The Stepmom Project: Zoe Hardy!

Hello my friends!  Welcome back to The Stepmom Project!

Last month was the first installment of this series, where I gave some information about MY background and experience with stepmothering, and today is the first from someone else in our stepmom community!

(Would you like to be part of the project, too?  Fill out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)

I'm so excited to have Zoe, from The Glorified Babysitter, here with us today to share her stepmothering story!!  Thanks for your wonderful, candid, awesome responses, Zoe!  I'm so happy to have gotten to know you better this way and I look forward to following more of your story (through stepmothering and otherwise!) in the future!

I can't wait for you all to hear what Zoe has to say.  Here she is!...

-What is your name and general location?
Zoe Hardy
Ontario, Canada!

-How many stepchildren do you have? (And what age and gender, if you’re comfortable sharing) If you have biological children, feel free to let us know about them here, too!
I have a stepdaughter age 11, stepson age 10, daughter age 2 and I’m pregnant with a bubba coming spring 2017!

-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
I was 28 when I became a stepparent (almost 5 years ago) and I had never been with someone who had children. I was your stereotypical girl living an independent life with no attachments. To be honest, the closest feeling I had to a “parental” type of affection was the love and devotion I had to my shoes. HA. When I became a stepmom it was a complete whirlwind for me.

Mark and I met through our friends who happened to be a couple. The first time I met him was a brief encounter at our mutual friend’s place. It was a NYE party and he was newly separated and there with his kids. I didn’t think anything of our first meeting other than “wow, he’s a really great dad”

For the next 3 years we would come in and out of each other’s lives. Make small chat or the odd time go out for dinner with our friends. We never had the opportunity to date during that time because he was seeing someone or I was. But there was always something there. There was always this crush, this part of me that knew I would end up with him. The fact that he had kids didn’t deter me at all. I think it just made me realize this is a great man. This is someone I know who is a great father.

Finally, at our mutual friends wedding we had a chance to talk without distractions of people or kids and that was it for me. We went on our first date shortly later and we fell in love.

I think meeting him years before we decided to date helped us. Neither one of us was ready at our first meeting to embrace a relationship but by the time we finally did go on a date we were both happy with our lives and knew what we wanted in a partner. I think that’s why it worked for him and I and the kids. I already knew he had kids and I knew how much of a commitment it would be just to date him. I needed to be happy and fulfilled in my life before I could embrace that type of commitment.

We have the kids on a week on / week off rotation. With transition happening on Sundays at lunch. We have tried other arrangements but this one really seems to work the best for everyone so we’re sticking with it!

-What do your stepchildren call you?  If you also have biological children, how does the role of titles (ie mom and dad) work in your family?
I get called a multitude of names!
Mama Z
Hey you
Then there’s the inferred ones...
Chaos Wrangler...

We did have a situation where my daughter started calling me Zoë when she was learning to talk so we just asked my step kids to refer to me as something else for the time being. Hence all of the names! The consistent one we used was Mama and it worked for us! Sometimes the occasional Zoë slips out of her mouth still but that’s ok. It happens.

-How/When did you first meet your now stepchildren?  Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
Mark and I fell in love on our first date (I know, so stinking cheesy) and about a month after dating he wanted me to meet the kids to see how they and I would gel. We knew it seemed fast to the outside world but we honestly didn’t care. We both fell madly in love with each other.

Mark always called me sunshine so when I first met them they had drawn and coloured all of these photos of suns and rainbows. I literally walked through the door and there was like 50 pictures on the floor waiting for me. It was really cute.

I think it was easier because their Mom had already moved on and they just wanted their Dad to be happy too.

Our problems came later on when we all moved in together and my husband decided to pursue his MBA which left me in charge a lot more. I really struggled with this transition. I was on my own for so long and then boom, there’s not 1 but 3 people all up in my grill and they are literally in everything that I did. With their tiny fingerprints covering walls and windows. I didn’t know how to handle it all and was quickly overwhelmed which lead to conflict and resentment.

One of the best things I ever did was see a therapist. People have such a negative connotation about therapy but when you think about it we go to the dr when we are sick, we see a dentist for our teeth, why wouldn’t we see someone to help with our mental wellbeing?

