Relationships

Episode #25: The Joys and Challenges of Being a Step Parent

Listen to this episode 46 minutes

On today’s episode, we are discussing what it means to be a step-parent. If you are a step-parent, a soon to be step-parent, or the spouse of a step-parent, this episode is for you.

On this week’s podcast, Russ and Mika are talking about a subject that has been a formative part of their own parenting experience.

Mika became a step parent to Russ’ oldest daughter before they had their own children together. In many ways, the experience of becoming a step parent to Maddix taught Mika so much about children and informed many of her decisions as a traditional parent as well.

We believe that step-parenting is a topic that is underrepresented in our culture and that many new stepparents struggle with what it means to become a parent to someone else’s children.

Spouses and significant others of step parents can also struggle with this transition as well. Today’s podcast is all about bringing that experience to light.

 

In this episode, you will learn:

• What happened when Russ first told Mika that he was a dad.
• The kinds of unique emotions that you feel when you are a step parent.
• A turning point for Mika in her role as a step parent.
• Tips for spouses and partners who are managing a step parenting relationship.

 

Mentioned in this episode:

RussPerry.co
MikaPerry.com
Sobr.com
DesignPickle.com
Russ Perry on Instagram
Mika Perry on Instagram
The Sober Entrepreneur by Russ Perry
TheSoberEntrepreneur.com
The Russ Perry Show
The Power of Promise by Ken Mosessian
Simple Mills
Cider Lane Candles from Bath and Body Works
The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo PhD
ProLon
The Greatest Showman – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Hugh Jackman
4 Things I’ve Learned Being “Stepmom” – MikaPerry.com
Dena Patton
Girls Rule Foundation
The Tim Ferriss Show
BabyCenter.com

 

Do you have questions, comments or suggestions for this show? Send us an email at Hello@GoodtoBeHomePodcast.com!

 

Transcript:

Russ Perry: Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Good To Be Home. I am your co-host, Russell Keen Perry.

Mika Perry: And I am Mika Jennifer Perry. That’s our middle names-

Russ Perry: And we’re here to … Uh-oh. And we’re here to deliver our 25th episode, right?

Mika Perry: Yes.

Russ Perry: This is our quarter century edition of the Good To Be Home podcast and according to our editor, this is where things really take it up a notch.

Mika Perry: Yeah, we heard at the very beginning of this whole process of starting a podcast that episode 25 is a little bit kind of like a milestone where you kind of get into your groove. Gosh, I feel like that just really put the pressure on for this episode.

Russ Perry: And we apologize for 24 sucky episodes before this because it’s really about to get good everybody, hang on. Hang tight.

Mika Perry: Here we go.

Russ Perry: All right, well today we are talking about an interesting topic and it is step-parenting. Mika, you’re a step-mom.

Mika Perry: Yep.

Russ Perry: I’m not-

Mika Perry: Uh-uh (negative).

Russ Perry: A mom or a step-mom and why’d you want to this topic?

Mika Perry: Well, I think it has been a critical part of our parenting experience. I was a step-parent before I was parent, so I think that has brought a lot of unique experiences for us. Also, whenever I’ve talked about it, there’s not a lot of step-parents out there that I’ve connected with but the people that I have, and either got messages from or have emailed with, say that, “I want to hear more, I want to learn more. Or I’m about to marry someone and become a step parent, what do I do? What are some tips or advice that you have?” So reflecting upon that, I wanted to bring this subject to light so that it can be helpful for those that are either a step-parent, or you’re like Russ, and your spouse is the step-parent.

Russ Perry: You’re married to one.

Mika Perry: You’re married to a step-parent.

Russ Perry: How the heck to deal with one.

Mika Perry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Russ Perry: But as always, before we get into the topic let’s jump into our regular every episode segment. What we’re reading, listening, eating and loving … and just a reminder, you could always go to our website, goodtobehomepodcast.com to get the fully updated list of everything we’ve mentioned including these next eight incredible items.

Mika Perry: All right, so I will start. First, for reading, I am reading a book called The Power of Promise. This book is by Ken Mosesian, who’s actually a friend of ours.

Russ Perry: Yes.

Mika Perry: The tag line here is how to win and keep customers by telling the truth about your brand? And this is a super easy read, however I haven’t finished it but by the time this podcast episode goes live, I will have finished it. I started it on a plane ride and, I feel like plane ride sounds very archaic. A flight.

Russ Perry: On my transcontinental journey.

Mika Perry: So on my flight, I started this book and it’s really just simply written. Ken is a beautiful writer, so props to you Ken. I wanted to share this because it brings a topic about branding and the brand that’s super simple but it’s not … A brand isn’t a visual, it’s a feeling. A brand is the promise that you give to your clients or customers, or anyone that comes into contact with you. We’ve mentioned branding many times. We’ve talked about personal brands. I think people get caught up on the fact that it’s how you present yourself to others but actually, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person and how you’re making that feel and what value you’re giving them.

