Your Mother's Day celebration (or lack there of) does NOT define the level of love and appreciation that your stepchildren have for you. It just doesn't
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Our Blended Family Life
I can picture the outraged looks on your faces as you read the title of the post, but just hear me out!
Last year on Mother’s Day I sat across from my husband at our kitchen table. I mean the kitchen table he and his ex-wife bought for our house, I mean their house .... and cried.
At that moment, I had no idea the exact reason why I started crying, but I think it was a combination of three things.
1. I was four days away from going into labour with my first child and was a complete hormonal mess.
2. I could barely sit at the kitchen table because of my excessive belly and swollen feet, and the possibility that my pants were going to split at any moment.
3. I had spent the morning scrolling through a Facebook news feed full of pictures of REAL Moms and their kids celebrating Mother’s Day together. I was jealous. I missed the kids.
Now I am sure there are some moms outraged at me saying this. After all, it was Mother’s Day and obviously the kids would be with their mother, and not us.
I don’t disagree one bit. I have never attempted to make this day about me, and I never will. She is their mom, I am their stepmom, end of story.
But that doesn’t mean I had control over those feelings!
That morning, I had no control over the fact that I was taken over by the “green-eyed monster.” No control at all!
The bottom line is, there are many days when I am jealous of the fact that those kids are hers, and not mine.
Yes I just said it. Some days, in the midst of all the extra stressors and complications that come with the blended family life, I wish we were a “normal” nuclear family; four kids, a mom and a dad.
It’s not all the time. But yes, for brief moments, I dream about not being a part of a blended family arrangement.
I dream that the kids would never have to leave, that we would have every holiday together and that I was a part of their lives from day one. (However, I also dream of winning the lottery and becoming best friends with Kourtney Kardashian, and we all know the chances of that are slim to none… ).
Actually, since that very day, almost one year ago, I have realized and come to terms with the fact that I am jealous of my husband’s ex-wife.
I am jealous. Period. Plain and simple.
Those three kids, the ones that have embraced me, tried me, bugged me, loved me, made me laugh, made me cry… those three kids are hers and not mine!
She is one lucky mom. But guess what, I’m one lucky stepmom too!
Mother’s Day can be a very hard day for stepmoms, especially those who play an integral role in their stepkids’ lives! I’ve read several blog posts and articles about how fellow stepmoms feel on Mother’s Day and words like “unappreciated” always seem to come up!
To any stepmom who feelsl that way, I am so sorry that is your experience. I understand, because last year, even though my mind told me I had no right over the day and I was completely overreacting, I still was overcome by the flood of emotions I had no control over!
Here’s my advice. Give yourself permission to feel this way, but then snap right out of it!
Change your perspective or you’re going to spend a kid-free day with your husband feeling under-appreciated, lost or wondering where your place is in all of this! And you know as well as I do, those kid-free days can be few and far between!
It’s just one day out of 365. Don’t over think it.
And remind yourself you didn’t jump into this stepmom gig because you wanted a parade for everything that you do. None of us did. Because if that were true, most of us would have packed our bags a long time ago.
Be happy that your stepchildren get to spend a beautiful day with their mother, and be thankful for the quality time you get to spend with your man!
THE EXCLUSIVE STEPMOM COMMUNITY! Have you secured your spot?
This past summer, after two years of the kids begging for a dog, I caved and said yes.
Now, I’d love to sit here and say that I finally said yes because I knew that our family was ready for the extra responsibility that comes with a puppy. I would love to say it was the “right time” for us. But that’s not the truth. Not at all.
But hey, whether it be having kids or getting a puppy, are you ever really ready for all that it comes with?
Here is the real story behind the new furry addition to the family, Charlie.
We are a blended family. My husband has three children (my stepchildren) from his first marriage, and together we have a daughter. My stepchildren are with us 50 percent of the time, every other week. While this schedule is great for co-parenting, it leaves our daughter without her beloved siblings half of the time.
Four years ago, shortly after we had our daughter, we decided to try for another baby. We wanted to complete our family and give her a “full-time” brother or sister. But, unfortunately, we haven’t been successful in getting pregnant for the second time.
You’re probably asking, what the heck does this have to do with getting a dog?
