Sunday, January 15, 2012

Relationships, Weekends and My Blended Family


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Weekends are a bittersweet time for me.  On one hand they are a welcome respite to the weekday schedule.  I can tackle larger projects around the home, catch up on reading, and take time to assess scheduling and family management strategies that are in place during the week.  On the other hand, because we are a two household family and my daughters go to their dads on the weekends, I feel an underlying sadness due to missing my girls.  If I let it, the feeling can deplete my enthusiasm for all the things I like to accomplish during my two day hiatus from parenting.  

But typically, my motivation to have a house with groceries stocked in the kitchen, clean sheets on the beds, and promised tasks completed by Sunday night pushes uncomfortable feelings aside.  In my haste to create a welcoming environment for my daughters' Monday, I have overlooked an opportunity provided by the weekends without them—reconnecting with my significant other, M. 

This weekend, like any weekend, I had numerous personal and familial related tasks to complete.  M and I began painting the kitchen two weeks ago and I wanted to finish it.  There were shelves for the girls’ room to be painted and hung, groceries, meal planning, scheduling of activities, laundry and vacuuming.  In my obsessive quest for the home to seem “normal” and welcoming on Mondays, I wanted everything crossed off the to-do list. 

It’s 6:00 p.m. on Sunday evening and the shelves are not hung and the groceries are not purchased.  The house is not vacuumed and kitchen cabinet doors we removed for painting are still on the floor. But unlike my customary worry about how the girls will perceive their home upon Monday’s reentry, this evening I feel refreshed and calm.  You see, instead of tending to the typical, M and I tended to our relationship.   

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We reconnected through a marathon conversation that lasted over 24 hours beginning on Friday night and ending in the wee small hours of Sunday.  We talked about the things that we have been hiding away for months:  blended family parenting issues, adolescent parenting issues, personal issues, worries, hopes, dreams, and goals.  We cried, laughed, argued, and agreed.  We also talked news, friends, dogs, technology, exercise, music, food, places we’d like to visit, and whether or not we’ll ever make it official and marry.  I feel as if I reconnected with an old friend.  I feel less alone.  I feel loved.  There is no other bliss like knowing one is loved and if I wasn't so tired from staying up, I'd probably be singing.  Why the need for the all-nighter?

My main goal in life is to be a great parent.  This was not an ambition of mine when I was a child or even when I was a young adult.  This became my mission upon the birth of my first daughter--good timing.  And due to my guilt over my divorce, I have made it my sole purpose in life.  But I have failed to acknowledge that my relationship with M has a significant impact on my success as a parent. 

Newly remarried couples without children usually use their first months together to build on their relationship. Couples with children, on the other hand, are often more consumed with their own kids than with each other.

M and I are not married.  Maybe this is why I allowed parenting to be more important than our relationship.  And maybe I’m not married because I am afraid it will distract me from parenting.  Maybe M and I fail to take the plunge because we are unsure if the girls will like the idea.  But, the "maybes" do not matter.  He’s here.  It’s our house. We are a family.

You will no doubt focus a lot of energy on your children and their adjustment, but you also need to focus on building a strong marital bond. This will ultimately benefit everyone, including the children. If the children see love, respect, and open communication between you and your spouse, they will feel more secure and may even learn to model those qualities.

I do not recommend staying awake for more than a normal amount of time in order to reconnect.  I truly am a bit stressed about the groceries that are not purchased.  But for couples in blended families, whether your relationship status is married or living together, I strongly recommend you and your partner stay connected.  How the girls see M and I in our relationship is much more impactful to their development than if the refrigerator is fully stocked.  Peanut butter and jelly for dinner is always an option.

52 comments:

  1. Kim, what you said, "How the girls see M and I in our relationship is much more impactful to their development than if the refrigerator is fully stocked" pretty much summed it up beautifully. I feel that a big reason of why my marriage failed was because I became too focused on wanting to be the perfect parent to my daughter and making sure that I was raising her well. If marriages could fail because of this, it certainly affects post-divorce relationships. Thanks for this reminder... and I think this also goes for those who are still married (to their children's father). Maintaining the connection and bond to your spouse is so, so important.

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    1. Hi Sweaty! I can relate to parenting taking over at the expense of my relationship. It's a difficult balance to find. The big "t" word, trust, trips me up sometimes. We must trust, or have faith, that when we take time out for ourselves and for nurturing our relationships, we are in fact being good parents.

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  2. I agree with you. We are a blended family as well, and I know that the example we set in our relationship will set the tone for the children's approach to relationships too. This is a great post!

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    1. Thank you for your comment and kind words! It's good to hear from another blended family!

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  3. Oh my yes. Having created a blended family, even now that I am remarried, I still think that we spend time on more parenting things than we do ourselves. It is so important--and the parenting actually improves (even if the groceries are not bought) because we are happier when we take the time.

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    1. When parents and step-parents are happy with themselves and each other, the kids see it, feel it, and live it.