Therapy was a safe place for me to vent frustrations, ugly cry and learn how to handle it all. I still go about 1-2 times a year to ground myself. I find that being a stepparent you have to constantly evolve your role. Some days you’re needed more than others and sometimes you’re not needed or wanted at all. It’s a hard line to walk on and your husband doesn’t get it. Therapy for me was how I learned to conquer the resentment and be proactive instead of reactive with situations in our family. It was a total game changer for me which in the end helped our family.

-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 children?
I really struggled with this. Actually I still struggle with this. Particularly because as kids grow they change. Each age is met with different challenges and different ways they act out.

When my husband is home he handles most of the discipline but at the same time, I do it too. I mean, if you’re being a d*ckhead you’re going to get called out on it. That’s our philosophy in house, own your sh*t. Not just the kids but the adults too.

In regards to just situations with me, I find that now that I am a Mum as well I really push how we need to be respectful to everyone in the house. We talk about how they wouldn't like it if someone was disrespectful to their mom, so why is it ok to be like that to me in front of their little sister.

-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchildren’s other biological parent? (Not your partner)  If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
Sometimes, but my husband mostly deals with the communication. There’s no issue, it’s just how it works for us. But we’ll chat at school and things. Or I’ll send photos of the kids. But really it’s my husband who communicates the most. That works for us.

-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the stepchildren (when the children are with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the children with you?
We plan family events around the schedules. For example, this year we’re moving Christmas because they are at their mom’s house. So instead of them having to rush here at some point on Christmas day we’re doing Christmas Eve the 23rd and Christmas the 24th. For us, it’s not about the day, it’s about family. We generally do this for all holidays and birthdays.

That said, there are times we simply can’t make it work like when our extended family has an event. We always do our best to accommodate and Mark and the kids’ mom are usually flexible if things need changing. But sometimes you have a better chance at herding cats than making every single extended family event.

-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
When my Mum died. My compass was gone. Life without her sucks and I struggled to be a good parent and stepparent while honouring my grief.

-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
There’s SO many!!!

…Last night when they were reading a story with their little sister and hearing the joy coming out of the room every time Janice said a word correctly. It was pure awesomeness.

…When my stepson was 6 and told me to come into his private room and take off my outside clothes. He was referring to his bedroom and my coat. But it’s still SO funny.

There are so many wonderful parts. It’s all about celebrating the little victories for us and honouring the great moments.

-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
What I wrote before about therapy. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is.

Instagram has been pretty good. I’m not on facebook so finding a supportive community on instagram is great. That said, there is still a lot of inauthentic people on there so you need to weed that out!

-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.

Just kidding.

It will be sh*tty. You will question everything about yourself and your life. But it is literally the most wonderful journey and you will become a better person - despite any heartache.

And always, always, always remember, celebrate the little victories - they are SO worth it.

-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
Yes! It’s a natural emotion to feel. It’s what you do with that jealousy, that’s the question. Laughing it off is the best way for me.

-What do you say when people ask if you have kids?
Before my daughter was born I would say “yes. I have two stepkids. they rule”
Now it’s, “yes. I have two stepkids and a 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”)
"Oh thanks. I’m not their mom. I’m their stepmom!"
It really depends on the situation. I often check in with the kids after and ask if I handled it ok. I don’t ever want them to feel weird or like I’m taking their mom’s place.

-How are you preparing for when the children might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
This already happened! We laugh about it now. At the time I think my response was clearly reactive and I said, “Then go back to your real mom’s house” Not the best way to handle the situation but we learned and laugh about it now. People make mistakes, they say silly things and you just have to show that you can be a bigger person, apologize or forgive and move on.

-Was your now partner having children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
I think it was a pro for me. Watching him be such an amazing dad was something that I had never seen (apart from my own dad) and that for me was wonderful.  

-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
YES! Of course. Mark is my soulmate. The good, bad and the ugly times have all lead me to where I am today. In a beautiful home surrounded by a beautiful family. I have an amazing life - there have been tough challenges but I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without them. And for that, I am truly blessed.

-Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering.  Also, please leave any blog or contact links below if you’d like that information to be featured here.
  1. Love Actually is my favourite movie of all time.
  2. I have a habit of randomly breaking out into dance. Doesn’t matter where we are.
  3. If I were a superhero I would solve child hunger

Instagram: @theglorifiedbabysitter

Twitter: @theglorifiedBS

Website: (launching soon!)

Contributor to mother lucker:

Thank you SO much for your incredible insights, Zoe! I personally loved hearing your story and I know your experience and advice will be very helpful to others out there! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! <3

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