Russ Perry: Right. And I want to give a shout out, extra special shout out to Mr. Ken because he was actually a client of mine in one of my challenge groups that I run. I do these periodically, they are 90-day challenge groups. This was one of his outcomes, was to get this book finished. He’d actually had it 80% finished for a long time and he crushed it. I did finish the book on the flight out, and it was awesome. Like Mika said, it was a fantastic read, highly recommend it. You can go over to Amazon and get it and I do believe he even has an audio version already done.

Mika Perry: Oh cool, good for him. That’s what I am currently reading and hopefully will finish soon. Listening, I’m listening to my functional integrative doctor telling me to put protein in my coffee. So long story short, I have been ruining my digestive system and intestinal track by having coffee first thing in the morning. Even though I did drink lemon water first, but having no protein in my body for me was not beneficial.

Mika Perry: So rather than having protein and then coffee, a really realistic strategy that we’ve come up with it is just putting the protein powder into my coffee or even collagen. This morning I put collagen in my coffee, so that’s a little step that I’m doing and listening to what he says. I actually am going to be trying to get him maybe on an interview from the blog for some information so that you guys can hear it directly from the doctor on what we’re doing health wise. Stay tuned for more on that.

Mika Perry: Eating, I really like Simple Mills brand. It’s a gluten-free brand and Reese really likes the crackers that they have, and I really like the baking mixes that they have. I was really hesitant to use a baking box mix but with gluten-free baking there’s a ton, and vegan baking too, there’s a ton of different ingredients that I don’t bake enough to have all these types of flours on hand and it’s really precise. You have to get like coconut flour and tapioca flour really on point, so this makes it simple, and they’re really good. I was worried that it was going to be dry or not flavorful and Simple Mills hit it out of the park.

Mika Perry: Okay loving, this one’s controversial. So-

Russ Perry: Uh-oh.

Mika Perry: Yeah.

Russ Perry: Is this going to be about the Supreme Court nominee?

Mika Perry: Oh gosh no.

Russ Perry: Is this going to be about emission? Carbon emission, taxation?

Mika Perry: No, but really important still.

Russ Perry: Okay. Continue.

Mika Perry: Okay. My favorite candle is from Bath and Body Works called Cider Lane, guys. The controversy around this is the ingredients. Bath and Body Works comes out with these candles, especially in the fall and the winter that me and along with other basic girls out there, love. Like “It’s candle time.”

Russ Perry: Like blueberry waffle butter.

Mika Perry: Yeah, exactly but it’s not essential oils based. The whole thing. There’s chemicals in it and there’s Wall Flowers you plug in. I’m just being real that, yes I do a lot of things to live a healthy life and have a healthy home, and I do what I can, but at the same time I love these scents, and Cider Lane especially is awesome. It’s actually it’s … I just went the other day and they’re completely sold out so I’m really glad I totally hoarded on like six to eight of these the time before that I went. Anyways, if you see Cider Lane at Bath and Body Works, have a little moral dilemma within yourself of the ingredients, but it smells so good.

Russ Perry: What are the ingredients?

Mika Perry: I don’t even know. Nothing good I don’t think.

Russ Perry: Do they even say?

Mika Perry: No, they don’t even say.

Russ Perry: So we can put the [inaudible 00:07:26].

Mika Perry: Wait. You guys, it says soy wax blended scented candle. No added dyes, lead-free wicks. So maybe it’s not as bad as I thought it was.

Russ Perry: But there could still be baby seals in it.

Mika Perry: Oh my gosh, no.

Russ Perry: I mean it could be.

Mika Perry: Really? Maybe.

Russ Perry: It just tells you what it’s not.

Mika Perry: Okay. Well, all I know is that I need to figure this out. But anyways, one little tidbit of little info is that I like to do apple scents for pre-fall when it’s not quite like it’s September/October, and then I bring out the pumpkin scents later in the fall like October/November. Cider Lane is a perfect mix of both of them.

Russ Perry: Way to go.

Mika Perry: There you go.

Russ Perry: Hope you’re not killing all of us.

Mika Perry: Oh gosh. Me too, me too.

Russ Perry: Through banana cinnamon muffin candles.

Mika Perry: But it just makes me so happy.

Russ Perry: I could see a spoof line coming out one day where’s it’s like bad scents, but it’s spoofed like Saturday Night Live. You know, like they’re coming out with like musky dog.

Mika Perry: Eww.

Russ Perry: All right.

Mika Perry: Let’s hear yours.

Russ Perry: On to my list. What am I reading, listening, eating, and loving? I finished the book a bit ago, the Longevity Diet by Valter Longo, Ph.D., and this was an interesting book. I actually heard it from my friend, Tim Ferris, and he told it to me through his podcast. He was talking about this with another friend of his around how they did a ton of data science research, specifically at the University of Southern California Longevity Institute, and they learned that there is a specific diet that pretty much all cultures who are living a long time follow, and it’s a very vegan-friendly diet.

