That’s Not How My Mommy Does It…

As stepmoms, we’ve all been there. The dreaded words, ‘that’s not how my mommy does it’ tend to follow the age old ‘you’re not my mom!’ I got to thinking about this over the weekend after I pulled the same thing on my husband…yep I just said that…

It realized something about this, and of course this would happen LONG after Little Bear stopped comparing me to his BM. LOL I wish I would have thought of this back when I was stewing in my own self pity on the topic, but that’s life, you don’t see things until you’re ready. So here it is. My father happens to be the smartest man I know. YES any woman with a good relationship with their father would likely say the same, and when you are blessed enough to be able to use your father as the example for how your husband should behave, well, you do.

My father is an all-star mechanic (aircraft, motor vehicle), math whiz, engineer, etc etc the list goes on. As such, he taught me not to be a helpless chick. YES I can check my own oil and air my own tires. I understand the concept of tearing through your brakes while driving like a jack ass and basic car maintenance. My husband is good with cars, but NO ONE is my father ( in my eyes ). We got talking about some basic maintenance for one of our cars, he offered his opinion, which I quickly shut down because, THAT’S NOT HOW MY FATHER TAUGHT ME.

Have you ever done that? I compare my husband’s choices to those of my father more often than I’d like to admit. I have made him feel inferior, and have certainly done my share of “no it’s cool, I’ll ask my dad”…not exactly the words he’d always like to hear. I do not do this to him because my dad has ever said he is better than my husband, or because he alludes to my husband being incapable of completing the tasks in question. I do it because he’s my dad, I love him, I trust him, and he’s had many many years to show me he will take care of me and be available unconditionally. My husband simply hasn’t had the time in my life, and will NEVER be in the parent capacity that we learn from our first breath.

We learn that our parents are there unconditionally, they catch us when we fall, they help us grow, they make sure we’re covered. From my own experience with LB especially, I know not all parents have taught this very necessary bonding lesson, BUT no matter what type of parent they are, a child learns that their biological parent’s job is to keep them safe and show them the world within controlled constraints. For those of us lucky enough to have good parents, we know the bonds with them run VERY deep.

As stepparents, we often look at everything from the most negative light. What did THAT mean? Why did she say it like THAT? He must feel like THIS. We don’t take what kids say with a grain of salt because we are so busy being hard as hell on ourselves, and being showered with judgement all over the place (even if we aren’t, we THINK we are so we are on high alert).  I believe there are kids out there who are repeating what an alienating parent says, of course I do, they certainly exist. I believe sometimes when kids say things like that they are trying to test and be nasty, sure that’s possible.

BUT before you jump right to that conclusion, think of the example I just gave with my father. I don’t choose his way because I think my husband is stupid or incapable, I do it because since before I can remember there was someone there who did it the ‘right’ way because I have never known any other way. A person who stuck by me, who kept me safe without question, and always seemed to do things with such conviction and diligence. I am proud of my father, he taught me very good values, and has always kept his word to me. It is my first instinct to do things ‘his’ way because he’s set the standard for the way things should be done. And it’s really just that simple. I’m willing to bet MOST kids feel this way and are simply expressing that when they say things like this. Not all kids, but most. They aren’t saying YOU are bad or YOU don’t know what you’re doing even though it sounds like that. They just have a deep seeded want to follow those they trust with all that they are.

There’s nothing wrong with showing kids that there is more than one way to do something, such as the way YOU make cookies, or the way YOU clean a room. Allow them to understand both ways are okay, without bashing the parent’s behavior they’re using as a benchmark. As much as it stings to hear ‘that’s not how my mommy does it’, open up your mind a bit. It MAY NOT be an attack on you, or an ‘unhealthy’ loyalty to their birth parent. It might just be that’s all they know, and this is an opportunity to show them about you, yet again, without making it a competition. There are hundreds of ways to do something, try not to let it get to you, REFRAIN from making snarky remarks in response to their comments, and just say, “oh okay, I like to do it like this, how about it we try it and I can show you this way works too, then maybe some day you’ll find a different way that works for you as well, there are many ways to do something”.

One thing I learned the hard way, was Little Bear is just a kid. He is amazingly clear on his feelings, and his comprehension of a situation. But sometimes he just said things to say them. And when I let it go without getting worked up, he did the same. I promise you, if you jump EVERY SINGLE TIME you think they’re saying something to bash you, I don’t care how involved or uninvolved their BM is, you’re doing your relationship a disservice. MANY times kids say things with all the best intentions and are not trying to hurt your feelings. If I could offer one piece of advice it is TRULY not to take everything they say so personally. Trust me on this one, you’ll save yourself a lot of headache. There’s often a realistic explanation for many of their behaviors and feelings.

Now, if I could just stop referring to my father’s way every time my husband picks up a wrench…

I don’t love my stepkids…

Sorry in advance, THIS is a long one. But it’s a topic I hear about every single day and I have a lot of personal experience with learning how to love your stepkids the RIGHT and GENUINE way. So here is my input on the topic. It may be worth the price of admission for some, others it could be life-changing. I wish someone was HALF as honest with me about all this 3 years go. So here goes.

I’m kind of over the whole mass stereotyping for blended family members in general, but one thing that is near and dear to me is the expectations placed upon stepmoms to BE something but EXPECT nothing. We are told to be nurturing, kind, patient, and loving. If we aren’t, we’re selfish. Go too far and you’re overstepping. Who do you think you are anyway, those are not YOUR kids! Uhhhh what? So what you’re saying is, handle mom duties without ever complaining but don’t expect any mom perks. (PS – this is the PERFECT STORM for resentment to brew – in case you were unaware!)

I was contacted recently by a stepmom who was struggling with the way she felt about her stepkids. Shocker. She feels GUILTY because she doesn’t love them like she is “SUPPOSED TO”. Shocker. And who dictates how we are ‘supposed to’ love these kids? Ahh yes, everyone but US. WE can’t do it, because we are either selfish, or overstepping, no matter what opinion we come up with.

Before I EVEN begin – I recognize there are PLENTY of people who say they love their stepkids like their own flesh and blood. Who am I to disagree with them? After all, we are ALL entitled to feel ANY way we want to at any time. And if they truly do love their stepkids as though they birthed them- GREAT. This is not a blog about telling THOSE CERTAIN PEOPLE that they’re lying or for me to prove them ‘wrong’. So before I even get the engines going on this, understand, YES some people do probably love their stepkids like they created them, at least I guess they exist because they say they do. I myself am not one of them.

Gasp! That’s right folks. I don’t know what this bond looks like from a biological mother perspective….I’m not one.

Now before you get all bent out of shape, I advise you to read my blog entitled “The Biology Card – Throw At Your Convenience” (https://thechildlessstepmom.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/the-biology-card-2/). I came to realize that the reason I clung so tightly to what I believed was “REAL MOTHERLY LOVE” was because I had a biomom stabbing me with insults and CONSTANTLY on a mission to remind me I was not his real mother. Read the blog, I won’t waste a ton of time on this but the point is, when a biomom is all up in your face telling you how you are not the kid’s mom and you will NEVER have a bond like SHE does, it gets old. It’s hurtful. ESPECIALLY if you have done nothing to deserve this constant reminder, and have made every effort to keep OFF her toes. And it brings up a fire inside you and your own COUNTER-MISSION to remind HER that you damn well do love that child and you mother them just as well if not BETTER! And another thing! And another thing! And …what was I talking about again?

