Thanks for all your fantastic replies and dms after my part I post on Blended Families and Bonus Moms – I did a Q&A on stories yesterday and realized I never posted part 2! I love being able to bring a more open conversation around blended families and motherhood as a bonus mom.
Question: Are you staying long with Cody’s ex-wife? Do you hang out?
A. I’m really grateful that we all get a long one.
One thing I wish could have been different for me growing up was that when my parents divorced they would have been friends (I love both my parents very much and I know no family is perfect, but it was hard to feel that tension at times). They lived across the country from each other so they didn’t have to see each other much. When I wanted to visit my mom, I would fly alone (I don’t know if they still do that, but I started when I was 5-6 years old and my parents would walk me to the gate and then you would sit in the back after the flight attendant and make the flight on my own. I actually have a lot of fun memories with super sweet flight attendants who would play games and stuff with me. I think that’s also part of the reason I learned to be pretty independent at one young age, and traveling alone never really scared me, but still…), but yeah, I still always felt that awkward tension when they were in the same room. I remember even on my wedding day being concerned about making sure both parents felt they were getting equal attention and love. And maybe it was something I made up in my head, but it made me want to prioritize when we got married that we have a good relationship with Cody’s ex, so the kids never felt that tension or stress, and then we could all goes to the kids’ events and it’s not awkward. Again, this wasn’t an overnight thing, it took years to get to that point. Especially if this is a fresh situation, it will take a lot of time. But as a child who has been on the other side of divorce, that was one thing I really wanted different for our children.
Time, time, time! I think it all takes time, but I love talking to their mom about the kids and sharing excitement about the things they are doing or things they are learning or going through. We all sit next to each other at most children’s games and events, it’s a good place.
Q. Do you get to influence all the decisions about schools and stuff like that. How do you handle that aspect?
A. Long story short, I have nothing to say haha. Cody talks to me about it, but that’s one of the hard parts of being a bonus mom, you love your bonus kids and help raise them, but in my case, I’m not really a decision maker. I mean day to day what we do, Cody and I decide, but bigger decisions Cody and his ex-wife make together.
Q. Are you as bonus mothers/parents involved in the communication with his ex or just Cody?
A. In our situation, Cody and his ex are mostly working out of details. Of course there are times when Cody is still at work or out of town or something so I pick up/drop off the kids etc but the majority of communication is between her and Cody. We recently started a group text for sports and school planning and sometimes also share pictures of the kids from school or sports, but most planning goes through them.
Q. How do you handle frustration with your stepchildren’s schedule?
A. One thing that took me a while to realize and understand is that when you are a step parent (not always the case, but at least in my situation), even if you all get along, you end up having a little to say about vacations, school schedules, really just plans in general. For me, someone who likes to plan ahead and be in control, it is sometimes difficult. For example, when we were trying to plan a trip and I wanted to ask Cody if he had texted the kids’ mom to make sure certain days work and I wanted immediate answers to things 😂 and he’s like i haven’t talked to her yet and i’m fine call right now what’s up 😂😂 I finally realized that 1) sometimes you don’t get instant answers because she has a life too open and you can’t expect instant answers all the time and 2) things take longer to coordinate and plan than it would with your own kids, so you have to plan a little further ahead.
Q. Do you have full custody? How often and how long do your bonus children stay with you?
A. We have joint custody so that changes. Right now we have them every other week for Thursday/Friday, and then the next week 4 days Thursday-Sunday.
Q. Would you ever travel without the bonus kids?
A. I think our situation is a little different because we LOVE to travel and also travel quite a bit for work, but we always make sure to plan all of our “big trips” when we can go away together as a family. For example, we usually do a big 2 week trip every summer and we always do that with all the children. (One exception is like spring break – we switch years with their mom for spring break, so if Mara and Wes are with their mom those days, we’ll still take Beckam and Ollie on a spring break trip). If your family typically only takes 1 or 2 trips a year, I would definitely try to make it work to include everyone. We have so much fun traveling with all the kids and Beckam and Ollie love being with Mara and Wes as much as we do so we wish we could always travel together but it doesn’t always work out such. That’s another thing you realize after you have your own children – both parents want as much time as possible with their children. If getting more days or rescheduling trips is a challenge, try to keep perspective and realize that their other parent also wants to hang out with them as much as possible. Not to say it never stinks, or that they aren’t still disappointed parties, but it’s kind of an “it is what it is” situation. But honestly, it always feels like something is missing when we travel with them.
