Maintaining separate households and thinking outside of the box ….

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I have one of the oddest, most unconventional lives of anyone I know, I think.  That is the reason for the name of my blog, The Husbandless Housewife.  I live in a house with my three boys and my stepdaughter.  My widowed fiance lives across town with two of his other children (He has an adult daughter who doesn’t live with him as well).  He goes to work and I stay at home (in my house) with his daughter mostly.  Most likely, this will not change for a long time.

How did we get here?  I was working for a large hospital system full time and coming home each day after ten hours a day to start over again at home with the boys and our nightly routines.  I was exhausted, I couldn’t keep up with my housework, we were eating out a whole lot and I couldn’t keep up with the boys activities either.  He was struggling to keep his house and children afloat as well with constantly rotating caregivers. About a year and a half ago, an opportunity to work from home (making more money) fell into my lap.  I hopped right on it.  I was able to work from home, didn’t have to commute for two hours a day anymore, and I could care for Star as well.  I was ecstatic.  It was actually one of the best and most exciting times in my life.  Just six months later, the company I was working for from home closed it’s doors.  I no longer had a job at all.  I really, really, really did not want to go back to the office.  I really enjoyed the clean, organized house, having time to cook every day, having time to know exactly what was going on with the boys and giving Star the full time care she deserves.  We definitely did throw ideas around about working part time and moving in together, which personally I think would have been relationship suicide for us at the time.  So we moved stuff around, I’m able to have Star with me here full time, he doesn’t have to pay caregivers anymore and I found a part time gig in the mornings when everyone is at school.  I help a woman (who I now consider a close friend) with quadriplegia.  Again, I was seriously thinking outside of the box on this one too as I have never done caregiving and knew nothing about quadriplegia.  I’ve actually come to love it though.  It has been extremely humbling and enlightening for me.  It also ensures that I get my butt up and ready every morning, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Here we are again, as we have just found out that the company that he works for is now going under.  He has been there for ten years.  I have complete faith that he will land something right away, but he will probably be taking a hefty cut in pay and work a lot of twelve hour days starting out.  That means we don’t know if we will still be able to financially support two households and he will need more help again with his kids.  We have been having more proactive conversations lately about how to live with all of the kids under the same roof and boundaries which makes the idea of living together a little more attractive, but I’m still scared out of my mind to take that step.

 

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Dating a widower and birthdays….

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I was talking to Gabe earlier today and he mentioned that his mom’s birthday is coming up soon.  “You’re going this year”, he said.  “We’ll see, I really don’t want the drama and the awkwardness to taint your mom’s day”, I replied.  I like his mom, A LOT.  She’s a really nice person and I am so grateful for her love and support.  His mom is not the problem.  The problem is the backlash that will ensue from his daughter Nicole.  When she’s unhappy she can be very difficult, silent and or combative.  Sharing a meal with her at a table is torture for everyone when she’s like this.  Nobody knows what to say.  If something is said to her, you can count on a fight.  Who wants to do this for his mom’s birthday?  Not me.  So last year, I sent my birthday wishes along with him and did not go.  I know his mom feels bad, yet I know that she’s also grateful for the lack of drama.  So then he says, “Enough is enough, if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to go.”  I have a real problem with a granddaughter not attending a grandmother’s birthday but where does it end?  I don’t know the answer to that yet.

This got me thinking about all of the birthdays and events that I have either opted out of or have been extremely sorry that I did attend.  Actually, I didn’t even realize that this was a theme until I started writing about it, so it’s definitely something that we need to think about.

There was the year that his late wife would have turned forty (She had been gone for quite some time). We had already been together for about a year and a half when his in laws planned a huge bash and then asked if they could have the party at his house.  What could he say?   If he said no, he would have looked like a heartless jerk, even if he was dating someone else.  So they had the party, it looked like a blast on social media (kidding), and I stayed home a bit disgruntled about it but I got it.

