Your Perspective Sucks

I know nothing about where you come from. I know nothing about who you are, or why you’ve chosen to be in the situation you’re in. But one thing I do know is, if you’re still angry and bitter, your perspective sucks. If you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, your perspective sucks. If you are losing at every turn, feeling defeated, and believe there is no way things will ever change – YOUR PERSPECTIVE SUCKS.

How do I know? Because mine did. My perspective sucked for a long time. And the longer I lived with said sucky perspective, the harder things got. So let me help you with this.

I love my naysayers. I love my angries. I love the people who are so irked by their circumstance that they can’t freaking see straight. Why? Because I was you. You’re beautiful. You’re trying so hard. You CARE. And your perspective sucks.

When I started my journey I promised you TRUTH, not fairness. And the truth, well, sometimes it sucks. But it’s always the truth. I got a lot of truth along my way…and I ignored it. ALL of it. I rolled my eyes so many times I am surprised they even sit properly in my head anymore. “You’re full of shit”, I thought. “That SOUNDS pretty, but you don’t GET it. That might work for someone ELSE, but you don’t know ME. You don’t know what I’ve been through. And you sure as hell don’t know what I’M dealing with.”

My perspective sucked.

You know why your friends don’t understand or sympathize? Well, 2 reasons. First, they aren’t in your shoes. Obviously. They don’t understand the day to day drama, so they can’t really help you. They don’t get it. They try, but they don’t get it. And second, well, this one, let me bold it out for everyone because it is true for everyone in this world, blended family or not –

NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR SHIT NEARLY AS MUCH AS YOU DO.

I’m sorry. That was harsh. I am not suggesting your family, your struggle or everything you live and breathe for is ‘shit’. What I am suggesting is you start looking at it from a position of OBJECTIVITY instead of SUBJECTIVITY. Until you do, you will continue to live in utter misery, and by the way, you’ll never win a court case, or find ANY sense of peace. With a perspective that DOES NOT examine outside viewpoints, you’re immobile.

I promise you that.

So here we go friends. Buckle up. This may or may not be well received. But all I promised was the truth.

When we were in our daily battle with BM, let’s call it our ‘case’. Why? Because you’re always in a case, right? Even if you’re not currently going to court, it’s the pink elephant in the room. To ‘parent’ is a verb, meaning you must continue to do it every day. Unless you’re at a point of mutual respect, and are able to effectively co-parent, you’re in an ongoing ‘case’ or at least you believe yourself to be. At any point, we all know damn well one of the two parties can and possibly will return to court over something. So we gotta watch! We gotta document! We gotta LIVE EAT SLEEP AND BREATHE THIS SHIT.

Do you think I wasn’t like you? Do you think I don’t have binders? HUNDREDS of Facebook screenshots? Texts? Emails? DOCUMENTS UPON DOCUMENTS from the police department, CPS, Guardian Ad Litem and our FOUR attorneys throughout all of this? FOUR. Tons of money we didn’t have, letters from ‘third parties’, sleepless nights, anger building, and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh I’ve been there. WE HAVE FULL FREAKING CUSTODY FRIENDS. You think that shit came easy? I don’t mean to get all scrappy. But I get REAL tired of the people who suggest I don’t get it because I have a positive attitude. I couldn’t POSSIBLY understand dealing with an IMPOSSIBLE co-parent and watching my work go up in flames. Day. After day. After agonizing day.

I get it. Do you get it? I get it.

Now that we’ve established that I’ve been where you’ve been and that isn’t just a pretty line I feed you, let me move onto the issue at hand:

YOUR PERSPECTIVE SUCKS. AND I KNOW THIS BECAUSE MY PERSPECTIVE SUCKED.

Along the way I received lots of advice, and again it all fell on deaf ears because ‘you don’t know me’ and ‘you don’t get it’ was always my attitude. The basics? CLEAN clothing. Well balanced meals. Homework completed. Education focus. Those basics that most of us consider ‘basics’? Those are OUR definition of basics. I would not DREAM of creating a child, and letting him go without MY definition of basics. And neither would you. Enter the problem. You know what the state’s definition of ‘basics’ is? A roof over their head, of any shape, size or condition. Clothes – yep. Just clothes. They don’t HAVE to fit well. They don’t HAVE to be clean. Sufficient food to keep them alive. And a certain amount of days per year that they attend public school.

The end. Look it up.  I did. Endlessly. You know what I found? State info making it VERY clear that parenting is ‘personal’, the big guns try to stay out of it and stepparents…gotta watch their backs because it’s not our place. Again, I don’t bring you FAIRNESS, I bring you TRUTH. I KNOW it pisses you off to realize that your perspective is not the only one that matters. You are talking to the QUEEN OF PISSED OFF BECAUSE MY PERSPECTIVE ISN’T THE ONLY ONE THAT MATTERS.

But wait. There’s more.

Our attorney (after 3 lame ones, we finally found a gem) is absolutely incredible. And boy did I HATE some of the shit she had to say. OOOOOOOHHHHHH I hated it. She actually SAID the only way to get what we wanted was to show the judge we were trying to work with her, even though she had ZERO interest in working with US. She had the NERVE to say BM was HIS MOM, should be treated as such, even though I WAS THE ONLY MOTHER WHO GAVE A SHIT ABOUT HIM and that I was expected to not only show attempts to positively co-parent, but to HELP her in HER mom duties! She even said I had to be NICE to her, to STROKE her INSANE view of herself as ‘mom of the year’ and present ourselves to the judge as though we didn’t TOTALLY have it out for her. You have GOT to be kidding me. Not that I ‘had it out for her’ to begin with. But I sure as shit wasn’t HELPING her when she wasn’t helping herself! Why should I?

This is a woman who never kept clean APPROPRIATE clothes on his little back, proper food in his little belly and made all types of dangerous choices. And you want ME to go into that courtroom like I am NOT the best damn thing that ever happened to these 2 boys and actually try to HELP her?

Yes. That is exactly what our attorney expected of me. And guess what folks. It worked.  Every ounce of advice that I give you about trying to work with the other party, SHOWING YOU ARE THE ADULT, and not taking petty jabs and making it a he-said/she-said? Came from my attorney. Arguably the best divorce attorney in the state in which we live, if not the midwest. And why on earth is she so successful? Why does she win cases? Why do the judges respect her?

Her perspective….does NOT suck. And she was not afraid to put this childless stepmom OR my husband in our places and tell us to sit down and shut up because she was driving. And not only driving, but driving with INTEGRITY and the smarts to do this with the RIGHT PERSPECTIVE.

She already knew what the state guidelines were. That’s right friends. BARE EFFING MINIMUM. SHE herself is a mother. She already knew that the judge’s job was to involve BOTH BIOLOGICAL PARENTS in the upbringing of this child at all costs. In fact, when BM told our judge to his face that she was doing drugs…the judge suggested WE pay for a substance abuse evaluation. I WAS ON FIRE IN THE SEAT IN THAT COURTROOM. Note I said, in the seat, with the rest of the people who didn’t matter to that case. Why? I DON’T MATTER TO THE CASE. THAT’S RIGHT. ME, RAISING THIS CHILD ALL DAY EVERY DAY AS MY OWN AND MY ATTORNEY SAID SIT YOUR ASS DOWN, AND BE QUIET !  Because TO THE JUDGE, I don’t matter to the case, in general. As MOST stepparents DON’T.

WHAT?!

So it is suggested WE pay for an evaluation and I am about to lose it. I can feel myself getting more and more angry and I think SURELY our lawyer will fight that shit, that is what I PAY HER FOR AFTER ALL isn’t it?! And I see her lean over and whisper to my husband something to the effect of, ‘you’ll pay for that shit and you’ll do it with a smile on your face’. Okay that is not what she said, but it’s what it felt like to me 🙂

And the walls of that room came crashing down. All the work. All the fights. All of it. POOF! This will never end! My head was spinning. Tears filling my eyes. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?! I AM DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT! I TRULY DO WANT WHAT IS BEST FOR THIS CHILD WHY WON’T THIS END?!

Because my perspective. Well, it sucked.

We proceed with said evaluation. The results…quite damning to BM. You think my lawyer, and the judge didn’t already see that coming? No doubt the best thing that ever happened to us and to the safety of Little Bear. And HOPEFULLY ONE DAY, the best thing that will ever happen to BM. In order to reenter his life as an active parent, she must get herself some help. Some REAL help. And our attorney challenged me CONSTANTLY. She (along with many therapists) helped me realize the BEST thing for LB is to have ALL of this parents, alive, well, healthy and involved in his upbringing. She always said, ‘the best thing for this child is TRULY for his biological mother to be healthy and involved, in a good mental state, and sober.’ She would ask me if I believed that. And I always said yes, but deep down, the answer was no.

No, what is BEST for this child I thought is for his mother to go the hell away. For her to stop playing games, quit fkn around and either put up or shut up. And our lawyer knew I felt that way. That is why she challenged me so much. It wasn’t until I started this journey that I began to REALLY understand what she was saying and have a change of heart. That child no doubt DID need to be protected and he certainly IS better off with us. But the BEST thing for him is to have a mother who is in a good place to be involved in his life. If she is not in a good place, she can be damaging, and certainly that is part of why she is not involved today. BUT my perspective changed entirely when I started to look at it from a DIFFERENT angle. She DOES love him and she DOES want what is best for him. She just doesn’t currently have the tools to achieve it and has chosen not to make a change. BUT – I was doing NO ONE any favors by fighting it instead of OBJECTIVELY helping.

