where one partner is irresponsible, clueless, rude, ignorant, whatever, but the children are not encouraged to start thinking of a different person as "mom" or "dad."

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 12:51 PM


In certain households/cultures, it is extremely disrespectful to call an adult by their first name.

You said it was disrespectful for the step-parent to refer to the child as her daughter. Disrespectful to whom? I would think it's actually the worse, if she kept adding in "step" unnecessarily. Not all families, as we know, are the same. Erica is the woman who cares for "Resa" every day. Every day.

Btw, there are lots of kids who refer to other people's parents as mom and dad.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 12:59 PM

Friend, I agree that parents should weigh the needs of existing children prior to having more. That is the case regardless of divorce or an intact marriage. Any parent should do it.

However, that does not mean that once divorced, the needs of the existing children mean no more children are allowed. It sounds as if your family may have done a poor job of ensuring that your place in the family remained intact, but not all parents handle this so poorly. I think that the addition of your half-siblings caused you to realize (maybe at a younger age than most children must realize) that it is not all about you. The happiness of your parents and their deisire to have more children matter also.

Re joint custody and shuttling kids. Of course that is a pain, but would you rather have the alternative? Would you rather not have regular access to the non-custodial parent? I agree that parents shuttling while kids remain in place sounds lovely, but it is SO hard to implement in the real world. Perhaps the ideal situation is divorced parents that live very close together, a room at each house, and the kid decides where s/he wants to be. Again, so hard to implement! I feel that it's better for kids to have regular access to both parents, even with the hassle and pain of shuttling.

Posted by: Raia | May 30, 2006 1:03 PM

I saw this from just about every angle as a kid. My mom and dad divorced when I was 4; he got married almost immediately and had two more kids with my stepmother; when I was 9, my mother met and married a man who already had 2 small children (1 and 3 at the time).

On additional kids: I must admit, at the time, I wasn't very happy to have new brothers and sisters. I was very insecure and territorial. And like one of the earlier posters, I was jealous of my half-brothers' relationship with my dad. And my step-brother and sister were FAR cuter than me. But now I wouldn't trade any of my siblings for the world. I can't imagine if my dad had taken Friend's advice and not had my brothers -- my life is far richer because of their presence. Yes, my dad had more to offer them than me -- but in part, that's what happens when you have kids at 31 instead of 20. I never would have had that relationship with him anyway, so no sense taking it out on them. And frankly, even though it scared me at the time, learning to share my parents with other kids was precisely the lesson I needed to learn most; that's what taught me that my parents would still love me regardless, and that I could open my heart and not need to be so freaking territorial.

The biggest problem, though, was that my stepmom always clearly preferred her boys to me (once complained about the child support to my grandmother, saying "he's got two kids of his own to take care of"; my grandmother had to remind her that he had three). And that made our relationship very difficult. Even though she was nice to my face, I just always knew that I didn't rate with her, that I didn't live up to her expectations of what a daughter should be. But then again, that's who she was even before she had her sons, so again, no reason to take that out on them. Like I said, I wouldn't trade my brothers for the world; but her, I don't have much of a relationship with any more.

On "mom/dad": my stepparents let me call them whatever I wanted, which was the only way to handle things. My stepfather (with whom I lived) was always supportive and there, but also very careful not to usurp my dad's role. For a long time, I was very intent on defining the roles very precisely (I think that was part of that territorialism I mentioned above). And I still call him by his first names. But in public, I refer to them as my mom and dad (and my siblings as my brothers and sister) -- there's just usually no reason why anyone would care about the precise family relationships, or why it would be any of their business if they did. When i got married, I had all my parents walk down the aisle -- how could I just choose two? And I must say, last week, my stepfather introduced me to a group as his daughter, and my heart just completely flip-flopped.

Finally, the only reason this worked is because all of my parents worked hard to get along, and not to badmouth each other or put me in the middle. As angry as they were with each other, they (generally) kept me out of it. But it worked better with my mom and stepdad than with my dad and stepmom. Why? Well, first, because my stepdad accepted me and treated me just like his two biological kids. But also, my mom and stepdad mostly left discipline to my mom, whereas my dad left it to my stepmom. During my "challenge authority" teenage years, I knew I had to listen to my mom, but just didn't feel accepted by my stepmom and so didn't appreciate having to be bossed around by her. I note that my mom had a somewheat tough relationship with my stepbrother and sister, and I suspect it's for the same reason -- it's just hard to suddenly be the hands-on parent when the kids didn't choose you (and you didn't choose them). So my one piece of advice for stepfamilies is to let the kids get used to their new stepparent at their own pace, and not force the kind of closeness that comes with having to handle the day-to-day childcare and discipline unless you have to. I know it works well for some kids, but I definitely had an attitude with my stepmom, and so being forced to suddenly have her as my primary caregiver and disciplinarian when I visited my dad made the relationship tougher on both of us.

Posted by: Laura | May 30, 2006 1:05 PM

Well I read all the posts and would offer this from my perspective. I was a happily divorced man with no children who married a wonderful family. A divorced mom of 3 boys 10, 7, and 4 and from the first day of our engagement till this day I have always told them I am not here to replace their dad but to be a positive role model and mentor them in the responsibilities of manhood so that they will grow up with values, morals, and common decency. I also make sure that It is not my place to make the rules but to enforce the rules that Mom makes.

In regards to what do you call the step-parent, whatever the child is comfortable with is my motto. The oldest often gets perturbed when an adult makes an assumption that I'm his biological father but we both just look at the offending adult smile and say I'm his proud Step-Dad. I've come to realize that it is very hard for kids to explain what a step-dad is to their friends and that they are often embarrassed that their real dad isn't around but as I've told them sometimes life doesn't give us what we want and we just have to accept what was given to us. They call me by my first name which is perfectly acceptable to me. We have open and honest communication which I think is key and at no time do we ever disparage their dad in front of them and I can honestly say I have not had one issue as of yet (knock on wood) regarding the resentment and alienation towards the step-parent, not because of me, but because my wife and I have and continue to have constant dialogue with all of them.

To current and future Step-Dads remember we are in a remarkable club such as Joseph the King of all Step-Dads.

Posted by: Tim from Ellicott City | May 30, 2006 1:06 PM

Friend, I wonder if you have considered the emotional impact such a restriction would have on the relationship between the parent and child. If a divorced, widowed, or single parent feels that s/he cannot remarry or have another child because of the existing child, this seems bound to create resentment on the part of the parent, possibly even regret that the parent had the first child. This seems just as bad if not worse as the impact of having additional children.

Most courts have moved away from placing restrictions on the ability of a custodial parent to move out of state for similar reasons - if the child serves as a limitation or restriction on the parent's ability to live their life, that sets up a tension and emotional dynamic that is not in the best interests of the child. It seems to me that in the end, having a parent who is happy and stable, and thus more able to provide love and care to the child, is most important.

Posted by: Megan | May 30, 2006 1:08 PM


Your assumptions about my history are off base.

Again, I state unapologietically that the desire of a divorced parent to have children with a new partner is of less importance than the needs of his or her existing children.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 1:12 PM

"As for fathers being financially better off after they divorce --- tell that to my spouse and my son-in-law! My daughter must delay starting her own family and my 60+ year old husband had to take a second job."

I guess we all see the world from our own point of view. A man who takes on a second marriage is still ultimately responsible to the first family he helped to create.

