Stepmemo

A note to stepmoms everywhere


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Let’s Just Keep Still And Quiet.

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Courtesy giphy.com

Things are settling down “post-indecent” around the house. The kids are pretty quiet. That might have more to do with the fact that middle child is very obviously coming down with something and youngest child is still coughing something up (all over the rest of us, wonder how middle child got sick) but there still seems to be a subdued vibe in the house. I think we all are in recovery mode.
It was an emotionally charged moment, and after something like that and being shaken up, it takes a little bit to get settled back down.
The whole thing only further emphasized how complicated my role is. I live with these little people, I love them, take care of them, help them with their problems and laugh and sometimes cry with them, and here I had no authority. I could say NOTHING about one of my people being threatened or the fact that her advocate in this thing found fault in her for it. She goes over there and that’s it, hands off. Whatever happens, happens.
I started this blog as an encouragement to other stepmoms. This is a rough ride, and there’s no right way to take it. And no matter what, the adjustment period takes a long time, and sometimes it just sucks. I’ve worked hard to get close with the kids, and be whatever they need me to be. It took a long time, and I had to keep giving and trying, whether or not it seemed like anyone really gave a crap at the time. Now that there is a little more appreciation for the work I have put in, things are different, but I had to tough it out and just keep it up for a long time. It took persistence, it took patience that I didn’t always have.
I’ve gotten myself to the point now that when there is gum melted into the dryer, I just Facepalm and grab something to scrape it out. I suppose we’ve kind of worn each other down.
Even though I’ve transformed into some weird mommy-hybrid, and I love them as my own, I can’t protect them or help them here. I can’t do anything, even with my big bad mommy pants on.
So I will just check progress with my husband and hang out with the kids like usual.
Onward!

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New Year, New Pants. You Can’t Stop Me!

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courtesy giphy.com You can’t stop me! I got new pants!

Yay 2015! I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have a concrete end to all of the garbage from last year! It was a MESS!! We had financial problems, we were sick more times in this past year than the previous 6 years combined, and ran into all kinds of issues any time we had to plan anything. Planning camping trips was insane, one dog died and the other one tried to eat a child. The only person in the house who had a birthday was the youngest child. Actually, that’s probably a good thing, she normally gets the shaft, since she’s smack dab in the middle of holiday madness.

I couldn’t wait for 2014 to end! And it tried to take me out! I got crazy sick this week, and went to bed before midnight. I didn’t care to see the last few minutes of the year go out. I was at home anyway.

We went on a little trip with the kids over the weekend. We went to Indiana to see my husband’s grandma, or actually his granny. She’s a lot of fun, but I had just been through a wringer-washer of a holiday, then drove almost 4 hours, so I was beat. We did have a really nice lunch on the way down, and we got to go to the mall with the kids. And do you know what? The most exciting thing of the whole year happened to me, I got new pants!  I mean like brand new, not from Goodwill! I was so excited, I just would randomly say “I got new pants” for the rest of the weekend, and on the ride home. The kids got to play in the pool, we got an awesome room for free (husband’s reward points) and spent plenty of time with granny, hearing some AWESOME stories. Granny has pulled a gun on more than one person. Not unnecessarily, like things were getting out of hand and granny wasn’t going to take any crap. I could listen to her talk for hours. But I started to feel like junk on the way home, then Monday I thought I had a cold. Then Tuesday I thought I was going to die. But I’m on medicine, so I’m getting better now!

But it was a pretty fantastic trip, and I got new pants! It’s a new year, and pretty soon I start my new job, which I’m still kind of freaked out about, but I suppose this year, all things are new.


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This Birthday Tastes Funny

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Courtesy giphy.com

This birthday thing for the youngest child has only been in the works for like a week. I haven’t made a payment to the place we are going, haven’t bought invitations. I haven’t nailed down the exact time. I first needed to know how many children she wanted to invite so when I went to pay I could figure or how much time we needed, thereby solidifying the time of the day for the party.
Before I even knew how many people she was going to invite, she’s on the phone with her friend and says “my friend wants to know when the invitations are going out”. I shrug and say, ” OK.” She stares at me and I respond “I don’t know. I don’t even know how many people you’re inviting”. She starts to walk away, then whips around and says “when will you know?” Facepalm.
Today; “what time will the party be?” Me: “I dunno, did you finish your guest list?” Silence. “Uuummm, yeah”.
There’s a mass of scribbles on a sheet, some of them have question marks next to them. Facepalm.
Me: ” I just need to know how many kids you want to invite”. She tells me she thinks nine, but she’s not sure, and then she put herself and her sisters on the list. “Do we count?”.
I just need to know who she wants to invite, not to get a complete head count of all friends and family to attend. It seems like normal kids do this all the time.
She doesn’t know what she wants for presents. She’s not sure what she likes. She’s not sure who she wants to go to this party. She is the hardest part of planning a party for her.
When she gets married, I’m moving away.