I was fun to work with in our case no doubt. My lawyer would laugh at me alot. Yes, laugh. I would bring things to her and she would shoot me down. I heard, ‘judge doesn’t care, judge doesn’t care, judge doesn’t care’ too many times to count. You know why you’re not getting anywhere in your case?

Your perspective sucks.

We went over and above what we ‘should’ have HAD to do for BM simply to ensure there was NO QUESTION we were the best environment for this child to reside in. But where was the judge’s head at in all of this? Why did we have to do that? Why on earth didn’t our lawyer just take all of my brilliance and move forward with it?! 😉 Because their perspective was quite different than ours. It is the judge’s job to exhaust all possible options to keep BOTH BIOLOGICAL PARENTS involved in the child’s upbringing. Stepparents, we ARE important, and the longer we are involved, the more important we become. But when all is said and done, THE OBJECTIVE PERSPECTIVE IS THIS: it is the biological parents who are the focus. It’s that simple. I did not say that was fair. I did not say that was right. What I said was, that is the TRUTH.

You can scratch and claw to try to get EVERYONE ON THE PLANET to see YOUR perspective. Or you can get to a point where you see things objectively, and proceed accordingly.

I love hearing how we stepparents knew what we were getting into when we came into this. HA! LOVE IT – LOVE IT – LOVE IT! To my BMs who follow, you guys are great. Why? Because I have come to a point where I can TRULY appreciate your perspective. So I would like to challenge both sides. BMs when you got pregnant, EVERYONE told you how it was going to be did they not? Everyone had some advice, everyone knew just what to say to ‘prepare’ you, right? And yet when that baby came, all you REALLY knew was you were bringing another life into the world. You didn’t know how he would turn out. You didn’t know what it would be like to raise that child until you started doing it, every waking moment of your life. Stepparenting is kind of the same. We GET that there is a child to raise, and we want to help. We GET that we will be dealing with another adult outside our own home that also affects these kids. But until we start doing it EVERY WAKING MOMENT OF OUR LIVES, we don’t TRULY get it.

I have no biokids of my own, clearly. But what I do feel differently about now than I used to, is a TOTAL sense of understanding about what it must be like for a BM to have to share her children. NO, she did not ask for us, like we did not ask for her. NO she did not expect to be sharing anything, NOR be belittled for not wanting to share.

OUR PERSPECTIVES SUCK! ON BOTH ENDS!

When I tossed out that little exercise on my Facebook page this week, you know the one, about VIEWING IT FROM THE OTHER PARTY’S PERSPECTIVE? Oh the ugly. Phew! If Facebook were flammable, every one of our computers and mobile devices would have gone up in flames.

I DON’T HAVE TO CHANGE FOR HER!

SHE WOULDN’T DARE ACCUSE ME OF ANYTHING!

WELL I COULD WORK ON THIS…..BUT….

No! No buts! The point of the exercise was to get everyone to see YOUR PERSPECTIVE IS NOT THE ONLY ONE! PERIOD! And you will CONTINUE to stew in your own misery, fighting an uphill battle with the other party and hating EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR FREAKING LIFE in a blended family UNTIL YOU START SEEING THINGS OBJECTIVELY.

Do you know the actual definition of the word OBJECTIVELY? Here’s one for funsies –

“Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudice.”

Well. That’s just friggen impossible. How can I be uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudice?

I will tell you why. Because the ones who are deciding your fate? Teachers, Judges, Lawyers, Therapists….THEY ARE ALL IN AN OBJECTIVE POSITION. SOME of course have their outside factors and we know SOME of them are in cahoots with the other party or at least we suspect they are. But most of them? They don’t know you from ANY OTHER OF THE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE THEY DEAL WITH. YOU ARE JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. And THEY are ‘uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudice’. Well, emotions at least, because they don’t know you. They don’t care about how you’re struggling, since EVERYONE is. And it’s not their problem. Remember, nobody cares about your shit as much as you do. But personal prejudice? Sure they’re influenced by it…you with the attitude that you’re perfect? They know your kind.

You come in bitching about how the other party is a psycho, YOU are the best freaking parent on the planet and THEY are the problem? I have news for you. Guess who just lost their ‘case’ before it began? YOU DID.

So how do we fix this friends? We start looking at this from the DECISION-MAKER perspective….NOT our own.

I realize this blog sounds harsh and I DO want to be a source for positivity and I DON’T want to burst your bubble of hope by saying no one cares and you just have to deal with it. I am saying the sooner you come to grips with looking at things the way OTHERS see it, ALONGSIDE your own perspective, you’ll be in a much better place. “BM is being a bitch. She never leaves us alone.” Well, those are her children too. Don’t you worry for them when they are in someone else’s care, just as a NATURAL worry for the life you’re taking responsibility for? So does BM. And she may very well be messing up your ‘bonding’ time, but instead of immediately freaking out about it……think about WHY that may be and how YOU can alter it or perhaps ease her concerns.

I DON’T HAVE TO CHANGE FOR HER!

No, you don’t, but if you want to climb up out of your misery well, you need to change YOU for YOU, which WILL affect others.

And BMs, take it easy on us. We are still learning. And while I recognize it may feel like we are using YOUR precious angels as guinea pigs in our learning curve , we are just doing our best. Heh see what I did there SMs?? BM has a point there!

SM, you say you’re dealing with a BM who is basically absent. They don’t do their share, they ruin EVERYTHING and they don’t parent to YOUR standard. Yet, they walk around like they are LITERALLY mother of the year. Yes, I know the type. But recognize 2 things: First, no one expects them to parent to YOUR standard. NO ONE, but you and perhaps your husband. Not the teachers. Not the coaches. And CERTAINLY not the judges. They expect her to parent to the STATE standard, remember? Often times, as I have said before, these women who are absent are right fighters. They feel you trampling on their rights and so they fight you. Stop fighting them. Encourage them, DON’T patronize them, just look at it from their perspective. Some chick is now with their ex and has decided she is going to come in and tell them how to parent. Can you actually imagine for a second how bad that SUCKS? Even IF they are the worst mom on the planet, that still sucks. And you fall right into the trap of doing the same thing and expecting different results.

TRY SOMETHING NEW. TRY LOOKING AT IT FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW. She doesn’t HAVE to be an absent or bitchy BM for you to do this. I suggest you do it in ALL cases.

WHY SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT HER?! SHE ISN’T WORRIED ABOUT US!

You know what, maybe you’re right, but I have a trick for you. You ready? When you start looking at it from the perspective of those who make the decisions, who have ZERO emotional attachment to your case whatsoever….without even realizing it you force yourself to see how this looks from the outside. And eventually that turns into how this looks to BM/SM/DH. How this looks to the CHILDREN.

BOOM.

You know what I love about my naysayers? You can’t see the forest through the trees. You are SO entrenched in your OWN circumstance that NO ONE can tell you to look at it objectively, THERE IS NO OBJECTIVE PERSPECTIVE! THERE IS ONLY MY PERSPECTIVE! God love you guys. I was you once. I felt the same. Anyone with HALF A BRAIN would see it MY way – would know MY WAY is the ONLY WAY for the LOVE OF GOD HOW CAN EVERYONE ELSE BE SO STUPID! WE WILL NEVER LIKE EACH OTHER! SHE IS CRAZY!

Yep. I know. And I love you for it. Because when the day comes where you’re over here on this side of the fence with me, you will feel the same way about the other people who are still SO ANGRY AND BITTER. You will come to realize that while you may never like each the other party and she may be ‘crazy’, you can proceed without worrying about her. You will want to reach your hand out and help the people coming after you climb the fence too. And they are mad! And you don’t GET IT! And you don’t know what they DID!

Yes I do 🙂 But they are still an adult in the child’s life who cares. They may not be trying or doing by YOUR standard but there are 3 sides to every story friends. Theirs. Yours. And the truth.

Start seeking the TRUTH in every situation. Not YOUR version of it. Not THEIR version of it. The truth as a whole. You know how the truth is FINALLY exposed? Examining – OBJECTIVELY – all angles of the issue. That’s it. That’s my secret. I can be positive because I changed the way I looked at things. You don’t have to be best friends, you don’t have to like one another, and you don’t have to get ANY feedback or growth from the other end. In fact, she may continue to hate you. She may continue to make destructive decisions. You can bet your ass I will keep that child safe, and I haven’t forgotten what I went through to get here. I just did some work ON ME, FOR ME.  Because it really doesn’t matter what SHE does or does NOT do. I take to the OUTSIDE picture here, what this looks like as a whole to someone with ZERO attachment or investment in our situation. And lo and behold! It’s positively affected every life I touch but mostly MY OWN.