I do have friends who used to complain that the ex-wife was "on scholarship" because she collected alimony (now maintenance) and my friends (the second wife) had to work full-time to help pay for it. This is a question people have to figure out before they remarry. You're not a victim if you have to take a second job to fulfill your responsibilities. Yes, it is disappointing, and it can be hard.

So you have to ask is it worth it to marry someone who has significant pre-existing obligations that may annoy or irritate or trouble you?

For some it is worth it, others not. I know that my one good friend who was so upset about the financial issues had never even discussed those issues before marrying. She had made a lot of assumptions about how life was going to be based on the relationship while they dated. And, most things didn't turn out the way she was expecting. But, she never had those important conversations with the man she was going to marry. That's the sad part...and then the resentment toward her step-son increased, as well as toward the ex-wife.

As time passed, it became easy to criticize the ex's parenting style, and her so-called "demands" and so on. The ex-wife became a sort of scapegoat.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 1:14 PM


If as parents, we paid attention to the fears that our children would be upset by the birth of siblings (or step-siblings), we'd have an awful lot of only children running around. Having another baby in the family is something that almost everyone has had to work through (and we've survived, or at least, most of us did), and certainly the concern that one of the kids might not like the new sibling is not reason enough to have your tubes tied. I disagree completely with pretty much everything you say. I speak from experience as well, having been married for 7 years to a man who has a daughter by his first wife. We have added two more children to our family, and at no time has the oldest taken a back seat emotionally or physically in our home (unless she wanted to -- teenagers can be like that). Our three children are of equal importance.

Posted by: MJEMom | May 30, 2006 1:24 PM

"It seems to me that in the end, having a parent who is happy and stable, and thus more able to provide love and care to the child, is most important."

We're back to the same old argument. Same things are said about stay-at-home parent vs. both parents working. "Happy and stable" parents would be the ideal, but different things make different people "happy". Stable? Who knows? I don't call a family where there are 6 mothers for one child "stable" but others do.

Clearly there are many different ways to "blend" families. Some people will always say that the parent should go for what they need, as long as they are of course taking the kids into account. Others will say that parents "had their chance" and must sacrifice and think primarily of their existing child(ren)'s needs. There's no answer to Leslie's question, and little point in debating because what worked well for one family might not work for any other family. Some kids are fine with many siblings from different parents and step-parents, others will resent it forever. Some hate going from home to home, others enjoy and accept it. Who can tell you how your kid will feel and how much it should matter to you?

Posted by: SoLo | May 30, 2006 1:25 PM

I think the problem with second and third families is that sometimes one parent moves on and the children of the first marriage don't get the attention of one parent and don't get pulled into the "new" family. Maybe this happened more in the past, the situation of "daddy ran off with a younger woman and left us with mom and now dad has a new family and doesn't care about us".

I think many children feel that resentment, especially if they live with one parent and see the children of a step-parent living with their other parent full-time, like Ann Burt describes. Sure there are ways to help children understand and work through this, but it doesn't mean they don't initially feel great pain.

Posted by: DC | May 30, 2006 1:32 PM

Ironically, as a stepparent, I agree with the poster who disagrees with Erica Snipes. One of the best ways to build a successful household with stepchildren is to not pretend you are your stepchild's parent. Show respect to your child by recognizing that s/he has a mother (father) and that's not you. Your job is to help your spouse and create a loving enrivonment, not taking away another parent's right. Just because you are a great stepparent and the other biological parent is horrible, doesn't mean you are entitled to replace him/her.

Posted by: A stepmother | May 30, 2006 1:33 PM

1:14 pm poster wrote: "She had made a lot of assumptions about how life was going to be based on the relationship while they dated."

We, my daughter and then I, did not make those assumptions -- we knew what we were getting into and we still went willingly because these two men (my spouse and son-in-law) are two of the most decent men you will ever meet. I was responding to the Leslie post that said divorced fathers fared better. In truth, once a divorce happens (in many middle to lower income families) everyone suffers financially.

Posted by: Columbia MO | May 30, 2006 1:34 PM

My daughter is 15, just about to turn 16. I was divorced when she was very small from an abusive husband. I was a single parent for 7 years before I remarried. During those 7 years I dated infrequently by choice. My daughter initially didn't see her father often (his choice), so we became extremely close. Eventually, her father took her every other weekend. When I met my present husband, he was several years older than I and had a grown son and two granddaughters. My daughter was thrilled to have an extended family (being an only child), but resisted the sharing of Mom with her new husband. I was torn. Both deserved my attention. This was very stressful. One day I asked my daughter if she would like to have a "girls night out" once a week. She was thrilled. For almost 6 years we have done this. She counts on and looks forward to this undivided attention and time spend between us. This initially helped to take the stress away from the sharing issue. On top of this my husband did not throw himself at my daughter, he explained to her that he knew she already had a father and because he loved me, he loved her. We were a package. Over the years, my daughters father has remarried and moved several hours away. She was heartbroken. Visits have been infrequent, as well as phone calls..."he has a new family and doesn't want me anymore". Again, my husband didn't try to take his place, he kept being there for her in both small and big ways. One day while driving in the car, out of daughter made the following comment..."When I get married I want my father and you (she was speaking to my husband) to walk me down the isle. However, though I love my father, I do not respect him. I respect and love you. I think my father is just my father, you have been my Dad". My heart almost burst. Though she hasn't gone as far as to call him Dad, I think the point is that we must give children time to adjust to their new environment at their own pace, checking in with them on a regular basis, even if the answer is always "everything's fine". Also, the child in cirumstances like this must be taught that the stepparent has the same rights to being treated with respect in their home as does the biological parent. When my husband's son passed away suddenly last year, my daughter was hearbroken, but also afraid she would lose her extended family. We have made a point to involve our daughter-in-law and her family (including her parents) in all our gatherings and recently celebrated her graduation from medical school. It's interesting how the definition of family equates to efforts made by those who treasure it.

Posted by: Diane | May 30, 2006 1:40 PM

Megan - This statement is strange to me :"If a divorced, widowed, or single parent feels that s/he cannot remarry or have another child because of the existing child, this seems bound to create resentment on the part of the parent, possibly even regret that the parent had the first child. This seems just as bad if not worse as the impact of having additional children."

It sounds like you're placing the burden of a divorced parent's happiness on his or her child which doesn't seem right to me. Also, to clarify, I'm advocating only for children of divorced (not widowed) families.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 1:51 PM

Blended families do work. In fact, they are statistically the norm in this country with more and more couples divorcing.

I am a newlywed. My husband has a child from a previous relationship where there was a lot of trickery, dishonesty, and emotional abuse, most of which he was on the recieving end of. Is he wrong for wanting to experience a happy, loving relationship? Is he to be denied happiness and love, just because he was married before?

I am a full-time stepmother to a loving 7 year old. We have her full time because her mother made some very bad, selfish decisions and the court deemed that my husband's child would be better off in our stable home with a healthy view of a marital relationship.

Am I evil for marrying a man with a child? Am I a bad person for providing a loving, supportive home for this child? Furthermore, am I a horrible person for being an active parent in my stepchild's life? Absolultely not. I am constantly thanked by her school, family, and other families in the neighborhood for doing what I do - whether it is being the class mom, volunteering for the PTA or just being supportive of the child and her activities.

