I’m super excited to bring you Amanda on the blog today! Amanda’s initial experience with stepmotherhood was full of trial and difficulties. But with time, counseling, and hard work she now has a beautiful, blossoming relationship with her stepdaughter, Tatum!
(Would you like to be part of the project? Fill out this Google form and I’ll get back to you with more information!)
And without further ado, here is Amanda’s story…
-What is your name and general location?
Amanda – OKC!
-How many stepchildren do you have?
I have one stepdaughter, her name is Tatum she is 8 years old. No bio kids yet, Tatum is begging for a sibling though… maybe soon. 🙂
-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
Oh man, here comes the long story! Ha! So I met my husband when I was 26. It was February, 2014. He brought his daughter into the salon that I was getting my hair done at. My friend/hair dresser gave him my number! So essentially we met because of my stepdaughter. Brian and I began dating after that, I did not actually meet Tatum till the following September.
My husband has joint custody so we have her Monday-Monday. 7 days on, 7 days off. When we were dating, it is part of his divorce decree that there were to be no overnight stays with the opposite sex until marriage. Well, we lived 40 minutes away. Most days with my stepdaughter our routine was when I would get off work I would drive to his house, we would spend the evening together then I would go home around 9pm. On weekends we would take turns doing stuff at each others homes or the areas we lived in. I wasn’t too involved in Tatum’s life at first. We wanted to ease her into me being around. At first, he had her 2 days on 2 days off so it was easier that way.
The following Spring I started going to some of her soft ball games and doing more with her & my husband during the time that he had her. That is also when we decided we were going to get married. Once we told his ex-wife we were getting married her exact response was “Over my dead body” At that point she had met me one time. She followed us to his house, pushed through the front door and attempted to attack me. Two weeks later she filed for full custody. At this point it was all or nothing. I was going to be all in or I was going to leave. I chose all in. We went through a two year custody battle, in which it was recommended by a GAL (guardian ad litem) that we should receive sole custody. The judge chose to not follow the GAL recommendation and stick with joint custody with a few minor changes from their original agreement. (Sadly that is common in Oklahoma.)
This was all going on while we were planning our wedding and preparing for a life together. My stepdaughter was told by her mother multiple times she could not like me, she could not love me and that she had to hate me. This is just the scratch of the surface. There was so much more said to my sweet stepdaughter that caused damage and strained my relationship with her.
Finally, in May of 2016 we were married and I moved into my husband’s house. I was 28, almost 29. I moved out of the house I bought on my own that was close to my family, I was now living 40 minutes away, in a small town that is far from everything in my life. That along with becoming an instant mom to a child who already had alienation issues was a challenge. She was told that if she was mean to me then I would leave and her mom and dad would be together again. This went on about six months before she realized that I am not going anywhere and it is OK to love me. She and I both went to different counselors to work on our relationship with our new life. Since then things have been much better. She loves spending time with me. I am very involved in her life, I attend every ball game that I can and every school function that I can. She is a huge part of my world. I love her like she was my own daughter. Most days she would rather go with me to run errands or cuddle with me than hang out with her dad. In almost four years we are closer now that I ever imagined we would be. Together we have overcome so much in the last year. We have a great little family and I have my own little side kick half the time.
-What does your stepchild call you?
She calls me Amanda. Her daycare has told me that she refers to me as her mom so that makes me smile. If she is talking about me to other people she normally says that I am her bonus mom.
-How/When did you first meet your now stepchild(ren)? Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
Very much so. She loved me very quickly, and I with her. However, due to issues with her bio mom there were things she was told that strained our relationship for a while.
-How do you and your partner handle discipline/rules within your family? (Is it 50/50?) How do you and your partner make sure you are both respected by the child?
So this is a tough one. I am more the strict parent. I don’t really discipline her though. I let my husband do that, sometimes we do not see eye to eye. We are getting better at communicating about this. She knows she has to respect both of us and that I am her parent as well. She is a normal 8-year-old who is pushing the boundaries at times. I just let her daddy handle the discipline part and then we are all much happier.
-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchild’s other biological parent? (Not your partner) If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
Absolutely not! In fact, my husband had it put in the new custody arrangement that she is not to speak to me or come within 15 feet of me. It is great for me. Her parents are also to follow the same rule. There are times at ball games that she tries to break this rule and I just say you are supposed to stay 15 feet away. Do not come any closer.
-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the child (when the child is with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the child with you?
Well, since my stepdaughter plays competitive softball 9 months out of the year and my husband helps coach her team almost every weekend is spent at the ballpark. When we actually have a weekend off without her, we try to have a date night or go hang out with our friends. The weekends we have her and she is not playing, we try our best to find a family-friendly event in our area or we go on a mini road trip. I do little things like make plans with family and include her favorite meals on my meal plan for the weeks we have her.
-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
Honestly, the whole journey has been full of ups and downs. The most difficult has been being able to build a healthy, loving relationship with my stepdaughter after she had been brainwashed to hate me. Having to hear her say that she isn’t allowed to like me, or that she has to hate me or she will get a spanking is awful and something that I pray will never happen again.
-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
Best memory, when she first told me that she loves me and misses me when she isn’t home. Any time her and I get to do something just the two of us is very fun and special too.