The truth is, I believe with every piece of my heart that if YOU are genuinely not trying to take over, the ONLY reason a biomom is CONSTANTLY playing that damn biology card is because of her own insecurities with the relationship with her child. If she was truly secure in her relationship, she would not need to REMIND anyone she birthed them, she would know they hold a special place in each others hearts that cannot be filled or replaced. THAT BEING SAID – stepmoms are just as guilty of doing this in our own way. It wasn’t until I became truly confident with the fact that I may never understand a biological bond that he shares with his mother, that I let my guard down and began to build a relationship that belongs SOLELY to US just like he will always have one with her that belongs SOLELY to THEM.

Why are we so threatened by admitting we may not love them like their biological mother does? And how dare I, as a custodial stepmother raising this boy with NO participation from his REAL mother, not love him like SHE should in HER place? The answer is simple. I’m not his biological mother. That should never suggest I don’t love him, I don’t nurture him, I don’t discipline him or offer him incredible security, even more than he would have ever had with her. I believe all of those things to be true, I do offer them, and am proud to offer them. But they are MINE and HIS – those things are OURS in our own way. You don’t have to replace anyone and the only way to find contentment is to work on this relationship in your own way.

Sounds so simple doesn’t it? It took me a LONG time and LOTS of therapy to come to this conclusion. But I no longer hold resentment to his biomom for the things she said about my relationship (or lack of) with him. The relationship he and I share is ours, and no one can touch that. It’s a relationship of choice, which is beautiful. He chose to love me, as I have chosen to love him. In our own way. I no longer feel that fire inside when I think of her putting me down or trying to belittle me by the ever-consistent ‘I’m his REAL mom’ reminder. It actually doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I TRULY feel secure enough with myself and my relationship with him and don’t need anyone’s approval but his. I don’t parade the kid around like I made him, and I don’t pretend she doesn’t exist.

I’ll never forget one time meeting with his child therapist and I confided in her that I didn’t feel the way I thought I should about him. Since I was his full-time, takeover over-freaking-night mommy in her absence I thought I should be feeling more and knew something wasn’t right about how I reacted to her ugly statements about me. I said I don’t always enjoy having him around. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt. She said two statements that have always stuck with me, one that I agree with, one I found to be more harmful to me than good actually.

First, she said parents don’t always like their kids. No matter who they are, they don’t always like them, they get annoyed by them and want time away. But when a stepparent says they feel those very REAL and JUSTIFIED emotions, we are selfish. It’s not fair, but it’s reality. THAT I agree with – is IS the reality and we DO feel that way and are JUSTIFIED in it.

The part though that I disagree with, was she said I just had to ‘fake it til I make it’. The trouble with faking ANYTHING is the fake becomes the norm, and you never work to get past the incredibly shallow nature of that concept. You never get to the root of WHY you’re faking it, and you never learn enough about yourself to get in there and really make a change. I chose not to take that advice and instead, to put some HEAVY work into some honest self-assessment. And I’m glad I did. I don’t FAKE my relationship with the Little Bear. Kids are NOT stupid, they know when someone is disingenuous and that is NOT a good foundation on which to build a relationship with your stepkids. I understand what she was saying looking back on it, and she offered wonderful insight throughout our journey, but it is just another lesson along the way. Not EVERYTHING you hear will work for your family. I chose not to adopt the fake it til you make it philosophy. I chose the get into the ugliest part of myself and find out if I could make a change to help this. And that is what I did.

I’d like to share what I wrote to this follower of mine as she actually caught me RIGHT when I was about to sit down to write this blog. Her note to me was about how her and her husband were soul mates, a fantastic match, but she started dreading the kids coming over. One of them was really obnoxious and she felt SUPER guilty saying that. But her husband was noticing she was distant, and if something wasn’t addressed and a change made, things would go south quickly. MOST stepmoms can relate. Here is part of my response to her- slightly altered to maintain anonymity:

“You NEED to know, you are not alone in feeling this way. I am contacted every single day by someone from the (Facebook) page or other online network and MOST OFTEN the issue is ‘I can’t always stand this kid. I love my husband, he is awesome, or I wouldn’t be here. His kids are good, I want to love them because I love him but I don’t feel it…..or I hate them’. YES I have had people tell me they hate their stepkids.

Little Bear is 6….but we’ve had him full time since he was 3. Before we got married, DH had 50/50 split. We found out bm was doing some things she should not have been and we ended up having full custody 6 months into my marriage. SIX MONTHS IN. No honeymoon….no “I think I know what I’m doing”…no, I just had no idea. The PERFECT breeding ground for resentment.

Let me back up. You and I sound very similar on a lot of levels. Before I married or even started seriously dating DH I was finishing my Master’s degree. I was doing lots of dating but had no interest in anything serious. My day was work….gym….school….ME…alone with my cat. smile It was WONDERFUL! Oh how I miss it – A LOT some days! It was easy…I didn’t deal with ANY of this shit and as much as I love my husband I have wanted to trade in my ring for my own apartment on MORE than one occasion….NOT because of him….because I couldn’t stand how I’d chosen to turn my life upside down like I had without having any REAL idea what I’d signed up for. Many childless stepmoms are guilty of feeling this way, we traded in the ‘easy’ life for a life FULL of bumps and twists we could have never foreseen.

You said some interesting things I’d like to touch on. First, you called your husband your soul mate. I find that intriguing on a lot of levels but what it tells me is you are in a marriage of mutual respect, you are kind to one another, and you probably get along very well. YOU TWO get along very well. YOU TWO enjoy each other. YOU TWO are a match made in heaven. My husband and I are the same. Most marriages fail because of one of two issues (or both) – sex and/or money. We don’t fight over either. When we are alone, it’s wonderful. I find my husband INCREDIBLY attractive, we have great conversation, we enjoy each other’s company and we are truly that couple that people hate.

Add a kid into the mix with a rocky background, a biomother with a slew of issues and the fact that he is just a normal 6 year old who needs and wants CONSTANT attention- and our match made in heaven becomes….not so heavenly. And people will ALWAYS tell you that is YOUR problem and YOU knew what you were getting into and YOU are selfish for putting your marriage first. Number 1 – FALSE. Your marriage NEEDS to be a priority. Number 2 – Everybody has an opinion, stop letting it dictate your behavior or what you think you’re ALLOWED to feel.

MANY people do marriage the ‘right’ way. They enjoy alone time first, they date, they are ALONE. Could I make this  “ALONE” idea any clearer? It’s a portion of the mix we MISSED. We LITERALLY have to mourn it, it’s missed, it’s gone. I am so tired of hearing how I am selfish for wanting it because the KIDS COME FIRST. YES, they certainly do, but it’s still VERY real that we missed all that time to just BE a married couple, which PLENTY of people take for granted. It is the time to learn and grow TOGETHER as a UNIT. I don’t care if it makes me selfish that I am sad I have missed it, or wish I had it some days. I SIMPLY DO. Therefore, since we missed all that time to try and figure out how we fit TOGETHER PRIOR TO THE KIDS, we are often in a state of confusion, we didn’t do this the “right” way so steps are out of order, leaving us unsure of how we feel at given times.

MOST of us find that we don’t love the kids right off the bat, but let’s explore that a bit. When DH and I were dating, I loved the shit out of that kid. He clung to me, I was always buying him presents and could not wait to see him! Why? Because when I was done visiting, he went back to his mom’s or I went home to MY own place…where it was quiet – and I was alone. OR I got to have DATES, REAL DATES! And ALONE TIME with my husband! smile Now, as a custodial stepparent I don’t have any time to miss him because he is there – CONSTANTLY! My husband and I don’t have alone time. We don’t have a custody split that allows for it, our work schedules are demanding and me being suzy psycho about who I will and won’t allow to care for him means our options for babysitters are limited – and that can feel very overwhelming. I signed up to have a child for half of my life, and overnight, it changed and became my every waking moment. I wouldn’t trade it for the world because now he is safe and in the best place for him, but I AM allowed to address what this does to a marriage and one’s perspective when that which they signed up for originally changes drastically without notice.