Am I selfish to want to give her siblings by having additional children with my husband? As someone who does not have biological children yet, am I only thinking of myself when I believe that children are better off with siblings, whole-half-or step, and have a strong desire to go through the experience of bringing additional children to our family? NO. In fact, we are providing more people to love and be loved for his child.

I am a child of divorce. Am I damaged in any way because my father moved on and I have stepsiblings? I don't think so, in fact, I think it makes me a better stepmother.

Blending families is a give and take. My experience is that it is more giving than taking most of the time, but worth it just the same.

Posted by: NotAnEvilStepmom | May 30, 2006 1:52 PM

RE: Friend

"Also, parents with children from previous marriages have no business making new babies with their new partners. Love the children you already have. (Aren't they enough?) Please."

I don;t agree with this. My little brother and sister are from my father's second marriage. I love them dearly and could not imagine my life without them, even though i lived at my mother's house and they lived with dad. there were ups and downs, but I love my stepmother, who had to step into that role when I was a teenager. She is my second mother - but that was my choosing, she never forced me to think of her that way. My half-brother and sister are just my brother and sister and I could not be happier about it.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 1:58 PM

MJEMom - I am advocating strictly for children of divorced parents, not intact families. When a parent has a new child with a step-parent, existing children become biological outsiders in the new family unit. Although is sounds like some of the posters here are handling their unique situations with grace, this is not always the case. Children of divorce, even if they appear to be high-functioning, are at a disadvantage. They deserve the utmost care and respect from their parents.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 2:01 PM

Friend, you wrote:

It sounds like you're placing the burden of a divorced parent's happiness on his or her child which doesn't seem right to me. Also, to clarify, I'm advocating only for children of divorced (not widowed) families.

I'm not attempting to place that burden on the child, but I am recognizing the reality that if a parent feels that their own happiness is being denied because of their first child, they may resent that. Imagine a woman who was left by her husband, and who is raising her child on her own. She meets someone she wants to marry, and wants to have more children, but can't because of her first child. I think it's likely that if she thinks she cannot have another child or remarry because of her first child, she will feel resentful, or regret having the first child because now she doesn't have a chance at something she wanted - a happy marriage and multiple children.

It's not that the children are responsible for their parents happiness, but if they appear to stand in the way of their parents happiness, that seems a recipe for disaster.

Also, what makes it different if the parent is widowed vs. divorced?

Posted by: Megan | May 30, 2006 2:03 PM

I just wanted to say thank you to Laura... I often read your comments and think, "what an unusually thoughtful, insightful post." More times than not it has your name at the bottom!

Posted by: Ms L | May 30, 2006 2:03 PM

"Also, parents with children from previous marriages have no business making new babies with their new partners. Love the children you already have. (Aren't they enough?) Please."


If my parents thought like you I would still be an only child. Instead, I have four amazing sisters. (Yes - SISTERS - not half-sisters or step-sisters) I can't imagine my life without them.

Posted by: Danielle | May 30, 2006 2:12 PM

I married a man who came from a divorced home. I agree joint custody is not ideal, however, because of my FIL's controlling ways, he prevented my husband from seeing his mother for years, making it difficult, and forcing her to pay for the airfare when she had little money. He hasn't forgiven him for that, and it strained their relationship. I think both parents should be able to spend time with their children, but sometimes you have to force a parent to let go and allow the other parent access, no matter what you personally think.

As for the whole 'mom and dad' thing, as long as a child is spending time with their 'real' parent, I think it's inappropriate to have the child call you mom. Maybe a form of mom, that's more affectionate, but it isn't fair to split a child's affection in two like that. I think maybe the first poster doesn't think she's doing that, but it sounds like it. As for her statements about the other mom being irresponsible, maybe she is, but you have to understand, most of us are going to be skeptical, because what does the biological mom feel? Does she want to relinquish her role as mother? Does she like haivng another woman being called mom by her child? And why shouldn't her opinion matter? She is still involved in her daughter's life after all.

As for 'Friend's' comment, I think he is coming from the point of a marriage where hte step parent really didn't connect with the children already in the family, and wanted 'their own.' While I don't think it's nescessarily bad, to have 'new' kids, I think the parent who already has to have children needs to really consider if this is what they want. Also, I'd say you'd need to consider the relationship of the stepparent to the child. If it's rocky, I'd seriously recommend counseling before adding more problems.

Divorce is exceptionally hard on kids, and it's not fair to just tell them to 'suck up the new parent and the new siblings' when they are already a mess inside. The hurt needs to be healed before you move on. I think this is why men and women without children need to seriously think about getting into a relationship with someone who already has children It doesn't mean 'don't' it means, think really closely, you may not mesh, may not get to have your own children, may not get to inflict your own ideas of discipline on the children already there etc etc.

Posted by: Observer | May 30, 2006 2:13 PM

"You said it was disrespectful for the step-parent to refer to the child as her daughter. Disrespectful to whom?"

It's disrespectful to her mother! Read my posts, I've already answered that. And, no not all families are the same, I think I know that considering my sister in law had an affair on my brother and had a little girl who had my brother's name for four years!!!!

He was devastated. However, her real father didn't want her and doesn't see her. Ever. My brother is raising her like he always has. She calls him dad because he is the only dad she has.

Unlike Erica's situation where the little girl has a mother! People can do whatever they want with their lives, I think it is disrespectful when children have parents for step parents to butt in and try and take charge of everything, including what they call them.

My daughter calls people Ms. or Mr. if they are not family, but I think that would be a little bit formal if you were living in the same house as someone.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 2:23 PM

The post by Kate where she talks about keeping your eye on the children is one of the most enlightened things I have read about blended families in a long while. So often, as marriages break up and new couplings occur, the ex-spouses focus on the hurt of the relationship, and that carries over into their parenting of their children.

I think blended families can work if you keep your eye on the children, and if you are willing to make sacrifices for their sake. Good luck to us all.

Posted by: Jennifer | May 30, 2006 2:26 PM

I agree with Scarry.

If a child already has a mother, and is spending time with this mother, and loves her mother *she probably does, children unconditionally love their parents no matter how we mess up* than there should only be one mom. Doesn't mean you have to use your first name, there are other terms of endearment that can be used, but dang, you are not the mother, you are the stepmother, it doesn't make you evil, but it makes you not the mother. Maybe she will grow to love you like a mother, to respect you like a mother, to tell you she considers you a mother, and hey, maybe one day she would want to call you mom, but you are not mom, and to a child this young, who is only trying to make everyone happy, you should suggest another name, and let her decide when she's more mature, what she wants to call you.

Sorry, I just can't agree with the whole 'knew her when she was two and now I'm mom' thing. What were you before she called you mom? As for issues with her mom, well, that is bound to happen, and something you as a step-parent should stay out of as much as you can. I wonder why you are calling her your daughter and having her call you mom? Are you trying to erase her real mom from her mind and heart? Shame on you if so.

I remember my husband's stepmother telling me what his mom was 'like' and wow, she was so far off base she was in a different ballpark.

This may be harsh, but dang, lets think about the kids' feelings!

Posted by: Observer | May 30, 2006 2:33 PM

NotAnEvilStepmom - Loving partnerships are wonderful! I don't have any problem at all with divorced parents building new relationships after divorce.