Russ Perry: There’s fish, sometimes it’s referred to as the Mediterranean Diet, but it’s practiced in certain parts of Japan, in the Mediterranean obviously, in Latin American areas. So they did a ton of research, and out of this research, they found that there is a part of this where there is fasting that has also been incorporated into these people’s lives. What happens when you fast is you actually, your body goes into like a repair mode and it starts to heal itself, you start to burn fat that’s unhealthy, the fats that’s usually around your midline or other areas, and so they created what they called a Fasting Mimicking Diet.

Russ Perry: This book talks a lot about, the diet talks a lot of about fasting, but then it also really promotes everyone doing what they call the Fasting Mimicking Diet, and what it is its just like a caloric restricted fast because they found that no one actually completes a real fast. It’s too miserable. So they found that you could actually have some calories throughout the day, and still get the benefits. So I loved it. It was a very interesting book and more to come on that in a minute.

Russ Perry: What am I listening to? The Greatest Showman soundtrack. I love it. I had not seen this movie. My family all had, actually you had not.

Mika Perry: Uh-uh (negative).

Russ Perry: You don’t watch movies.

Mika Perry: The girls had.

Russ Perry: Yeah, the girls had. We just got back from a trip to Idaho, and we watched this while we were there, and over the couple of days we were there it was a little rainy. Man, just blown away by the performance. Sadly I was like, “This movie must have won so many awards. How did I not hear about it?” And it didn’t because it got snubbed hardcore by critics. They were like, “It’s too vanilla. It’s too happy. This wasn’t really the life of PT Barnum,” who’s the founder of the modern day circus that actually closed down last year due to protests. But it was a good soundtrack, highly recommend it. We put it on in the car while we were driving to and from Canada.

Russ Perry: What am I eating? Nothing really, because I’m doing the Fasting Diet. So I’m actually on day three of this fasting diet. The doctor I mentioned, Valter Longo, actually has a side project called Prolon, P-R-O-L-O-N, in which you can buy a box of exactly what you’re supposed to eat every day and it is pretty rough. I’m pretty hungry and it’s hard for me to focus. I went for a walk this morning and I was really dizzy, but all in the name of health and wellness, right babe?

Mika Perry: Yeah, I can just imagine you walking.

Russ Perry: Day one and two, so you know listeners, was pure torture because it was really cold and rainy by Arizona standards, and Mika went on a cooking spree, and then we went grocery shopping. All meanwhile I’m eating five olives.

Mika Perry: It was really cruel. I’m sorry.

Russ Perry: Finally, what am I loving? I love Hugh Jackman, everybody. Hugh Jackman, in case you don’t know, the host of the 81st Academy Awards, he’s an actor, singer, musical instrumentalist, a dancer and producer from Australia. Guess what? He just turned 50.

Mika Perry: Happy birthday.

Russ Perry: Happy birthday to Hugh Jackman. Keep rocking, man. He’s really gotten back into the musical side of his career. He actually started off doing a Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast. That was one of his earlier performances.

Mika Perry: Cool.

Russ Perry: Yeah. Then cut into beast mode with Wolverine for quite some time, and now he’s back. All right. So, just … I love Hugh Jackman. He’s so handsome. All right. Let’s get into it. Actually, I want to start this whole section on step-parenting with a little story about asking you out on a date. So, when we first dated, when I already had my daughter. She was about a year old, maybe a little older than that. It was obviously kind of weird thing to date when you have a kid, especially I was never married, so it was just this sort of like you don’t necessarily bring it up first go.

Russ Perry: But I specifically remember going out with you and we talked about the story, we went to Zee [Tahoss 00:13:18] on Middle Avenue in Tempe, Arizona, and no joke, immediately fell in love with you. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this girl is so amazing,” but I had this big thing in my head like, “Oh my gosh. I need to tell her that I’m a dad. This has to happen sooner than later.” I think we hung out maybe for a few weeks. I don’t know exactly how long it was, but I knew in my heart that if I was to be with you, I couldn’t let this linger or go on.

Russ Perry: I didn’t necessarily … I’ve dated girls before and I wasn’t like, “Heya, hey what’s going on,” because there was also the … before Maddox was born time. Anyway, it was not to say that I knew I was going to marry you and you were going to become a step-parent, but like in a weird way it was always in my mind that if we were to work out, that this would also have to work out for you to be a parent. I do remember telling you … why don’t you tell that part of the story because you remember meeting Maddix for the first time.

Mika Perry: Yeah, so actually taking a few steps back though, when we first started dating, because it all happened pretty quickly. We went on our first date and then it was like game over. We were together since then. I remember I totally stalked you on Facebook … I’m really good at Facebook stalking, and I saw a picture of you and your sister, I don’t think you know this, with Maddox-

Russ Perry: I don’t.