Which brings me to the issue at hand. You WILL find you’re struggling with how you feel about these kids and I want to help with that because I’ve been there SO SO MUCH myself. Your husband created them, of COURSE his feelings for them differ from yours. And I don’t care what anyone says there IS a biological bond that is experienced by their ‘real’ parents that we don’t have. I freaking wish everyone would stop trying to change that. Society has wrapped stepmothers up into this neat and concise package : You are to love the children as a mother, care for them, bond with them and drop EVERYTHING for them or YOU are selfish. HOWEVER you are NOT to replace their mother, attempt to BE their mother or ever ONCE expect any of the perks of parenthood because you are NOT their mother”.

Well shit! What the hell am I doing here then?! How in the world does that make sense?? Well it doesn’t but it’s probably not changing soon so what you have to do to overcome this is start accepting that the stereotypes are real but you don’t have to fit them OR care about them. The reason I offer such a ‘judgment free’ place like you said is because I finally gave up on caring what people thought of me. A DIFFICULT task for me, my feelings get hurt EASILY and I am ALWAYS worried about how people perceive me. But in this role, you just can’t be. It sounds impossible but it can be done.

The problem is you and your husband are great together, you enjoy each other’s company but you know damn well when those kids show up you will inevitably fall to the wayside (and don’t you dare say it’s a problem or you’re the bitch!) and the kids are really starting to annoy you because, well, they’re kids and they want their dad (and that is their right and again, children are all perfect angels, don’t you say otherwise or YOU’RE THE BITCH!) ….I’ve been there. I get it.

We finally got to the point where it all made sense and I really hope I can help you with that because it took me far too long. The relationship you have with those kids NEEDS TO BE YOUR OWN. DH loves them, they are HIS, he probably notices their quirks but he overlooks them because he doesn’t have them all the time, probably harbors some guilt and expects because they are just the best friggen things in the world, YOU TOO will believe that of them. BUT THAT IS NOT FAIR NOR IS IT REASONABLE.

Let me give you an example. I get annoyed by the bear. He is a great kid, he has a good heart, but for fks sake he is 6. He talks CONSTANTLY, and *I* had to discipline him, like, ALL ME for about 2 years because his mother has no idea what that even looks like and his father spent so much time fighting in court and just trying to keep him clean he didn’t have time to teach him the BASICS….enter me…a VERY well disciplined individual whose parents held them to the highest standard. I walked in and that kid was a WRECK. Not potty trained, could barely speak and his manners were AWFUL not to mention his behavior in general was OF THE MAP TERRIBLE.

You can see how I’d build up some resentment. The ONLY thing my husband and I fight about, is that child. What is right, what is too much, what does he need, what does he not need. NOW here’s the kicker….he is JUST like every other DH- he expects I will love that kid with a biological fire like he does. Wrong-o. Sorry, but that’s just a false hope and it’s not going to happen – I completely accept there is a bond that he shares with his mother and father that he does NOT share with me. BUT our bond is still a remarkable one and it is MARKED by OUR journey and what we mean to each other and know and expect of each other. Yesterday, the kid was screwing around on the stairs for the 87,000th time. I’ve told him to be careful and not to mess around or he will fall. Well whatdyaknow he was screwing around and slipped and hit his head on the wall. Mommy instinct took over – I heard him cry and ran right up and scooped him up.

It is NOW INSIDE OF ME to MOTHER him and keep him SAFE and HEALTHY. Of course it is, but you can bet your ass I scolded him for messing around YET AGAIN and he already knew it was coming. It was a picture perfect example of our relationship and my husband was able to witness it first hand. I WILL take on this role and mother him to the very best of my ability. I will ensure he is ALWAYS safe and well disciplined, but I am not always thrilled about every aspect of this job as NO mother is! And as much as I love him, I don’t always LIKE him. Like I don’t always LIKE my sister, or my best friend, etc etc etc.

WHAT?! You can’t say that you evil stepmother! Oh yes I can and I just did. Here’s the issue. EVERY PARENT gets annoyed with their kids. I don’t care WHO you are. EVERY parent does. BUT stepparents aren’t allowed to. Because then we’re the bitch. I decided to fight that because it’s absurd and it’s a completely irrational expectation. We WILL get annoyed with them, we WILL have times where we don’t want to be in the same room with them.

But when it gets to the point where you honestly dislike them and want them to go away entirely, that’s when it becomes dangerous. It’s dangerous because it will spill over into your marriage and the child will start to feel unwanted. Enter…my therapist. She warned me as soon as I started to resent the child there would be trouble. The problem with that is by the time I confided my resentment toward him in her, it was too late…I already resented him….and had LONG before I said anything. I turned my life upside down for this kid. I did NOT always feel love for him, but was expected to. And my husband truly believed it was appropriate for me to share all the same biological ties/wants/needs to his son that he has, and I don’t. I CAN’T. That is not a FAULT of ours, it’s a reality. We are NOT biologically linked of COURSE we don’t share the same ties – and that is OKAY!

The trick to fixing this issue is discussing realistic expectations with your spouse, UNDERSTANDING them YOURSELF and working to form YOUR OWN relationship with them…..not a kind of relationship that ANYONE ELSE TELLS YOU YOU SHOULD HAVE. I finally was able to get my husband to understand I am OKAY with not sharing the bond that he does with him, and I can’t be forced to. No, YOU have to do what YOU feel comfortable with and what comes NATURALLY to you.

LB knows when I put my arm around him and hug him close to me I do it because I want to. And that is important to our relationship. I had to start doing things because *I* wanted to, not because someone else told me to or I felt I was expected to. It’s actually very damaging to them to have a FAKE relationship with them. And you said it yourself, about how you feel you’re faking it. We all do, because we’re expected to. All that does is breed resentment and ill feelings toward each other, the child will also feel it from you. They know when they’re not wanted.

And I am guilty of not being nearly as caring as I should on more than one occasion because he has gotten on my nerves. Let’s just be honest. I don’t come home every day from work thrilled to be with him – like many times his father does. SOMETIMES I totally do, but those are MY times to feel that and if I don’t feel it, I’m not so hard on myself over it. Often times his father is so happy to be around him and just adores the ground he walks on. That is AWESOME for THEIR relationship, I don’t always share the same excitement. And I’m okay with that. I show my love and my feelings come out for him in other ways.

I am SO PROUD of how far we’ve come as a family, but I spent a GREAT deal of time depressed inside my own head and wanting out of this whole thing so badly – it was just TOO HARD. But I finally started to get it, this was MY love, it’s the love I DECIDED to feel, it’s not a love a ‘real’ mother has necessarily and I am okay with it never being that way. It’s just not realistic. There are MANY types of love I’ve come to find, and even many types of likes. But you have to come to like them before you can love them. And if they are forming that much bitterness in your life, you should totally see someone to discuss it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, THOUGH WE ALL ARE BECAUSE WE ARE TOLD WE HAVE TO BE. No we don’t. I finally called bull shit on that theory….as I have on many others.

ME and LB dictate our relationship. No one else. Once you realize you have that power and do not have to rise to any standard but the one YOU AND THE KIDS choose, the pressure starts to decrease and you can actually start to like them in your own way. They in turn will feel that off of you and their behavior towards you will start to change too. They can feel that you’re annoyed by them. Don’t feel guilty over it, we’ve all been there. It’s just that when you recognize it, it’s time to work on changing it. But to make ANY change you have to be realistic.The reason my bond is strong with the little guy is because it’s OURS. NO one else gets it, no one else is a part of it. There are days I am going to stroke out if he doesn’t stop talking. But it’s like that for ANY parent. We just feel guilty because we’re told we aren’t allowed to have those feelings.