The following year, he planned a huge party for his daughter Star’s fifteenth birthday.  Her mom had always said that she would make sure that she had this party for her because she shouldn’t have to miss out on it just because she has special needs.  I agreed.  He wasn’t planning on throwing the party any longer and I told him he should respect her mom’s wishes and follow through.  So he announced it and we started planning.  All of a sudden, people he had not heard from in months started popping up, wanting to take Star to buy a dress and make the cake.  All of a sudden, his mother in law announces that If I’m attending, she will not be attending her own granddaughter’s birthday party as it was what her daughter really wanted and should be there.  Again, I got it, I understood.  BUT….I was heartbroken.  I had done the planning, I was invested in this party and more importantly, invested in Star.  I parent her, I bathe her, I make sure she behaves, I taught her to sleep in her own bed again, I love her like my own child and I couldn’t wait to see her look so beautiful in her dress.  I have made a lifetime commitment to this child.  So yet again, I didn’t go.  I was very hurt and very angry but she should have her family with her on her birthday, especially her moms’ mom.

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Star on her big day

This past year, Star’s sixteenth birthday fell on a school day.  We let her take the day off and her to Downtown Disney, just the two of us, since parties are expensive, it was a weekday and everyone was in school and at work.  We took her to Build A Bear with a gift card she had been given the previous year and to lunch at Rainforest Cafe.  She loved it.  So he posts pictures on social media and immediately received a nastygram text from his sister in law saying she felt left out and why was he intentionally leaving her out of the kids’ lives.  Wait, what?  First, she forgot that it was her birthday until she saw the picture and second, taking the girl to lunch and Build A Bear was not a big deal.  I told him to think about his response before he responded because it’s not worth it to respond with hostility.  He did that, she was embarrassed and apologized.  I feel like part of it was a defense mechanism on her part due to feeling bad about forgetting in the first place.  Later on that evening, his mother in law called to wish her a happy birthday, she had forgotten as well.

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Star’s 16th birthday at Downtown Disney

This past year, his eight year old son Aiden had a birthday party at his house.  It was a smaller party so I did attend, though weary due to his other sister in law whom I had never met was visiting from out of state.  A half hour in and I regretted it.  His other sister in law along with his brother in law did come over to say hello politely as I sat with his mom and Star at a table.  The rest of the night consisted of the men all sitting together in a group and the women, with tight lipped smiles, looking over and gossiping like middle schoolers all evening.  I could tell that his poor mom was embarrassed for me and felt obligated to keep me company as I was not invited to sit with the gossip crew.  I don’t blame them for not inviting me, they wouldn’t have had anyone to talk about had I sat with them.

Anyone else who sees a theme here?  So my dilemma is, when is enough enough and how do we deal with it?  I still don’t know the answer.  There has got to be a happy medium where I’m not treated like a man stealing hussy and they are not being alienated due to bad behavior.  It’s extremely hard to explain this to people who feel they have the right to disregard others and their feelings due to their own grief and anger.

Living apart together and parenting apart together (Sort of)

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For us, the main reason for living apart and maintaining our own households is a difference in parenting styles and working on ourselves and our own households before combining them.  The alternative, of course, would be to just jump right into it and pray that everything works out for the best.

From the very beginning of our relationship, it has been clear that Gabe and I disagree on A LOT of issues regarding parenting and how a household should be run.  He is a lot more detailed than I am on some things.  He bases a lot of what he focuses on on what he believes others’ perceptions of him will be.  His focuses differ greatly from mine.  He will run around bleaching toilets and cleaning kids rooms before someone arrives (his house smells wonderful, by the way), yet he will not notice whether his kids have said hello to his guests or being unkind to the children guests.  I have known this man to change his bedspread in fear that people may notice that he always has the same one on his bed every time they visit.  I, on the other hand, will graze over my house quickly, pick it up so it’s neat (not necessarily bleached), threaten to ground the kids until their room is clean (enough) and give them a ten minute talk about how they are to greet everyone, be polite and include the children who are visiting.  He focuses more on being presentable and making sure everyone knows that dad has his stuff together, I focus more on guests feeling comfortable and having a good time.  If only it was easy enough to combine these qualities into one household.

