Your Questions Answered: Weddings

27 09 2009

Hi, I am getting married next April to a man that has a six-year-old daughter. We are all excited about the trip we are going to be taking, except I am feeling disappointed with some thoughts I have been having about a few things for the trip.

First, I’m not a bridezilla at all, in fact I am very laid back. But the few things I do care about are the things that I can not change. For one, my fiance and I obviously won’t be able to have our own room during the trip. I’m sure his daughter will be able to stay with Grandma and Grandpa for a couple nights but mostly she will be sleeping with us….in our bed. That is one other problem we have been having, co-sleeping, which is a different topic all together. Anyway, I don’t feel like this wedding is as romantic as I’d like it to be due to that, which I see as a problem. I want this one time to be about us because we are always sharing everything with his daughter, which is fine and fun but, just not the bed.

Second, I feel that the time will be a little more stressful for me since I have a much harder time relaxing when she is with us. Whenever I do anything, she must do the same. I see this as a huge compliment but at the same time a burden. I can’t get away with anything, not even putting make up on without her wanting the same. Most times I don’t have a problem with it but it’s when I do have to say no, she thinks I am being mean and pulls out the “not very nice” card tricks. I feel that there will be many times like this during the wedding since there will be a lot of things that are special and different for a wedding and she might not be able to have every thing I have done. She’s an only child and is used to getting everything and she’s learning how to play it up too! ūüėÄ

How do I make us all feel together without having to feel mean during this happy time?! But how do I still make this feel special for my fiance and me and enjoy the one and only time something is about us!?

Can you please send me some thoughts on how to not feel like I’m the child during this whole process and enjoy our wedding day/trip?! I want a healthy and happy relationship with my stepdaughter, which I have most of the time, but I also want a relationship with my soon-to-be husband too! Thank you so much!

Dear Reader,

What you’re describing here are feelings many, many women who are joining a stepfamily have around the wedding. When you don’t have kids of your own the emotions¬†that having to share your wedding day with a stepchild are even more challenging. So thank you for writing in! There are several things you can do to make this easier.

Create time together.
The first thing you need to do is sit down with your husband-to-be to discuss how you and he will create the time alone together that you need during this trip. Because it is your wedding day, it is important that you feel connected to him on that day. Ask your fiance to enlist the grandparents or another trusted family member to watch his daughter the entire day of your wedding and your wedding night. Yes, stepmothers do have to compromise when stepchildren are in the picture, but it is critical that you at least have the day of and your wedding night.

Start setting boundaries now.
The co-sleeping issue is a common one. Setting a boundary around your bedroom is not unreasonable when there is a new stepparent but it is challenging for biological parents and kids, especially if your partner and his daughter were on their own for awhile. Start transitioning your stepdaughter out of your bed now by having your husband take her back to her own bed and reading her a story there or snuggling with her for a few minutes before he returns to his own bed. That way you will reduce the chance of a meltdown on your wedding night.

Imagine her feelings.
No matter how well you get along, your stepdaughter is likely going to have some tough feelings on your wedding day. At the same time that your dreams are beginning, hers are coming to an end. Research tells us that most children harbor fantasies that Mom and Dad will get back together. But on your wedding day, that all comes to a crashing end. Don’t be surprised if she acts out on that day. Even if Mom has passed on and getting back together is not an option, your stepdaughter might feel she is losing her father to you and that you will be replacing her in his affection.

Do your homework now.
The transition into new stepfamily life has wonderful moments and challenging ones. If you know what is normal when stepfamilies get together then you won’t beat yourself up as much or think that a child is being outrageous when really it’s just part of the¬† development cycle of stepfamilies. Make sure you read up on what happens in the first few years of new stepfamily life. A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmomtalks specifically about this transition and¬†gives information that is specific to single gals turned stepmoms. Books such as The Enlightened Stepmother and Stepmotherhood also do a great job of describing what life as a stepmother is like.

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4 responses

27 09 2009
Carolyn

Wonderfully insightful and in depth advice, Jacque. As usual!

28 09 2009
kg

Thank you so much for this, Jacque. My boyfriend and I want to get married in the next year, and while we aren’t officially engaged yet, just the thought of getting engaged is starting to stress me out because it means I have to try to plan a wedding. I want something small and intimate, maybe a weekend out of town with a dozen of our closest friends, and figuring out what to do with his kids is really stressful, especially since he probably won’t have any family members there. His kids are great, but I’m getting sad and frustrated that this day that should be about us is going to be dictated, to some degree, by them. What happens if the younger child wets his bed in the middle of the night or has a nightmare and comes creeping into our room like he sometimes does at home? These aren’t things I should have to be worrying about when I think about my wedding! It sends me into a spiral of anger (“I don’t deserve this!”) and guilt (“I should be more understanding and accepting toward the kids!”). It’s making me feel really anxious about an impending proposal when all I want to be feeling is excitement and happiness. (sigh) Anyway, to the reader who posted this question, I don’t have the answers figured out for myself, but it makes me so relieved to know that others are in a similar position.

