For me, SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mom) life was the DREAM!! I love kids, love organizing, love kid-tivities… So, SAH(Step)M life should be a breeze, right?! I have Pinterest board upon Pinterest board of activities and ideas to fill each and every summer day except, that simple extra “S” changes EVERYTHING!! My step-kids were not raised to appreciate Pinterest perfect activities (especially not as teenagers!!). In fact, a certain teenage boy made it very clear a few years back that he had no intention of spending his summer days with us! Ouch… believe it or not, there’s no board on Pinterest that addresses how to win over your teenage step-son for the summer custody change.
If you’re finding that your adjusted summertime custody schedule is more of a headache than a blessing, there’s hope for your summertime struggles.
SAH(S)M’s Summer Survival Guide
- Compliance starts at the beginning of the school year, not the beginning of the summer. This has been a point of contention between my husband and I. Our school year custody schedule is every other weekend (48 hours) – Our summer custody schedule is every other week (with ME being the primary caregiver). With only 48 hours throughout the school year, chores and responsibilities get pushed to the wayside and that makes for a difficult transition to summertime expectations. Dad getting everything done quickly and efficiently on the weekends so that we can have more “play” time with the kids may seem like a good idea until step-mom’s authority (and sanity) is challenged daily over the summer when chores are now expected and everything isn’t being done for them. Even during short visits, create a family culture of respect and responsibility!
- Your time is not your own! I had very (VERY) concrete ideas of what my life would be like and how my time would be spent as a SAHM. I value quality time and creative family activities. My step-kids’ mom values team sports… ALL THE TEAM SPORTS. We’ve had to cancel many of our summer plans to accommodate for commitments that were made without our consent. The kids LOVE playing sports… they aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they are a hefty commitment at times. Though it may go against your heart’s desire, you may need to plan some of your summertime activities during time without your kids.
- Invite, don’t force. Clearly communicate (especially with teenagers who are capable of staying home alone) that you are inviting them to join you but you are not forcing them. I got myself into a serious relational conundrum with my teenage step-son when I “forced” him to go to our local YMCA. His two younger siblings set their clocks by this daily activity… an activity I thought they all enjoyed. After a very unnecessary explosion, I realized that I hadn’t communicated this activity properly. When he was able to have an hour and a half of alone time each morning, our summer days greatly improved.
- Ok… sometimes force. At any time of the year, kids throw fits. The downside to blended family fits is that sometimes their way of expressing their current frustration is to try and avoid their time with you. This time is non-negotiable. But, take a step back and put yourself in your child’s shoes – How different are the two households they have to go between? Rebellion is par for the course and your consistency speaks volumes, especially in an extremely inconsistent situation. When tempers cool, they will see that you cared for them despite their attempts to push you away. When things hit the fan the next time around they may be singing a different tune.
- Figure out what is worth the fight. You may think I’m talking about the kids here… if so, you’re wrong!! This year we were presented with what I considered to be a ridiculous situation – the kids’ mom wanted to go on vacation with them during one of our weeks (also during football camp, which we were never allowed to do!). Everything within me wanted to say HECK NO WOMAN!! But my husband agreed to this. Why? Because the fight that would ensue would likely destroy our summer. Sometimes, when dealing with a co-parent that has a different perspective (that was the most honoring way I could describe it!) you just have to figure out what is worth the fight. There are plenty of major issues that need to be addressed… we can’t use up our battles on issues that will create unnecessary strife.
- Don’t give up on your dreams. Are your preconceived family dreams not matching up with your current family life? Keep pursuing those family dreams!! No matter what they may say, no kid wants to be left alone all summer with an Xbox. My step-kids reminisce far more about our family times and adventures than their solitary video game time.
*A note for biological parents- you set the standard for how your spouse is to be treated. Biological fathers especially!! Treat your spouse with respect, parent on the same page as much as possible, and present a unified front. If they are not expected to honor their step-parent’s authority in your presence, you are setting your spouse up for a major headache in your absence. Don’t leave your spouse alone for an 8 hour work day with kids that have not be trained to respect their authority and then wonder why you come home to a nuclear fallout. And all the step-parents said AMEN!
Summers are still a struggle for us – just when we get the school year routine down pat, the schedule changes and we have to readjust. Once we have summers running smoothly, the school year schedule picks back up again. I think the moral of the story here is to create a consistent family culture that is in place whether you have them for a random holiday (6 pm the day before the holiday to 3 pm the day of the holiday, only on even years… anyone else have to remember these crazy conditions?!?) or for weeks at a time. What can you add to this survival guide?
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