Sounds like you've vilified your stepdaughter's mother, though. This is an area where it's worth treading carefully...

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 2:34 PM

thanks observer,

I didn't mean for my posts to be harsh or critical. I've just been through this with my sister and my brother.

Sister's husband's ex is a real screw up, let the litle girl ride in the front seat with an airbag with no seat belt, let the older brother dirve the car around town with no driver's license. Doesn't pay or offer to pay for anything.

However, she is still their mother and they love her. While we don't agree with what she does, no one ever tells the kids that my sister is her mother.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 2:45 PM

Scarry, That was the point. You were concerned about disrespect to the parent -- not concerned about the child felt most comfortable with.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 3:01 PM


in defense of Scarry,

She's saying that a) it's disrespectul to the parent, which it is, but, and this got lost

b) it is more than likely NOT something the child feels comfortable with. For most of her life, short as it may be, she's had 'mom,' one mom, and a world of meaning to that word. All of a sudden, someone comes waltzing in and says "call me mom" and then says 'she loves it' umm... I am trying to imagine a child, any child, feeling comfortable after the age of 2 or 3, calling someone mom when the woman they've called mom forever is still around.

I am very suspicious about who initiated the idea that the child calls the stepparent mom. I doubt it was the child.

Posted by: Observer | May 30, 2006 3:05 PM

"Also, what makes it different if the parent is widowed vs. divorced?"

Interesting question. Different set of issues. Children of divorce often feel divided between two households or caught in the middle of two conflicting identities. Ironically, having two (or more) homes can feel like homelessness. Kind of like living in no-man's-land.

I don't know anything about losing a parent and cannot speak to that.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 3:07 PM

" the definition of family equates to efforts made by those who treasure it."

Beautiful. I wish everyone could follow that thought.

Sadly, most children of divorcing parents will go through a great deal of pain before their parents settle down and live as single parents or remarry, and then there are further adjustments to be made. I mean, the kids will have to get through the separation time and the divorce time and dealing with the parents having to make new arrangements in living space, finances, time spent with kids, etc. Try to minimize the upheavals you put your kids through, try to give them some sense of security (for example, don't constantly tell them "daddy hasn't sent the check so we can't buy new school clothes") and for heaven's sake, try to remember that you MARRIED or at least made a child with the other person so you MUST have seen something worthwhile in them. Try to paint a decent picture of your ex-spouse for your kids, no matter how unhappy or bitter you really are. And finally, don't get resentful and nasty about the new step-mom or step-dad in your child's life. You divorced your ex, move on and find your own life, and let your ex have one too.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 3:07 PM

Observer posted: "I am very suspicious about who initiated the idea that the child calls the stepparent mom. I doubt it was the child."

That in fact was my experience, both with the child I was nanny to, and our grandchildren (who biologically belong to my husband.) Even though their parents call me by my given name, the grandchildren ages 4&5 began calling me "grandma" because I was with grandpa.

Posted by: Columbia MO | May 30, 2006 3:15 PM

I agree with observer. I don't think that a child at her or his parent's wedding reception runs up to the new parent and say "mom." Unless, like I have stated before, they don't have one. And, since when do children get to make all the decisions regarding their lives anyway?

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 3:15 PM

"Also, what makes it different if the parent is widowed vs. divorced?"

I lost a parent and the person who answered this above is correct. A widowed parent is very different from a divorced parent. Most likely, the spouse still loved the deceased parent and did not want to be separated from him or her. The family usually grieves together for their loss and there isn't a lot of "that loser walked out on me and now is chasing around someone younger" or "she was a messed-up liar and a lousy mother" -- the kind of thing that sets up divided loyalties in children of divorce. Kids don't have to start shuttling between parents and adjusting to weekend visitations.

As for second families in the widowed scenario, my mom chose not to remarry tho she was asked twice. I liked both men and would have been happy for her, and accepted their children (older than me but known to be from before my dad died) as "step-siblings" although they had already left home so we wouldn't have needed to "blend" the family in the same way.

Once the parent is gone and can never return, there is no chance another child from a second marriage will "take your place" or your deceased parent will give someone else more time and attention. It's a totally different thing.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 3:16 PM

I congratulate everyone who has been able to make a blended family work (against the odds), but reading these posts only re-affirms my decision to not re-marry. There are several reasons, most notably that I don't ever want to be legally responsible for someone I didn't give birth to (I now live in a community property state where the responsible spouse gets punished in a divorce).

Another important reason: my 10-year-old daughter does not want me to re-marry while she is a minor. She feels as though she lost her father's affection to her stepmother, and she does not want to lose my affection to a new husband (her father moved to Australia because he married an Australian, so my daughter's concerns are not unfounded). I understand that sentiment. My father was married five times (my mother was wife number two). I always felt like the wife of the moment (and her kids) took precedence over me.

And, unlike many of the women who posted here this morning, I am past the point of bearing more children (I turn 41 this summer). For men who are willing to marry a single mother, they usually want children of their own. For fathers my age who are divorcing, many of them do not want the responsibility of another man's child.

(I read an online dating poll of men between 18 and 45 conducted by, and 30% of the respondents said they would never date a single mother).

So, the point of life that a person gets a divorce (particularly women) also determines whether he/she will re-marry and potentially have more children. I spent most of 14 years with my husband, so that pretty much rules out a second family for me.

Posted by: single western mom | May 30, 2006 3:18 PM

I'm sorry but a kid calling you grandma is different from a kid calling a step-mom, mom. Half the neighborhood kids back home call me aunt Jenny. They don't call me mom.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 3:19 PM

Okay, but did you let the children you were nanny to call you mom? I once was babysitting a little girl who called every woman at the park mom. I said 'Yes, they are all moms, and your mom is at work.'

The problem comes when children begin to realize what it means, and that most people have only one mom. So then it becomes, who gets picked?

How many stepparents have heard "You aren't my mom?" or "you aren't my dad." Are you going to argue the point?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 3:20 PM

A friend of mine told me that she did not marry her second husband until after his kids grew up and left home because she did not want to deal with the step dynamic, did not want to discipline teenagers who were not hers, and did not want the responsibility that goes with the the job of step-parenting. So they just dated and lived apart for 10 years, and when the kids moved out of his house, she married him. She says this is the best decision she ever made.

Posted by: the step dynamic | May 30, 2006 3:21 PM

I am divorced and remarried. I have a child from my first marriage and we have joint custody. His dad lives in the same neighborhood which makes things easier. Our son is always near his friends and school for sports teams and activities. He spends 1/2 the week with his Dad and 1/2 the week wirh me and his step-Dad. He calls my husband by his first name. In this situation, joint custody works.

My husband has 2 daughters from his first marriage and while they technically have joint custody, their mother moved to California a few years ago and we see them only for Spring Break, Winter Break and 8 weeks during the Summer. This is less than ideal for everyone involved as the girls miss their Dad most of the school year and miss their Mom and friends during the summer. To try to mitigate some of this, my husband calls the girls every night when they are with their Mom. He even does homework with them over the phone. We have also enrolled them in the same Summer camp 3 years in a row so that they do have some friends here in MD that they look forward to seeing when they come and have developed close email relationships with their camp friends.

Despite the distance and the fact that they only see eachother 10 weeks out of the year, my son and his sisters get along great and refer to eachother as brother and sisters.