We have two different experiences and two separate points of views.  I have been a single mom for about ten years.  I have had to force the boys to be independent when need be to a certain extent and to improvise.  Sometimes, there was no other choice and it has forced me to not count on perfection.  They need to make their own cereal, they need to get themselves dressed, they need to entertain themselves as well.  Over the years, I have not had the time luxury to do all of the little things for them that they can do themselves and I’m most definitely not their personal clown who has something to entertain them with every time they are bored.  They understand these things and they are still happy and well adjusted.  The best part is, when I do have the time to do something special or out of the ordinary for them, they appreciate it and they know that they are loved. Yet still, I have lots of room for improvement, I do try to focus more on smaller things and being a bit more detailed, it just makes life easier sometimes.  He, on the other hand is a widowed father.  His wife did all of the parenting when she was alive and he was the provider and the ‘hero’.  People don’t change overnight.   Understandably, to try to somehow compensate for the kids’ loss, he overcompensated with them by trying to become the perfect dad and caregiver.  To add to this, he is a people pleaser, he loves to make people happy and he loves being a hero to his kids.  The kids, again understandably, have become accustomed to being catered to and not being accountable for their own responsibilities and behavior.  He focused so much on the short term (cleaning the kids’ rooms for them, keeping them happy by not giving them consequences when they were rude or downright mean to him) that now, in the long term, he is slowly trying to undo these things and well, it’s hard.

Over the years, we have gone back and forth with each other about ways that we feel the other should change and also things that we would like to change about ourselves in order to become better partners and parents.  I am so grateful that we have been able to do this in separate homes rather than in a shared household where we would be making unnecessary and unfair comparisons out of frustration and anger.  We have been able to implement the changes with our own kids and households on our own, without the other parent having to be blamed or labeled the bad guy responsible for these changes in order to make life together not just bearable, but happy eventually.  It’s an ongoing process and I do believe that one day, we will get there.

 

Blended families living together apart (LAT) and maintaining separate households …..Part Two

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I had a free day today but had SO much to do and catch up with.  So instead of writing a whole lot, I did some reading and came across this article about a blended family living apart together (LAT).  This woman spoke as if she were me, literally, and we are now besties, though she doesn’t know it.   Here’s the link:

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/daily-mail/20161010/

ALL of it stuck out to me but this was the BIG one:  “Relationships that work can be fluid in this way.  We don’t have to all stick to societal norms.”   Amen Sista.

Dating and marrying a widower with children…my stepdaughter hates me and this is what I’m doing about it….

evilstepmother.jpgMy stepdaughter (soon to be) hates me because I am not her mom.  She hates me because I’m a constant reminder that her mom’s not there and not coming back.  She also hates change because it’s another reminder that things around her are still happening, even though her mom is gone.  Nicole is fourteen years old and her mom passed away when she was ten.  I don’t blame her.  I would hate me too.

Here is what I am doing about it:  nothing.  There is nothing that I can do about it.  I’m sure that in another life, we would have really liked each other, say, if I was a friend’s mom or something.  But I’m not, I’m her dad’s partner.  In the beginning, I tried to conversate with her, buy her cute things that girls like, I tried to win her over.  I believed naively that I could win her over, she would grow to like or even love me and all would be great in our world.  I didn’t know any better.  I was met with no response, screaming at me in public, staring at me through a window the whole time I was there and trying to throw me out of the house (oh yes, she has done that too), all while dad stood there looking like a deer in the headlights.  I refused to go back over until he was able to manage her behavior.  She doesn’t have to like me, she just can’t be disrespectful to me. So he took care of it.  She no longer does these things.  Actually, she doesn’t do anything at all.  She just stays in her room and doesn’t talk to me or anyone else really.  I feel sorry for her.