Lastly you said something that I feel I’d like to branch off of. You closed with God Bless. I try to be cautious about my faith because I don’t like to push it on people. But since you opened the box I feel comfortable sharing. The message at church today was about giving God control. I find that when He is in control, I am literally good to go. I am enveloped in such peace I cant even describe it. BUT it is our nature to take that control back, therefore we live stressed out lives, and we are focused on the negative. I lived focused on the negative for SO long. FAR too long. And I have let that child, and this lifestyle completely annoy me and break me down. I try HARD to keep God at the center of my life and this family, it REALLY helps.

LB goes to children’s ministry while we are in the adult service. Today, they gave him a Jesus Loves Me kazoo. A FREAKING KAZOO. A 6 year old…a kazoo…a midsized vehicle, and a 25 minute drive home from church and it is TOTALLY my nature to be like STOP WITH THE KAZOO! I am not the most patient person in general – I work on it A LOT, and that could have been a recipe for disaster! But I CHOSE not to let it. I walked out of church and DH knew it would probably annoy me so he kindly reminded LB not to use the kazoo in the car and that he was welcome to use it outside when we returned home. I actually said the words, “Who is in control? Not me. I’m okay, he is 6, let him use his kazoo”.

NOT NATURAL! LOL Now, check back with me next week and the kazoo may be in the garbage but the point is we naturally live trying to be in control and not allowing God to do His work in us. The BIGGEST test God has ever given me was to become a stepmom. And some days I’d like to go ahead and give Him this test back…crumpled up…with my back turned walking in another direction. But since I finally have found an outlet to be HONEST about feeling that way without caring if people think being REAL makes me a BITCH (plus therapy really helps!) I am no longer afraid of this test. I embrace it. Some days will feel impossible and it takes WORK and HONEST self assessment to change.

But if you WANT to care about those kids, that’s the hard part, and the hard part is over. Next…start allowing yourself to feel ANYTHING YOU WANT TO FEEL, make realistic expectations…and take BABY steps towards it. When you go all SuperStepMom in, you’re setting yourself up for failure. But when you start to find you’re liking something with them even in SUPER SHORT spurts…you’re well on your way to mutual respect. Respect grows to love….but it has to be YOUR OWN DEFINITION of love. No one else’s.”

I will never dictate how anyone is supposed to feel about their stepkids, that is not my right, and opinions are just that, someone ELSE’S idea of what it should look like. But I know for me, when I started accepting that the only reason I was so quick to defend my relationship with LB was because biomom was defending hers, I just let that go. She will ALWAYS share a bond with him that I don’t. It’s just the truth. Kids will ALWAYS want to know and be a part of a life that includes their biological parent, even if that parent is less than stellar.

BUT I will also always have a relationship with him that SHE will never understand. When you start making your relationship your own, with your own boundaries, your own expectations, a love that is truly just YOURS, you don’t have to worry about what anyone else is doing or saying. Allow yourself to FEEL whatever you want to feel. Set REALISTIC expectations for your relationship with your stepkids. No one wants a relationship that is forced and it will only hurt BOTH of you. Allow it to form naturally, slowly, and within reason. Allow it to be YOURS. You HONESTLY don’t have to replace their mother to be ‘a’ mother, or find your place in their heart.

BE GENUINE, do some TRUTHFUL self-assessment. Take some of that pressure off and start being YOURSELF without worrying about anyone else. Your stepkids HEAR constantly. SHOW them what you are. BE what you want to be. When you find them loving you for you, and vice versa, those are the strongest relationships of all. Allow yourself to be a part of something like that. Then the day will come when you’re on the other side of the fence and can confidently say you are not threatened by their relationship with their biological mother and you’re not in competition.

I also believe often times the kids who aren’t accepting of a stepparent are that way because the stepparent is trying too hard. Do your BEST to shut off the outside noise. Be the best you you can be. It’s all you can do. They will come to you in time, and if they don’t, and you are truly amazing, it’s their loss. Either way, it takes TWO to form a meaningful relationship. Do what you can and allow the other piece of that puzzle to be whatever they want to be. You can only ever change yourself.

We are the adults, yes, and as such we should take the lead on LETTING THEM TAKE THE LEAD. They may feel guilty for liking you because that means not liking their mother – in their mind. Loving you may feel like a dangerous proposition, after all, THEIR parents split, how long will YOU be around? The point is to let it happen naturally, pushing it won’t work for ANYONE. It will take lots of time and patience, but let’s face it, marrying into a blended family has “I gotta have time and patience even if I don’t want to” written all over it. Do yourself a favor, remember you are only human, but you are special. Stop competing, take some pressure off, and allow for some SLOW, REALISTIC feelings to form. Fake it til you make it only means you’ll always have a shallow bond. Get in there and allow something real to grow. SLOWLY. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

You Can’t Please Everybody

At any given moment I have about a gabillion blog ideas floating around in my head. In fact, I keep a running list in my phone as ideas hit me…ideas I will write about when I so choose. The trick about this blogging thing is that I have to write when it hits me. I can’t just sit down and force myself into a blog, it has to literally explode from my mind or it’s stringy word trash. I know, I know I write a LOT it’s long and involved…yadda yadda, but that’s the beauty of your own blog – it’s yours.

Speed it up CSM – get to the point. The point is this…today something hit me hard and I wanted to write about it. Here goes. The concept of trying to please everyone is NOT foreign to those in a blended family. Not in the SLIGHTEST. We try to please our spouse, we try to please the kids, we EVEN try to please or at least appease the other parent….lastly most of us attempt to please ourselves…for MOST of us – it’s like that.

My Facebook page following jumped overnight. A lovely feeling for anyone in my position. I just LOVE to see new faces and I love knowing we are growing. However, that shouldn’t suggest I don’t remember the 4 or 5 VERY special people who have been contacting me since long before I ever hit triple digits in the ‘likes’ department. And for me, that’s what it’s all about. I’m not here to be everyone’s favorite, I’m not here to be me. For the most part, the response to my work is overwhelmingly positive. I get TONS of thank yous, I get LOTS of praise, but occassionally I get the hater….or the confused…the judgers who show up and read about 1.782% of what I have done and decide they don’t like it or it’s not for them.

And that is FINE. Honestly. That is okay. But it’s just a reminder. We simply can’t please everybody.

The first time anyone commented negatively on my work, I was crushed. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes and it actually felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I don’t have enemies, and I don’t collect ‘haters’ so I tried very hard to be cautious for a while about what I posted, so I wouldn’t offend anyone. Those days are behind me. Those that know me, know what I stand for, and are happy to join me on the journey.

THIS is what it’s like to parent in our current circumstance and we should keep it in mind. ESPECIALLY for the stepparent. We’re dealing with a slew of things we never knew existed.

It’s a whole new world to have those closest to you, or at least in your life all the time, dislike you. Personally, since I’ve always been the type who didn’t like having anyone be angry with me – battling others was NOT in my skillset. And honestly, aside from me learning to literally, LITERALLY just let it go when people badmouth me, I still don’t have it down very well.

Some people make it their life’s mission to be ugly to others because inside, their own heart is ugly. For those of us with humble hearts, this is a very debilitating reality. There will ALWAYS be someone who tries to knock you down, likely because you are ahead of them. In blended families, we know this all too well.

It is RARE that a relationship involving children ends amicably. In fact, I don’t know anyone that is TRULY 100% making it work without bumps. They may work well together, they may be on the same page for the most part, but SOMEWHERE along the line there is conflict.

LIFE is a conflict.

For the childless stepmom, we all have experience with breakups. Personally every ex of mine and I are truly, honestly okay. I could call any one of them up at any time, meet up to chat and it would be okay. OKAY, not GREAT. BREAKUPS occur because 2 people weren’t functioning well in a relationship. But while we are all on good terms, we don’t face each other every single day…we don’t have to. Sharing children makes that different. That means emotions, resentments and other issues are running high.