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Working It Out

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Courtesy wallpaperbasecamp.com

I haven’t been posting very regularly lately. Things are a little off kilter and I’m trying to find a balance. Sometimes life starts going really fast and you just go with it. You don’t think, you don’t analyze, you just go. That’s apparently not always the right thing to do.
So after a few months of just going along and doing some emergency adjustments as I go (similar to smacking the brakes when you notice the driver in front of you is slowing down way too much) I finally took a little personal inventory.
What I found was promising, it was a neat little moment.
I used to be like the Cinderella stepmom. I cleaned and cooked and did the standard care. I made sure everyone had their material needs met and the house was tidy and meals were healthy and home made. I strived for perfect, I mean like Martha Stewart perfect.
I didn’t know any better, I thought that’s what you did.
Over time, things evolved. My relationship with my family changed, so I adjusted. Over the summer, the kids needed something different. They needed personal support, they needed me to be emotionally available, so I made that change. Then we hit a rough patch and I took a second job to smooth things over.
I couldn’t figure out where my time was going. Why am I so tired and the house is always so dirty! What is wrong with me!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we’re living in squalor, it’s just below my standards.
I realized I spend a LOT of time talking to the girls. If my husband isn’t home, it’s like a girl talk sleepover party. They talk to me about everything. So I stop whatever I’m doing and I make sure they know they have my attention. I respond to them, I never react negatively, I offer gentle advice, I make jokes and get them to laugh.
So during that time, I’m not cleaning the house. All I’m doing is being there for them. I might need a nap, I might need to vacuum. I might be so tired I can barely see, but they talk and I put all that aside.
Now that is very nice, and incredibly important, and I have no plans to stop that anytime soon. However I am not taking care of myself.
And if I don’t take care of myself, I will soon be useless to them. I’ve got bags under my eyes and I’m still tired after having slept for like 14 hours. I’ve done a terrible job of taking care of me.
I feel good that if I had to sacrifice my time, it was for them, they needed it. But now I’ve got to find the balance.
Time to hit the gym!!


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Sunday Gut Check. (Not Probiotics)

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Courtesy girl-heroes.com. i think more of us agree with this than will admit!

Sometimes, it’s ugly. Sometimes you look at the big pile of yuck before you and it’s like a wave. Like a never ending wave of garbage, gross, messy garbage. It will pile up and seem to tower over you.
And you will have more than one of these garbage towers in your life, probably more than one a year.
The easiest thing to do with this giant steaming pile is to look upon it with fear. You do that and it all owns you; the obstacles, the bills, the emotional issues, the everyday stream of stuff to do will all no longer be yours. You will be theirs. You will have lost the upper hand in the situation.
Sometimes, when it’s real ugly, like hurricane Katrina ugly, you can’t even look.
Sometimes you have to just keep your head down, do one thing at a time and just keep chugging along, knowing you are doing your best. And in spite of whatever garbage spills from the mouths of those around you, that is all you can ever do.
Don’t look up, just know you are doing your best and keep reminding yourself that you got this.
You’ve been through worse.


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Yeah, I Guess It Was A Weekend. I Think.

courtesy entertainmentwallpaper.com

Here it is, Sunday night. There was a weekend somewhere, but I seem to have dropped it somewhere. So if you find where I left it, please return it.

I got to sleep in a little, but yesterday I was super excited to get up early to go see the fall colors. I woke up and it was like 30 degrees out and raining. And it rained all day long. No trip to see pretty leaves.

Instead we went out for breakfast and stopped for a movie. It wasn’t too bad of a day. We came home and I was all amped up to have a little spa time and maybe a nap. I began to assess the list of duties that I had been confronted with, and my spa and nap time began to shrink in front of me. I got a little upset. I wanted to squeeze too many things into a weekend that I had also pegged for an entire month’s worth of “me” time, and it dwindled away.

No home facials, no paraffin wax hand thingie, no head to toe exfoliation. Just a little nap. Then I got up and went to the store to make apple pie jam. It’s a long story.

So not totally what I expected the weekend to be. Today I had the community meal, so after running around, I got to have about 2 hours where I was waiting for food to cook. So I took a nap. In a pew. Don’t judge. I was using a church kitchen.

I’d like to think I can sneak in some spa time this week, or next weekend, but I won’t hold my breath. I was just telling someone the other day that I keep thinking “Once we get through this thing” or “once we are done working on this” that things will “level out” and it won’t be so crazy.

I live with 3 kids, I have 3 sets of parents, I work almost full time and am about to start another job. There will always be something. Something will always come up. This is my life now.

I know I have to find time for me. I know I have to take care of myself, and I know that sounds super easy. But ask any working mom or stepmom and they will tell you it’s not. Even homeschool moms, because, let’s be honest, that’s a job. I never get to read books (no matter how many I amass or how hard I try), I have a hard time watching tv. There’s just not time. Something always has to be cooked or cleaned or someone driven somewhere or needing a deep, meaningful conversation. Or just to joke around a bit.

It gets hard to not have time for me. I get frustrated, I feel neglected and start feeling unattractive. But I feel like those are things I can work on. I feel like I have the tools to adjust those things. The kids don’t. They have me right now, and those implications last longer than my eyebrows getting bushy or me having a few zits on my face.