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  4. I haven't been really ready to entertain the idea of a relationship for several years. But hearing that it is possible to balance a relationship with a significant other AND parent children, makes me feel like it might actually be in my future.

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    1. I didn't know if it would be possible. I just jumped in because, well, that crazy thing called love. I read somewhere today that we should stop looking for love, it will be waiting for us when we are doing what makes us happy. I was definitely not looking because I was (am) still feeling guilt about what my divorce did to my girls and didn't want to add to their burden. We live. We learn. We have to love.

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  5. I'm not part of a blended family, but I recognize the critical importance of spending time with your partner away from your children but not at the expense of them. It's something I'm not that great at, actually, and I've learned something from this post. Thank you.

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    1. Great statement: ". . .away from your children but not at the expense of them." I struggle with knowing what IS at their expense and what is not. I certainly do not want them to ever again experience the pain of divorce. Nor do I want them to have tired Mommy and peanut butter sandwiches every Monday. I'd like to find that happy place in the middle. It's not easy. Be kind to yourself along the way.

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  6. I too am not a part of a blended family (as the commenter above also said), but I find that the same thing applies to myself and my own husband. Finding a balance between your life, your needs and the life and needs of your children is hard! But I have to say, it wasn't until I actually allowed myself to have some "guiltless relationship time" with my husband, that I began to realize how important that time (even though only for me and my husband) was for also my children. I now believe that I am a better mother, a more present mother, and overall more excited about being with my kids - because I know that it is also OK to do the things that I need to also. I love that saying that goes something like: Put the life jacket on yourself before you put it on a child (or something to that line)... Because before you can save anyone else, you have to be there yourself to be able to save them.

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    1. Being present is key. Self-care comes naturally when we acknowledge our needs instead of putting them aside. Your life jacket analogy rings true!

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  7. My H and I were talking about this yesterday how it might be good to have a little alone time, a weekend even. And he asked bust isn't that a little selfish? I'm thinking that it isn't though- I feel like what you did this weekend, focus on your relationship, was needed. I think it's important for us all to remember to fine tune every now and then amid the family chaos.

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    1. Fine tuning, indeed. Sometimes my vehicles get better maintenance. That analogy may be extreme, but I do care for most things regularly. It's almost as if I thought my relationship would magically take care of itself.

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  8. I'm the dad part of a blended family. I think we just naturally did the right thing - just enough time spent between the relationship and parenting that everything has gone well.

    Of course, we have no idea what we're doing - and it's working! :-)

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    1. When we have no idea what we are doing we are usually following our instincts. Funny how that little voice inside usually is right! Thanks for your comment.

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  9. This is beautifully written.
    I love that you acknowledged that you needed to take time for your relationship and to connect with M.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I am grateful for the support I receive form my blogging community.

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  10. An empty fridge and happy caregivers is a WAY better combo than a full fridge and unhappy caregivers. So many people forget that--great reminder to all of us.

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    1. I am beginning to see it's focus. Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic. More groceries (extrinsic) do not cover up unhappiness (intrinsic). It's also about certainty. I know the girls will enjoy a fridge stocked with their favorites. I am uncertain if they are happy with my relationship decisions. Ultimately, you summed it up quite well. Thanks for coming by!

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  11. On our "kid-free" weekends, I used to do the same thing... spend the whole time cleaning, cooking, getting ready for the boys to come back to us. Hubby and I realized that we should be dedicating some of that time to US, not just the kiddos.
    SO - now instead of doing something else, he helps me cook the meals for the week or does the Walmart run with me.
    We try for date nights, but realistically, it's not always feasible.
    I felt the same guilt after my divorce, and threw myself into being the best mom for my children.. when Hubby came along, while I was happy to have someone as wonderful as him in my life, I think I still made him #2... unknowingly. He sat by the side, content just to be in our lives, and I don't want to take advantage of that. He is important to me and my children.
    I think (and hope) I make progress constantly.

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    1. I really identify with your comments and am grateful you shared your experience. For me, it's relieving to know that there is someone else who has experienced a similar situation. "He sat by the side, content just to be in our lives. . ." really moved me. We were there, too. I felt it was tricky moving M in from the sidelines. . .afraid may be a better word. I also like the reminder of "progress" in your comment. It's all process. This will never be "done." :)

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  12. So so true, for all parents I think. It's all about modelling behaviour and relationships are a great place to start. Very well written I thought, I could really feel your emotion.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. I agree that all parents, whether married, divorced, single are modeling behavior--ALL THE TIME! It can be overwhelming if I think about it.

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  13. Kimberly, good for you. I have to remind myself every now and then to stop and think about hubby and the relationship we have together. Life is busy and I'm trying to seize each moment of my child's life and look after my own needs. Thanks for the reminder to put some eggs in that 'other' basket. :)

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    1. You're welcome. I understand the desire to be present for every moment of our children's lives. It can feel like time with them is fleeting.

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  14. Being a good parent and a good significant other are difficult tasks as it is, but throw in the blended family bit, and it's nearly impossible. The good news is, it sounds like you're making progress toward it, and even if chores did not get done, the conversation part did, and that's huge.