The perfect circumstance, for someone to be pissed off.

And some of us lose sleep over it. And we try and try and try to no avail. And we are sad and we are stressed. People often say they’re just doing their best as if that is not an overwhelming achievement in itself. Do you know how many people are NOT doing their best? The next time you think your best is not good enough, remember all those who AREN’T doing their best and pat yourself on the back. It’s not easy, but it is something to be proud of. Never let anyone take that away from you. Your best is all anyone can expect, including you.
If you’re anything like me, your feelings get hurt easily. You feel put down and crushed under the nasty words of others. You came into this situation with a view of what it would be like and it has proven to be DRASTICALLY different. I try to promote open communication between parties as often as I can. It is the only TRUE way to know you’ve done all you can and have allowed the other person time to speak their piece.
But some want to speak their piece, and take yours and squash it, and shit on other people’s pieces and make everyone else crumble under the ‘strength of their mighty piece’! And sometimes we have to know our worth enough to walk away. It doesn’t mean it hurts less, it means you won’t ALWAYS get through to another person and if they don’t like you, THAT is okay. It’s tough doing this in a blended family because we have to deal with these people EVERY DAY and our stepkids have become our kids, we want to love them and we want them to love us.
We’re TRYING. We’re HOPING. We’re PRAYING. We’re WAITING.
I’m no hero. I’m just a girl who had my own issues, who learned to tap into them, to grow stronger by admitting them and hoped to help others too. Because let’s face it, most of us need it. The next time someone is making your life hard or just being nasty, thank them. You don’t have to do it verbally, but thank them in your heart…”Thank you for your ignorant/ugly/irrelevant/unnecessary/yucky comment. It’s been filed away in the memory banks and covered by my ability to do good things for others, to know my own self worth, and the belief that I can do great things. Your opinion is either of little or no value to me and I dismiss it.” If their opinion is of great value to you, DON’T dismiss it and STILL thank them! Take their words, wrap them up in your humble heart, REMEMBER your self worth and communicate with them in order to grow.
My mother used to say “You can’t please everybody” when I was growing up and I never EVER let it sink in. Yeah yeah mom that means nothing to me….until years later when I realize it means everything to me. Especially in the context of stepparenting.
I will work to please those who care about me and want to see me succeed, the others I will wish well on their own path. And THAT is the ‘best I can do’. Some days that is all I’ve got. And my best is pretty damn special. For those in my life reading this who appreciate my best, I thank you, you make my heart full and happy. For anyone else, I appreciate your comments as another human being that should be respected as such…but keep your ugly to yourself.

We can’t please everyone, but we can sleep soundly knowing we did our best.

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award!

Lookie there! I received my very first blogger award from the lovely and talented “That’s Mrs. Stepmom To You” ! Have you checked her out yet?? GREAT blog, GREAT Facebook and very accomplished indeed ❤ I am honored!

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award.

  • Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
  • Answer the 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you.
  • Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to.
  • Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post.  Go to their page and tell them.
  • No tag backs.

So, I am incredibly open on my Facebook and Blog, so there isn’t TOO much you don’t know about me, but hey if you’re still interested, here goes!

1. I have a VERY chubby cat who is my pride and joy. Hubbster brought a son to the marriage, I brought a cat. I just realized last night she has had him in her life nearly as long as she had me when I was single….a heartbreaking realization because I constantly tease that she is MY cat although she adores the boys as much…if not MORE than ME! Yep, I’m a crazy cat lady, and I never had cats growing up. But she has been with us through some very tough times and we all love her dearly.
This is my Princess –

2. I’m big on baking. Never used to be, but I went from a young single woman to literally raising a child overnight….there ARE mac n cheese and fish stick nights, but I had to learn to cook – and quickly! I now really enjoy cooking and baking.

3. I’m big on higher education. I have a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, and a Professional certification. I funded, and completed every ounce of my education on my own. I am very proud of that.

4. I hate seafood. A lot. With a passion. Those fishsticks I mentioned up there? This girl won’t eat them. But the hubbs and Little Bear will…so there’s that 🙂

5. I am EXTREMELY sarcastic. I get it from my father. He is probably the funniest person I know. I’m not rude, but I don’t have a lot of time for stupid…

6. I am VERY faithful, but I am not a bible thumper. We are active members of our church, I attend weekly bible study, we pray at every meal, spend prayer and devotional time together as a family and work VERY hard to keep God in all that we do. I am not the type to push my faith on anyone, but I believe most “Christians” don’t walk their talk. I actually try to.

7. I am employed full time at the best company on the planet. We make computer software and PC games…yes…we make games and play games and I love it. When I’m not raising a child full time and reaching out to the blended family community I am BLESSED to be not only employed, but employed at a job that I love.

8. I can parallel park, and I’m awesome at it. I also fancy myself a very good driver. I know women are horrible drivers, heard it, I get it. But I’m actually not. However, I hate driving. The irony.

9. I AM OBSESSED with Christmas. I mean obsessed. I don’t get all Clark Griswold on it, but I ADORE it and always have. Having a 6 year old to share this with is wonderful.

10. I will wear flip flops until it snows.

11. My parents have been married for 39 years. I hope and pray I can do the same 🙂

The 11 Questions Asked of ME by That’s Mrs. Stepmom To You

1. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Definitely a night person. I kind of despise the morning. My husband works very early so I take care of Little Bear each morning and have for over 3 years. He knows “Mommy isn’t mad in the morning, she is just quiet because she is still waking up!” LOL


2. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Became a childless stepmom ! I don’t regret it, but it has CERTAINLY taken me down some crazy roads!

3. Name one person you love the most and one person you hate the most.
This is super hard to answer! I don’t have any enemies but I do get highly annoyed by people. And obviously I adore my friends and family soooo let’s go with celebrities!
I LOVE CLINT EASTWOOD!
I HATE NICKI MINAJ (sorry guys – I’m sorry – I just – bleh)

4. If we were a couple and we had a fight, how would you try to patch things up?
I’m big on open communication and got lucky enough to marry a man who will communicate – after some coaxing 🙂 I’ve learned the best way to resolve conflict is to take a humble (not defensive) stance from the beginning, honestly try to listen to the other party’s issues, and voice mine with “I feel” statements. Sound like I’ve spent some time in therapy? I have and proud of it! 🙂

5. What is the funniest prank played on you or played by you?
I can honestly say I’ve never once played a prank…and I’m not very gullible so people don’t play pranks on me…lame I know!

6. If given a choice, which animal would you want to be? Why?
Her, and I think it’s clear why 🙂

7. Who was your first crush? Did you ever tell him/her about your feelings?
Matt in the 4th grade, and oh yes he knew my feelings! We were ‘together’ on and off for years lol

8. If you could have a luncheon with any three people (real or fictitious/from any time period/dead or alive), which three people would you choose and why?
Jesus- not just because I’m faithful, but because He is fascinating
Clint Eastwood – because I’m in love with him
My Grandfather – who passed away in 2008. I miss him like crazy and he would have loved meeting both Jesus (although I am sure he has!) and Clint Eastwood 🙂

9. Which is your most cherished childhood memory? What kind of kid were you, naughty or nice?
Definitely Christmas. My sister and I fought CONSTANTLY but once a year when the snow fell and it was time for silver bells, we were tight as can be. My parents made Christmas amazing every single year. We were middle class and I know there must have been Christmases where they were hurting financially, but we NEVER would have known if that were the case because the home was always amazing at Christmastime 🙂 I was a good kid and didn’t cause trouble much.

10. If given complete freedom to start afresh, what profession would you choose and why?

Definitely would have been a writer. They say what you do while you’re procrastinating should be your profession. And well….I’m working on my stepmom community and blog of course !

