Since becoming a blended family, with my husband sharing 50/50 custody of my stepdaughter, we have always made an effort not to plan special family outings when my stepdaughter is visiting her Mom. The reasons for this are obvious: we want her to feel as much an important part of the family as anyone else, we don’t want her to miss out on seeing members of her extended family, and we want to avoid any feelings of jealously on her part in thinking that we might have more fun when she is not home.
Maintaining this idea that life comes to a stand still when my stepdaughter is not with us has not been easy. I have a very large extended family (mainly due in part to my parents' divorce and re-marriages to my stepparents) so keeping up with everyone can pose a bit of a challenge… especially around the holidays. I will admit that there have been times when I felt as though I was making more of a sacrifice than I should have been expected to make. After all, my stepdaughter doesn’t sit around twiddling her thumbs when she is visiting her Mom; movies are still seen, playdates are scheduled, and parties are celebrated with enthusiasm. Why, then, should our life be interrupted every other weekend?
The answer? It doesn't, but my stepdaughter doesn't need to know that. First and foremost, I realize that you cannot instill grown-up logic on a 9 year old. In a way, life does stop when she is not at home... it stops for her. So, why ruin the illusion?
The compromise. We try our best to make sure my stepdaughter is a part of as many family events as possible. And when we can’t, we don't discuss what plans we might have when she is not at home. On the flip-side, we also don’t try to make every weekend at home filled with special outings to compensate for what she might have missed out on when she was visiting her Mom. As unrealistic as it is for our lives to come to a complete halt when she isn’t home, it’s equally unrealistic to create the expectation that family weekends need to be packed with activities in order to be special.
Sometimes, being together at home as a family is special enough.