Thanks for all of you guys’ amazing responses and dms after my Part I post about blended families and bonus moms – I was doing a Q&A on stories yesterday and realized I never posted the part 2! I love being able to bring a more open conversation around blended families and motherhood as a bonus mama.
Q: Do you get a long with Cody’s ex-wife? Do you guys hang out?
A. Im really grateful we all get a long.
One thing I wished could have been different for me growing up, was that when my parents got divorced they would have been friends (I love both my parents very much and I know no family is perfect, but it was hard at times feeling that tension). They lived across the country from each other, so they didn’t have to see each other much. When I would go to visit my mom I would fly by myself (I don’t know if they still do this, but I started at like 5 or 6 years old and my parents would walk me to the gate and then you sit in back row by flight attendant and do the flight on your own. I actually have a lot of fun memories with super kind flight attendants who would play games and stuff with me. I think this is also part of the reason I learned to become pretty independent at a young age, and traveling alone hasn’t ever really scared me but anyways…), but ya I still always felt that awkward tension whenever they were in the same room. I remember even on my wedding day being worried about making sure both parents felt they got equal attention and love. And maybe that was something I created in my head, but it made me want to make it a priority when we got married that we have a good relationship with Cody’s ex, so that the kids never felt that tension or stress, and so we could all go to the kids events and it not be awkward. Again, this was not 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 kid who has been on that side of divorce, that was one thing I really wanted different for our kids.
Time, time, time! I think it all just takes time, but I love talking to their mom about the kids and sharing excitement for the things they are doing, or things they are learning or going through. We all sit by each other at most of the kids games and events, it’s in a good place.
Q. Do you get a say in making all of the decisions about schools and such. How do you deal with that aspect?
A. Long story short, I have no say haha. Cody talks to me about it, but that is one of the hard parts of being a bonus mom, you love your bonus babies and help raise them but in my case I’m not really a decision maker. I mean day to day what we are doing Cody and I decide, but bigger decisions Cody and his ex wife work out together.
Q. As the bonus moms/parents, are you involved in communication to his ex or just Cody?
A. In our situation, Cody and his ex work out details for the most part. Obviously 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 scheduling and sometimes share pictures of the kids from school or sports too, but most scheduling goes through them.
Q. How do you handle frustration with your step kids’ schedule?
A. One thing that took time for me to realize and understand is that when you’re a step parent (not always the case, but at least in my situation) even if you all get along, at the end of the day you have little say over holidays, school schedules, really just plans in general. For me, somebody who likes to plan ahead and be in control, it’s sometimes hard. For example, when we were trying to plan a trip and I would ask Cody if he had texted the kids’ mom to make sure certain days work and I would want immediate answers for things 😂 and he’s like I haven’t talked to her yet, and I’m all well call right now, what’s the hold up 😂😂 I eventually realized that 1) sometimes you don’t get immediate answers because she has a life too obviously and you can’t expect immediate responses all the time and 2) things take longer to coordinate and plan than it would with your own kids, so you have to plan ahead a little further.
Q. Do you have full custody? How often and how long do your bonus kids stay with you?
A. We have joint custody so it alters. Right now, every other week we have them 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 our “big trips” when we can go together as a family. For example we usually do a big 2 week trip every summer and we always do that with all the kids. (One exception is like spring break – we alter years with their mom for spring break so if Mara and Wes are with their mom those days, we will still take Beckam and Ollie on a spring break trip). If your family typically only goes on 1 or 2 trips a year, I would for sure try to make it work to include everyone. We have so much fun when we travel 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 that way. That’s another thing you realize after you have kids of your own- both parents want as much time as they can with their kids. If it’s a challenge to get additional days or switch schedules for trips, try to have perspective and realize their other parent wants to hang out with them as much as possible too. Not saying it never sucks or their aren’t still disappointed parties, but its kind of an “it is what it is” situation. But honestly it always feels like something is missing when we travel with out them.