Mika Perry: And I remember me and my friend Jenn were like, “Who is this kid?” And I already kind of thought maybe this was yours, and I remember being like, “What?” So I kind of thought that you may have had a kid-

Russ Perry: Oh.

Mika Perry: Before you told me.

Russ Perry: I never knew that.

Mika Perry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Russ Perry: Stalker.

Mika Perry: Anyway, I kind of had that in the back of my mind. This is literally probably like the third day we’re hanging out or something, I think. You were over at my house, and we were hanging out and you said, “Mika, I have something to tell you. I have a daughter. She has beautiful green eyes.” Is what you said. I was like, “That is so sweet.” That’s the first thing you say. You just told me about her, and not too in depth, but just that you had had this kid I think the year before. She was like 14 months, 13 months at that time … no 14 months because then I met her the following month. It’d been a while until I met her.

Mika Perry: So you told me and you had to … after that, there were some weekends or weeks that we couldn’t hang out because you had Maddox and you had your responsibilities. But then finally about a month later, I was at your house and the first thing I saw is that you guys were in the loft together. She was at the house, and she was walking towards you. What I picture in my head now is your back, with your arms outstretched … so this is the first time I saw you as a dad, and the first time I saw Maddox.

Mika Perry: Then I saw her face coming towards you and coming towards me with her arms outstretched, and this happy smile. The first thing I saw was her practicing walking with you, which I think is such a pivotal moment anyway, but then for me to be able to witness that was pretty cool.

Russ Perry: Right, and then you were all in from that point on.

Mika Perry: Totally. I think it was just my desire to be a parent, and be a mom. I was so excited to that someday, that if I could do this now, with Maddox, I was so excited about it. I didn’t step into like an actual step-parenting role until I was officially a step-parent when we got married when she was three years old. I did that purposefully because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and I wanted to do everything the right way. So I just tried to help you in any way that I could until then. Then once we got married, then it was like, “All right. Here we go. Step-mom time.”

Russ Perry: Now, fast forward. Maddox is 13. You’ve been a step-parent for 12-ish, or about 10-ish years.

Mika Perry: Yeah, 10 years, yeah. 10 years.

Russ Perry: A decade.

Mika Perry: Yeah.

Russ Perry: Longer than you’ve been a parent.

Mika Perry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Russ Perry: So it brings us to our point of conversation today. When we get into the topic of step-parenting I think as a dad who was a parent and now I have a wife and two daughters with you, I think there’s always this kind of like … I don’t know how you describe it, but this sort of like … there’s no difference. Step-parenting is parenting. You’re a parent. And that’s not true at all. There really is a difference because Maddox has a mom who she’s with half the time, and loves her and takes care of her. And she has a dad and then she has a step-mom. So there is this other additional person.

Russ Perry: I guess in some situations where a parent may not be around at all, that previous statement’s probably more true. But that’s not the case in our situation. Early on, I think this kind of caused some conflict between you and I, just jumping right into it. It’s like from marriage onward, I was always like, “You’re also the parent. Don’t think of yourself as not just the parent, because when she’s here, there’s two parents.” But that ended up becoming a point of contention.

Mika Perry: Yeah. I think in this episode we want to tell you, kind of there’re pros and cons to this experience. Struggles, and things that we’ve learned and [inaudible 00:18:43] about, and we’re so grateful for. I think the challenge is definitely that we didn’t have time just being husband and wife. We were parents from the get-go, from dating time. We always had a kid around.

Mika Perry: That was challenging. We never had time alone. I think the pro, I could say, is that there wasn’t a marriage, and I think that’s one thing that stepparents, many out there, they become a step-parent because of a divorce. We didn’t have that. I think that’s something that has been awesome, and I’m grateful for that, we didn’t have that challenge.

Russ Perry: To that point, I agree. Stacy and I, Maddox’s mom, have always had like a really professional, cordial relationship. We do get in arguments now and then about parenting stuff, just like any parent would, but there isn’t this resentment or this lingering baggage, or unresolved emotional conflict because we were married also, which most certainly has been a benefit.

Mika Perry: Absolutely. We haven’t had that baggage, but we’ve had just this whole frontier ahead of us as a parenting trio with no guidebook or map of what to do. What’s been challenging is figuring out where I fit in. I think what’s been challenging for me emotionally and personally is that you’re not a step-parent. Stacy’s not a step-parent. I am. And it comes with certain feelings and emotions that you guys don’t understand.

Russ Perry: Like what?

Mika Perry: There’s a few. I actually did a blog post on this earlier this year called Four Lessons I’ve Learned as Being Step-Mom. I’ll share some of that here with you. Some of the emotional things that I have kind of had to work through, one is that you had had a child with someone else. I remember in the beginning, I was almost resentful of the fact that the experience of having your first child, with you as my husband, was gone. That was taken away from me and my experience as a wife and a mother.