Here’s how: I always said that if we didn’t get pregnant by a certain date, then we would get the kids a dog. So, after our third failed fertility procedure in September, I said yes to a Golden Retriever puppy.
My husband questioned whether it was an emotional decision, and truthfully, he was right.
Charlie was most definitely an emotional decision. But hey, we’re humans and most of our decisions are emotional!
Regardless, seven months later, I can confidently say she is one of the best emotional decisions that I have ever made. Charlie is the perfect addition to our family and a loyal companion to our daughter on those “weeks off.”
That being said, the dog is a lot of work. WAY more than I thought.
Personally, I quickly learned that a dog is very similar to a baby—you think you know what to expect, but you don’t realize all that comes with it until you’re in the thick of it!
So today, I thought I’d share the three things that I think you need to know before getting a dog.
1. THE KIDS PROBABLY WON’T HELP OUT AS MUCH AS THEY SAY THEY WILL…
The kids begged for a puppy. They promised they were going to do everything. They swore I wouldn’t need to lift a finger, that they would take care of it all.
Well, guess who is up with the dog in the middle of the night? Or who was at those early morning puppy school sessions? Guess who is with the dog day in and day out? This step-mama!
Yes, the brunt of the responsibility falls on me.
Don’t get me wrong—they help when they are home, but the kids are very busy these days. They are at school during the day and at extracurricular activities and after-school jobs in the evening. Plus, they are with their Mom for a week at a time.
That’s a lot of time away from the pup!
So just be ready to take on extra responsibilities or at least have a concrete plan for how you’re going to divide responsibilities with the dog.
2. IT’S A MAJOR TIME COMMITMENT
It’s important to realize that it is going to take time and effort to train your dog, not to mention, get them adjusted to their new home. Those first few nights are long, especially if you’re crate training (which we did and highly recommend!).
I am so thankful that my job allows me to be home during the day, which in turn gave me the flexibility I needed in my schedule to do some training.
I would suggest only saying yes to getting a puppy once you know you’ll have the space in your calendar to do the necessary training.
The time and effort you put into training a pup is worth it. A well-trained puppy is a joy. A not-so-trained puppy that has accidents in the house and chews your shoes is an extra stress that I don’t have time for!
Put in the work. You won’t regret it.
3. BEING A DOG OWNER COSTS MORE THAN YOU THINK…
From the cost of food, to trips to the vet to ensure that your pup is healthy and protected from parasites like ticks, intestinal worms and heartworm, be prepared to invest into this new member of your family.
I highly recommend asking friends and family for recommendations on a vet you know you’ll love and trust. You want to make sure you set the foundation for a healthy and active life for the new member of your family.
Don’t let the costs take you by surprise. Do your research beforehand so that you can save up or at least be mentally prepared!
The other day, my sister asked me if I regret getting the dog. My answer? Not even close!
Even though it was an emotional decision and my yoga pants are now covered in dog hair, this dog has stolen our hearts.
With our crazy-busy schedule, there were about 100 reasons why we shouldn’t get a dog. But like I said, it was the best “yes” I have ever given to the kids.
There is something about the love they have for “Char Char” that has brought a whole new joy to our blended family crew and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Plus now Reese has a little buddy to keep her company when the kids are with their Mom!
Last summer, while sitting in a restaurant having a quick bite, Darren and I ran into our neighbor’s daughter. She was preparing to head off to university in just a few weeks.
Darren and I both absolutely loved our experiences at University, so naturally we took the opportunity to give her tips and to ask a few questions (seriously, if either of us could go back to those University days, we would! We are totally those lame parents who constantly tell their kids about the good old days back in “Uni”).
The conversation was great until she told us how much money this first year was costing her.
Between tuition, books, lodging and a meal plan, she was coming up on $20,000.
My mouth dropped. I couldn’t believe it. It is more than double what I spent when I went to University. (Which I am starting to realize is not as recent as I like to think.)
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve been planning for the kids’ post-secondary education. We have RESP’s for them and were aware that post-secondary education is going to be expensive. Still, that number was like a punch in the face.
Next year my stepdaughter will be in her last year of high school and applying to post-secondary. My stepson is a couple short years behind her. This means that not only do we have four kids to put through post-secondary, but two of them will be there at the same time.
