Hello my friends!
I'm so excited to bring you the next installment of The Stepmom Club Series!
We are back today with Kate, a stepmom and blogger who writes about her experience over on her blog (all contact links at the bottom of the post, as usual) and you guys, this woman's twitter is killer! I'm excited for you to hear her story here and definitely check out her site while you're at it!
(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 Kate's story...
-What is your name and general location? (South, New England, etc)My name is Kate Chapman, and I live on the east coast of the U.S.
-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 six children, three step and three biological. Three girls and three boys. Yes, I know what you’re humming in your head...Simon is 15, Sara is 14, Caden is 12, Amy is 11, and Lottie and Jack are 8.
-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
I became a stepparent to three school-age children nearly the exact same ages as my three children from my prior marriage. We are married, and live together in a house that fits this wild and wooly bunch. We share custody with the other parents in our tribe, and each of the sets of children is on a week on/week off schedule. We typically have one set of children one week, an overlapping weekend (Fri-Mon) with all the children, and the second set of children the next week. Make sense? We have no children two Sat-Sun a month, and we use those times to grocery shop, fold Mt. Washmore and reintroduce ourselves to eachother.
-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 stepchildren call me Kate, or sometimes Miss Kate, a relic left over from long ago and good southern manners. The formality of the Miss used to bother me, but it only shows up when one of them is feeling particularly divided between their mom and me. Now I look at it as an indicator that something is happening in their head and heart, and address that instead of worry about what they call me.
-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’ve actually known my stepchildren since they were born. I’ve known my husband Gabe for nearly 20 years. We were each married to other people first, and socialized in the same circle in our small town. You can read more about our unlikely dating story here: How I Accidentally Found Love Again. Because the children knew each other as friends, once Gabe and I started dating we waited a long time to tell them. Once we told them, we openly acknowledged that the transition was strange for all of us- I wrote my stepdaughters a letter and he talked to my sons about our relationship. Transitioning from a friend of my stepchildren’s parents to their stepmother was a delicate dance. I am not sure all stepcouples should tell the children how they came to be, but for us, it was an important part of helping the children transition.
-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?
In our house, the parent disciplines and the stepparent supports. We have house rules, and so if a child needs correction when the parent isn’t around, the stepparent will correct gently. Discipline or consequence is handled when the parent returns.
Respect hasn’t really been an issue for us (yet?). With two stepparents in the home, we think carefully about boundaries in how we interact with the children. Not how we love the children, but how we interact with them. I talk a ton about that on my blog!
-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?
No, my husband manages communication with his ex.
-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?
That’s a tough one! We do most of our fun family things together as a group of 8, so that everyone is included. Because our six are in 4 different schools, we sometimes travel in smaller groups simply due to school scheduling logistics. But big milestone or holiday celebrations wait until we are all together.
-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
I think the hardest time for Gabe and I (we’re both stepparents, after all!) was the night we realized that no one wanted to be in this blended family. The truth for us, as two divorced parents, is that our marriage is a second choice. It is richer and deeper and far more loving for the two of us as adults. But for the children, our marriage is what came after their family of origin dissolved. The children carry some level of grief and loss, and each struggles with loyalty binds. Realizing that Gabe and I chose to be here, but the children did not was a tough thing. I wrote about it here, and it resonated for many blended families, both positively and negatively. I don’t judge that realization anymore, it simply is what it is. We have moved forward, making the best of our situation for everyone involved.
-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
Oh, lordy. So many of them. The kids wanted to trick or treat as the Brady Bunch WITH Gabe and me. We’re often mistaken for a first family (we’re all tall and have similar coloring) and get lots of funny questions and looks. Once we saw an elderly couple counting us in an airport, and Sara looked right at her and said, “yes, there are six of us.” They both laughed! The funny thing is, I count us when we travel too! One time a woman next to me asked me sheepishly if I minded her ordering a cocktail. I couldn’t think why she would ask my permission, so I said “sure, why not?”. She replied that we had so many children she thought we might be devoutly religious and anti-alcohol.
-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
I wish. That’s why I started the blog. I was so lonely! I read a couple of books, and found Stepcoupling to be the best of the lot. Even so, it was fairly depressing. There is so little day to day positive information out there for stepparents overall, and for divorced moms who are also stepmoms in particular. I found Glennon Doyle Melton and Jen Hatmaker inspiring figures, and enjoyed their writing, although it is not specifically stepfamily focused. I’ve since found a community of stepmoms out on the interwebs, many of whom you’ve featured here.
-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.
Eyes wide open, Girlfriend. This will be hard and good and confusing and soul-filling all at the same time. It will sometimes feel like you’re drinking from a firehose. It will sometimes feel like way too much work. All of that is okay. Stay in the saddle. Keep showing up. It gets better.
-What do you say when people ask if you have kids? (if you’re a stepmom with no biological children)
I say I have six children. I’ll elaborate that we’re blended if asked, but don’t offer it first.
-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”)
Nothing. I let the child lead in that situation. Sometimes they correct, sometimes they don’t.
-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
At the end of long, tough stepfamily-ing days, I sometimes think back to the 10 year dating scenario I outlined during Gabe’s first proposal, but that’s not often. I am fully committed to this happy, crazy adventure and all the people in our tribe.
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.
- My father worked for the US government, and I moved 18 times before turning 18. Change was the name of the game!
- I spent nearly a decade volunteering as a foster mother. That gave me practice at mothering with a prefix.
- I built a career as an executive coach helping senior leaders at Fortune 100 companies navigate change. Change, whether it is in the workplace and focused on processes and policy, or at home focused on family and relationships is tricky!
Want to check out more of Kate's content or contact her to chat further? Find her, here:
Thank you for sharing with us today, Kate! I really appreciate it :)
Did you like reading Kate's story? 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!
Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast. I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on. Be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!