You want the truth to be exposed? Go find it yourself FIRST. I know it’s so hard! And kids are hurting and you don’t know how to fix it. I’ll tell you how. FIX YOU. Seek the truth – ALL of it, not just what YOU believe. You think you know it, you think you’re in a good place, but if you’re still sitting, riddled with anxiety and hatred, it’s because YOU are not at peace with yourself, which is what will ultimately expose the truth. You are seeing things from inside your OWN heart and the pit of your OWN soul, NOT from where it will most benefit all parties involved – the perspective of the outsider who sees EVERY SIDE OF THE STORY. I promised you the truth would come out ONE DAY, but until you get a handle on the truth as a WHOLE, from every angle INCLUDING THEIRS,  you can’t expose it. And you certainly won’t grow into the incredible person God has put you here to be.

Now get to work on your perspective. Because it sucks.

those-who-think-they-know-it-all

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A Judgment Lesson

Have you ever felt you were being judged? Have you ever felt like someone had their mind made up about you based on only a few factors instead of your whole being? Well, I can’t say that I had, until recently. Actually, I am quite sure I’ve been judged all throughout my life, as most of us have. The clothes I wear, the car I drive, the company I keep, etc. But I can’t say that I ever cared much. Not because I’m the type to not care what people think, I totally do. I guess I never really focused on it until recently because I’m in such a personal growth stage in my life. When you allow yourself to have a humble heart and truly self-assess, you realize you have some things to work on. You also realize that what makes you your personal best will almost ALWAYS include the people you come into contact with.

I’ve been harboring some anxiety and concern for someone in particular for several months now. I believe I haven’t always shown this person my best side and worried what they thought of me. Remember, when you take the high road, you never have to justify your actions. BUT when you’re behaving in a way that would make others question you, which I had, it’s time to look inside and make it right. This person has never given me any indication that they think less of me. In fact, honestly it was in my own head and as we’re all so good at….I overthink it and get myself all worked up.

So, I took my own advice, which lemme say, is a tad tough at times 😉 I decided to contact this person directly and be totally honest. I told them how I felt I hadn’t shown my best side in the past, and how it upset me because I work SO INCREDIBLY HARD every single day to be my very best. I said how far I’d come and how important it was to me to behave positively not only for myself, but also my family, and everyone I come in contact with. It truly is important to me. And I received no response. GRANTED people are incredibly busy, and I do NOT fault this person for not responding. There are any number of reasons that people do not respond or reciprocate when we pour our hearts out. But it really hurt. And my mind really started racing yesterday about what they must think and how badly it felt. I have worked SO hard to be a good person and quite frankly we’ve walked through HELL for the past few years. To think this person would possibly think poorly of me, even after I tried to make amends was a very hard pill to swallow.

Truth be told I am being a tad dramatic. As I said before, this person never gave me any reason to believe they thought less of me, nor do they owe me anything. I chose to get it off my chest because it is MY issue, but if nothing else it brought me 2 incredible life lessons. First, what it feels like to be judged and why we should think twice before we judge others, and second, it taught me who is really there for me.

I could feel the emotion overwhelming me. Being falsely judged has GOT to be one of the worst feelings ever. I haven’t felt that level of anxiety or just BAD in a long time. I try super hard not to cry in front of Little Bear because I know it upsets him, but I could feel the tears coming at dinner last night. Dear Husband (DH) reassured him it was adult stuff and he didn’t do anything wrong, just that Mommy’s feelings were hurt. He immediately wanted to fix it, as he usually does with his good little heart. He told me that he was sorry someone hurt my feelings but that he loved me and thought I was the best Mommy ever. When I got up to put my dishes away, DH embraced me. He brushed my hair aside and whispered to me that I was special, and I was a wonderful wife and mother. He reassured me that he knew I’d been through a lot and he was proud of me for all the positive changes that I had made. He also said that the opinion of those around us does matter, but if people can’t realize everyone faces challenges from time to time, their opinion shouldn’t be of the biggest concern. I did my part to be honest and reach out and try to show them my best side. Honestly, at this point they can take it or leave it. And I don’t mean that to sound rude, I mean it brings us back to the usual – you can only do your best, but you can’t please everyone.

I feel like I can view the world and others with new eyes. ESPECIALLY BM. Yes, I said that. She has no doubt made some choices that have had negative consequences, and have led her to where she is today. But when all is said and done, you don’t really know WHY anyone does what they do unless you’re in their shoes. I believe people use the ‘nobody’s perfect’ line in order to make poor choices and not be judged. Yes, I certainly do. It must be the most overused phrase in the English language. I hear it all the time. Well! Everyone makes mistakes! Yes, however, that is not an excuse to act poorly. We all still must accept every one of our own consequences. But that shouldn’t suggest that we understand where others are coming from or why they behave in any certain way.

I believe every test becomes a testament and this was no different. I’m still hurting over the idea that someone would think poorly of me even though I’ve put in ENDLESS hours to fix myself and my family. But in the end, the lesson learned is that we can NEVER judge others before knowing them. Before you assume, ASK. It will be my motto from now on. ESPECIALLY as the holidays approach. It is the time for us to be loving and kind, not just go back into our old selfish patterns. And check yourself. There may be someone tearing up at their dinner table over you and judgment you’ve passed falsely on them as well. Take it from me, it’s an ugly feeling. I will hold my tongue and my ignorant judgments from now on. Perhaps this will serve as a reminder for all of us.

From Hateful to Humble: Attitude IS Everything

This is probably one of the most important blogs I will ever write. I know I get SUPER wordy but I just have learned SO much and come SO far it’s hard to be concise sometimes. So here I go…

I used to be so bitter, I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror. My FB following would probably be shocked. Perhaps that is why you identify with me…you see some of yourself in me, I try to truly be real and show you you are NOT alone. Even in the DARKEST part of your soul, someone has walked before you. Someone has felt what you felt. Someone has been there. And survived.

That someone is me. When I first came into this situation, I was an entirely (self-proclaimed, self-believing) fulfilled woman and I thought I was happy. I had just finished my Master’s degree, I was living in my own place, just myself and my cat. Life was EASY. I had just lost nearly 90 lbs. (yes that is another blog for another time lol) – I was really feeling great. And I was PROUD of myself. I LOVED myself. I was really on the road to something big. I loved the shit out of my husband (then boyfriend) and his son. As you may already know if you’ve followed my story at all, my husband and I dated on and off for a year before becoming serious and I didn’t spend ANY substantial time around his son until we had agreed to become serious because he refused to bring women in and out of his child’s life.

An honorable decision. And mistake #1.

I did not spend an excessive amount of time with Little Bear before getting married. And the time that I DID spend with him was in short spurts. Afterwards, I could then go out on dates with DH and have some time where the Bear was in his mother’s care. I worked hard not to step on her toes, and I tried to be involved, but on a gentle level. Seemingly overnight, shit hit the fan. BM didn’t like me coming around and LB had gone home and told her I was his mother. A shock to me since I had never ONCE claimed to be, tried to be, I literally never heard him call me ANY rendition of “mom”. She admitted to me later that she was jealous and took DH to court over it. Asking for full custody back (they had agreed to 50/50 with no support) and she again wanted child support.

They had been in a good spot when I showed up, at least working somewhat together, and in agreement, on most things. So, when we married, as I know is so taboo, I truly had NO IDEA what I was walking into. I’d never seen a courtroom. Never read a motion. Never dealt with ANY of this. And it was only about to get worse. We had no idea what types of behavior she was engaging in until later (leading to us getting full custody). Enter, the custody shitstorm. And it all went downhill from there.

I dove in head first to protect my new family. Mistake #2.

I am NOT suggesting you don’t get involved or fight for the ones that you love, but I am suggesting if you let it consume you, your mental health and well being will suffer. As mine did. I won’t even go into all of it but it was ugly. UGLY. Thousands of dollars on court costs. Documenting every BREATH BM took. Guardian Ad Litem. Substance Abuse Assessors. Child Protective Services. Police. Lawyers. Psychologists. Therapists. Teachers. Lost Sleep. A complete upheaval when the child returned home from visits. EVERY TIME. ZERO co-parenting on her end. No potty training initiative. He’d be SCREAMING. He’d be swearing (picked up from his autistic half- siblings, yes we dealt with that too). He’d be hitting. Total lack of discipline.

The tears. The sleepless nights. The anger. The resentment. It grew inside of me like wildfire. I hated everything about the life I’d chosen. I resented my husband for not giving me an accurate view of what I was walking into. I resented the Bear for being the “reason for all this turmoil” and I felt…not so fuzzy feelings for BM. For her complete lack of reality recognition. For her neediness even as a self-proclaimed “independent woman”.  It seemed at every turn it only got worse. And the worse it got, the worse I got. I actually got to a point where I hated the person I’d become. An angry person. A mean person. A bitter person. So consumed with hatred that I said and did things I regretted to DH and LB. I didn’t even want to go home to be anywhere near them because all we did was fight. We were all so unhappy and so overwhelmed.

