The Stepmom Club Series: Courtney!

Hey you guys!

I'm so excited to bring you the next installment of The Stepmom Club Series!

We are back today with Courtney, a stepmom of two and biological mom of one who's here to share her story today!  I especially love her "letter to herself" - so so true and beautiful!

(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!)

And without further ado, here is Courtney's story...

-What is your name and general location?
My name is Courtney; I’m from the Southeast.

-How many stepchildren do you have?
I have two stepsons (ages 13 and 10) and a daughter together with my husband (7 years old).

-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?  
My husband and I got married almost 8 years ago when my stepsons were 3 and 6 years old. I was 28 years old at the time with no children. The boys were excited about the wedding and helped plan it with us.

Although my husband had emergency physical custody of the boys for about a year, their mom has recently gained primary physical custody after a long court battle, so now my husband has the boys 40% of the year. About 6 months after our wedding, I gave birth to our daughter together with us involving the boys in preparing for their sister.

-What does your stepchild call you?  If you also have biological children, how does the role of titles (ie mom and dad) work in your family?
My stepsons call me Mutti, which is German for mom. Until my daughter was born, they just called me by my first name. But my oldest started calling me Mom after his sister was born and it bothered his mom, so my husband, the boys, and I came up with a new name for me. Our daughter calls me Mom or Mommy. Sometimes when her brothers are around, my daughter will occasionally call me Mutti.

-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)
I met my stepsons by going to Chuck E. Cheese with them and my partner. I met them there and we played games. We did a few “staycation” activities together throughout that week.

We really enjoyed each other and bonded pretty easily. There have been times where I have had difficult feelings around being a stepmom or when the boys have gone through phases where I felt further from them. When that happens, I usually try to figure out if something is going on in my own life that is bothering me, talk to my husband about how I am feeling, or find some time to spend one-on-one with whichever child I am feeling that way about. The longer we are married, the easier everything has been though. I can honestly say I love my stepsons like my own child.

-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?
We handle discipline and rules for the boys in a similar fashion as we do for our daughter together. Both of us talk with the kids about concerns, and each of handles immediate consequences, like going to their room for a bit.

My husband has always treated me as an equal in determining rules and coming up with solutions for our family, and we make a great team in general. I think him showing me respect has made it easier for the boys to naturally respect both of us. We also confer with each other before committing to answers with the kids or make sure they have asked the other one.

Plus, I have developed relationships with the boys that are my own outside of their relationship with their dad and allowed them time alone with him as well. I think that has also impacted how they see me and their level of respect for me as another parental figure who cares for them.

-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?
I do participate in communication with my stepsons’ mom, but communication between the households is limited and primarily via email.

There was a time where I tried to form a working relationship with their mom, but there wasn't anything my husband or I could do to make that happen. Eventually, we decided that the healthiest thing for everyone was to practice parallel parenting, except when there were medical or educational items that needed some type of coordination or discussion (still primarily via email though).

However, there is some casual conversation in person at times at events or appointments for the kids. Many meetings now even happen separately at their mom’s request, though.

I maintain the limited relationship I have with her by having realistic expectations of her based on her actions to date, by thinking of her as “the boys’ mom” and referring to her that way when we have to talk about her, and by treating her as an acquaintance.

I also try to remember that everyone goes through things that their parents wish that they didn't have to go through. So, for my stepsons, I remind myself that I can’t influence what storms they encounter in their life. But I can make our home a shelter from those storms for them and my daughter.

-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?
The longer we’ve been married, the less thought we have had to put into this.

In the beginning, we only did date nights when the boys were away and didn't do any family vacations without them.

But as our daughter got older, we thought of it as our small family (times with us 3) and our whole family (with the boys). We do some small vacations just the three of us. We normally plan couple things when it is only her still, like our annual anniversary trip as a couple.

Most of our large trips are with all five of us, but we also understand that they do things with their mom and with us. We also plan birthday parties for when the boys are here.

For the years where the boys are not with us for Christmas, then we do a Christmas with my daughter on Christmas morning and then a Christmas morning with the boys when they come for the second half of Winter Break. So, the boys get two Christmas mornings (one with their mom and one with us) and our daughter gets two Christmas mornings (Christmas Day and again with her brothers). We just buy her a few extra gifts those years.

-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
I have a few stepmothering memories of difficult times, and those were times where my stepsons were hurting because of the dynamics in their family. Big memories were around times their mom had said bad things to them about me or our family. I distinctly remember one time for each of my stepsons. In both instances, my stepson was hurting - so upset and confused by what their mom had said to them. As I was comforting them and assuring them that their mom loved them and didn't realize she was hurting them, I was hurting too. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and know that you can’t change the situation for them.

