In line with my mission to open up the conversation about blended family life and debunk the BS stereotypes that people think of when they hear the word Stepmom, each month I interview a positive + inspiring Stepmama that I've met through Social Media!
This month I'm virtually introducing you to Jessica Gupton.
Jessica's intro on her blog, Better off Blended, says "if you love things like coffee, wine and kicking ass at life, then we are pretty much instant friends" ... so naturally we connected right away!
Jessica is a second wife, an ex wife, a bio mom (x2 from 2) and a stepmom (x2 from 2). She is a believer in second chances, believes family isn't just DNA and thinks that some families are just better off blended!
Honestly, I just love this girl!
Meet Jessica Gupton!
Tell me about your family.
We are a big, blended party of six! My husband and I each entered the relationship with two children. I have two sons ages ten and four, a bonus daughter that is seven and a bonus son that is six. Both my husband and I were already co-parenting with two exes each. So combined, we now co-parent with four exes! You read that right. We had both been married once before and related on a level that not many could even understand.
How long have you been with your husband?
It has been two years for us. We knew immediately that we finally found the right match for ourselves and children. When our kids clicked as easily as we did, we didn't want to waste any time to blend our lives and begin one all together.
What is your access schedule like?
For what child? Haha, but really, we do have four different schedules. Not one is identical but we do have them all on the same weekends. Whew! We are on the every other weekend schedule and the weekdays vary. My youngest, Mason (4) asks me every day, " Who we having today?" When I say everyone, he is elated and says, " YAY! The whole fraaaa-mily!" It's the sweetest.
How is your relationship with your husband’s ex wife?
I have a good relationship with both of of their moms. That's often surprising to most. I started out the relationships as I would want someone to start it with me when it came to my kids. I made a point to let both of them know that I respect them as mothers and want nothing but the best for the kids. I opened the door to reach out to me about anything regarding the kids and I think that set a good tone. This doesn't work for everyone. I know I definitely lucked out in that department.
What is the most difficult thing about being a Stepmom?
In my situation, it's the coordination. We have a lot of moving parts and do our best to stick to the custody schedule for everyone's sanity but occasionally things come up for either our family or the other parents. Then begins the process of approval. I often need to follow their lead and my plans get cancelled or someone misses out and that's tough. We all try to be flexible with trades but I find it to be a very difficult challenge for all sides.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a Stepmom?
Easy! I was blessed with two more children and I didn't have to give up wine for 18 months, gain weight or go through labor again! ;)
I love sitting back and watching my husband be the amazing father he is and the joy his children bring him. Watching my blended family function with genuine happiness is a reward to me as the Mama of the house, but I also really love every little stepmom win.
To me, an example of a stepmom win is when they confide in me, cuddle up to me, say they love me or even something as simple as drawing me a picture or picking me a flower. These are normal things you get as a mother, but as a stepmom it is different. Comfort levels grow at different paces in blended families so it reassures me we are moving in the right direction with every little sweet gesture from them. Even if nine times out of ten, they draw a picture for their Mommy, but that one time it's for you feels so good.
What’s one of the biggest mistakes you have made as a Stepmom?
Not establishing our family agreements sooner. I think the clearer you can be from the beginning, the better. An example of one of our family agreements is simply that everyone greets and says goodbye to each other. There's lots of coming and going in our home. It is very easy for children to ignore someone (often unintentionally) and just run right by them but it can be very hurtful to a stepparent when you know they wouldn't walk right past their Mom or Dad that way.
Our family agreements are truly a solid foundation that I think are essential to blended family function. My mistake was not doing it sooner and my advice to others is establish those early and lay out what is important to you and your spouse... and what will help you as a family function.
If your best friend told you she was about to start dating a man with kids, what would you tell her?
I'd ask questions. First, how much time do we have and where's the wine?
I am a huge advocate for co-parenting and blended family success but it takes A LOT. The statistics are real how divorce rates rise in blended families more than the normal high 50% rate. I've had a few of these conversations and I never shy away from the seriousness of it. There is nothing "casual" about dating someone with a child for that child's sake after the point of introduction, so they really need to ask themselves what they are looking for and are up for. I would ask her questions to help her understand what she is up for and give her questions and talking points to discuss with the potential partner. There are some things that you don't think to ask or know up front but when you do, it can avoid challenges down the road.
What do you wish you would have known before you became a Stepmom?
The Brady Bunch lied. Even the toughest woman you know will experience feelings she never has. You can't fix everything, and you will feel helpless and heartbreak when you see your husband hurt when it comes to his kids being away.
I also wish I knew how to better utilize Google calendar from the beginning! The amount of coordination is insane.
How do you think Stepmoms are viewed in Society?
I think more often than not we are viewed unfairly. There are some evil stepmoms still out there giving us all a bad name then there are people that have grown up with loving stepparents and I've received compliments from people like that, because they know first hand how good a child's life can be when all parents work together. As blended families grow in today's society, and the more stepmoms speaking out and continuing to just to do the right thing, it's my hope that this changes.
But my advice to other stepmoms is to stop caring how anyone views you. Especially the ex. We live in a society that picks everyone and everything apart. How dare we love another woman's children? If you just do the right thing by your children/ bonus children and the best interest of their life and upbringing- you're doing everything right.
What’s one thing you couldn’t survive without?
Stepmom support. I began blogging about my blended family and sought out other positive stepmoms online that were also trying to open up the discussions and change the stigma we face. The community of women joining forces to support each other is inspiring.
Tell us about your most awkward Stepmom moment.
I feel like my life is a series of one awkward moment after the other, but I can't seem to think of anything that crazy that is stepmom related so I'm going to spin this to a surprising moment if I may.
The morning after our wedding, my bonus daughter had her Mommy on the phone on speaker. The first thing that my husbands ex wife said was, "Did you have fun? Are you happy to have a new Mommy?" My bonus girl replied, "Yes."
So as much as I want to get the word out that all stepmoms aren't evil, all ex-wives aren't either. My husband's ex-wife was already remarrried and her daughter sees her husband as another Dad and she gave us the same respect and supported her daughter loving me like only an amazing mother would.
Tell me about your business/blog.
I began Better Off Blended to share the joys and challenges of blended families. Our family is just about as blended as it gets. I pride myself in the success we have had thus far especially with the amount of parents and families involved. My hope is to share and inspire others for their blended family success whether being a single mother that is co-parenting or becoming a stepmom. My mission is to help move moms in the right direction wherever they are at in their life.
What inspired you to start your business/blog?
My blog was inspired by my journey from a divorced single mom to married with a big blended family and being at a place to talk about it. I share my story to hopefully to help somebody with theirs.
What's your favorite quote.
"Do what you feel in your heart to be right. For you'll be criticized anyway." - Eleanor Roosevelt