11. Ninjas or pirates?
PIRATES!

And the 11 Questions I’m posing to Other Bloggers!

1. What is your biggest pet peeve?

2. If you could live anywhere, where would you choose?

3. Are you a coffee drinker?

4. What is your favorite article of clothing?

5. How old were you when you got your first job? What was it?

6. What are you MOST passionate about?

7. What is your favorite song?

8. What is your LEAST favorite song?

9. Who do you trust EVERYTHING with?

10. If you could be any superhero, who would you choose?

11. What phrase do you use most often?

And the nominees are:

Rocker Mom Rambles

Mommy Needs a Break

Mom Uncensored

Shit My BM Says

Blended Family Gifts

 iStepmother

Laughter and Love Photography

Fodder 4 Fathers

Single Dad Laughing

stark.raving.mad.mommy

Working Moms Against Guilt

The Boundary Dilemma

Originally posted as a Facebook “note” – http://www.facebook.com/childlessstepmoms

“She’s overstepping her boundaries!”

Okay this was my little research project. I venture to say that THE MOST COMMON issue in blended families has SOMETHING to do with boundaries. I am contacted DAILY by someone who is dealing with this. Be it a BM OR SM, it is a problem, in some form, in nearly everything we do. But as a stepmom, I only see my side of it. So I sought out the well respected viewpoints of the BMs on the page and they offered some GREAT insight.

The issue:

Stepmom is hurt because biomom has accused her of overstepping her boundaries. She is either incredibly cold and says she won’t address which specific boundaries are being broken, just that they are. Or she is lukewarm and will occassionally address them here and there. Or she is HOT and attacks SM for every waking move she makes and somehow no matter what SM does, it’s overstepping a boundary.

Before I go on, PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING. There ARE ALWAYS exceptions. SOMETIMES it’s biomom who is getting crap from stepmom. Sometimes one or even both parties have tried to communicate to no avail. I get it. As a custodial stepmom, I am one of these exceptions. So please ahead of time, understand, I get it, we all get it, there are exceptions. This little study was for the MAJORITY – the ones who have even a SLIGHT chance at open communication – even if only sometimes.

Okay so, moving on. AS A STEPMOM I posed the following question :

“I believe that one of the biggest issues between biomoms and stepmoms is boundaries. I realize there are some really crazy stepparents who just jump in on an unreasonable level and therefore overstep their boundaries – and then some. But for most of us, we don’t really know where those boundaries are, and would benefit from a biomom telling us specifically what is acceptable and what is over the line – in her opinion. My hope in this is exercise is the ability to speak freely and share without it being so personal (in which case some people may hold back). This is just a general study. In my situation I believe we would have done FAR better if she just told me what she thought was ‘overstepping’ instead of accusing me of overstepping without any real examples. Note ** I did try to have this conversation with her first and she did not reciprocate (in case you’re wondering or believe stepmoms should be the one to initiate this). So what, if anything have you done to try and communicate the boundaries you expect of the stepmom in your children’s lives?”

The response was overwhelming. I received everything from hearing the BM and SM get along famously, to the other extreme – they hate each other, one has tried to communicate but the other is not receptive, etc. THOSE are the extremes I’m talking about. So for those of you who fall into that category, just hang tight I’ll get to you later 🙂

For the rest who are not in those categories, I found that NEARLY every biomom said it was a work in progress. That they never had a specific sit-down with stepmom, but they did address boundary issues when they came up. MOST said stepmom hadn’t attempted to cross any major lines, and therefore conversations like this were left strictly to certain times and specific examples.

Each biomom said they believed their boundaries to be different, except on ONE level.

“Firsts”. All of them said they expected all the ‘firsts’ for the kids to be respected and reserved for them. A reasonable request but again, please remember these are INVOLVED and genuine mothers. There are some of us (ahem) who don’t have an active BM in the picture. I got an overall agreement of the fact that when a BM chooses not to be involved, it’s her problem for missing out on the ‘firsts’ – but otherwise, an SM taking a ‘first’ is a no-no.

As a custodial stepparent with no BM involvement, I agree entirely. I don’t sweat the firsts because she’s given them up. But if she were still an active part of his life, (there was a time when she was – sorta) I would have respected those boundaries and believe you should too as an SM. That to me seems like common courtesy – WITHIN REASON. I realize everyone’s situation is different and visitation and schedules, yadda yadda I get it. But understand the OVERALL picture. Biomoms want firsts. INVOLVED biomoms want firsts. Can you blame them? I can’t.

But since most of them said they addressed this as they went along and not in one early on discussion, I dug a little deeper. Why? Why hadn’t they had a discussion like this? It seems a very important topic does it not? Especially for the biomoms flying off the handle at the stepmom in the situation and accusing them, ‘how dare they overstep!’

Well hold on. What’s a realistic expectation here? Yes the firsts, and BIG things, SMs should know better. MOST of us do and respect that. But, sorry you weird stepmoms desperately trying to take over and be all kinds of alienating to BM – I’m not really supporting you here. You’re actually the crew continuing the wicked stepmom stigma so I think you need to take it easy and remember EVEN CUSTODIAL STEPMOMS – we are meant to be additions, not replacements – EVEN if “real” mom is not in the picture. And those types, I get it, they’re out there….the ones who are a little too “hand that rocks the cradle – esque”….shudder..They are the exception. But the rest of us, myself included are one of the stepmoms who tried SO HARD not to step on any toes and it STILL felt like everything I did was wrong. IF these BOUNDARIES were so important why weren’t they covered with me? I even tried to discuss these things with her – not one specific sit down but I tried to come to her to see what she expected- and was blown off. As some of you can relate to.

Please know that my PURPOSE is personal growth and hopefully to share a place for you to grow as well. But that means being open to honest self assessment. The purpose of me seeking out OTHER biomoms, vs the one YOU’RE dealing with is so you can see the persective without feeling attacked. But their answers were so helpful. Please keep that in mind when I tell you the most interesting and enlightening pieces of info I received on this topic.

So I asked “why”. “Why” hadn’t you, as a bioparent taken the initiative to explain in detail at the beginning what you expected of the stepmom in your life?

The responses:

“Boundaries established ahead of time are always easier to follow. But I don’t think expecting the mom to step up is always realistic– she’s getting used to the idea of another woman, whom she didn’t ask, to share her kids lives very closely.”

“I really wasn’t even aware of my own boundaries until some of them were crossed and I felt affronted ~ also, I think I never expected another woman to want to be recognized by the kids, so much.”

“I think if a mom just sat a step mom down and started rattling off her boundaries, it would make the step mom feel like a child…I know that would be off putting to me…making it seem like *she* had these expectations of me…”

First off, those are very interesting responses wouldn’t you agree? We as stepmoms don’t always think about the fact that biomom’s didn’t pick us to be involved with their kids, MANY don’t know what to expect from a stepmom like we don’t know what to expect in dealing with a biomom. Also, did you catch the part where she said she didn’t want to make stepmom feel like a child? Maybe you missed it. I didn’t. I thought that was huge. I know it’s not ALWAYS the case, but perhaps they don’t KNOW their own boundaries until we ‘mess’ with them and maybe some biomoms even have a slight concern for OUR feelings too.

So I thought, what wonderful insight. OKAY that makes SENSE then why they wouldn’t come to us about this boundary issue in some cases. But then, what do they feel about a stepmom coming to THEM about it?

“That would have been great ~ I think it would be hard to be negative about something like that. Someone asking about your boundaries so they can respect them is HUGE.”

“I would have been very open to SM asking Me what my boundaries were— and I think that sends a double message: I respect you enough to ask, but I’m here and not going anywhere. So let’s work together.”