Our situation takes patience, but we have made it work. I give a lot of credit to the kids who were 7, 9 and 11 when I married their Dad.

Posted by: Mom and Step-Mom | May 30, 2006 3:21 PM

I actually took care of my sibling's children quite a bit while I was growing up. My nepwhew was four and started calling me mommy. I told him, no you have a mommy, I am your aunt. I love you like my child, but I am not your mommy.

What's so hard about that.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 3:22 PM

"I think this is why men and women without children need to seriously think about getting into a relationship with someone who already has children It doesn't mean 'don't' it means, think really closely, you may not mesh, may not get to have your own children, may not get to inflict your own ideas of discipline on the children already there etc etc."

I thought seriously about it and told my boyfriend that, as a childless person at age 31, I did not want to become a step-parent. I felt I saw the reality of the situation quite clearly. He made me feel like a total monster for "punishing" him for having children. It took me a while to see just how immature and selfish he was to take that view. If a person doesn't want to be a parent to your children, move on and leave that person in peace, don't "guilt" them into dating you by making them feel like the selfish one. You're not doing your kids any favors by making them seem to be the sole reason that someone doesn't want to date you.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 3:26 PM

It depends on the family. In my mother's family, everyone called my maternal grandmother mama, because she had a lot of children and was just mama. All her grandchildren called her mama also. No one was bent out of shape about this. And my mother called her four great aunts mama also. She had Mama Carmen, and Mama Sara, and I forget all their names, but they were all mamas to her. It did not erase her biological mother from her memory or make her feel like she was being disloyal by calling another person Mama. She just felt like these other women loved her like additional mothers It is a cultural thing. In some cultures, it works. In others, it does not.

Posted by: mommy | May 30, 2006 3:28 PM

Highly recommend this forum for relating to others on stepfamily stress...

Posted by: Stepfamily Association of America Forum Poster | May 30, 2006 3:34 PM

I'm a relatively new reader of this blog, and all I can say after what I've read in the last few weeks is that I'm very happy to stay single and childless. I am saddened at the close-mindedness of so many participants in this chat. I find myself apalled by the harsh criticisms and black/white judgements that are flung back and forth.
I am a 37 yr old, never married, professional woman without children and with no great desire to have children. I am very happy to go home to my two adopted shelter cats each night. Based on the tone of this blog, I fully expect that having just admitted this set of facts will result in scathing criticism from some of you about my life choices (what, you work? you're not married? you're almost 40 and you don't have kids? you don't want kids?) and probably a select few suggesting that I stop reading this blog. Why do I read this blog? Because, although I have no children of my own, I have nieces and a nephew and many friends with children. I have coworkers with children. I have parents. I am a sibling. I live in a society that, in spite of our social progress, still pressures women to marry and have children and have a career but cannot find a way to effectively support them in those life choices. I am trying to find balance in my life, just like everyone else.
I guess what disturbs me the most is that I think the anonymity that the blog environment allows provides a false sense of security or maybe a lowering of the standard of...I don't know...fairness or maybe even compassion. I keep thinking about the sense of empowerment that so many of us get driving in our cars---we're surrounded by this big piece of machinery, protected from the environment, no direct communication with other drivers, and we feel safe to honk the horn, or flip the bird, or curse someone out for their driving, or cut someone off in traffic.
Would we all feel so free to take such aggressive liberties if we were all on bicycles with no glass/metal box surrounding us and able to see and hear each other and make eye contact?
Would you write the things you express in this blog in exactly the same way if you had to look the other participants in the face and see the reaction and pain that can be caused by the harshness of your statements? Could you really keep your black/white view of the world if you were face-to-face with all the shades of gray?
I'm not sure what I'm really trying to say with this posting. Maybe I'm just asking that each of us try to take a little time to see the world from someone else's eyes. It's hard enough to make it through this crazy life without beating each other up over the choices we all have to make.

Posted by: Love my cats | May 30, 2006 3:36 PM

scarry, I seemed to have caused you some consternation about this. I only described my own experiences. No one was hurt by these children's actions. Neither the mom of the child I nannied (and yes, I did clarify many times that her mom was at work, but when her father started refering to me as "daytime mommy," the action seemed futile.

As for the grandchildren calling me grandma -- even though their parents refer to me as "Miss XXX," I believe the children use the term to describe who they see with their grandpa.

Mom, Dad, grandma, grandpa, Auntie, Uncle -- are terms used to describe family. If the child feels generousity in their hearts to include "others who aren't related by blood" as their family -- then why the concern? Does calling someone else "Mom" demean their mother? My gut feeling is no. But perhaps I have a fluid definition of family as the people in your life who love you.

Again, I meant no offense.

Posted by: columbia | May 30, 2006 3:37 PM

To love my cats,
Okay, the posters on this blog, we may seem harsh... I admit it.

The actual subject matter is very tense. Things in print seem harsher in general. Many of us are very opinioned, passionate and feel very strongly about our views.

The one thing I think you haven't seen, but I have, even from the posters I disagree with, is a blog full of people who are passionate about the children in their lives, their jobs and work, whether it's a career, part time or stay at home gig, etc etc.
I think in person, we would say the same things, but the nuances of the personal encounter would allow us to say them gentler, with a smile, a question,a 'hmm, I have a different perspective' but we can't do that on a blog.
So we are direct.

P.s. If you want to see harsh and anger out of control though, we did a whole blog on childless vs. childful couples... now THAT admittedly was oftentimes bloody...

p.p.s. Some of us with children have accepted a long time ago that we can't really be sane and parents at the same time. *and now please, all the sane parents, your two cents... :)

Posted by: Observer | May 30, 2006 3:44 PM


I'm not mad at you. I, too am just voicing my opinion. If you really wanted to get me mad, you'd tell me I was a rich white girl instead of an Irish coal miner's daughter from a depressed area of Ohio. Then, i'd be mad! We can agree to disagree.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 3:50 PM

love my cats,

I like cats too! Just because you don't want to have kids doesn't mean that people on this blog will jump on you. We tend to jump on people who don't like maternity leave, tell us are kids are brats and shouldn't be on airplanes, etc, etc.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 3:52 PM

What's all the vitriol against rich white girls? First of all, being rich and white does not mean we are evil. And I will be as bold to say that being a coal miner's daughter from a depressed state does not make one inherently a better person.

Posted by: from one rich white girl | May 30, 2006 3:54 PM

Scarry, regarding your last two posts -- :)

you => Irish from Ohio. me=> Italian from Connecticut......same cloth. lol

Posted by: Columbia | May 30, 2006 3:57 PM

Omigosh there actually IS a rich white girl on the blog!!!!

There goes the bloghood....

Posted by: Observer | May 30, 2006 3:58 PM

"my sister in law had an affair on my brother and had a little girl who had my brother's name for four years!!!! "

Hey scarry, didn't I see them on Jerry Springer? Or was it Maury Povich "Who's my baby's daddy"?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 3:58 PM

Ouch. That was cold.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 4:00 PM

That was dumb and uncalled for, but what would you expect from a poster who watches Springer and Povich?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 4:02 PM

That was dumb and uncalled for

Yes, but right on target.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 4:03 PM

I'm saddened by how rigidly some people define family. As is a family means 1 mom, 1 dad, and their biological children. I find that to be such a limiting and closed view. I think family is more of an emotional definition than a biological one. I have called various people "mom" (my biological mother, my stepmother, my childhood best friend's mother, my mother-in-law"). Some of these people helped raise me, all have given me advice, love, a helping-hand, or a 'good talking too' when I need it. I call them mom as a term of endearment. We all know who my biological mother is and her special place in my heart is my no means diminished because these other women have been a part of my life. I don't always call all of these women mom all of the time. At various points I've called them by their given names and I generally introduce them by their titles, to avoid confusion, but to their faces I call them mom. My children have 6 grandparents and they don't distinguish between which are biological and which are step. They are all loved.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 4:05 PM

Sorry rich white girl, I didn't mean to offend you. I was just repeating what is repeated on this blog over and over again.