Over a year ago, BM walked away entirely – and you think that would have made this ‘better’.  I know some of you are just DREAMING for the day that the fighting stops. But I caution you, even if that day comes, you may be ruining the foundation you so desperately need no matter WHAT BM EVER DOES. She was expected to make some positive life changes in order to maintain visitation. She chose against that. She would surely say it was for any number of reasons, and I am not interested in belittling or bashing her….those days are long behind me. Her choice to be uninvolved in the Bear’s life is entirely her own. If at any time she chose to make the effort to do the things she needs to to become a positive force in his life, we are ready and willing to cooperate with that. But for now, she is not involved and hasn’t been for some time. But this blog is not about what SHE did to us or how much hate I HAD for her. It’s about how I overcame that. And also, how I learned to stop blaming her and everybody else for the trouble in my life. And start accepting responsibility for MY portion. And changing MYSELF.

Without a daily battle with BM you would think I would have been in stepmom heaven. But the damage had already been done. As I’ve said before, often times BM is just a catalyst…PLENTY of the issues you’re facing are SIMPLY blended family issues. It’s easy to blame BM and her possible ‘antics’ for the demise of your relationship and loss of SELF. But I know better now. While she was not faultless, neither was I. What led me to a complete overhaul in my attitude was the blunt realization that I had everything I THOUGHT would make me happy and yet I was still so bitter. What was missing? How could I possibly fix it?

I had let this life and all it’s bull shit COMPLETELY consume me. It enveloped me. I heard LOTS of wonderful advice along the way but didn’t apply it. I had spent my time gathering evidence for the case, reading ENDLESS books and advice columns on how to fix LBs ‘brokenness’ and yet, it was all so……empty.

Why?

Because I didn’t believe it. My heart had become so hard that I had everything you THINK we’d dreamed of and couldn’t possibly enjoy it. There are a few things that I hope to assist others with. First, I want to help you understand that if you make it your life’s mission to fight….you’ll never know peace. Second, don’t forget what you’re fighting for. Third, you CAN come to accept that while you may not like BM, while she may have made ABSURD life choices and possibly even hurt EVERYONE SHE CAME INTO CONTACT WITH……she is still the child’s mother, and deserves a level of respect as such. This may be the toughest portion to tackle, but believe me, if I can do it, you can do it. And lastly, the ability to control yourself IS SO INCREDIBLY POWERFUL. Anxiety and anger come from trying to control others….a losing battle. Controlling yourself is an amazing tool IF utilized correctly.

One of my dearest family members is a recovering alcoholic. I used to hear the AA motto: “Bless You, Change Me”. And they really believed it and wanted to share this wonderful new concept with me. And going through all of this? I laughed at that concept. It sounded pretty. But I would be damned before I BLESSED BM after all the shit we’d been through. After all, SHE made her bed, and after trying to help her, she shit on us over and over and over, I was just fine with her dealing with her OWN consequences for once. No way I’D be offering up MY forgiveness. Let ALONE look at myself because I knew *I* hadn’t done wrong. For God’s sake I WAS RAISING HER CHILD! I was fighting for him! I was losing myself in the process! How dare anyone say *I* had done wrong. HA! Forgive her, and work on me? Fat chance.

But that started changing some time ago. She’d done it again… played another silly game, and we were sucked right back in. And this time I remembered a friend’s advice… ‘a game is only a game if 2 people are playing’. Keep that in mind…as you go on your journey ALLLLL that advice people were trying to offer? When you open your heart….your ears follow….and it starts to make sense…and you can actually apply it 🙂 So if a game has to be played by 2 parties….I wouldn’t play. That day, I don’t know what happened exactly, but I thought to myself, what if I let it go? I REALLY contemplated this one this time. What if, I were to try to just pardon the past, and let her go? I don’t have to LIKE what she’s doing, but I CAN CHOOSE NOT TO PARTICIPATE. What if I stopped being so caught up in her every move and let her do whatever she will do without my intervention?

What if, I just stop playing? And in that moment it became clear. It has been a LONG journey since then and that was nearly 2 years ago actually. But that is when I started to forgive her and really accept the idea of PRAYING FOR HER and removing her from my life. So that is what I did. I contacted her one final time, I told her I was done playing, that she was free to do as she pleased (at this time she was only given supervised visitation so there was no danger to the Bear) and that I would no longer engage in this ongoing battle. But the beauty was….once I forgave her…the focus turned to me. A MUCH needed concept for my personal refining process. Instead of putting all of my energy into what she did wrong, or what she does wrong, I started questioning myself and my own actions. I stopped fighting. And eventually all the stuff she claimed to be fighting for? It was gone. She is the ultimate ‘right fighter’ and only fought when she believed her rights were being taken away. So when we stopped fighting her, she just walked away. Amazing after ALL THAT TIME, and ALL THAT FIGHTING, all we had to do was stop fighting her. And she decided to walk away on her own. She claimed to be fighting for all the RIGHT reasons….but when no one was checking up on her, she just faded away.

You may be dealing with a similar parent. They SAY they want what’s best for their child, they want to be in their life and they want to be a good parent. Let them. Allow them to prove it. WITHOUT your intervention. You may be surprised that when the spotlight is on them, when it’s their time to shine with NO hindrances, they may surprise you and have been all talk the whole time. Little Bear hated those supervised visitations. He would cry to me all the time over it and BEG us not to make him go. He didn’t like visiting but was afraid to hurt her feelings. Our hands were tied and honestly, we were lost. Didn’t he want to see his mother? Didn’t he know he was safe? We told him he should go, and he was safe. Eventually BM ran out of time to fix herself with no action, wasn’t following the rules of the facility and LB told the monitors he was done visiting. And it was over. Just like that, it was over. And instead of asking to see the child or trying to arrange different accommodations, she just walked away. And has been absent ever since.

But I was still angry. Resentful. Hurt. Confused. And NOT at peace. When you make it your life’s mission to fight, you never know peace. I told my husband a thousand lies. “I’ll  be happy when, I’ll be happy if” and yet I never was. Because nothing was good enough. And since LB was in danger for so long, there was no stopping the fight. The more we uncovered about what she was doing in her life and while he was in her care, the more we fought. No way would we leave him in harm’s way. So I hear you. Because that is what you’re thinking. Some of you HAVE to fight. And so did we. But understand me. While I GET why you’re fighting and that children must be protected, if you don’t take a minute to ‘stop and smell the roses’ once in a while, that whole fight becomes your entire life. And your happiness and capacity for peace will pay dearly for it.

By the end of this battle, I was so drained, I had nothing left. Did you read that? I HAD NOTHING LEFT. I had nothing to give my husband and I sure as hell could not be the parent this child needed at a VERY pivotal time in his life. Because I was done. After we finally stopped all this fighting and the dust cleared, I wanted to leave my husband. And have, on more than one occasion through this journey. I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to deal with it. I was spent. I was angry. What had I become?

I forgot what I was fighting for. Or perhaps, I never even had a chance to figure it out. We stepmoms hit the ground running most of us. Oh! The man I love needs help! Boxing gloves: ON. Game faces: ON. Any bull shit in my way? Pulverized. I hardly EVER stopped to just hold the bear. To rub his little chubby cheeks. To thank God for him. To enjoy his laugh. To kiss my husband. No. I was on a mission. Once this crap is over THEN I can really start loving these boys. And I know PLENTY of you are in this position. You have a goal in your sights and NO ONE will get in the way. But I am here to tell you from personal experience, if you don’t take a minute to remember what you’re fighting for, when the battle ends, you’ll be empty. I was.

I finally got to a point where I was able to TRULY self-assess. It is a work in progress. It is not always pretty to have to face yourself. To ask for forgiveness for things you’ve done out of anger, to STOP before you fall into the SAME OLD PATTERNS in your home. You’re tired. You’re worn out. You’re resentful. And you may not even know it. The incredible sense of peace inside of me right now….I can’t even put it into words. And it came from being HONEST with myself.

Again, the ONLY way to find yourself fulfilled here is to be HONEST with yourself and those you love. ACKNOWLEDGE your feelings, even if EVERYONE else thinks they’re stupid. Contact me. I guarantee I’ve probably felt them and I don’t think they’re stupid. Come to terms with what you feel, ALLOW yourself to feel. Then you can let it go. When people mess with our family, it brings about a monster inside of us that we may not even know exists. I can see it in many of you. You’re probably wonderful people, your friends adore you, your family thinks you’re a gem. But get talking about the other parent and the stunts they pulled? And you’re angry and hateful. I DON’T judge you. I was there myself. But when you stop to turn the focus inward, things change. More than you could possibly imagine.

That is why I emphasis self control SO SO MUCH. I cannot say this enough, when you work on yourself and change yourself, the possibilities are endless and you can FINALLY have the life you say you’re fighting for. I believe with ALL that I am that your lips speak what your heart feels. You can only fake it for so long. If you are angry, it comes out in everything you do. If you are hateful, it comes out in everything you do. YOU MUST CHANGE FROM THE INSIDE OUT.  We’ve ALWAYS heard about simply ‘letting it go’. Just let it go. Let it go. AAAARRRGGGHHH I hated hearing that. Because I didn’t know how. Until one day it made sense. I don’t have to LIKE anyone else. I don’t have to ENJOY them nor do I have to agree with their actions. But I CAN choose how it affects me. Doing so instills confidence and it takes some practice, but once you see YOU control your reactions and inner peace it makes a HUGE difference. I ALWAYS heard ‘don’t bash BM in front of LB’, ‘work on your relationship with him, hers is her own’, ‘stop letting her control your life’ and to all of it? Brushed aside. Because again, I didn’t believe it. But now, I do. I get it. EVERY piece of advice that those that cared bestowed upon me, it all makes sense now. Because I am TRULY humbled and can accept that my mistakes are opportunities to grow. It is not hard to hold my tongue about his mother anymore. It is not hard to keep criticism to myself or keep my bullshit off social networks. It’s actually quite easy these days. Because I choose not to engage in that behavior. It hurts me and others and I want no part in it.