-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
One of my best stepmothering moments was when my stepsons came to the hospital to meet their sister. They were both so excited that she was here. I can still remember the smiles on their faces. And my oldest stepson teared up holding his sister - he was so proud. And I loved them even more in that moment than I did before.

-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
The forum Stepmothers on a Mission (SMOMS) and the calls and classes that the founder offered were a lifesaver for me as a stepmom dealing with a hostile bio-mom. I learned to use the difficult situations I encountered as opportunities to do some soul-searching and better myself. It also helped me find solutions to minor and major situations that worked well for our family.

-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.

Dear Courtney,

Congratulations on your wedding and welcome to your parenting journey. You are going to experience some of the greatest joys of your life and also deal with hard situations that you never imagined encountering.

Your journey as a stepmother will have you bawling on the floor over situations that you can’t change, questioning your decision to get into “this mess,” and leave you broken looking for answers. But, trust me, you will use these moments to make positive changes to yourself and to create a beautiful marriage and family.

Sometimes you will question yourself and wonder if you should have handled a situation differently. Let go of that; this journey will break you of your life-long habit of questioning yourself. Trust your instincts as a mom and stepmom, look at situations with eyes of love from multiple people’s viewpoints, and enjoy your marriage regardless of whatever drama may be brewing at the moment.

You will not be perfect, and that’s okay. We aren't trying to show our kids how to be perfect, but instead how to be imperfect. And you will get to be good at it - ask questions rather than assuming, apologize if you’ve messed up, and let your husband and kids love you unconditionally.

This will be an amazing journey for you. Enjoy all it, even the hard stuff. The wonderful things are only fully possible with the tough conversations and soul-searching.

With lots of love,
You, eight years down the road

-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
I wouldn't use the word jealous, but sometimes I do wish that they were my biological children. Life would be a lot easier - we would be able to raise them without influence of a parent with a different perspective from us, activities and schools would all be close to our home, and it feels like things would be less hectic.

When I feel that way, I remind myself that I adore my boys exactly as they are and part of who they are comes from their mom and her side of the family.

-What do you say when people ask if you have kids? (if you’re a stepmom with no biological children)
When I become a stepmom, I wasn't a biological mom. When asked, I would say that I have two sons from my husband’s previous marriage. Now, when I am asked about whether I have kids or how many kids I have, I say that I have 3 kids - one daughter and two stepsons (or two sons from my husband’s previous marriage). From experience, I know my stepsons typically prefer “son from my husband’s previous marriage” over “stepson.”

-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 roll with it. If the boys correct the person, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s fine too. When we first got married, they corrected people often. But they typically don’t correct people now.

-How are you preparing for when the child might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
The best advice I have heard about this is to just acknowledge that it is true. Instead of giving a reaction to them saying it or getting off topic of the conversation, just simply saying “Yes, I know” and continuing the other conversation that needs to be had.

-Was your now partner having a child or children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
Honestly, I don’t think it was a pro or con. I did love what a wonderful and involved father he was (and continues to be), but I didn't view the children as a pro or con. His having children was another part of who he was and would be a part of our life together.

-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
There have been times when my answer to this question would have been “I don’t know.” But for the last few years, I have had no doubt that I would do it all again.

The trick for us has been to put our marriage first. That doesn't mean that we aren't running around in all directions sometimes for our kids or that we don’t weigh decisions thinking of their best interest. But, their best interest is for my husband and I to have a great marriage and for them to have a stable home. The boys don’t need to go through another divorce, and I don’t want my daughter having to go between two homes. Plus, we are modeling for them how to treat their future spouse and what to expect in their marriages.

My husband and I take time together when we can and go on a yearly anniversary trip together without any kids. We discuss decisions that affect our family and support each other in our interests.  I think having that strong marriage as a base for our family has made it easier to be a stepmom and to fully bond with my stepsons.

Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering:
  1. I love to sing. I sing with my husband’s band at many of their shows and has my own female 3-piece band for awhile.
  2. I’m dabbling in family photography. In high school I did yearbook photography and I have done some portraits for family and friends. Right now, I have been doing free or cheap photos for people I know to build up my portfolio, in case I want to do it professionally later. I have a Facebook page and instagram account under: Courtney Rasey Photography.
  3. I have completed 3 half marathons. In November, I’m scheduled to run/walk my first full marathon.
Find Courtney online here:

Thank you for sharing with us today, Courtney!  It was great to read your story!

Did you like reading Courtney'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 within 48 hours!)

Thanks my friends <3   See you Wednesday!

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