If you have read the blog the "rich white girl" comment usually comes from people saying everyone on the board is homogenized and wealthy. I didn't say I was better than you, you implied it. My comment was in response to what other people have said on this board.

Part of my identity comes from where I come from and my race, which isn't just white.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 4:06 PM

I'm one of those suspect rich white women with no children and a great marriage. Why do I read this blog? I like to see what the issues of parenting are becuase I have many relatives, friends, and co-workers who are parents. I may not have children, but I interact with them and their parents on a daily basis and it's good to know about their lifestyles and their problems.

Yes, things get contentious here from time to time, but there are often valuable comments buried among the rubble.

Posted by: Rich White Childfree and Happy! | May 30, 2006 4:06 PM

To Love My Cats:

Indeed, the tone on this blog is incredibly harsh. This blog's author wrote a book called "The Mommy Wars," and this subject tends to bring out "war-like" responses from folks we would like to assume are a little more diplomatic in the course of their everyday lives.

For all outrage expressed here, I've not seen any case where someone admits that his/her child was seriously harmed. Some of the folks here really need to put things in proper perspective. When I moved to Arizona, I was appalled to learn that child abuse/neglect homicides are so frequent that the state legislature called a special session to address the issue (I personally view it as epidemic).

But you are correct: the anonymous nature of the Internet has resulted in people taking gratuitous shots at one another in a public forum (in political chats, message boards, etc.). For some reason, civility is checked at the portal and it's open season on people whose lifestyle choices and personal opinions are different than our own.

Posted by: single western mom | May 30, 2006 4:06 PM

I really didn't appreciate the comment about my family. I was just trying to share what happened to my brother. Also, maybe if you are so bold you should start signing your posts.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 4:08 PM

As a stepparent, my stepson calls me by my first name, and that is just fine with me. His mom is inconsistent (drugs, and much more) but nontheless, she is his mom, and its not my job to take over that role. She is involved in his life, but not as a primary caregiver. She gave that up when she chose drugs over her child. I think everyone's situation is different, so its not for me to say when someone should be called mom or dad if they're not, but its my sense that if the parents are at all involved, those titles should be for them.

I also want to say that everyone assumes that dads have the every other weekend role and thats it. That is simply not always the case.

There are a lot of fully involved dads out there- sometimes it is what is best for the child to have the dad have full/primary custody.

I think if parents can agree to keep kids out of the disagreements and are in relatively close proximity, joint custody can be a wonderful thing.

Posted by: VA Stepparent | May 30, 2006 4:12 PM

I would rather have scarry's passion and obvious love of children on my side (even though we disagree) than clever, insulting, gratuitous anonymous posters. Just my preference.

And I agree with the generous poster who forgot to sign their name that part of the problem we are dealing with here is the rigid definition of family. No wonder our zoning laws are in such disarray when we attempt to legislate how people live inside their own homes.

I am fortunate that in my life are many many people, blood and otherwise, who love me and my kids.

Posted by: Columbia | May 30, 2006 4:13 PM

Thanks, I think it is fine to disagree, but it's not nice to start a fight. I so don't have anything against white rich people. My daughter is growing up in DC and me and my husband make a lot of money.

However, that doesn't change the way I grew up, which I am very proud of. My comment to Columbia was a defintion of myself, not a put down to anyone else. It was also a relection of people on this board who make statements about us all being or growing up white and rich.

That was all.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 4:23 PM

Dear Love My Cats,

This blog is full of crazy judgments being passed back and forth, but please don't decide never to have kids based on that (though it sounds like you are very happy with your cats and that's awesome). Like observer said, people can be really harsh here but I think that most of us love our kids passionately and feel strongly about finding ways to make things work for our families. I know in my life, though I think a lot about these issues, day to day my life is a joy and this stuff is just details and thoughts about how to make it even better.

And on the note of hostile posting, I'm glad to see Single Western Mom is still here, since I went back and read one from a day from last week when I was on hiatus from this blog and she took a really unfair beating. I thought you were right on, Single Western Mom and I'm glad you didn't go away.

Posted by: Megan | May 30, 2006 4:27 PM

In defense of scarry:

She has been there for her siblings and their children when life got difficult.

It's what I call "love." Too bad there aren't more people in the world like her.

Posted by: single western mom | May 30, 2006 4:28 PM

thanks Western Single Mom,

It's nice to know I have blog friends.

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 4:32 PM

"I would rather have scarry's passion and obvious love of children on my side (even though we disagree) than clever, insulting, gratuitous anonymous posters. Just my preference."

Amen to that. Whoever made that obnoxious comment about her family is being a shmuck. I have often benefited from Scarry's openess and insight, and I'm glad she's willing to share the good and the bad with us on this board.

Posted by: Megan | May 30, 2006 4:32 PM

I'd like to thank Leslie and all of the posters for letting me join in the conversation today. What I take away from participating in this blog is what several of you have mentioned: your passion about the issues of children and work. It's gratifying also to hear so many stories of stepfamilies, from the parents, stepparents, and adult children's perspectives.

I edited "My Father Married Your Mother" because I felt there was a dearth of honest, intimate writing about the complicated relationships in blended families, and I wanted the book to start conversations on the topic. Reading the posts today has been terrific.

Posted by: Anne Burt | May 30, 2006 4:36 PM

Scarry, accept it, you're rich...
I'm talking about your personality and contributions you've made

Posted by: Father of 4 | May 30, 2006 4:36 PM

"I agree that parents shuttling while kids remain in place sounds lovely, but it is SO hard to implement in the real world. Perhaps the ideal situation is divorced parents that live very close together, a room at each house, and the kid decides where s/he wants to be. Again, so hard to implement!"

Such hard work! Who said parenting wouldn't be hard? If you made the mistake of marrying and having children with the wrong person, then you owe it to your children to work doubly hard to minimize the damage and disruption of their lives caused by YOUR divorce. I'm so tired of parents saying "it's so HARD to do this or that" and taking the easier way out.

If people thought more about perhaps NOT being able to see their kids often or other consequences of divorce before marrying and having children, perhaps they would make wiser choices. Now however, most people seem to get married with no thought to the future and how their lives might not be so easy and convenient if the marriage fails.

Posted by: GWMom | May 30, 2006 4:43 PM

Thanks guys, if I wasn't Irish, I'd cry!

Posted by: scarry | May 30, 2006 4:43 PM

Diane - I was moved to tears when I read your posting. Thank you for sharing a beautiful piece of your life. I am happy for you, your daughter, and your husband.

I am a product of divorced parents and even though they waited until we were all grown to leave one another, it was still extremely difficult.