Mika Perry: My husband had already had a kid. He’d had the miracle experience of having a birth and welcoming a child into their life, and you had already done that. So I kind of felt almost like gypped in a way, like that experience was robbed from me, but I felt that now looking back, that was a pretty selfish feeling. But at the same time, that was a feeling I had.

Mika Perry: So when we had Reese, our first daughter together, I was a little resentful that … so you’re hearing this resentment. I had a lot of resentment. I was resentful that here now I had my first kid like you guys already did this with Maddox, now it’s my turn. I get to have my own biological child, but then I’m also taking care of Maddox every other week, I felt also robbed at that experience that I couldn’t just focus on one kid.

Mika Perry: I’m getting all like … so that was hard. I think I’m getting emotional about it because I just remember how hard that felt.

Russ Perry: Right.

Mika Perry: I’m not sad about that, or resentful now, but I remember having a newborn, and being at that time, and feeling like I had to wake up Reese as a newborn to go get Maddy from school, and at times, I was like, “Oh, why can’t her mom do this?” You know? Those are the feelings I had. I guess I’m feeling sad about those feelings that I had.

Mika Perry: But what was awesome is that because we had been parents of Maddox together for four years before that together because at that point, the numbers are getting mixed up, but we got married when she was three, I had Reese when she was seven. We had Reese when she was seven. So there was a time there where she was an only child, and you and I were raising her and it gave me tons of practice of being a mom.

Mika Perry: So while I had these selfish, resentful feelings, at the same time I was a much better-prepared mother for Reese because I didn’t grow up around a lot of kids. Maddy was how I learned how to change a diaper and watch a kid, and do all these things, how kids need to be fed, and bedtime schedules and all these things. Maddy was a really easy baby, and she’s an easy kid now. She’s always been super laid back.

Mika Perry: So when Reese and then Paige rolled around, they were a little bit more intense kids. They had some sleep issues and struggles and all that, behavioral things, but great kids overall anyway. Yeah, so Maddy at the same time, gave me a lot of experience that was definitely a pro, and I’m very grateful for that.

Russ Perry: I think also another thing to note is during this time, this was a time when Mika and my communication skills were, let’s just say, less than stellar. So we didn’t have the transparency that we do have now. We didn’t have the ability to truthfully just be honest and open about this kind of stuff. So that really compounded things because I didn’t know about much of this, and even talking with Mika, with you, about it right now, it still feels sort of new in a lot of ways, just at least the emotions of it.

Russ Perry: But, any tough situation or any like … the feelings of resentment shouldn’t be feelings also of guilt. I think in any parenting situation, especially a step-parenting situation, there are the past decisions that someone has made, and there is the current reality and the current result of those decisions, and making sure that you can find happiness and peace and love in the current reality means you have to get over the past first. Meaning, you have to talk about it. You have to confront it. You have to kind of hit head-on.

Russ Perry: We didn’t necessarily do a good job of that in hindsight, and I feel really when we started going to marriage counseling, that was when we got a lot better at understanding those sort of feelings. I know for me, that’s when I really started to see there are two roles here. There is a mom role and a step-mom role, and you actually do both a lot.

Russ Perry: Unfortunately, the step-mom books out there, or guides or blogs, there’s not a lot to rely on for content, and so you’re sort of figuring sit out as you go.

Mika Perry: Yeah, and one reason too, this brings up for me, is that the reason why we want to do this episode is because when I was having struggles as being a young step-parent, and a new mom, and challenges with her mom that we’re working through, there wasn’t social media, there weren’t podcasts. Facebook was up there, but really, I didn’t have a lot of resources.

Mika Perry: I went babycenter.com and they had these chat groups. I don’t even what they call it anymore, like web boards or something, message boards, that’s what it is. Yeah.

Russ Perry: There you go.

Mika Perry: Message boards, and just Googling step-parenting message boards. Kind of like when we had our marriage issues, and I was like, “What do I do?” There’s no book about this, or no one’s talking about it out loud, I didn’t know where to go. So what I found was all these moms, and I get what they’re feeling, but it was just a lot of complaints about the other parent, and the divorce, and the baggage. It was a lot of complaining and not a lot of practical information.

Russ Perry: It was a say and not applicable for you.

Mika Perry: And not applicable for me, because we didn’t have a divorce. So for those that are in that situation of there is that baggage of divorce, my heart goes out to you because that adds another level of stress that unfortunately, we don’t have experience with. So there’s not direct specific info on that, how to manage that. But I think being open and listening, and communicating with your partner is the greatest thing you can do. Be truthful about these feelings because you can see that I wasn’t open about those feelings back then. I held it all in, that resentment.

Mika Perry: Finally, I’ve been able to talk about openly, and work through it. But I think it’s great that there’s social media now because it’s a place that you are able to find people authentically openly talking about this struggle or this topic, of any topic really. We’re trying to add to that conversation and give you info on that.

