Adrienne MayApr 19, 2012I am a step mom and military wife as well, it is an interesting mix. We are thinking about writing a story about military step-families... what has been your biggest challenge with being a step-mom and military family?
Adrienne May asked me the above question on Google+ and it got me thinking. The challenges I face within the military lifestyle are minimal to what my stepchildren endure I have the support of my fellow Army Wives, stepmothers, and many Military programs. I think I'll answer the question "What has been the biggest challenges for children of divorced parents, when one parent deploys?" or "What are some challenges kids face that do not live full time with their military parent?"
Remember as you are reading, this is from my personal experience with my family. I know not all situations are the same. I understand it may be 'different' for you. My husband's ex-wife is not a crappy parent and my husband is not a deadbeat dad. They are two people that fell out of love and made mistakes along the way. Everyone is doing their best to try and do what's best for the kids. There is no book for this. There is no guide. Self-righteousness gets you no where!
Here are the issues that I saw my stepchildren face above and beyond what other military kids experience.
1. Loss of Family During Deployment
It's a challenge for a child of divorce when, during a deployment, they lose more than their biological parent. They lose grandma, grandpa, stepmother, half siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, pets, and friends for that year too. Visitation is only guaranteed to the biological parent in most states.
2. Inability to Participate in Many Military Sponsored Activities
Children that do not reside with the military parent, do not get the same support that children that reside in Active Duty communities do. I'm wondering if this is similar for Army Reserves or National Guard. If you are one of these wives, feel free to chime in on the challenges your children face.
They don't have "Operation Purple" nearby, nor do they have outings and events all celebrating the military child in their community back with mom. They sometimes get lucky and visit us when something is going on. Fourth of July is always fun! When there isn't something available, we do are best to incorporate them. Last visit, Phil JMPI'd the kids. Then, I took them to Holland Drop Zone so they could watch 'daddy' jump from a plane at night.
3. Lesser Level of Social Support
When my step children go to school, they don't have other kids that have their dad deployed. I will say that the school they were attending at the time was very supportive and understanding. My husband was able to call from Afghanistan to talk to the teachers for Parent-Teacher conferences. Although administratively they were flexible and the teachers were understanding, I still think my stepchildren missed out on military community support and having other children that understood what they were going through. Schools near Army Posts are geared and trained for this. They have curriculum that focuses on how to handle change and express your feelings. Teachers are very well aware of what's going on, and a child is not alone and the only one missing a parent.
These are some of the additional stressors I see added to my stepchildren. Now what are some solutions.
The first one is the nature of the custody beast and deployment. My advice is to stay in your own lane. Control what you can control. You are only responsible for your actions. Don't sit and fester about it. In my situation their mom had to get comfortable with me. Ranting, raving and begin self-righteous does the opposite. She is their mom. The end. Stepmothers in my situation need to get over it already. Yes I said get over it! It's her decision, her kids, her consequences. I know you love them, but you are spinning your wheels if you have no legal ground to stand on. When you spin wheels you sling mud. No good will come from it. Side note: I think if my husband ever deployed again, the children would be allowed to visit. We are in a different place now.
As for military sponsored activities? How bout making July the month of the Military Step Child? Most kids visit their parents in the first or back half of summer. July sits right in the middle. April is not a good visitation month for many parents. You aren't always guaranteed the spring break. Most everyone gets a month in summer ;)
As for social support, focus on what can be done when the children are with you. Can't leave everything to Mom. I'm sure if there were military activities available to her and the kids she would take advantage of them. There isn't and that is not her fault. I have met many stepmothers that have kids in similar situations as mine. When my stepchildren are with us, they definitely find kids just like them. Best time is in the summer, cause most children get at least a month with their parents then. It's nice to see them bond with kids who understand what they are going through. If you are stepmother like me, I encourage you to reach out. You'd be surprised how many of us there are! You are not alone!
One thing I want to make absolutely clear. Our children are loved. They have the love and support from their mom, dad, stepfather and myself. I don't believe anyone's actions were ever intended to harm our kids. Live, learn, and move on!