28 09 2009
Jenny

My situation was VERY similar to the reader’s. My now-husband’s daughter was 5 1/2 years old when we met, 6 1/2 when we got married. He was a full-time single-dad, with BM pretty much non-existant. They were sharing a one-bedroom suite when we met so it was very common for my SD to crash in his bed (the pull-out couch in the living room). The first night I stayed over, she did and I lay awake for the rest of the night asking myself what I had gotten myself into …

We moved in together a few months after we got engaged, just before the wedding. One of the first things that I put my foot down on was that our bed was OUR bed. DH would tuck SD into her own bed and if she wanted company, he’d lay with her until she fell asleep. It seemed to work well as at the end of the day it was the snuggle/daddy-daughter time she wanted, which she still got. The other thing I put my foot down on was that she never knocked before coming into our room. In the beginning, he didn’t quite get why this would be a problem until she walked in one morning while we were spooning … thankfully, she didn’t see anything, but he realized what she could have seen and he okay’d us putting up a sign on the door that said “please knock before entering”. Sometimes, she still walked in without knocking and we’d make her go back out, and knock and then we’d let her in. It seems a little drastic, but with a bit of laughter and teasing, the message still came throught loud and clear.

It helped ALOT that DH was on the same page with the rules. I remember reading that in your book and it really helped. These changes weren’t just coming from me, they were from her dad too. In the beginning, we made sure that DH was the rule maker and I took on the role of the rule enforcer. # years later, we still do that to some degree (if I make a rule, I tell her I’ll pass it by him too), and it’s working great.

As for our wedding day/night, we stayed in town to have our wedding but we rented a hotel room for two nights and camped out there without SD. Those three days were about us, and with the exception of a few moments during the photos and the reception, they were only about us. DH’s parents took SD for the 3 days which was great. She was a flower girl on our wedding day. We also had a small ceremony during the reception where the priest called us 3 up and I gave SD a ring promising to be the best mom to her that I could be. SD loved that … we told her about that part of the ceremony early on and she referred to the day as “our” wedding. For the most part, I let her call it “our” wedding but once or twice I reminded her that she’d have her wedding day too when she was older. Those times were also when we’d be talking about why she couldn’t tag along to my stagette or why she couldn’t open all the gifts at my bridal shower instead of one or two … she’d have her special day too but this one was her dad’s and mine.

The reader’s daughter is 6 years old. She’s old enough to grasp that concept of whose special day it is … friends have birthdays and they get to be the star of the show. Weddings work the same way. Dad and step-mom-to-be get to be the star of the show. But at the same time, she is a kid and kids like to feel special hence the ring ceremony for her. She was also madly in love with teddy bears, so I made her a flower girl goody bag (along with the other flower girl and ring bearer too). It had a teddy bear dressed up as a bride, a flower girl book, some crayons, some Disney Princess toys/stickers, etc. The kids loved it. Although it’s your day, don’t completely forget about SD. (DH liked that I thought to get her a gift like that).

Now Jacque, here’s my question to you – what are your thoughts on this?

BM, as mentioned above, has been pretty non-existant. She makes bi-weekly phone calls and quarterly visits; pays $0 but buys the occasional outfit or toy on those visits. She visits for birthdays (hers and SD’s), Easter – if possible, Halloween but not Christmas (SD’s b-day is 2 weeks later).

DH and I have a child of our own. She is 2 years old and this Halloween will be her first where she understands whats going on and will be able to walk up to the doors and say “Trick or Treat”. My husband will also be off that night so we will all be able to go out together (a rarity). I am INSANELY excited about all of this and have been searching for the perfect Halloween costumes for a couple weeks now.

BM called tonight and she told SD that she wants to come down on Halloween. In the past, she’s come down and we’ve all gone out trick or treating together. I am not cool with it this year. I was really looking forward to the time as a family.

I talked to DH about it earlier this evening, mentioning the above and suggested that BM come down the day before and take SD to a Halloween dance or something. DH understood my feelings but wanted time to think about it because he didn’t want SD, in the future, to say that we stopped her from being with BM on special days like Halloween. It broke my heart. I see his point but I really don’t want her there this year. She’s been there the last four years and I really want this to be our night. (She was even there on my daughter’s first Halloween!! How weird is that!)

What do you do for holidays? Do you suck it up and deal with your husband’s ex being around during your special family moments? Or do you put your foot down and say no and look like an a$$ later on? Because right now, I feel like an a$$ for saying no …

30 09 2009
tmpcl2003

Can anyone address the portion of this question about the stepdaughter being obsessed with the new stepmom? This is just how it is at our house! My stepdaughter just turned 6 and she must say my name 200 times a day when she’s with us, as she is constantly after my attention. I can never do something without her being right there wanting to be involved. I am very grateful that she loves me, but I am trying to make some boundaries so I can have a few moments peace. I give her a lot of attention and play with her, but sometimes it’s just so much that she wants from me! It’s to the point now where she’ll say my name and then when she has my attention, say “ummm, I forgot.” and she’ll do this a lot. She lives most of the time with biomom, and is with us every other full weekend and every Friday night. She and her dad were on their own since her birth, so maybe she’s just excited to have another girl in the house, but she is obsessed with having my attention and being right next to me at all times. She will talk to me and stay with next to me more than her dad. Why?!?

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