I think as women, a lot of us are people pleasers.  We automatically feel that if someone doesn’t like us, it’s personal and we can fix it by being our fantastic selves.  There’s that woman in the office who constantly rolls her eyes at you because you look a lot like the woman her husband left her for, or the rude cashier who doesn’t  like you after seeing you for a total of five seconds because your voice sounds just like her ex best friend who she now hates.  I would rather spend my time nourishing the relationships that I have with the people who have actually gotten to know me and appreciate me, life is far too short.  We have to accept that sometimes, the more you try, the more they despise you.  They have chosen not to like you.  And that’s okay.  I have spent a lot of time in the past reading blogs and comments from both widower’s wives and daughters of widowers.  The wives were so appalled that the daughters, (who are all grown up now) still hate them when they could not understand why, they eventually hated the daughters as well.  Yet, they would still give anything to reconcile with the daughters, if only the daughter would see the err of her ways and try to be grateful for all that the stepmother had tried to do for her.  From reading the daughters’ comments,  they still felt the very same way they had when they were children.  They didn’t WANT the stepmother to do anything for them, most of them commented that she had always tried too hard and they took this as the stepmother trying to replace their mother.  The daughters wanted the dad to be on his own and avoid moving on but if he couldn’t, they did not want to be bothered with the stepmother.  They already felt that the dad was betraying their mom, they were not going to (in their minds) betray her by actually liking the wife as well.

I have had some very well meaning, yet naive, friends make these comments to me:

“I have always wanted to be a stepmom!  She would LOVE me if I were her stepmom!”        Ummm….why?  It’s not very much fun.  Yeah…..no she wouldn’t.

“If I were you, I would make sure to go to her room and say hi and start a conversation every single time I went over.”                                                                                                              Yes, because I have never thought about doing that…..Too bad when you knock, she acts like she doesn’t hear the door.

“What you need to do, is go over there every single night, cook dinner, and act like you own that house.  She’ll HAVE to come around!”                                                                               That’s a great idea!  Because I don’t have my own house to take care of and I would just love to act like a squatter at my man’s house.  I’m sure she’ll just LOVE me after that! 

I do hope that things change, and that some day she ‘just comes around’, but I’m not holding my breath for it.  Sometimes, people never do come around and that’s okay.  I can accept that and I can also accept that I can’t fix something that I didn’t break.

Maintaining separate households in blended families or Living Apart Together

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I’m engaged to marry a widower who is also a single dad this coming October.  We have been in a relationship for over three years and have seven kids between the two of us (4 for him and 3 for me).  We have maintained our own households over the course of our relationship and we don’t intend to change that when we are officially married in October.  I’ve shared this concept with friends and family, my mother thinks I’m nuts and my friends think I’m a genius.  I started researching this concept a few years back and there are a lot of success stories out there.  Here is one of my favorites:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/23/blended-family_n_5871060.html

 

I thought I would share a few of the reasons why I think this is the best approach for us, although it’s unconventional:

 

  • We have completely different parenting styles.  I don’t plan on parenting his children and he doesn’t plan on parenting mine, however, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to live in a house with a set of divided rules.
  • Neither of us currently have a house large enough for everyone.  We would need a house with at least five bedrooms.  That’s not so common around here and when we looked around, it would actually only cost a few hundred dollars less than paying for our separate houses.
  • Our kids are in two separate school districts which they have all been in all of their lives.  Moving one or the other from their schools would be devastating to them and my guess is, create even more animosity.
  • Sleeping together every night at this point is just not worth all of the uproot and hostility the move would cause, we always have the weekends.

I’m not sure how long this will work for us, but as long as it does, great.  I strongly feel that for now at least, this will help to keep all of our relationships stronger and happier,  and isn’t that the point?