Family,  Mama & Step-Mama

Herding cats and pterodactyls.

So angelic, right? Yeah, keep reading.


First things first, I have eaten cheesy hash brown potatoes (leftover from Thanksgiving) for breakfast every morning since last Thursday.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to tell you that, but I thought I should cop to it somewhere.

I feel better.

Moving on…

The holidays are officially in full swing over here in the Farmer household and I couldn’t be happier. What is it about holiday music and movies and decorations that brings such a feeling of utopia to so many people?  It’s almost like earth pumps out uppers into the hemisphere getting most of us high for the entire month of December.

Inhale, people. INHALE.

The downers are getting pumped out in January.

I’m ahead of the game on shopping and decorations and prep, in general, which is shocking.  We already have our crazy Christmas card photo shoot in the bag (one of my all-time favorites, I think) and yesterday, we attempted – and semi-succeeded in getting – a real family photo.


Why is it so hard to get a simple family photo?!  I’m not going to lie – it was a total pain in the ass to get even one good photo of all of us. Not to mention, it was nearly impossible to get all – no, just – four of us together long enough to get a photo.  I’m just going to throw it out there that family photos are hard, in general, to get coordinated.  Family photos, when you have a blended family, seem nearly impossible.

When my step-daughter, Hannah, was younger, we all had a more structured and set schedule of time, so it was easier to plan things like family photos and holidays and trips, etc.  Now that she is older – with dance and school activities and a social life – every week is often up in the air. And when we do have time with her, she’s often tired (man, teenagers sleep… a lot).  And, so, in the midst of the chaos that is co-parenting, I have been frustrated and irritated lately.  Not at Hannah, or her parents, or anyone.  Just at the situation itself.

I’ve talked before about the roller coaster that is step-parenting (here), and a friend just wrote to me this weekend saying that she goes back to that post often to remind herself she’s not alone.  Her message actually made me go back and read it, and I am actually glad I did.  I was especially grateful to be reminded of this part:


You can be told a a thousand different times by a thousand different people what a wonderful step-mom you are. And you can still feel sad and angry and like a giant, fat failure.

Because, you are HUMAN.

You do not sign a waiver to FEELINGS when you become a step-parent.


The above was a good reminder that we are all human.  I often say, “We are all in this together as much as we are all in this apart,” because this is such a complicated role.  I really encourage you step-mamas to lean on each other.  I promise you that no one is going to understand these experiences better than another step-parent.  Those angry, selfish little thoughts running through your head that you never say out loud?  We all have them. And they are ok.  It’s how you choose to process them and react to them that matters.  And when you bounce your thoughts off other step-parents, you are more likely to process them clearly, feel validation and handle them in a way that is healthy for everyone.

I think the biggest thing I have learned about step-parenting is this:

The minute you think you have one area of this role mastered, the theme park opens a whole new wing of obstacle courses. 

Once you realize the above – and accept it – things do get better.  BUT they will never be easy or perfect. So, cut yourself some slack. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling.  And don’t ever stuff your feelings down below, because you are ashamed that they are not the right feelings.  Trust me, that will only build a volcano of resentment inside that will eventually erupt and hurt everyone.

As for that new wing in our theme park? We are currently entering the The Teenager Activity Phase Maze.  I highly recommend it if you enjoy sadism.


Aside from the complication of what felt like herding cats in order to schedule a family photo, can we talk about the chaos of trying to get a three year old ginger pterodactyl to smile?!

I totally had to look up the correct spelling of pterodactyl. I was not expecting that “p” to be there. 

Let me break down to you what ensued just to get that pained, posed smile where she looks like she’s enduring shock-therapy like a champ.  Because it was a living nightmare and I want you to suffer just reading it, so I feel less alone.

-Three year old is prepped all day that today is family photo day.
-Three year old seems cool with it all day.
-Three year old sits on a throne of lies.
-Three year old decides to be a dog for family photo.
-Request by parents is made to stop barking at the camera and panting.
-Giant sized meltdown ensues because three-year-old is forbidden to pose like a dog.
-Bribery is proposed by parents to end meltdown.
-Three year old refuses bribe.
-A threat to call Santa is made.
-Three year old calls bluff.
-A very heated phone conversation with Santa is overheard by three year old.
-Epic sized meltdown ensues (due to the above).
-A promise is made to call Santa back and secure three year old’s spot on Nice List IF three year old apologizes and participates in photo.
-Defeated apology is uttered by three year old.
-Three year old is suddenly giddy at reinstatement to Nice List.
-Several requests are made for three year old to “act normal” for just one photo.
-Parents give up and head to liquor cabinet.

I’m seriously exhausted from just writing that and reliving it in my memory.

I would like to raise my hand in solidarity to every parent out there trying to get a family photo. I would also like to raise my hand in solidarity to every photographer who has to try and get that one good shot of a family.  In this case, it was my poor husband – running back and forth to the tripod.  (He also had to endure me sitting next to him while he edited the photos. At one point, he actually asked me to bring him the bottle of scotch – the BOTTLE.)

So, there you have it.  I have officially broken every promise to myself I made before becoming a parent on things I would never do or say to my child.  Go ahead and judge away. We are all free to judge! In fact, I’m judging you for judging me.

So there.

I wish you all beautiful family photos capturing genuine beautiful smiles and love radiating from each tiny, happy face.

I also wish you a dancing unicorn who sneezes glitter and has four million dollars and unlimited gift cards to Starbucks in his saddle pocket.

May the odds be ever in your favor.




Photographic proof of our session:


  • Anna Hagel

    I’m having several drinks for you right now…haha. Hang in there mama! You are doing the best you can. I LOVE the pic of Ivy’s underpants and the meltdown on the carpet. I can only imagine the dialogue that accompanied it!! Also, even tho I don’t have littles, I love the line: Let yourself feel what you’re feeling. And don’t ever stuff your feelings down below, because you are ashamed that they are not the right feelings…It’s a good reminder to all of us that anyone is entitled to feel however they want to feel about any situation…especially when it comes to holidays and family 🙂 xoxo

    • Jen

      Thanks, my friend! (And drink up!!)

      And I agree – why do we all try to stifle feelings b/c they aren’t the “right” feelings. Address them, get them out and work on it. For everything!

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