Russ Perry: And as the parent engaging into a step-parenting relationship, I would also say don’t be concerned about hurting the other person’s feelings with what you feel because you wouldn’t have married them, or wanted to be with them if you didn’t truly love them, and you didn’t truly love the other children they bring into the situation. And to dance around or to be worried about, “Well what are they going to feel? What are they going to say because I feel this way?” Just simply kicks a can down the road and then those feelings grow and the resentment can grow, and it could then become additional problems beyond the specifics that caused them in the first place.

Mika Perry: Yeah. So there’re other lessons that I’ve learned as being a step-mom in this role as we’ve gone on through the years of her being in preschool, then elementary school, now she’s in middle school, next year she’s going to high school, which is crazy. One that came up many times is the word, “You’re not my real mom, and step-mom.” The lesson I learned from this experience is that you just need to let words be words.

Mika Perry: What I mean by this is that, for example, we’d go to parent/teacher conferences and Maddy would say, I remember she’d said, “This is my step-mom and this is my real mom,” introducing us to her teacher or referring to me as “step-mom” or “not my real mom,” and that hurt my feelings a lot of times. But then I realized, what else is she supposed to say? She’s a kid, and in her mind, “This is my step-mom and this is my real mom.” Because she’s not going to say, “This is my biological mother.” You know?

Mika Perry: So I had to let that go. Also, when I’d go to … I remember she had to go to the emergency room and I took her to the hospital. I don’t know where you were, but I think maybe you were out of town. So I took her, but then they wouldn’t let me do anything legally, because I wasn’t the mom. I was like, “You guys, here’s a kid that needs to be admitted. She needs medical care,” they were giving it to her, but signing off and doing these things I couldn’t do, and that was so frustrating, because I was like, “But I am a parent, you guys. I know I’m THE mom, but I’m still a mom.”

Mika Perry: I think it’s really hard because labels and words can really hurt people, and it certainly did for me. So that experience opened my eyes to that, opened my eyes to words I use to talk about others or even label someone, to categorize someone and their role. It makes me think twice now. So that was a great lesson for me.

Russ Perry: Do you think there was a defining point, a time where you can … kind of a before and after in your understanding of being a step-parent-

Mika Perry: Yes.

Russ Perry: Like a specific event, or something that happened that shifted?

Mika Perry: Yes. Yes.

Russ Perry: What was it?

Mika Perry: We’ve talked about this, but when I got business coaching, and [Deena 00:30:28] Patton-

Russ Perry: Shout out to Deena Patton.

Mika Perry: To Deena, because I had hired her for business coaching, and turns out I got life coaching. Specifically, parenting coaching. And even more specifically, step-parenting coaching. We realized that a lot of pain, or fear, or resentment that I had was based on my role as a step-parent. So we had to take lots of steps backwards and start there.

Mika Perry: She really helped me open my eyes to the great, great responsibility I had as her step-mom, and the fact that … and Deena is someone that works with girls and is very passionate about empowering young girls, and she has a whole nonprofit, Girls Rule Foundation, which we support, and realizing that as my step-daughter, here is a girl that is going between two homes, she needs to especially feel as much love as she can.

Mika Perry: Kind of like my third lesson I’m sharing here is to love endlessly. Just give, give, give love because she is going to find it somewhere else, and probably somewhere else not good, if we don’t provide it all here. And so if I, as a step-parent, was contributing to less than loving vibes, energy, words, actions, towards her, then that would have very negative consequences. That was my turning point. How many years ago, Russ? Three, four?

Mika Perry: I would say that it took that long to where she was eight, nine, 10-ish, that age, to really do some deep work within myself and my role as a step-parent. After that, I also started to, through that, realizing that, “Okay, I’m a step-mom,” especially when I hadn’t had Reese yet, I was just dying to be a parent. So I put my all into Maddox, then Reese came, then Paige came. We had lots of stuff going on in our lives.

Mika Perry: I also realized that I could shift a little bit of this huge weight I was putting on myself to be the best mom I could for her, and realizing she already had a mom. And while it’s very different homes and things are done differently, she has a mom. So, I could be more of a friend to her even. Especially as a teen right now, that might be what she needs.

Mika Perry: She needs someone that she can open up and just talk to, and not someone that’s always, “Gotta do your chores,” being on her about all these things that as parents you know, you know, you just want your kid to do everything that’s right and that can be kind of nagging. I realize she might need a role that’s just like a sounding board.

Russ Perry: I don’t think might, you need to use the might word. I mean, she does.

Mika Perry: She does, she does. Well, it was my thinking process of like she might need that so I should be more of a friend, and I don’t believe parents should be friends, but again, just because she does have a mom, does have a dad, so this bonus mom type of mentality might be beneficial. So far, I think it’s worked really well. It actually is something I have to really purposefully do.