Now, my sister just called me over the weekend and she wants to leave her husband, they have 4 great kids. I want to be supportive, but all I can offer is that she and her husband have to agree to do what is best for the kids. He is an excellent father, but he is not a great husband. My sister is so lonely and depressed with him ...he treats her like his child too and he cuts her down in front of their kids, their friends, and other adults. He is a bit older and apparently feels he needs to 'father her' rather than act as a partner to her. She has expressed that she wants to divorce and that she wants him to help make this better for the kids, but he has told her he will make it very difficult for her and that he will fight to keep the house and the kids with him. After reading all of your postings, I am expecting it to get a lot worse before it is better. I do not think that anyone goes into a marriage expecting to divorce. As for my sister, she spent the better part of 17 years trying to make things work. I think the kids deserve to live with two happy parents who can show them what a loving relationship looks like. It sounds like they probably won't get that either way... outside of the very few positive responses, most have sounded hurt, damaged, and battered.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 5:00 PM

"If you made the mistake of marrying and having children with the wrong person"

I think this is an unfair characterization of most divorce situations. Certainly some people get married without giving adequate consideration to what that means, but I don't think that's true for most of us. I think what happens more often is that people get married, have children, and continue to grow and change. It doesn't mean that they married the wrong person, it means that things happened in the course of the marriage that fundamentally changed the individuals or their relationships.

My parents divorced when I was in college. Does that suddenly mean that the previous 20 years was "wrong?" Of course not. It means that in that time they both changed as people and could no longer sustain their marriage.

Divorce is hard enough on everyone involved without assigning additional blame like this; this kind of talk makes it harder on the children of divorce, not easier. I mean really, who wants to hear that because your parents are divorced, they must have made the wrong decision in getting married and having you?

Posted by: Megan | May 30, 2006 5:01 PM

so if i read friend's post correctly my husband should have based his decision on whether or not to have a child by me (wife #2) on what his children from his first wife thought? we are talking about the kids who never call unless they want money, not to wish him happy birthday, not to wish him happy father's day not to wish him anything except that he send them money. these are also the children who consistently lie to him; we found out his ex remarried & had another child 2 years after the fact while she continued to collect alimony. we talking about kids who weren't interested in coming to our wedding & who weren't interested in visiting. those are the children,according to you, we should have allowed to be the primary decision makers in a decision that is as intensely personal as whether or not to have a child?
dream on, friend, did not happen. should parents who are not divorced ask their first child permission to have a second? after all, the first child while feel like he has been pushed aside by child # 2.

i'm sorry that you are bitter about divorced people with children having children but not everything is as black & white as you seem to think.

i hope that now that my stepchildren are adults we can have an adult relationship but they still only call when they want something usually cash.

Posted by: quark | May 30, 2006 5:10 PM


Every situation is different. Friend felt left out and pushed aside, a stranger in a home that was once his.

While the decisions should not be made by the children, the children do need to be considered. The unfortunate truth about having children, is that as long as they are in your care (18-25 years depending on when you cut em loose) every major decision, INCLUDING having children with a new spouse, needs to take into account the children of the parent-spouse.

Obviously, your husband's kids wanted little to do with him, so in that case, no they shouldn't get a say. But in a case where they are in a situation of joint-custody, living with both parents, or trying to heal after the divorce and get used to the new situation and home, and yes, new adult in the home, then while they don't get the say, they should be a primary consideration.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 5:18 PM


It sounds like you don't like the kids. Okay, that is fair, but it sounds like they were caught in the middle of two parents who had a nasty dvorce.

It's not their place to tell you their mother had another child. It's the mother's and the fact she didn't means she is in the wrong. It sounds like they had a hard time adjusting, and that they were pulled in both directions.

It's not right for them to be placed in the middle.

It sounds like they never had a good relationship with their father, and that he had little to do with them after the divorce, or that he sends money when they ask because he feels obligated, or wishes things were different, or because the court said he had to, but your situation is very different from the one Friend was talking about.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 5:24 PM

I know a mom who is in her early 30s. She married a man who has a teenage daughter in high school. She maintains rooms in both homes. Her mother lives in town. The mom in her early 30s has no parental role with the step-daughter, which she understands, but doesn't like. The discipline in both homes are very different.

The nature of the relationship is that she spends time with the step-daughter and her mother at family gatherings. It was an 'understanding' divorce if one can be called that.

The one thing that bothers her, though, is the fact she wants two children. She has a young son with her husband, but wants another child. She always wanted two or three kids. Her husband feels he already has two children, he doesn't want another one, because in his mind, he already has two, has been activiely involved in raising both, and in his mind, he's done. In her mind, she's got a young son and wants another child, kind of the 'young family' thing.

She never thought it would be an issue. He had his daughter, but because she's so much older, she didn't think it'd interfere with what she wanted in terms of 'family.'

Posted by: Another view | May 30, 2006 5:31 PM

anonymous poster: "It sounds like they never had a good relationship with their father, and that he had little to do with them after the divorce, or that he sends money when they ask because he feels obligated, or wishes things were different, or because the court said he had to, but your situation is very different from the one Friend was talking about."

Where'd you get that from? have you ever heard of PAS? It happened to someone very very close to me -- it wasn't until the child ended up in a psych ward that the PAS stopped and the child now has a relationship with other parent and spouse.

Sorry, some people do some really horrible things to their kids, and it's not always the parent who has left.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 5:43 PM

I was basing it on the ambivalence the poster Quark felt toward the children.

I don't know what PAS is, I'm sure people do horrible things to their children and it's not always the spouse who leaves, but Quark seemed to express a sentiment that the kids didn't want anything to do with them, but just wanted money, and didn't seem to express any concern for the kids other than she hoped they changed as adults and could have a relationship with them that was different, because the kids had little concern for them.

That sounds like they don't have a good relationship with the father and their stepmother.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 5:50 PM

Quark - You wrote "...if i read friend's post correctly my husband should have based his decision on whether or not to have a child by me (wife #2) on what his children from his first wife thought?

Yes, that's precisely what I'm saying. I know this is difficult for step-parents to hear but the needs and concerns of existing children MUST take precedence over the needs and concerns of new boyfriends, girlfriends, step-parents, etc... In other words, if you and your step-child were trapped together in a burning building, and your husband could save only one of you, he should choose his child.

You also wrote: "these are also the children who consistently lie to him; we found out his ex remarried & had another child 2 years after the fact while she continued to collect alimony."
It's common for divorced parents to ask their children to lie for them, or withhold information from other parent. This can be VERY stressful for the children whe feel torn between both parents. My heart goes out to your step-children. It sounds like their situation is a difficult one.

Posted by: Friend | May 30, 2006 6:17 PM

they don't have a relationship with us period because they choose not to. we call & attempt to talk to them but get very little in return. when they were younger we never tried to put them in the middle. we never asked them about their mother. it was a sad situation because up until the divorce they were close to their father. i don't dislike my stepchildren because i have absolutely no expectations for them. i wish them well as i would wish anybody well but i don't expect anything from them. i don't know why everybody assumes that they didn't have a good relationship with their father. they did. it's just that when their parents divorced their mother got custoday and she choose not to include him in their lives.

every situation is different but friend's comment on divorced parents with children should not have kids when/if they remarry was an absolute. it was that absolute that i object to. everybody's situation is different.

yes, as a parent i am responsible for my son but the best gift i can give my son is to have a strong marriage to his father. rather than putting my son in the center of my marriage i am putting my marriage in the center of my marriage. i would rather not give my son that much power of my behavior.