Once I FINALLY started getting it, and TRULY started working on myself? My bitterness faded away. It melted actually. Like, sometimes I don’t even know where it went. I allowed myself to feel my ugliest feelings. I allowed myself to be angry. I allowed myself to mourn a life I thought I should have. I allowed myself to do ALL of these things…and in allowing myself to FEEL, I’ve allowed myself to LET GO.

BM is a piece of work. She put us through Hell and worked the system like a pro. I watched it, I fought it, I hated it. She hurt her child. She hurt me. But today, I can say with every bit of my heart, she is his mother. She loves him. She wasn’t given the tools she needed to be successful at parenting but I am SURE she would give him anything she could if she were able. And this is how we live and this is the message I share with him. It’s like in an adoption situation. He will always go through times of confusion, asking questions, wondering about her. And I am able to answer him genuinely. She would give you the world if she could. But no one taught her how. Everyone has to deal with their own consequences, and she is no doubt dealing with hers today. But I am confident enough in my relationship with him to say I am not looking to replace her. She cannot be replaced. I do not hate her, nor do I harbor any ill feelings toward her anymore, honestly. She chooses to live how she chooses to live and I never bother her and have no intentions of bothering her NOR putting her down. Remember, blowing out another person’s candle will NOT make yours shine brighter. She has to put in the work to nurture her relationship with her child, yes. As ALL parents do. But putting her down doesn’t make me better. Working on ME makes ME better. And understand I mean my OWN PERSONAL ‘better’. NOT better than HER.

I wrestle with the idea of trying to involve her constantly. Perhaps I should send a school picture. Perhaps I should email her. Perhaps I should call her.  When you have an uninvolved parent and stumble upon this new found humbleness, things become clearer and you want to work to do right by EVERYONE, even those that may have hurt you. Along the way however, we’ve learned it’s not up to me to do any of that. Nor is it up to my husband. We sought plenty of professional opinions on this and it appears our attempts to contact her are for naught. She has changed her contact information on several occasions without updating us or the court….on file is information that is LONG outdated. The address and phone number are no longer valid. And when we tried to email her, we heard something months later about it going to her junk email.  Our contact info remains the same and she has it since she’s used it…when convenient….on a very intermittent basis. We have always updated the court within the good ole TWENTY ONE DAY REQUIREMENT! Our address and phone number, etc. This is NOT difficult information for her to obtain if she has ‘lost’ it. Of course, we always followed the rules of the court to a T and she didn’t….another source for bitterness…as MANY of you have dealt with. Another reason to be hateful right?!

But this is not a game. She can get a hold of us at ANY time. She CAN and SHOULD be involved in her child’s life. I have had to learn that while I must work on myself, I must also keep from being a doormat. A parent who wants to be in their child’s life will call them. They will check in on them. They will TRY. That is on her. I believe it is up to her to maintain a relationship with her child. I do not feel guilty for not parenting FOR her. It is not up to me to do it for her. But I will never hinder it. Nor will I make LB feel uncomfortable for wanting to love his mother. I encourage him to feel however he feels and he knows it’s genuine. Because you can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake a relationship with a child. It’s there or it’s not. It’s been nurtured or it hasn’t. I take it upon myself to cultivate mine while not hindering hers. She has to come the rest of the way if she wants to be in his life, I can’t do it for her. People are often shocked by my stance and approach with BM, how I conduct myself online (because as we all know it gets pretty ugly out there) and how I can possibly BLESS HER, FORGIVE HER and HOPE SHE GETS HERSELF ON TRACK?!

Well actually, the concept is simple, it was putting it into practice that was difficult. Children deserve to know their parents. Even if that means they will get hurt emotionally. I believe that is the hand that they are dealt and we should not get in the way of that (unless it means them in danger). We removed all possible ‘dangerous’ aspects of BM to LB. That is not a concern. She along with my husband created this child. That has nothing to do with me and never did. He required a mother to step up in her absence, that was me. But she still exists and she still loves him. I’ve said it many times before, the ONLY reason BM will get all ugly and try to keep the child away is because they aren’t secure in their own relationship with the child. But that goes ALL WAYS for ALL PARENTS in ALL ROLES. Me keeping that child away, belittling her, or feeding him all the reasons why she is bad news is only a reflection of ME and MY lack of confidence in my relationship with him.

She can’t hurt him (danger-wise), and if she wants to see him, or call him, or try to be in his life, that is entirely her right…should she actually choose to exercise it. Him loving her or wanting her has no bearing on the bond he and I have formed. Children will ALWAYS want to know where they came from. I won’t hurt him by hindering that. The truth is, he doesn’t want to see her or speak to her (at the present time) because she messed up with him and didn’t put him first. That I can say with 100% confidence. NOT to bash her, but because she has her own work to do. Had he been first this whole thing would have been far behind us, she would have gotten help, made positive life changes, and their relationship would not have suffered. HOWEVER, it’s never too late. It may always be a reality that he has a BM who lets him down. But maybe not. It is not up to ME what she does and it is not up to ME to fix it. I remember his child therapist telling me my job was essentially to ‘pick up the pieces’. Let him come back to me when she hurts him and be there for him. And there was a time I laughed that off ENTIRELY. You have GOT to be kidding me. You want ME to stand by while she hurts him, and just keep encouraging their bond knowing ALL THE WHILE she is PROBABLY going to continue to mess up?! The answer is yes. And again, as you go along in your journey these little tidbits of advice will become your guiding lights. Within reason and safe parameters, I will always encourage a relationship between them. Because it’s the right thing to do and him loving her doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me. And if she hurts him along that way, well, it is his right to be hurt, as crazy as that sounds. It’s his RIGHT to know the truth and find it ON HIS OWN, in HIS OWN TIME.

Stop asking me if you should ‘spill the beans’ to the child about BM. NO. You should not. Kids are FAR smarter than they get credit for. It is their RIGHT to know their parents without any outside influences. Of course keep them safe, but that’s where your job ends. When they come to you with questions, SEEK A PROFESSIONAL OPINION on how to answer them. It seems easy to just share with them like you would with your friends…but it’s probably not the best idea. Tread lightly on these topics. You run the risk of damaging the trust YOU have built with them by doing so.

So that brings me to the final portion of this mini novel I’ve provided you with. How can I be at such peace after living such a shitstorm? Because I took a look at ME and changed ME. I am just a childless stepmom in my late twenties. I don’t know what the future holds, I can’t help with anything except my own personal story. But what my story is is an HONEST transformation because I allowed myself to be transformed. You may be COMPLETELY justified to hate. I say forgive. You may be COMPLETELY justified in your resentments. Let it go, or leave. I don’t mean to be so blunt but what I’ve come to realize is that our time here is limited. ALL of us. The kids are only young for so long and perhaps they turn out to be horrifyingly hateful adults. And BM may NEVER let up and it may be an awful existence for the rest of your life. Yes. It’s possible. But it’s a chance you take as a stepparent. That is the best TRUTH I can give you. You have NO idea what’s coming down the road. You have NO idea what life will bring. And only YOU know if this is the right lifestyle for you. But again I say, if you are questioning it, remember why you held on so long in the first place.

I am not a naturally positive person. In fact, most of my life when Peppy Pollys came walking in the room, I’d be the first to roll my eyes. Yeah RIGHT I thought. Give me a break. I was a ball of nerves. An anxious mess. Goal driven to a fault and had to be involved in EVERYTHING. I was a fixer, so I’d get right in there and make shit happen. Every day. Until this newfound concept came along…..wait…you mean I CAN be positive even when everything is falling apart? You mean, it’s possible to block anxiety with simple mindset changes and practice? YES. It’s true. I am living proof.

The beauty in being humbled is that I can apply this new peace and attitude with EVERY portion of my life to EVERYONE I know and EVERY new person I meet. Feeling this way has led me to a deeper understanding of myself, but also, a deeper understanding of others. Many people would say I have every right to hate BM and wish bad upon her. On the contrary, when it comes to her in my mind I think of the ways she must have seen things. I think of what this looks like from a BM perspective in general, and I don’t get caught up in the hate. When I deal with friends, family and co-workers, I am able to work more positively from a peaceful place, looking at things from other perspectives. Not just my own. It is our basic instinct to focus on our wants and needs. We focus on where we’re coming from, why we’re mad, what we hope to accomplish. Being humbled as forced me to be selfLESS instead of selfISH. I DO spend time on myself and what I need, THAT is the part about being honest with myself. But I now also think of how my actions affect others. I don’t judge a book by it’s cover anymore. I don’t get so worked up by other people’s decisions because they are their own, and I now TRULY understand the concept that you never know why people do what they do unless you’ve walked in their shoes.