Q. Do they go to school 30 minutes away? How does it work?
A. They used to live 10 minutes away from us for 8 years and recently moved a few towns away. I’m so thankful they’re still within driving distance because for me growing up that wasn’t the case, so I’m just thankful we still get to see them so much. But it’s definitely made it a little more challenging, especially now that they play multiple sports and Mara and Wes go to two different schools (junior high and elementary), they go at different times. Everyone has different practices and schedules after school, so it gets busy, but we’re glad they’re still close.
Q. Are they open to talking about things they do with their mother around you?
A. I feel like they’re super open with us, but I don’t actually know how much they choose to share. I know as a kid I was sometimes nervous about telling the other parent what I was doing when I was with my other parent (even now sometimes actually haha) because I didn’t want the other parent to feeling bad, so I hope Mara and Wes don’t feel that way, but I guess I can’t know for 100% either since we’re not with them 24/7.
Q. How do you split up first or special times with their mom and you?
We haven’t had many first places where we can’t both show up somewhere to support them. For their first time to Disney, we asked the kids’ mom if we could take them, but other than that, there haven’t been many times where we’ve had to share firsts.
Q. How do you handle holidays/birthdays?
It has kind of changed over the years. We always share Christmas – I know it’s not that popular. I think a lot of people do every other Christmas. We alternate Thanksgiving and Spring Break every year. Sometimes Easter falls on Spring Break, etc. Birthdays have changed – sometimes we switch years and sometimes we stick to the schedule. When they were younger, one would get them the night before and half of their birthday, and then the other would get the other half of the day and night. At first I think everyone was hypersensitive and micromanaged time, and things have relaxed since then. I would get into the mentality of trying to make sure everything was ‘fair’. But in a blended family it is impossible to do everything 100% fair.
We would also have traditions that we do every year with the kids, like carving pumpkins and decorating gingerbread houses. And we’re waiting to do these traditions until we have Mara and Wes with us so we can do it all together as a family. I think it makes the holidays feel more special and we are even more conscious of our time together during these times.
Q. Do you feel like you need to know other bonus moms for support? I don’t have anyone in my life.
A. I know like one or two other bonus moms, but now that I think about it, I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to them much about it. My stepmother is, and of course I have talked to her 🙂 We have 2 stepfathers in our extended family, but otherwise I feel that my physical circle of bonus mothers is quite small. If you are joining an online group of other blended families, I would look for someone whose goal is a positive family environment – there are so many who can get super negative and that energy will just detract. But I think that bonus mothers can be a good support for each other.
DISCIPLINE/PARENTS FOR BLENDED FAMILIES:
Q. Did you do any discipline when they were younger?
A. Yes, but nothing significant.
Q. How do you not step on anyone’s toes/do you feel you can discipline them? Do you ever set boundaries or is that Cody’s ‘job’?
A. I never want Mara and Wes to feel like they’re being treated differently, so we try to be consistent through everything, and that includes discipline and rules. For example: If they make a mess in the living room with Beckam, I wouldn’t just make Beckam clean. And if they don’t listen, as they are children and sometimes they don’t, haha, they get another task. But I do exactly that for all the children.
There are 10000% times I will say to Cody but will you be the enforcer this time I don’t want them to hate me. And sometimes he will and other times he’s like you’re still a mom to them, they love you and it’s ok for them to have consequences. I think he’s gauging my mood haha. I’ve been in their lives for over 10 years and know they love me, but sometimes I still worry “what if they think I’m the evil stepmother!” So I think you judge what feels most natural and comfortable to you.
Q. Do you give your bonus kids chores?
A. 100%, but all kids have weekly chores (– one thing Cody and I both feel strongly about is teaching our kids work ethic, so of course this applies to all kids). To us, it just wouldn’t make sense if just Beckam and Ollie did weekly chores and Mara and Wes just sat on the couch. We are a family and we all have a responsibility.
Do I ever feel guilty about it? There are times when it’s the last hour or two before Mara and Wes go back to their mom’s house and Cody tells them to clean up a mess and get the room and I tell him that they just have 1 hour left and just let them have fun. He says no, they’re still our kids, they have to take care of their responsibilities, which is really what we’d do with Beckham and Ollie. So the times when I’m a little more slack with chores or picking up after themselves is before they leave, but during the regular day to day, they do the same things my kids do. (And Cody is really good at being consistent no matter the circumstances.)
Ok, that concludes this post! Many of you have questions or advice about dealing with birth moms or bonding with your bonus kids – I really want to be an open book and share as much as I can, so I’ll save that for the next few posts, including tips for bonus moms and tips for bio moms as I got a few questions from you too ❤️ I have loved hearing from you all about your own blended families and how much you love your bonus kids!