Needless to say, this chat with our neighbor sparked a lot of conversations about finances, saving and budgeting. Not just between us, but with my stepdaughter as well.
SIDEBAR: There is always a lot of confusion about how parents who are divorced, handle the costs of post-secondary education. Here is an article from Advocate Daily that helps clarify. From what I understand, in Ontario, it is considered an “extra-ordinary expense”, unless parents come up with an alternate agreement (e.g. the kids need to contribute X amount, or each parent will contribute X amount). However, if there is no agreement in place, it is defaulted to an extra-ordinary expense ratio.
So, when my sister gave birth to twins earlier this year, it didn’t take me long to start thinking about post-secondary education for her crew! Including her one-and a-half year old…she was a mama of three under two.
Since I knew she would be flooded with lots of gifts and onesies for the babies, we decided to do something different. Instead of your traditional baby gift, we gave them a contribution for the twins’ RESP.
She and my brother in-law were so thrilled, that now it’s my “go-to” baby gift.
Not only does this gift motivate parents to open up that investment account right away, in 18-years-time that money will be worth way more than the amount we gave. I think it’s a way more practical than a jumper that the kids will grow out of in just three-months-time.
It’s literally an investment in the babies’ future!
WHAT IS AN RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan)
So, if you’re not familiar with an RESP, here’s the low down from RBC:
A RESP is a tax-sheltered plan that helps you save for a child’s post-secondary education faster.
You don’t pay tax on earnings within a RESP (similar to an RSP – Retirement Saving Plan).
When you take out the money for education, the withdrawals are taxed in the name of the student –RESP earnings are taxed in the hands of the student when funds are withdrawn for education purposes, and since students are generally in a lower tax bracket, it often means little to no tax on the earnings.
If your kid doesn’t go to post-secondary education, you’re able to choose a new beneficiary for the policy.
The best part is, the government matches 20% of the first $2,500 contributed annually, up to a maximum of $500 per year (and $7200 per life time). That’s up to $7200 you wouldn’t have otherwise.
So many people say, “I can’t even think about RESP’s right now. We have so many bills to pay,” and I hear you. BUT, the sooner you start saving the more your money can grow, so it’s smart so start early, even if it’s just a small contribution. Forgo that dinner out or that drive-thru lunch for the kids and get your money working for you!
To give you an idea of the potential growth, I’ve included this chart from RBC’s website! (why try and re-invent the wheel right?).
With a regular, pre-authorized contribution plan you save without even thinking about it!
Anyway, moral of the story is, post secondary school is expensive. The earlier you start saving, the more you can reap the benefits of long term growth and government grants. When it comes to investments, time is something you can't make up. The earlier you start, the more growth you'll get.
Oh… and RESP contributions are the new cool baby gift. Just ask my sister and her husband…
DISCLOSURE: This post was sponsored and created in partnerships with RBC. While I received compensation for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Have you had the life insurance conversation yet? In this post I’m sharing two things stepmoms and blended families need to consider when they’re talking about life insurance.
A long winded post about what I’m focusing on this year!
If you’re in the same place this time next year, will you be okay with that?
5 ways childless stepmoms can support their husband when their without their kids this Christmas
DISCLOSURE: This video is sponsored by RBC
This time of year I get oodles of questions about how we do Christmas in our blended family. From how we handle Santa, to how we keep things fair with my stepchildren and our “ours baby’ to how we manage the chaotic schedule… my inbox is over flowing with questions from you all.
In this video, I share a bit about how we do Christmas with our crew, and also what we are doing differently this year! This new Christmas strategy is helping us keep within our Christmas budget… while focusing on what really matters, which is making memories with our crew!
P.S If you’re looking for more info on how we navigate Christmas I’ve linked some other Christmas related blog posts below! Take a look, and if you’re still looking for more support, request to join my online Facebook Group, The KICK-ASS Stepmom Community. There are lots of likeminded stepmoms in there, who I’m willing to bet, have the same questions as you!
From our holiday access schedule, to Santa, to extended family, to how we maintain our own traditions here is how we do our Blended Family Christmas
On those crazy busy nights with the kids, THIS pasta recipe is our go to!