Now, as tempting as it may be to bitch and complain, I catch myself, and stop. As tempting as it is to question BM or my husband or get annoyed with the Bear, I catch myself and stop. As tempting as it is to fight at work, or get into it with friends and family and have heated discussions, I catch myself and stop. You catch more flies with honey, and I’ve found it couldn’t be more true. People WANT to interact with others who are positive. And I hope you connect with me because you see the honest transformation that’s taken place. If you are hateful and angry, don’t shy away from it, CHALLENGE YOURSELF. CHALLENGE IT. QUESTION IT. Allow yourself to feel those emotions so that you can overcome them. When we hide the way we feel it only gets worse.

You’ll come to realize it is possible to get through ANYTHING if your attitude is right. Yes. Anything. You won’t get so caught up in anyone else and what they’re doing because you’re too busy focused on being YOUR personal best. You aren’t so quick to judge, you aren’t so quick to reprimand, you aren’t so quick to put others down. Instead, you can find the life that has been waiting for you. I’m telling you, if you are having trouble finding positivity, you’re always welcome to speak to me about it. If I can help anyone get out of this rut, I am more than happy to. The world deserves more smiling faces and more peace. I don’t mean to be preachy but it starts with each and every one of us. I am still a distance from where I want to be, but I am far closer than I was yesterday. And that’s the beauty of life. For those of us lucky enough to live it for a time, we get a chance to LIVE it. Are you living it? Or just getting by? Are you enjoying your family? Or fighting for something you are losing in the process? When you allow yourself to be changed and REALLY take time to be YOUR personal best, you don’t have time for enemies, and you don’t have time to be hateful. Let those emotions go. The sooner you do the sooner you’ll be at peace. And work on a positive perspective from the inside out. I used to blow off EVERY PERSON WHO SAID, ‘be positive, it’s all in how you look at it’. Until I truly did. And I wasted so much time being angry when I could have been fulfilled and giving my family the best of me.

People deserve the best of you. YOU deserve the best of you. Now, I spend time WANTING to be at home. WANTING to be with my family. I STOP – REALLY – S-T-O-P to listen to Little Bear when he speaks. I listen to his laugh. I don’t just hear it anymore. I listen to it. I scoop him up and love on him. I remind my husband how handsome I think he is and how thankful I am for the incredible amount of work he does for this family. And you know what happened? They reciprocated. All they wanted was to love me, to spend time with me, and to share with me. And I was so wrapped up in fighting that I didn’t enjoy what was in front of me the whole time. Things are different now. And all it took was a small attitude adjustment. And that small adjustment has turned into an incredible overhaul. Why? Because when you start making little changes for the better, it snowballs and before you know it, it becomes something wonderful. If you’re being honest with yourself  and acknowledging where some changes could be made, that’s the first step to being humbled. I promise you you’re headed in the right direction. Keep going.

And remember, I was once hateful and bitter as the rest of them. If you need guidance, I’m always here. I’m telling you, if I can do it, ANYONE can do it. I had every RIGHT to be angry. But just because you have the RIGHT to do something, doesn’t mean it’s the RIGHT thing to do. A few small changes, put into practice every day, eventually become something unstoppable.

Childless by Choice – Your Opinion is Irrelevant

I suppose as I go through this journey, it would seem rather important to address the pink elephant in the room; why I am “childless”. Some would say I am not, as I raise a child daily as my own, but for technical purposes, I have no biological children, and am therefore, childless. Some are childless by choice, some by circumstance, and some by reasons that are out of their own control. Currently, I am childless by choice. I’ve written and rewritten this blog so many times, but when I start doing that, it’s time for me to face facts – I need to simply be real. When I start sugarcoating things to please others, I stray away from my purpose. I’ve been contacted quite a few times lately in reference to us childless stepmoms having children of our own, and probably the most profound message I received was the following: “Do you think you will continue your journey if you have children? I love following you.”

Why was that the most profound? Because my identity and purpose has taken ALL kinds of different forms over the years. If I choose to have a child of my own, or if I am even able (which I don’t know, because I’ve never tried), it will just be another chapter. I will ALWAYS relate to, and understand the mind and heart of a childless stepmom, since I am one. If I have a child of my own, it only means I will then ALSO relate to other women in different circumstances, and no, my journey will not end at that point. It will just take on additional perspectives!
But that brings me to something I should have done a long time ago. Address, in perhaps greater detail WHY I am childless and help those who are struggling with that ‘status’ as well. I am probably in a different place than some. Many times I am contacted by those that were never able to have children. Some times I am contacted by those who simply don’t want them. And still other times I am contacted by women who DO want them, but are unable because their husband isn’t willing to, or cannot give them more children. I wish to address them all, and then maybe shed some more light on myself, and what may help you.

Society expects that women will have children. It is our duty. It is our privilege. It is our right. There is so much emphasis today on “welfare moms” – who are considered the dumbasses that for some reason just don’t know how to take birth control, the drug addicts who should be ashamed of themselves for all they’re doing to ruin the gift of life they’ve been awarded via procreation, and of course, the issue of abortion. The topic of women having children is somewhat – heavy.  Judgement is swarming around women having babies. The “right” women are supposed to. The “wrong” women are not. But EVERYBODY has an opinion on the topic.
I’m here today to make a bold statement, as I’ve never been afraid to do. I don’t HAVE to have children. It doesn’t make me less valuable to society, or diminish my purpose on Earth. And it sure as hell doesn’t make me less of a woman NOR less capable of raising a child. I have gone in spurts over the years on deciding whether or not I even WANT a child of my own. Ironic coming from a woman who is raising someone else’s full time, huh? It’s funny to me; the people who judge others for choosing NOT to have children. I have gotten some nasty comments since starting the FB page about how women who choose NOT to have children are just selfish. They are low and awful creatures.

You don’t say.

And just HOW do WE think WE could love and nurture a child, since we’re so selfish and pathetic we don’t even have any of our own?? After all, REAL women HAVE BABIES and REAL mothers are just that. NOT the childless stepmom! To that, again, I call bull shit. ESPECIALLY in my situation. His BM is a REAL mother technically. And has taken zero initiative in his life. In fact, we’re almost to the point where I’ve been in his life longer than she ever was, and perhaps, longer than she ever will be. I took on this position because I love him, and I love my husband and WHY I’m here is a topic for another blog. But the point remains the same. In my opinion, you don’t have to BE a mother to BE a mother. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Little Bear needed a mother figure to love him unconditionally. To keep him safe. To discipline him. To guide him. To teach him. To show him what a successful, loving woman with high morals and standards looked like. And guess what? That’s me.

Before you get all bent out of shape, go read my blog about loving your stepkids, I am not saying we are loving them as our own or replacing BM. But I am saying we are not less worthy of the position because we have none of our own. There was a time when all BMs had none of their own and had to learn as they went too. It’s easy to say a woman who doesn’t want children or doesn’t have any can’t be a good mother. But you must be forgetting what it means to be a mother figure to a child. A mother figure possesses qualities, not qualifications. You can call me anything you wish, but remember, how YOU judge ME is a reflection of YOU only. I don’t walk around thinking I’m a hero, and I don’t portray that to the Bear. But the truth is, I didn’t come into this marriage WITH children….because I wasn’t ready for them, and I didn’t yet want children. Raising someone else’s full time wasn’t exactly on my to-do list at the time.

GASP! YOU ARE AN EVIL STEPMOTHER!

Well, no, I’m just being honest. I am very well educated and secure and fulfilled in my career. Goals I worked my ass off to obtain by the way, thank you very much. I wasn’t quite ready for all that this entailed, but I chose to take it on anyway. There are plenty of women are TRULY focused on their career and what they want to obtain specifically from their lives. They have the RIGHT to choose a life without children but that shouldn’t suggest they are incapable of caring for one. I know plenty of women who would make phenomenal mothers, but choose not to. I know them, I love them and I RESPECT them. It’s kind of hilarious. We jump down the throats of “pathetic welfare moms who are so lazy and leachy that they have too many children”, and yet, we jump down the throats of “selfish bitchy women who have stone cold souls and aren’t willing to share their lives with the wonder that is God’s children!” And a childless stepmom, phew, SHE’S ranking lower than all of them because SHE wants YOUR children…..Really? Okay, I accept that these women are out there. But the majority are honestly blindsided by this accusation. HONESTLY. They are.

When people ask why we don’t have a baby ‘of our own’, I get all sorts of sympathy and questions. I must not be able to conceive. My husband must be ‘fixed’. When they find out to the best of my knowledge, we are able to have a child of our own, the questions come pouring in, and the advice and opinions. “You know, if you wait any longer…..” or even the opposite, “Great! you’ll be retired sooner, don’t get yourself locked into another one!” Locked into another one?

It’s like this, most women who are childless by choice aren’t selfish bitches, they aren’t out to take over for a “real” mother, and they aren’t really in need of your opinions. Some of us, like myself, have gotten wrapped up in a situation we didn’t exactly sign up for, because we simply love our partner, and we love his child. It’s not always as deep and controversial as you would like to make it. Then, for some, I suppose it is. But the point is, when someone chooses NOT to have a child, it’s none of your business why. You have NO idea what is going on in their lives and your opinions are pretty much less than worthless….just so we’re clear 😉 I will cover more about why I’VE chosen to be childless at this point in my life, but I find it necessary to address the other reasons some women are childless before I do.