Mika Perry: For example, we’ll be in the car, and I want to ask about her day, and, “Oh, well you should do this,” give advice, and be very parent-y about things, and I have to step out a little bit and just let her talk about silly friend stuff, and almost respond not as a peer, but someone like … maybe like a cool aunt, you know? Things that you wouldn’t tell your parents maybe, and just make it a little bit more comfortable and open for her to open up to me.

Russ Perry: Right.

Mika Perry: Does that make sense?

Russ Perry: Yeah, no totally.

Mika Perry: Yeah.

Russ Perry: I mean, it’s funny because I view myself a very cool dad, by the way, and yet I know that she … I won’t say she’s afraid of me, but there is a healthy fear of dad in my kids in making sure that frame is maintained. You’re a critical part of that because I know that you are able to have conversations that even though I would be totally open and have conversations with her … like, I’ve had the sex conversation with her. We’ve had other conversations about boys and whatever else. She just won’t want to open up to me by the very constructs of traditional parenting, “That’s my dad. I’m not going to talk to him, at least for now.”

Russ Perry: So I view another advantage in our situation is that it’s like I have like an intelligence officer, and can get in there and figure out what’s really going on.

Mika Perry: I think we balance each other out well because you are dad, and can be kind of scary and you are very firm. But at the same time, you’re super fun and the girls just adore you. So I think you’re doing it well.

Russ Perry: And sometimes you frustrate me because you don’t tell me what you guys talk about, and that’s been a challenge at times, but I don’t think it’s something that I want to push on.

Mika Perry: Yeah. It might be a girl thing, you know?

Russ Perry: Right.

Mika Perry: Another thing that I’ve learned through this is to let it go. I think you’ve done some work on this as well. Being a step-parenting, co-parenting with someone in another household, you just learn you need to let it go. You cannot control everything. It was frustrating when she’d go to our house, she’s one week here, one week there, one week here, one week there. It’s 50/50 custody. You’ve had pretty much from the beginning, although you did have to get it. I think you got it when she was about one.

Mika Perry: Side note, I really respected you. That was when we were starting a date. I remember we went out for a celebratory dinner when you were awarded joint custody, and I thought that was just another point in the box of, “Wow, look at this guy. He’s going the extra mile to be a dad.” He’s not a bum dad, just like, “Oh here’s child support. Be done with it.” You really put your all into it. That was a huge point of attraction for me, looking for someone to marry someday.

Mika Perry: But again, back to this control thing, we’ve learned that she is going to have a different life, she is going to have another family, and we cannot control it all. We can do 100% that we can do our end, but you can’t control everything.

Russ Perry: Right. And I would argue that your success as a parent, is your ability to have a kid or a child that is able to navigate other situations. I think one of the most beautiful things about our daughter is really … like a big episode on Maddox is that she is smart, she’s confident, she’s creative, she’s funny. Put her in a room and she’ll be talking to kids, talking to adults and that, I think, is a testament to all of the parenting she’s gotten.

Russ Perry: When we try to isolate and replicate what we have here, that’s not real life. If we were trying to control what she does outside of these walls, because there is a much bigger world outside the Perry home, and we have to just do our best to say, “Okay, when you’re not here, here’s kind of the guidelines. Here’s the morality. Here’s the frame that you need to be thinking about.” I could say that without a doubt she is on point in all those areas.

Mika Perry: Yeah and you said you know this is turning into an episode about Maddox. It is.

Russ Perry: Yeah.

Mika Perry: This episode is all about her. So maybe she’ll listen to this someday.

Russ Perry: Maybe. I love you, Maddix.

Mika Perry: We love you.

Russ Perry: Do your chores.

Mika Perry: But I think the letting go can be challenging, especially for step-parenting when they’re little. When you’re not sending them out into the world yet, and it’s hard because you do so much for the kids, but you really can’t control what goes to the other home. For example, if you’re listening and you co-parent with a family, your kid goes off to the other home, and there’s a parent and then another step-parent there.

Mika Perry: Stacy does not have another … there isn’t a step-dad there, so I’m the only step-parent, but I feel like that I can see how that will be challenging because it’s more opinion, more people.

Russ Perry: On that note, I want to give a couple of practical tips for managing step-parenting relationships. As the initiator of all of this, I have found myself kind of going in and out of whose responsible for what. Thanks to our very famous coach, Deena Patton, who again, this was Deena’s famous business move, is she would trick you into think you were signing up for business coaching, and then just give you life coaching.

Russ Perry: Ultimately, she helped me realized that all of this is my responsibility. Over the last few years, I have taken on the sole point of contact. There are exceptions to the rules, but I am, according to Deena’s schedules, I am coordinating and communication and all of that. This is not a three-way communication. This is a one-to-one, to me and Stacy, not to say that Mika and Stacy haven’t been able to chit chat, and they can at any time, there’re no issues there, but it’s just a more simple method to make sure that we’re all on the same page.