Posted by: quark | May 30, 2006 6:18 PM

But Friend is right, if you are being a good parent, than you will weigh the needs of existing children when making decisions with a new spouse. That is what is hard, I think, for many stepparents that don't already have children to understand.

Marriage between two people without children involves only two people.

Marriage between a person and a parent involves the married couple, and the children. And those children matter a great deal, and need to be considered, not nescessarily consulted, but considered and communicated with, when a new person is brought into the house.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 30, 2006 6:43 PM

My fiance has a 5yo son from a previous relationship (NOT a marriage) and while I love him dearly and have a wonderful relationship with him that I wouldn't trade for the world, I know that I'm not his mom. She is not the most stable, responsible woman in the world, but to him, she's the best mom a kid could ever have. And even though his father and I can provide a better, healthier, more stable home for him, I will never say anything bad about her because I don't want to put him in the middle any more than he already is. He has enough baggage for five years old, my job is to do the best I can with the situation we've been given, not draw new lines in the sand.
Just another thought though, some posters have jumped on others for "vilifying" their partner's ex, sometimes, it's not jealousy and bitterness that's speaking, it's just the truth. The mother on drugs or going from one man to the next or refusing to let the father have contact with his child is wrong. The father who abandons his children financially and/or emotionally or constantly badmouths their mother or drinks too much is wrong. It's not the jealous and arrogant new spouse who thinks they could do a better job raising children who are deciding the biological parents are bad parents, its the biological parents themselves. We will never file for full custody unless we honest-to-god think that she was putting the child at risk by her behavior or when/if he wants to live with us.

Posted by: Almost a stepmom | May 30, 2006 7:28 PM

PAS = Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Posted by: Columbia | May 30, 2006 7:54 PM

From Almost a Stepmom
"My fiance has a 5yo son from a previous relationship (NOT a marriage) and while I love him dearly and have a wonderful relationship with him that I wouldn't trade for the world, I know that I'm not his mom. She is not the most stable, responsible woman in the world, but to him, she's the best mom a kid could ever have. And even though his father and I can provide a better, healthier, more stable home for him, I will never say anything bad about her because I don't want to put him in the middle any more than he already is. "

Your stepson will be very lucky to have you as a stepmom.

Posted by: VA Stepmom | May 30, 2006 8:19 PM

To love my cats and single western mom: you should have read this blog when it first started! It has really calmed down. And I for one totally support your choice. I personally know too many women who had children because it was "expected" of them and were at best, indifferent, and at worst, abusive. Unfortunately, some of these women are my own family members!! But don't make your decisions based on the comments on this blog. It's a fire.

Now, to SWM--41 is past the age of procreation? I know personally 8 women who are 40+ having babies. Two of them 44. My grandmother had her last at 41 (thank god).

Posted by: aa | May 30, 2006 8:41 PM

Successfully blending a family after divorce is much more difficult when the kids are old enough to know that "Stepmom"'s previous title was "Mistress."

Posted by: Former Stepchild | May 30, 2006 10:46 PM

Please do not take offense but your statement about your daughter's fears at the time of your divorce is curious. You wrote that she is 6 years old now and that you divorced 6 years ago. So she was under a year. That she could have this fear that you would abandon her because of the divorce implies a cognition of the events that just doesn't seem plausible. I think you are, or were, projecting your own feelings.

Posted by: Bill | June 5, 2006 1:18 PM

My ex remarried rather quickly within 5 months of our divorce. I know nothing about this woman and am getting a bit skeptical. At the grocery store a month ago I went to "deposit" my children in the day care center, and found out I was "removed" as their mother, put down as their "aunt" and she replaced herself as their mother. My children are rather young 7, 6 and 3 & 1/2. When I first heard my 6 year old call her mom, I found out that this is norm over his house. I called him and told him that this was unacceptable that I was their mother and if it continued I would have my new husband call himself dad (bluffing). Yesterday I saw my 6 year olds weekend homework from "dads" house and it was a measuring of people in the family, although she listed his dad by his first name she listed herself as "mom". This woman has no children and apparently cannot have any. I am pregnant again and my 6 year old tells me that his new mommy wants my baby, and I should give it to her. My three year old absolutely insists on calling this woman "mommy", and since my comment to their dad, it is getting worse. I have heard some completely "off the wall" stories that the two of them have told people - regarding themselves, and more and more I am getting EXTREMELY concerned about this situation.

Posted by: maureen | June 6, 2006 12:48 PM

I'm sure this has been said already, but I don't understand the thinking that goes into pre- or post- nups.

Is marriage not meant to be for the rest of our lives anymore? Why do people plan to fail at something that is so totally within their control? It's not realism, it's deep, self-directed cynicism.

Planning to fail is planning to fail. It seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy to me. I'd like to see a study that looks at the divorce rates of those who get pre/post-nups vs. those that don't.

Brad Roberts (Happily married for 5 years and counting)

Posted by: Brad | June 14, 2006 11:52 AM

I posted that, somehow, in the wrong blog - intended for the one on post-nups.



Posted by: Brad | June 14, 2006 11:55 AM

Parents are people too. We all mess up and make mistakes and have ill-fated good-intentions. We all act and react according to emotion, oftentimes unknowingly. We all think we're being logical and fair to the best of our abilities. We all know somebody who has been the mother/father/child of intact families, broken families and blended families. We were all raised in one or more of those ourselves.

It is interesting to me that the posters who are most judgemental in regard to other's situations are also the most offended when they feel as though somebody has interpretted their own situation incorrectly.

As far as doing everything in the sole interest of the child(ren), if you raise a child to believe that the whole world turns for them then you have done nothing to prepare them for the reality of what happens when they leave your home.

It is not our job as parents to create a perfect, happy, completely protected environment for our children, it is our job as parents to raise them to deal with life and it's imperfections and many unhappy moments. So that they may be prepared as adults to cope and deal and make choices that will in turn help them to acheive their own happiness. Many of the good choices I now make in my own life are a direct result of the things that were imperfect in my childhood. Mistakes I witnessed and learned from, strength in the face of troubling times... I hate to think where I might be today if my family had been anything other then wonderfully, often seriously, flawed.

My support and good wishes to all of you!

Posted by: KCS | July 6, 2006 5:02 PM

I am a step-mother with no biological children of my own. My husband has school year custody (though joint w/ex) and I fill the mother "role" in our house which the ex HATES. Their divorce was her fault (her-affair w/pregnancy) and her marriage to the guy. Their family insists she calls her step-bro's "brothers" but reinterates to my step-daughter that I am not the "mother" and hates my involvement in child's life. What is the deal with this woman? She has two sets of standards! My husband wants me involved in step-daughter's life, school, etc (as do I) but this infuriates his ex. What to do? By the way, daughter buys me cards (B-day, mother's day, etc.) that say "mom".

Posted by: Ellen | July 25, 2006 4:23 PM

Before I get a lashing from "real moms"...step-daughter does not call me "mom" but by my first name. I have never told her or asked her to call me mom but I love her just as much. Along with the poster referencing entitlement to children when they were busy with "other things", i.e. extra-marital affairs, to help raise their children, now all of a sudden they want to have a relationship and be #1.

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