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    1. It's funny how you know you need to talk but feel afraid of what you might say or hear. The conversation starts slow and guarded. You let a little out, and soon you're up for hours. Thanks for your comment. I feel your support and am grateful.

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  15. I love your honesty in this post. I also love how you don't water down your quest to be the best parent you can be in order to be in a relationship. It all sounds very balanced to me. (-:
    I'm glad you left all the stuff on your To Do list til Monday and let yourself have a marathon conversation and some down-time to tend to your relationship. (-:

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    1. Thanks, Ado. Took a bit of courage to be truthful. And there is more in there. Just letting it out a little at a time to be sure it's safe for me. Meaning, I am a big scaredy cat. There's a lot of authentic and genuine sharing going on around the blogosphere. You are a part of it and I am grateful.

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  16. "How the girls see M and I in our relationship is much more impactful to their development than if the refrigerator is fully stocked." Absolutely. And peanut butter and jelly is a GREAT option for dinner! Sounds like an amazing night.

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    1. Well, p, b and j is one of my favorites, so maybe we'll make it a Monday thing ;)

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  17. This is so so so true. It's important for your health to have a good relationship with your partner, but it's also so important to show your girls how a good loving relationship should be, especially if they've been through a divorce. I think we all need to be reminded of this, thank you.

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    1. Oh, so true. You gave me a great reminder: ". . .show your girls how a good loving relationship should be. . ." Yes, especially because they have been through my divorce.

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  18. Moms get so wrapped up in pleasing and taking care of everyone else that we forget ourselves. As long as your childrens' needs are being met, you should absolutely take time out for yourself and your relationship.

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  19. Hi Kimberly,
    I came over to visit since you left a comment for Sara Padilla on my blog, "Gutsy Living" which I thank you for. I agree with the importance of being close to your husband, "man" and wrote an article called: "Selfish Parents Make Better Parents," which talks about the importance of the relationship between "you and M" so the children can feel secure. Good for you. Your daughters will appreciate the love they feel in your house between you and M.

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    1. Glad you made your way here! Thanks for letting me know about your article. Making connections, communicating. . .this is how we become better parents, partners, and friends, and grow as individuals. I truly am grateful for the blogosphere. I will be by to read "Selfish Parents Make Better Parents" later today.

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    2. Sonia, can you provide a link to your article? Thanks.

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  20. Even for a non-blended family, what an important message. Children are time consuming. There's not much you can do about that. But connecting with your spouse is totally important. Afterall, once the kids are out of the house, who still remains?

    visiting from lovelinks

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    1. Hi Carrie. So true. We will still be here once they go off to live their own lives.

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  21. We're not a blended family, but it's still important to take that kind of time. A lot of times if my girls are gone for a night for a sleepover, I just want to completely relax and do nothing (meaning watch TV or a movie and not think really hard), but my husband often wants to talk about important issues in life or our relationship. I generally start out annoyed because that's not what I wanted to do, but it's always good for us. Especially if there's some kind of festering issue. The kids are always aware of those.

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    1. I can relate to wanting to relax and not think. Especially because parenting can be mentally exhausting. Glad you are able to work through your annoyance to address your issues. Maybe have a "one hour veg time" then talk ;)

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  22. In our non blended family, I believe taking care of the marriage is just as important as taking care of the children. As you so articulately wrote, how your children perceive your relationship with your significant other IS important, so is our children seeing how their parents interact. There have been moments when parenting took over our marriage, but we've so far always managed to pull ourselves back to us.

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    1. Thanks, Alison. You are right that it is important for children to see how parents interact. When one grows up witness to dysfunction, one will be dysfunctional. Contrarily, if one sees love and all that goes with it, one will be able to have fulfilling relationships.

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  23. Those long unexpected conversations can be very therapeutic. Sounds like yours helped put a lot of things on the table. I hope you got out of it what you were looking for.

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    1. Yes, therapeutic indeed. Sometimes I think we fear "the table". What if we don't like what we hear? And we don't always. But pushing through, agreeing to disagree, respecting the other point of view. . .
      Thanks, Dude of the house.

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  24. You are so right, and this message rings true for any committed relationship, blended family or not. Modeling healthy loving practices can only benefit our children into really experiencing first hand what love is about. So smart!

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    1. Thanks, Jackie. Seems so simple. Glad to have rediscovered this vital need.

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  25. Love this as it is so important to nurture you guys. married or not showing your girls the importance of loving and valuing your partner is an example they will remember forever...and yes, one night of PB and J won't hurt anyone and it is kind of fun now and then or maybe it's just me:)

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    1. Thanks, Shannon. Hope you are doing well this week!

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  26. We've been a blended family officially for 7, but really 10. The silver lining of divorce and re-marriage is the time you have without the kids when you can focus on just each other. We always enjoy our time together. It was difficult to get used to, but now I cherish it and look forward to it!

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