Q. Do they go school 30 minutes away? How does that work?
A. They used to live 10 minutes away from us for like 8 years and recently they moved a couple towns away. I’m so thankful they are still within driving distance because for me growing up, that wasn’t the case, so I’m just grateful we still get to see them so much. But it has definitely made it a little more challenging, especially now that they are in multiple sports, and Mara and Wes are in 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 are glad they are still close.
Q. Are they open to talking about things they do with their mom around you?
A. I feel like they are super open with us, but I guess I wouldn’t actually know how much they are choosing to share. I know as a kid, sometimes I would feel nervous 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 to make the other parent feel bad, so I hope Mara and Wes don’t feel that way but also I guess I can’t know 100% for sure since we aren’t with them 24/7.
Q. How do you split up firsts or special times with their mom and you guys?
We haven’t had a lot of firsts where we can’t both show up somewhere to support them. For their first time to Disney, we did ask the kids’ mom if we could take them but other than that, there haven’t been a lot of times when we need to split up firsts.
Q. How do you guys handle holidays/birthdays?
It’s kind of changed over the years. We always split Christmas – I know thats not as popular. I think a lot of people do every other Christmas. Thanksgiving and Spring Break we alternate every year. Sometimes Easter falls over Spring Break, etc. Birthdays have changed – sometimes we alternate years and sometimes we stick to the schedule. When they were younger, one person would get them the night before and half of their birthday, and then the other would get the other half of the day and the night. At first I think everyone was hypersensitive and micromanaging time and things have relaxed since then. I would get in the mentality of trying to make sure everything was ‘fair’. But in a blended family, it’s impossible to make 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’ll wait to do those 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’re even more intentional about our time together during those times.
Q. Do you feel 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’m thinking about it I don’t know if I’ve ever really talked to them a ton about it. My step mom is and I’ve talked to her of course 🙂 We have 2 step dads within our extended family, but otherwise I feel like my physical circle of bonus moms is pretty small. If you’re joining an online group of other blended families, I would look for one that’s goal is a positive family environment – there are so many that can become super negative and that energy will just detract. But I think bonus moms can be a great support for each other.
DISCIPLINE/PARENTING FOR BLENDED FAMILIES:
Q. Did you do any discipline when they were younger?
A. Yes, but nothing major.
Q. How do you not step on any toes/do you feel like you can discipline them? Do you ever put boundaries or is it Cody’s ‘job’?
A. I never want Mara and Wes to feel like they get treated differently, so we try to say consistent through everything and that includes with disciplining and rules. For example: If they make a mess in the living room with Beckam, I wouldn’t only make Beckam clean it. And if they don’t listen, which they are kids and sometimes they don’t haha, they will get a different chore. But I do that exact thing for all the kids.
There are 10000% times I will say to Cody though, 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 are still a mom to them, they love you and it’s ok for them to have consequences. I think he gages my mood haha. I’ve been in their life over 10 years, and know they love me, but sometimes still worry “what if they think I’m the evil step mom!” So I think you gage what feels most natural and comfortable for you.
Q. Do you give your bonus kids chores?
A. 100%, but all of the kids have weekly chores (– one thing Cody and I both feel strongly about is teaching our kids work ethic, so that goes for all the kids obviously). For us it just wouldn’t make sense if only Beckam and Ollie were doing weekly chores and Mara and Wes just sat on the couch. We are a family and we all have responsibilities.
Do I ever feel guilty about it? There are some times when it’s the last hour or two before Mara and Wes go back to their mom’s house and Cody tells them they need to clean up a mess and pick up the room, and I tell him they only have 1 hour left and to let them just have fun. He says no, they are still our kids they need take care of their responsibilities, which is really what we would do with Beckam and Ollie. So the times when I am a little more lax about 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 about being consistent no matter the circumstances.)
Ok that wraps up this post! A lot of you have questions or advice about dealing with biological moms or establishing a bond with your bonus babies – I’m 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 since I got a few questions from you guys too ❤️ I’ve loved hearing from you all about your own blended families and how much you love your bonus babies!