Have you ever looked at it from that perspective? Perhaps YOU making the first move and trying to genuinely see where BM is coming from IS the best thing to do. Re-read what she said: “that sends a double message: I respect you enough to ask, but I’m here and not going anywhere. So let’s work together.” THAT is DEFINITELY a fair and honest message, and one that I’d be happy to send. It’s not RUDE, it’s not belittling ANYONE. It’s actually quite on point if you ask me. I know I say it often, I am constantly encouraging all of you to TRY and establish open communication. “NO WAY!”, “SHE’S A CRAZY BITCH!”, “I TRIED SHE WON’T LISTEN!”. Okay, for some of you that is the case. BUT NOT ALL THE TIME. And I hope this sheds some light if you can even ATTEMPT to discuss these things with BM on WHY I push for this so much.

Lastly, I asked, “what about when BM goes off about boundaries that were never addressed, but she won’t give specific examples?”

“As to moms who change the rules in the middle of the game, I would advise them to demand specifics, and if none are given, don’t worry about it. It’s probably more about mom being threatened, if she can’t come up with something specific to back up her own argument.”

And there you have it. Straight from the biomoms. I know SOME of you CAN’T POSSIBLY MAKE THIS HAPPEN AND THE OTHER PARENT JUST WON’T LISTEN OR COMMUNICATE WITH YOU. But SOME of you CAN. And you should. If there’s a boundary issue – address it. If it can’t be addressed, don’t take it so personally.

I realize this will stir heated discussion for some, but I DEMAND no bashing. The purpose was growth and a genuine look into what might help you in your own  peacekeeping adventure. Not everyone will benefit, but even if this exercise helps only ONE relationship, my purpose was fulfilled.

“Little Victories”

I have been contacted SO much lately by my incredible following and I have to say I love it. I LOVE sharing the story of how we became custodial parents and what life is like without this daily court back and forth, document this, watch for that, no sleep here, constant worry there…you get the drift. I am an excellent resource for this topic, however, I have been also getting contacted about the things I like to refer to as ‘little’ victories.

Whether it was the child validating you, or biomom (or stepmom) finally attempting even the SLIGHTEST change in attitude toward you in a positive light. I keep hearing about how ‘it’s the little things’. But for the purpose of this particular blog, and my stance as a custodial stepparent, you need to understand, I don’t believe these are little at all. These are HUGE. Monumental in fact.

Why?

So you’re in the trenches. Your stepkids hate you, their “REAL” mother has made it clear you aren’t to be involved, you aren’t a part of the child’s life and THEY can’t refer to you as anything other than the worthless role SHE views you as. Okay. Not uncommon. Not happening in EVERY situation, but certainly a majority of those that contact me say “biomom hates me and is teaching the kids to hate me too.”

You sit and stew on this every minute of every day. Let’s face it guys, we do. We let it leave our minds for 10 seconds while in a meeting at work, putting milk in the grocery cart, or pumping gas …. for a SHORT time, it is NOT the main focus throughout the day. But if you were really being honest with yourself, THIS stuff takes up HOURS of our life and an immeasurable amount of our energy.

And then one day something happens. The child says thank you, I love you, or CRAZILY, slips ‘mom’ and doesn’t correct it. OR EVEN the evil ex who won’t so much as acknowledge sharing the AIR she is breathing with you, suddenly sends you an approving nod, perhaps even a hello, or maybe, just maybe a ‘thank you’ or ‘that really helped’.

How quickly we forget about the time we spent torturing ourselves over what we DON’T have and then all of a sudden when these things come to light, in true stepmom-not-trying-to-step-on-toes fashion, “It’s the little things” 🙂

Little my ass.

Those aren’t LITTLE things. Those are HUGE! And they are things to be thankful for. It MIGHT have taken everything in that child to acknowledge you. They may risk feeling rejected or worry they are betraying their ‘real’ parent. NO I am not suggesting you should take those things and run with it. WOO HOO Now I’m the real mom and now BM and I will be forever friends. Yikes, slow down. No that’s not what I mean. But we are so dead set in society’s picture of stepparenting that we don’t allow ourselves to EVER revel in the victories, CERTAINLY not publicly. We might do our personal happy dance but we don’t share it. Except of course with The Childless Stepmom community 🙂

Now, this ALSO includes issues you’ve been concerned about for custody. Things just aren’t right at the moment, the child should be elsewhere, you’re worried about what is coming down the road and you want nothing more than to provide the ‘best home for the child’ – while that standard is different for everyone, you have ALL been there, as have I. You’ve been battling and battling with the other parent and it’s gotten UGLY. And then one day, someone lets off the reigns a bit. And little by little some changes start taking place in the direction you want.

If you’re like me, those little things are great but you’re still focused on the main goal. ESPECIALLY if your child is in a completely unsafe circumstance and you don’t have the luxury of waiting for YEARS for things to change. You want change NOW and the the child needs it NOW. And court is not on your side and you are trying to play by the rules but it’s taking FOREVER.

But again….ever so slowly you start to see a slight change. I’m here to tell you, as someone who is on the other side of this game, those “little victories”? Those lead up to the big change, the one you say you want so badly. Bear in mind, you don’t control the situation and things WILL happen as they will. But each “little victory” is an ingredient in the pot. You’re slowly adding to the mixture and you think it isn’t important or a big deal, but when you’re on the other side, like me, you finally understand EACH ONE OF THOSE ingredients was necessary at the time and you might even want to encourage those coming after you to celebrate (in a cautiously optimistic fashion) each of those ingredients. They are just one step closer to where you want to be.

So while there are “little things” in the context of blended family life, just like with anything else, I encourage you to start learning to embrace those “little victories” as more than that. Some of you are, and to that I commend you! It feels GOOD and we are allowed to be HAPPY and feel validated sometimes! But for the rest of you who are still acting like it’s not a big deal, I mean it from the bottom of my heart, take the time to enjoy them. Don’t blow them off. Allow yourself time to be thankful for them instead of rushing onto the next one or complaining things aren’t changing fast enough. Take it from me, if I had it to do over again, trusting things would work out in the end and not only acknowledging those things but REALLY letting them sink in, I would have gotten a lot more sleep and my life would have been MUCH less stressful. I am willing to bet you like sleep and peace. You’re getting there. Just have a little faith and allow yourself to be thankful for all the “little victories” in the meantime.

“I QUIT !”

Today is my 3 year wedding anniversary. I am a custodial stepparent who has survived, barely, through all the things you may be experiencing today. So I thought, what better way to celebrate this milestone of REMAINING MARRIED than to acknowledge the 87 million times I wanted to quit? And over the past 3 years I’ve wanted to quit. Oh have I ever.

If you’re honest, which I hope you are, you’ve probably wanted to quit a time or two yourself. FIRST OFF, stop letting people tell you YOU can’t feel negatively towards all of this. YOU can’t be over it. YOU can’t want to walk away. I’m here to tell you that YOU can do anything your little heart desires. Want to hit the road? Your choice. Sick of dealing with the CONSISTENT BS that comes with this lifestyle? Can’t say I blame you. I know I have wanted out on more occasions than I can even put into words.

So for this blog, I’d like to be real with you. I’d like to share that while we are in a pretty good place TODAY it hasn’t always been that way. We walked through Hell to get to where we are at the present time….and sometimes….we’re still walking through it….only nowadays it’s with a bit more direction. I don’t want to type a novel about everything we’ve been through. Just take me at my word that I’ve seen it all. From Child Protective Services Investigations to ENDLESS therapy sessions. From a child with incredible behavioral issues to a biomom making less than stellar life choices and losing her custody over it. NUMEROUS court cases. Thousands of dollars long gone. Solid attempts at positive co-parenting mixed with diligent Parental Alienation Syndrome. You name it, I’ve seen it. I’VE LIVED IT.