Russ Perry: Also, my personal advice to anyone in any step-parenting situation is over communicate as much as you can. I will email, text and call about the same thing because you cannot ever assume, and that’s when things always can go south. I have had a few times where I’ve had to go back to an email to kind of be like, “No, we did talk about this,” and had I only had a conversation or a text, which I’ll think it deleted, new phones and things like that, then I would have been in a, “Well, did I tell her about that? Did I not? I’m not sure.”

Russ Perry: So over communication is super key, and I think it just kind of makes sense in today’s world that you have a record to track it-

Mika Perry: I will say you have been an excellent documenter of everything.

Russ Perry: A very good communicator, and then kind of on a more lighter note, just really try to understand where the other person is coming from. I think that it’s easy to get frustrated at another parent if they aren’t doing things the way you want them to do, which me of all people, I want everyone to do everything my way. So I’ve had to very much realize that there’s other people, there are other styles, there’re other lives. As long as there’s the best intentions for Maddox, which I know there are, then that’s what’s matters the most.

Mika Perry: Yep, as long as she’s safe-

Russ Perry: Yeah.

Mika Perry: And happy.

Russ Perry: Safe, healthy and happy. That was all, the three things. If Stacy doesn’t use Google calendar, well it’s all right. If you’re listening to this, Stacy, maybe we should use Google calendar more. All right, so final thoughts, Mika on the step-parenting topic. What would you say to a new parent? You said this at the beginning, new marriage is happening, people going into step-parenting relationships, what would be your one new tip you would give them?

Mika Perry: Be open with your feelings to your significant other. If you’re resentful, if you’re frustrated, if you’re scared, if you’re happy, if you’re not sure. Be open. The mistake I made was holding it all in.

Russ Perry: Do you think that led to drinking and other destructive habits?

Mika Perry: I wouldn’t say destructive habits. It led to stress and anxiety.

Russ Perry: Yeah.

Mika Perry: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve said it before, but step-parenting has been harder than parenting because of these additional emotions, and feelings and coordination and logistics. It can get really, really confusing and a lot of work. So being open about that, and being as honest as you can openly, not holding it in. Now if your someone who has no problem telling how you feel, and you’re a very open person, then for that person I would suggest think twice about what you might say to your significant other, or maybe even the other parent, the mom or the dad, or your step-child.

Russ Perry: Find relevance.

Mika Perry: No, be mindful of what you say because coming back to the words, words can really hurt. So don’t be quick to anger and have a temper on it because I think it really does pull out emotions and be frustrating. So be mindful of that.

Russ Perry: Right. Well, I do think it means find relevance. I’m going to defend this comment-

Mika Perry: Okay.

Russ Perry: That you shot down because what you say, even though you feel a certain way, relevance meaning it doesn’t help the situation to just barf that out.

Mika Perry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Russ Perry: What you ultimately want: connection, trust, a loving family, everyone working together, that’s what you’ve got to keep in mind.

Mika Perry: Yeah.

Russ Perry: So check whatever is coming up, and if you’re the person that’s suppressing it, relevance says, “Hey, this is something that I want to prevent from snowballing into something bigger,” then if your someone who’s always barfing it, hey maybe I need to find some perspective and focus on what truly matters, and not just be an emotional shotgun.

Mika Perry: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for clarifying that.

Russ Perry: Right, I was almost like … you were like, no.

Mika Perry: Well, I didn’t know what you were going … where you were going.

Russ Perry: Well, I needed to make sure I shared my emotions openly and didn’t suppress them, resenting you throughout the rest of the day.

Mika Perry: But if you are going into a new step-parenting role, know that while challenging, it will bring you a ton of reward. While they’re your step-child, they’re also your child. So in many ways, it’s just like raising another kid, and it’s wonderful. It’s a beautiful experience. Like I said, it gave me so much experience in motherhood as a whole, and take it step by step and day by day. Find joy in it, and love that kid.

Russ Perry: And I’ll end with it gives me another reason to love you, because it’s a different level of parenting.

Mika Perry: Thank you.

Russ Perry: Well everyone, this ends this episode of Good to Be Home. Don’t forget, you can go to our website, goodtobehomepodcast.com. You can find all the past episodes as well as get our links of everything we’re reading, listening, eating, and loving.

Mika Perry: That’s like a master list, so put your email in and you can get that sent directly to you. Also, if you have any questions on this episode, our have suggestions for future episode topics, feel free to shoot us an email, and that email address is-

Russ Perry: Hello@goodtobehomepodcast.com.

Mika Perry: That’s a recent add to our website, and the show notes, so be sure to send any messages over there, and we’ll be sure to get back to you.

Russ Perry: All right. Talk to you guys next week.

Mika Perry: All right. Bye.

Russ Perry: Thanks for listening for this episode of Good to Be Home.

Mika Perry: And don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes and give us a rating.

Russ Perry: See you next time.