Last night, my husband got upset because part of the Christmas gifts that his sister had given my sons (his step-sons), an inch long plastic airplane that had been carefully chosen and is perhaps a collectible item was under the cabinets on our kitchen floor.

My husband felt that my 11 and 14 year olds were not giving proper respect to the gifts that his family (who the boys have perhaps seen three times in the past six years) had chosen for them.

Once again, as so often happens. He is right. And he is wrong.

The balance in a blended family can be so difficult. My ex-husband is involved via the telephone and has a lot of influence over his sons, but not involved on the day to day actual care of his sons. Basically, the last time he had his sons, other than this past week, was over the summer. He lives over an hour away, says his work is the culprit and, bottom line, sees it as my job to do the actual day-to-day raising of the boys. This is how it has been the past six years.

And what this means is that it is also my husband’s job. Yes, he knew that coming in – that I had two children already. Yes, he has made their well-being a priority. What he did not know is how very much he would have to give without the benefit of ‘influence’ and reward that so easily comes with a biological child.

My current husband and I have two daughters – two and five years old. As any young children, they take a lot of work and often prefer ‘mommy’. My husband jumps in all the time and takes care of his daughters, and he is an awesome, caring, patient, loving father.

But he also has to jump in all the time with my sons – rides and messes and friends who come over and break things and school meetings and perspectives on life – all this he must do with so very little reward as most times, they see him merely as ‘paid help’: a goofy, nerdy guy with some issues who they are slightly embarrassed of and is not their real father.

When the shit hits the fan, as it does quite often over here, they will show their true feelings of just how much they depend on him, how much they value his stability, persistence and constant hard work.

Those days break my heart. The days of perhaps I should go back to trying to do this on my own as it would be better in the long run than everyone suffering the effects of being pulled in between the ‘two families’ within a family. The days I desperately wish I had listened to my mother’s original advice of staying single until my children were grown up.

But most of the time, we stumble along. And most of the time, they’re just kids being kids:  tiring, taking advantage of all the time, money and effort they take, busy ‘growing up’.

To say that the situation has put a strain on my marriage is to put it lightly.

It has put an 18-wheeler on my marriage.

I am not sure where I am going on this post. Most of the time I know. But like my life in general, this one has no concise, happy ending other than to say that divorce really sucks for kids. If you are considering a divorce, think long and hard. If it is at all like mine, things will be better in some regards and worse in others.

First, work on yourself. If I had been a healthier person in general, I would have handled things in my life so differently.

Funny but it brings to mind the popularity of the movie ‘Wild’ right now which shows several things to me: 1) The importance of a support system and safety net. She had none. When her mom was gone, she was on her own. 2) When all else fails, going back to nature for support, sustenance and re-charging. 3) And this is the big one, sharing your pain and realizing the value of it bringing you where you need to go:  the courage to keep moving no matter what your individual path is.

That is the point, isn’t it? She says at the end of the movie that perhaps all of those experiences made her and brought her to where she is.

I so get that.

And don’t ever think that sharing my pain and my willingness to be open is a sign of vulnerability.

It is in fact, a sign of strength.