And I’ve wanted to quit. Over and over and over again. I don’t say that to be pessimistic I say it because not only is it the truth, if you’re like me, not many people are sharing the reality of it with you and you probably need to hear it now the most from someone who’s been there. In fact, I heard endless amounts of, “this too shall pass, and you’ll get through it and don’t let her get to you”….blah blah blah….what I WISH I’d heard was, “Hell yeah I’ve wanted to quit! This SUCKS sometimes! It’s OKAY to admit you are miserable and want OUT. But….here’s why I stayed…”

I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade. But the ‘gift’ of a blended family we hear about? Here’s a bow atop the lovely gift of second, third or fifty-sixth marriages: from a statistical standpoint, your marriage is *probably* going to fail.

WOW! That’s great news! Happy Anniversary honey 🙂

Jokes aside, the odds ARE against us. Blended families are hard for even the most seasoned vets. Childless stepmoms? We have no clue – in fact, to be blunt, we’re pretty much screwed from the perspective of having even the SLIGHTEST clue what we are walking into. We don’t know what this looks like. We are blind as can be in most cases. I know I was. I was DROWNING. As the layers of blended family BS piled up on top of me, I was suffocating. I was losing myself. I was losing my mind.

And I found myself questioning, on a daily basis, WHY I was staying. WHAT AM I DOING HERE?!

OF COURSE I love my husband and Little Bear. Very very much. But the wonderful family you’re HOPING for is often overshadowed by the realities of day in and day out CRAP CRAP CRAP. As the battles got dirtier, I fought harder and became more entrenched in a lifestyle that included, a daily fight. CONSTANT WORK. Fixing, changing, trying, everything. The battles were endless. Even if it wasn’t an ‘active battle’ it was a ‘proactive battle’. “Nothing wrong today? No problem! There will be and when it comes I’ll be ready!” The stress was mounting on me and you could cut the tension in my home with a knife.

And one day, after I had quit in my head yet again and was DONE FOR REAL THIS TIME, the supervised visits that were previously ordered on BM had been stopped. Meetings upon meetings were called and it was decided it was ‘in the best interest of the child’ for the visits to stop. Imagine that, after fighting for so long, finally something positive came out of all of it. BM wasn’t following their established rules, and Little Bear was begging the mediators not to make him go to these visits. He’d been freaking out to us for months but we had a court ordered obligation to send him, so we had no choice but to encourage the visits and hope for the best. But, it was out of our hands at this point. Abruptly, it was over. And we were left with simply that….what was left. And what was left was the three of us. Who’d been spending so much time BATTLING and FIGHTING and in THERAPY and dealing with CHILD BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS that we didn’t have a clue who we were, what we were fighting for or what being a ‘normal’ family even looked like.

My husband and his ex had been fighting for custody of this child essentially since his birth. I married him, and came along for the ride. If I’m truly humble and honest, I myself was far too involved in ‘someone else’s battle’ – like MANY of you. I lost myself in it. So when it was over, while yes good prevailed in the sense that Little Bear was free from harm and could finally have a NORMAL life (whatever THAT meant), we were fighting a losing battle, against ourselves.

What was left of my marriage after the dust cleared from the custody cases was hollow, at best. It was a surface family. You’d think we’d be on cloud 9. Biomom just walked away entirely. No calls, no TRYING, no nothing. It was clear she had decided she’d rather entertain her own lifestyle than one which included bettering her health and choices for the sake of her son. So, easy for us right? Because that’s what we think. Our marriage will be fine if only ___________. If this and that and that happen, we’re good to go.

Except it’s not like that. Your marriage is a living, breathing and changing being. I was once ignorant enough to believe if only ‘x’ would happen we’d be happy.

Truth be told, at the time when I should have been most happy, most content, most satisfied, most fulfilled, I was miserable and I wanted out of my marriage. We didn’t even HAVE a marriage. We had a family who loved each other, but it was “Team Fight This Thing” not “Team Family”. And what I need for you to get out of reading this is that FAMILY is deeper than FAMILY COURT.

I don’t really believe in ‘accidents’, I believe things happen for a reason, and I stumbled upon this quote one day:

I cried. I actually cried. And I cried because I had to realized two things: not only did I NOT want out of my marriage, I wanted to make it MEAN something, I wanted to BEAT the statistics and I wanted to do it for US not anyone else. The question that needed to be answered was “WHY AM I REALLY HERE”, “WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO FIGHT FOR”. The answer, no doubt, was my family. A family with a purpose. A family unit that ran deep, that was genuine that would remain standing despite any attempts to break it, family court, BM, or otherwise.

And I was nowhere near being in a position to head up a family like that. I was not fit to take on that task. I was too beaten down. Too much had gone wrong. Our whole family was just going through the motions with no real SUBSTANCE because the court system had sucked all the life out of us. Truth be told, WE LET THEM. And this is what was left standing. Shells of Mommy, Daddy and Little Bear that weren’t filled with strong and unwavering souls, but filled with what family court had left us with.

I was disgusted by this realization and vowed to do everything I could to change it. It would take incredible determination. It would take therapy. It would take INTENSE communication. It would take soul searching. It would take research. And most of all, it would take us being open to change and allowing a change to take place within our home.

And so began this journey. It hasn’t been easy. As a childless stepmom with the OPTION to live any other lifestyle that I choose IF I chose to end this, I know I can be, and do, what I want. The option is ALWAYS there for any of us to leave. But that is why we are here today. We choose US. We choose this family. We choose the bad WITH the good because that is what marriage and blended family life is about. So when I say I am thankful to you for helping me grow….those aren’t just words. A year ago I was in bad shape, I had no direction and I had a LOT to learn….still do. If you are struggling with the “I Quit” mindset, please know that you are not alone and you have a RIGHT to feel that way.

For me, I spent so long fighting it and not coming to terms with it, I was doing more harm than good. Being inauthentic in this lifestyle is about the worst thing you can be. Today I’m humbled by my experiences, I’m not entirely out of the woods, but I’ve not only seen what many of you have seen, I’ve survived and am living proof that you CAN make it. But in order to make it tomorrow, you have to stick it out today. And I’m glad I did. This morning I woke up next to a man who would wrap up the world and give it to me in a pretty box if he could. A GIANT cat at my feet who loves me more than anything in the universe. And a Little Bear wiping sleepy eyes with his usual “GOOD MORNING MOMMY” greeting and I realize one thing. Taking these moments in right now are exactly why I did not quit when it got tough, despite at one point being so sure we’d never make it this far. Because the tough times are why I’m able to appreciate the beautiful times.

Truth be told, there are still VERY difficult days. But if you view it from this perspective, it’s easy to see WHY they exist and what they stand for: I want my marriage to be ever-changing, growing, and progressing. It is in assessing our position, our motives, or goals, EACH DAY that we are moving towards a more fulfilled family. When we sit still, remain stagnant, eyes closed to the happenings around us, walking blindly with no purpose, that we will one day no doubt trip and fall into the well that is the divorce rate of remarriage. I choose to walk with conviction, fully aware and dodge that black hole every time it threatens to take us down. Because it has. It will. And remaining in this life is a CHOICE. No one is forcing you to stay and no one is going to care if your marriage fails….MOST do. It is YOU and YOUR PARTNER who have to keep your focus and CHOOSE to fight.

EVERYTHING that could threaten our marriage, HAS threatened our marriage. And there are many days I don’t even know HOW we survived it. But we did. And you can too, but you will ONLY prevail if you KNOW what it is that you’re fighting for. It took me a LONG time to come to terms with WHY I stayed. Make sure you know why you’re here, make sure you are making an effort EVERY SINGLE DAY and make sure, of ALL things, you’re being true to yourself. No one else is going to do it for you.