There are plenty of women in this world who want children, but are unable to have any. To that I address and understand the very real frustrations that can come along with that. I have had MANY dear friends and family who wanted nothing more than a baby, but the tests kept coming back negative, for whatever reason. They tried their hearts out. They were faced with extremely gut wrenching and expensive options such as medical procedures, and/or adoption. It’s not how they planned their lives, and it can be extremely difficult. THOSE types of childless stepmoms deserve LESS of your opinions than the ones choosing not to have children. How dare you judge them? Have you walked in their shoes? Do you know what it’s like to want something so badly and see seemingly EVERYONE ELSE get what you want but can’t have? Well, if you’re a child-rearing woman, the answer, obviously is no. I don’t write this blog today to be rude, I write it to be real. Too often childless stepmoms are labeled as intruders, far more than the average stepmom. Because “we want your kids since we don’t have our own”. What a crock of shit. AGAIN, I am sure those types of women exist, but they are not the majority. If anything, MOST of those women are crying themselves to sleep thinking of how they will never hold their own flesh and blood, not plotting how to get YOURS away from YOU. They don’t want YOUR children, they want their own.

And finally this brings me to a type of childless stepmom who is perhaps in the most difficult position. She wants children, to the best of her knowledge she can have them, but the man she loves cannot or won’t give her any. I am sick to death of hearing “well, you knew what you were getting into when you married him”. I am hearing that in all different contexts across many situations. I am here to tell you, when you marry into a blended family, you get a glimpse. Yes, a glimpse. It’s an idea of what may be coming down the road, and in life, things change. And they can change at the drop of a hat. While I do believe there are things that we know going into this, as basic ideas, even bold in your face ideas, but until we are placed entirely in the situation, we cannot quite grasp the complexities and truths to follow.

I speak to women who say they are at a loss. This isn’t what they expected for their lives, and they fall into the stereotype of most stepmothers. They didn’t TRULY understand what they were getting into, they’re having a hard time with how things are going, and they want different things from their husband. I believe in marriage, ESPECIALLY blended family marriages, the only thing that ‘should’ really kill your marriage isn’t drama with the kids. It isn’t incessant court and BM problems. It’s you and your spouse, not being on the same page. Without you and your spouse fighting for the same goals and supporting each other, your marriage will fail, and honestly, it is a good thing. Because what do you have if you don’t have each other?

Which brings me to why I’ve chosen to be childless, and what pieces of my own journey may actually help you in yours. I am contacted every day for advice and perspective. But what you must know about me is that I am no different from you. I have trouble in my marriage, I get overwhelmed and I am at times unsure of myself and what I should do in any given situation. Perhaps people flock to me because I possess one thing they currently don’t – an intense overhaul in my attitude. I am naturally a negative person. You may think I run the Facebook community and am going home to be mother of the year and am a storybook wife. Not so. But I am doing my best and working at it, REALISTICALLY, every single day. And maybe that is what keeps you following me, a sense of ingenuity about me that helps you to identify and wonder how I am able to get through my day without blended family life crushing my soul.

Well it was, for a long time. I hated the life I’d chosen. I resented my spouse and my stepson. And I was drowning. Until one day, a new concept appeared. The concept of being real. Of being genuine. Of caring less about putting on a perfect face, and more about having a clear conscience, a pure soul, and allowing myself to be imperfect. It is in our imperfections, and the acknowledgement of them, that we form a true community, genuine bonds, and real relationships. Which brings me to my point for those of you struggling with the concept of being childless. Without being honest with yourself, you cannot be honest with anyone else. And if you can’t be honest with yourself and your partner, your marriage will fail. Happiness will never be obtained and you will suffer, for as long as you allow yourself to live in the darkness that is the mask of perfect wife and motherhood.

A while ago, I stumbled upon this incredible couple who’s basic story is not so shocking (http://refineus.org/). Well, except that he’s a pastor, so, that adds a layer of drama but I’m not here to judge, but to be truthful. So he’s a pastor, and his wife, obviously, a pastor’s wife. They have 3 sons and on the surface their life was good. But over time, their marriage became mediocre, through a long series of normal marital behaviors and he had an affair, with her friend. And suddenly, they’re separated. They’re on the verge of divorce, and realize they don’t know a thing about each other. Their story is obviously very involved, and touched by God, but I LOVE following them. Not because I love a good dramatic story, though, we all do 🙂 No, I love it because it adds this beautiful layer of ingenuity to a situation that most people would shy away from. They could have just as easily ended it all, bitched endlessly about each other, pointed the finger, and left a burning pile of bull shit, that at one time, was their most sacred possession – their marriage. They instead ran back into their marriage, full force, with a new weapon – honesty. They started being honest with one another, living genuine lives, and working – REALLY working – on being simply real.

No one is perfect, and when we sit and pretend we are, we are robbing ourselves of a genuine partnership with our spouse, and relationship with our kids. A concept that I’ve come to embrace more than I can put into words. On the surface, we are very ready for a baby of our own. Our daily BM battles are gone, we purchased a beautiful home, our financial situation is stable, Little Bear’s school behavior is where it should be and we’ve offered him a consistent lifestyle. It is the perfect circumstance to introduce another life, wouldn’t you say? From the onlooker, we are baby ready and it’s time….in fact, time’s a wastin! So what are we waiting for?

Well, I believe when people choose to have a baby, they miss a very important component. They either want to have a baby to fix their marriage (which I am ADAMANTLY against), OR they forget the concept of family cohesiveness, and being to a point where all parties are ready and willing to participate and offer the best possible life for a child, EMOTIONALLY, not just by “basic needs” standards. All parties will benefit from the addition to the family, and all parties are ready, to the best of their capabilities, to accept this new challenge and gift.
Yes, I’ve heard it many times before, if you wait until things are perfect, you’ll never have a baby. And to that, I agree. However, I don’t want things to be perfect. I want to know when the time is right. How in the HELL will you EVER know when the time is right?! Well, I quiet my mind, and listen to my heart. I work on being genuine with my boys at home, and with myself. When I started really listening to myself and allowing myself to be imperfect, things changed rapidly. My hatred for BM drifted away. My insecurities surrounding myself in this position – one by one – started to disappear. My questions surrounding every move everyone else made started turning into internal assessment and asking myself why I was so concerned with what everyone else was doing.  I started spending more time on judging myself instead of others. Since I already KNOW I am capable of listening to my heart and allowing God to speak to me when I shut up and listen, I know when the time is right, I will know.

But it doesn’t come without work on my end. If you and your spouse are not on the same page, I’d suggest you work to at LEAST get in the same book before you start worrying about a baby 😉 DH and I were not in the same library….for a long time – truth be told. We wanted the same end goals, but we were on different planets in terms of how to get there. We’ve done an INCREDIBLE amount of work, choosing to work together, to forgive one another, and to be honest and real about things. The biggest marriage killer in my opinion is dishonesty. Not about huge things (thought, they’ll kill it faster) – about small things. About pretending. Putting on a mask. Wanting a family that’s so perfect we lose sight of wanting one that’s real. DH and I move closer and closer to trying for a baby of our own every day. And if I’m being honest, just as most couples do, we are usually moving 3 steps forward, 1 step back, because we are all imperfect.

However, what has brought me so far on this journey has literally been the ability to let go and be honest with myself. You can lie to everyone else, and you can even lie to yourself, but eventually you can’t hide and must face the reality that genuine bonds form only under honest conditions. If you find yourself unhappy or unsure of anything, it is probably because you’re not being honest and aren’t allowing yourself to accept that you’re unhappy with something. VOICE it to those that matter and listen to your heart about changing it. It takes a conscious effort EVERY SINGLE DAY, but I have to work continuously on letting go of the life I thought I wanted, for the life God presented me with.
Some experts would say there are things you should keep from your spouse. I guess it depends on what exactly we’re talking about, but in general, I disagree. Pretending you’re okay with something are the embers in your soul. You can ignore them, but they’re there. You can quiet them, but they will never go away. Eventually they will burn out of control. If you allow yourself to remove them by sharing your worries, vulnerabilities and irritations, it is only then that you can experience the freedom that comes from living genuinely. Don’t leave embers in your soul. Remove them, every day with gentleness and respect. SHARE with those you love and trust, and don’t be afraid of being judged. Your feelings are REAL and they deserve to be validated. But the door swings both ways. Share with each other, and be HONEST.

When you do, the opinions of others will fade. The insecurities will fade. The confusions will fade. And all you’ll be left with is a heart that’s ready to receive the truth. If you’re keeping your feelings from your spouse about children because you’re afraid of rejection, you’re literally playing with fire. You deserve a genuine life even if it’s not what you thought it would be. If you’re consumed with grief over the inability to have children, speak to others in your shoes. THEY ARE OUT THERE. And lastly, if you are feeling angry over the inaccurate judgements of others about your ‘selfish nature’ for not having children, ALWAYS remember, childless by choice is a wonderful choice to have. And OTHERS are not raising the child. Children deserve parents who can give them a great deal, not just the basics. A strong role model, and a parent who is willing to possess great qualities like the ability to forgive.  Along with the strength and character to know the truth is a hard pill to swallow at times, but living genuinely will award us so much more than surface nonsense. I’m getting closer every day but I’m not there yet.