-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
Uh yes, the Gradybird blog & Stepmom Club!!! This by far has been the best thing for me. None of my friends have stepchildren. None of them understand the struggles of the stepmom/stepdaughter relationship or blended family dynamics. Because of this, I had no one to turn to, no one to vent to, and no one that understood what I was going through. By being part of this group it is a constant reminder that I am not alone. There are others that face the same obstacles and wins that I do. I know it is a safe place where I can vent my frustration and share my happy experiences. I can also hear how others handle certain situations and learn about other helpful resources.
I also went to counselling for a while. Counselling saved my marriage and somewhat taught me what a blended family is like. I found a counselor who was also a stepparent and had authored many books and articles on blended families. I still have them and refer to them when needed. He is the one who suggested I find a support group. Then there are books and online articles. I read many books on marriage but nothing hit home quite like The Happy Stepmother by Rachelle Katz. I swear she was describing my husbands ex in parts of the book.
-What advice would you give your former self if you could send a letter back in time? Please write a short version of that letter here.
Run!!!! HAHA just kidding. It won’t be easy, this will be the most difficult journey you have ever been on. There will be so many struggles, fights and nights of crying. You will be challenged mentally day in and out. But, if you can make it through this, you can make it through anything. This may be the most challenging thing you have ever gone through, but it will be the most rewarding journey as well. The love that you will feel and develop will be incredible. The bond that you & your husband will form will be unbreakable.The love that you and your husband have for each other will make it all worth it. You will learn the true meaning of love with every ounce that you have. You will understand the meaning of true love, selfless love. You will stronger than you could ever imagine. You will succeed at this. This is part of your life, it may not have been your plan but it is God’s plan.
-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
Not really, not to be pretentious but I have a much better life than she does. The only time I get “jealous” would be when she is included in ball or school activities and I am excluded. I take more offense to it than jealousy though.
-What do you say when people ask if you have kids? (if you’re a stepmom with no biological children)
Depending on who it is, I either say I have a daughter or I have a bonus daughter.
-What do you say when a stranger (waitress or something like that) refers to you and your spouse as mom and dad? (ie “Ask your mom and dad”)
We just smile, and ignore it. How are they to know our family story?
-How are you preparing for when the child might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
Oh this has already happened. I just respond with “I may not have given birth to you but I am your parent, like it or not.” When others have said it, my husband has been clear in stating she is her parent just as much as I am. I choose her to be my daughters bonus mom.
-Was your now partner having a child or children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
Yes, I did not date people with kids. I had a bad experience younger in life where I was attached to a baby that hindered me breaking up with the wrong person for a while. After that I refused to. Until I met my husband. I just knew something about him was different. Something was telling me to give him a chance. I fell in love with him for who he was, part of that was a great father.
-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
Honestly, this is the toughest question of all. I have said over and over again no. However, truth be told I could not live without my husband. He is my best friend, the love of my life. There are days that our relationship is a struggle but that is part of being in a relationship. I loved my single life, married life is a different season. I now get to share my life with the only person that I want to do everything with. He is the one person that I want to be around all the time. I feel like in hindsight I would have been more cautious, I would have taken my time and not rushed things as much as I feel like I did. I would still choose him, every day over and over again I would choose this relationship.
Tell us some interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering.
Oh my. I’m kind of out there. I’m very talkative and personable. I love to entertain. I just turned 30!!! Ahhh the big 3-0. It wasn’t as bad as I thought but it was tough to leave my 20s behind, they were really fun. I am the youngest of 3 girls. My sisters are 14 & 13 years older than me. Growing up, I had 3 moms because of this lol. I became an aunt in the second grade! I lived most of my teenage and adult life with my sister, brother in law and 2 nieces. I have a wonderful relationship with them. My nieces prepared me for motherhood; I love them like they are my own kids, at the same time I have more of a sisterly bond with them than I do an Aunt/Niece bond. I grew up in a tiny town right on the lake in Eastern, OK. I love being outside, I really enjoy hunting and fishing. When I was in high school my parents divorced and I moved to a suburb of OKC. Here I became really girly. I developed a love of shopping, getting my hair and nails done. This eventually led me to my husband lol. I am the tallest girl on my dad’s side of the family and the shortest on my moms. I am 5’3”! I love fast cars, road trips and loud music (all kinds). When I was single almost every weekend you could find me at a concert or the lake. I have some of the best friends that a girl could find. A lot of my friends are in the Air Force, this is common living near a major base. They are now spread out all over the country which means we get to travel to see each other. I’ve always wanted to be a wife and mom, just did not think this is how I would get there. I went through a lot of heartaches before I met my husband. I made a list of the qualities I wanted in my future husband and focused on me for a while. My husband met every single thing on my list. It doesn’t hurt that he is a foot taller than me, athletic, blonde hair and blue eyes either! During my “me” time I purchased and remodeled a house on my own. I went back to school, now I have two degrees. One from Oklahoma State University in Enterprise Development the second from Southern Nazarene University in Organizational leadership. I have been with my current company almost 10 years, I started at the ripe old age of 20! I guess you could say I am very focused and driven to succeed. I set my mind to something and I do not give up!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us here today, Amanda! I know many stepmoms deal with a lot of what you’ve experienced, and I’m really glad you were able to share some of that with us today – I’m sure it will give hope to others!
Did you like reading Amanda’s interview? Want to read more in this series? Check them all out here!
(Don’t forget that if you’re interested in sharing your own stepmotherhood story just out this Google form and I’ll get back to you with more information!)