When people ask me why we don’t yet have children, spewing out all that I did in this blog is a bit much to take….I often answer with a smile “we’re just not there yet”….which people will ALWAYS interpret in a billion different ways. Let them. I don’t mind if they think we’re a train wreck because we don’t have 2.5 kids, a minivan or a million children in too many sports who aren’t receiving GENUINE love and a GENUINE upbringing. Because right now, we’re focused on being real. Being real with each other and being real with ourselves. Someday I hope a baby fits into that equation and I can feel it in my heart that we’re getting closer to TRYING. But I have come to accept it may not be in the cards, and that is not my plan, but God’s. When the time comes to try, I will know when the time is right and it will be between me and my husband ONLY. I don’t allow others to dictate my plans. And if you’re anything like me, you’re a little on the controlling side. Having a baby shouldn’t be a snap decision. In my house, it’s not. The day I share that I’m pregnant, IF I ever do, you’ll know without a glimmer of doubt that we’re in an incredible place and are acting intentionally. And if I never share that news, I’m still working on myself and my family. A baby is a wonderful addition to any family, but for now, we are doing quite a bit of work on just us. And I’m not only okay with that, I’m proud of that.

I’ve taught myself how to listen to the most important advice-giver on the planet- myself. You already KNOW how you feel. You just aren’t listening to yourself for whatever reason. I was no different. But if you get nothing more out of this it’s that the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. And you owe it to that relationship to allow it to be real, otherwise you’ll only wander the world, hoping to please others and forever longing for a happiness you can’t seem to grasp. That happiness lies in your honesty with yourself. The day I started being honest with myself, allowing myself to feel whatever I felt, and sharing it HONESTLY with those that I loved, became a big day for me. The ability to have a child should not be taken lightly, especially given the inevitable turmoil in a blended family. I simply choose to make that decision when the time is right for US, not everybody else.

The Art of Keeping Your Mouth Shut

Many stepmom haters would agree that ‘our biggest issue’ is knowing when to mind our own business. Funny, as I’ve gone along on this journey, I’d have to say, I agree with them. I had to learn the hard way, the value of simply keeping my mouth shut. Many of us come into a broken situation, DEAD SET on fixing it. I am no different. And boy was the situation BROKEN. SHATTERED. UGLY. And in desperate need of a hero….ME, OF COURSE!

I had to learn to keep my mouth shut to and about BM. That was hurdle #1. That was HARD. It is still hard. When someone wrongs you and your family, your defense doesn’t always come from a dark place in your heart; a place of hatred, jealousy or disapproval. Although, sometimes it does, admittedly. But more often than not, your defense against such wrongdoing comes from a place in your soul where other people are now living and breathing. How dare someone come in to mess with that, or them? I am no different. I was hateful to her from a bad place in myself, and I also sometimes was hateful to her from the most genuine place and position. And truth be told, she probably was too.

When it became glaringly obvious to me that it was time for MY OWN attitude adjustment, a serious transformation and honest self assessment, it walked through my life hand in hand with the fact that BM was not ALWAYS wrong, nor was she ALWAYS deserving of hatred. In fact, looking back on it, she was deserving at times of me minding my own business and keeping my mouth shut. Granted, I do believe there is always a plan larger than my own, and I will never forget WHY certain steps were taken the way that there were in order to provide a life that Little Bear deserved. But that shouldn’t suggest I am not in a place to truly say, “Wow, sometimes, you went overboard Ace, and you could have saved yourself a lot of anger and anxiety if you learned earlier to simply keep your mouth shut and PICK YOUR BATTLES.” That included not only speaking poorly to or about her, but also FEELING that way about her. I had to come to terms with the fact that what my heart felt, my lips spoke, and adjust from within.

So, that was hurdle #1.

Hurdle #2 is much dearer to my heart, harder to face, and truth be told, the most ongoing hurdle of all. It is the hurdle in my own home. Learning to keep my mouth shut with Little Bear (LB) and Dear Husband (DH). Many stepmoms would agree that a big issue they face is the issue of discipline. I am incredibly disciplined. I was taught right from wrong at an early age, but I was also taught to respect myself and others. What does that mean for ANYONE who dares to challenge me? It probably means you will lose. Badly. Oh will you ever lose. Not because I’m right necessarily but because I am JUST NOW LEARNING an apology doesn’t always mean you’re giving in, it means you love someone enough to agree to disagree. I am JUST NOW LEARNING that every time I feel slighted – instead of shutting down the other party, it would behoove me to actually hear their side….and in doing so, I must learn to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT.

We have always had all the basic arguments among blended families. My husband has always done well with teaching LB to be good to others, and to love himself. Teaching respect and acceptable behavior however, is not exactly his strong suit. Why? Because he always has seen his son as broken, not that he’d care to admit it. His poor son had to endure all this drama. His poor son had to live in less than ideal conditions, his poor son……is now living better than many boys his age, with parents who adore him, grandparents who worship him, classmates who think he is the greatest kid there is, in a beautiful home with a big backyard, and – should I go on? He is very lucky and blessed, and while he was once broken, he is not any longer. DH is guilty of expressing the same behavior towards his child that MANY DH’s are. They feel guilty, so they ease up on the discipline.

To me, this is and always has been unacceptable. I have truly begun to understand WHY he does it, but I also know damn well he isn’t doing his kid any favors by being easy on him. And what has that done for our relationship? Well, since I am used to being  disciplined and expected to respect others, I hit the roof every time LB disrespects DH. Always have. And LB would not dare cross me like that because the boundaries have already been established – he knows very well when I draw a line, it doesn’t move, I am not to be disrespected, and likewise, I show him the same respect. He is to respect his elders, his teachers, his church leaders, his peers, etc. But what took me forever to realize is that he is learning to treat others based on how they treat him. If they demand respect, they will get it, and if he demands respect he will get it; the door must swing both ways. But with my beloved DH, he always respected his son, but didn’t exactly do his best at demanding it back.

I have beat my head against the wall over this issue for longer than I care to admit. It’s an ONGOING cycle. We have discussed it with our families, our friends, our therapists, and especially, to each other. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I’ve always been told, ‘why don’t you NOT do anything and allow DH to figure this out on his own? Eventually he will get sick of the disrespect and will be forced to do something. You constantly jumping in is only teaching LB to respect his father LESS since you’re fighting his battles, and it’s also pissing you off that nothing is changing. He will always battle him as fathers and sons do, and you can play the hero, but he will only learn to obey when YOU are around to enforce it – literally the OPPOSITE of your hopeful outcome’.

Yeah Yeah Yeah  I heard that shit endlessly, but I never had enough self control to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT.

Until today. LB and Daddy got into a little spat this morning, and I was not there to ‘MEDIATE’, as I am ever so good at. And believe me, I am like many of you, I used to allow my anxieties to eat me alive and I made EVERYTHING MY PROBLEM. LB got snippy, DH stepped up and enforced some punishment. Now, I am not saying DH is entirely a pushover, and when he’s had enough, he will certainly correct his son. However, since I know everything and MY WAY IS RIGHT, the time it usually takes DH to react is simply not up to MY standard and therefore, ’tis WRONG 😉

DH was actually irritated, I could hear it in his voice this morning when he told me on the phone (it takes a LOT to get him worked up). And I actually said to him, “I’m super proud of you for doing that, and I promise not to intervene or bring it up later. I’m happy you saw it for yourself, and now I know you are more than capable and will correct him when necessary, I will try harder to keep my mouth shut so you can actually handle it on your own”.

A LARGE step for us. The trouble with this, is we’ve tried it before and it doesn’t stick, because since I already KNOW EVERYTHING, I find it necessary to step in when others are failing, as they ALWAYS do because, as we’ve established, I know everything 🙂

But this time is different. It’s different because I think something may have actually gotten through my thick skull today. People learn by making their own mistakes, not by me endlessly stepmom coaching the shit out of them. And you should take time every so often to allow these realities to set in for yourself. Any time you’re beating your head against the wall, try and learn from my mistakes as I’ve made them all too. Sometimes the BEST thing we can do, is let others learn for themselves, realize our way may in fact not be the BEST way, and simply try to keep our mouths shut. Many of us are in high conflict situations, and the idea of NOT voicing our opinion is simply synonymous with being walked on. But I caution you, that is not the case.

It is PHYSICALLY difficult for me to keep my mouth shut! It is PHYSICALLY difficult for me to mind my own business! LOL I’m just being honest. But sometimes, doing so is best. I didn’t write this for the slew of readers who will inevitably fire back about how you’ll never keep your mouth shut because so and so deserves to be called out and to that I simply say, you’re just in a different part of your journey than I am. Because I had to learn the hard way that not every battle needs to be fought with fists pounding and guns blazing. Some battles, are best fought with silence.