And when you think about it that way, it makes sense. It might still be a little unpleasant sometimes, but it makes sense.


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A Celebratory “No”!

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I feel like this fish. And i don't care.

I just don’t want to do it today. I don’t care what it is, it’s not getting done. I have an unusual amount of “no” pent up on my system, and it all seems to be purging today.
I got up and made a nice breakfast, helped in the tiniest way with laundry, and that was it. I have blatantly refused to contribute any further to society today. I mean, I guess it’s a good day to be frazzled, not contributing is kind of the theme of the holiday at hand.
I haven’t even tried very hard to keep myself out of bed much today. But then I realize that I haven’t had much time to spend in bed for quite some time now. I took my first successful nap in months yesterday. That was exciting.
I guess today, I just don’t care and I’m not doing anything for anyone. Normally I work so hard and give so much that I’ve just run myself down and dang it, I deserve the right to protest action from the comfort of my bed! I’ve earned it!
You know what? You’ve earned it too. Revel in your “no” from a sanctuary of pillows today! Celebrate this great holiday with a nice nap.
Tomorrow we all gotta go back and face the man.


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Let’s Go Racing Thoughts

What a Sunday. It was so super nutty, it felt like a Monday. Last night I got to go to the RACES!!! YES! I’m a Midwestern girl, so I like, no I love, the smell of racing fuel and clouds of dust raining down on you and the thundering roar of engines… you know, racing stuff. I bring safety glasses to keep the dirt out of my eyes, a blanket to sit on, and try to get there early to get the best seats. I’m not an amateur. My mom got my brother and me into it when we were kids, and I still like most of the things I liked as a kid. So we went and watched the sprint cars, and it was pretty nuts (like high speed bumper cars).

I got home around midnight with the oldest child (she likes racing too, so awesome) then my husband woke up around 3am to catch a flight for a business trip to Florida. Ugh. My alarm went off for church this morning, and apparently my sleepy brain said “no” and shut it off. I jumped up at the last second and made it just in time with only one child in tow (again, the oldest). I came home, took middle child and youngest child shoe shopping, then to the grocery store. Then back home to create and print a newsletter, make dinner, clean the kitchen and then off to one of my volunteer services (I make the newsletter for them) which I fell asleep during (oops). Back home to cram dinner in my mouth then go pick up oldest child.

You know what? I’m not good at this single mom stuff. The youngest child had too much sugar and then did the thing where she melts and everything irritates her and makes her cry, and I just cooked my lunches for the week. I had no brainpower left to come up with a real solution to that problem. She fell hard and hurt her butt and was overtired and oversugared and melting all over the couch. I tried to giver her ibuprofen for her sore butt and she cried the she couldn’t swallow pills. She will be 11 in a few months, perhaps now is a good time to learn. She didn’t understand why I didn’t keep children’s pain reliever on hand, and why she was near the weight limit for it to even work anymore. I stayed out of the room and let her older sister coach her through it, and for the first time, she took pills!!!  It was such a victory!!

Almost everything with the youngest child is mind over matter. She is always deciding she can’t do something or she doesn’t like something before she has any idea for sure. If I can show her she can do something, or get her to try something with as little prodding as possible, then she can go “Oh, this isn’t so bad!!” and add something new to her list. She is afraid of a lot of things, she doesn’t like change (at first, she always changes her mind, immediately disagrees) she doesn’t trust anybody, she doesn’t think anyone else knows how to do anything, even if she asks them for help. But she has an amazing imagination and she is incredibly (I mean incredibly) smart. She reads and draws and writes amazing things. I don’t want all of that intelligence and creativity to be stuck inside a little box of fear. I want her to be free, and bold and brave. I want her to dare to do crazy things and be different and try new things. Push ideas that others tell her will not work. I want her to do those things because I know she can.

I don’t have a key for her box of fear. I don’t know how to get her outside of that and see it. See that she is turning things down with out a chance, and see that she is keeping herself from doing things that might be great.

I feel secure in knowing the other two are growing up and becoming responsible and mature. They are good kids and have a solid foundation of early teen years to build upon for early adulthood. I just have to figure out how to make some building blocks for the youngest one. She could be so amazing, but that also makes her the most complex to work with.

I started this off trying to talk about my exhausting day as a single (step) mom, just winging it and barely making it work. I ended up talking about child development. So weird. Sometimes it’s like I’m a mom but not a mom. I’m the unmom.

I’m going to bed. This was way too productive of a Sunday.


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Green Eyed Stepmonster

The oldest child had a friend over yesterday. Her friend asked her if she liked it better before or after her parents got divorced.

Obviously it’s a complicated question, and the oldest said that things hadn’t really changed a whole lot, there was only one thing she kind of didn’t care for (I wasn’t the issue). But we started talking about how things were at first, and it just reminded me of something I really had a hard time with.

When I first moved in, we had the kids 6 nights a week. Their mom didn’t really have a place to stay, so that also meant she didn’t have a place to stay with the kids. I did everything I could to take care of them and the house and keep things spotless and seamless. I just supported everyone all the time.

I started to get close with the kids. We all started getting along very well, and I really just loved them. I used to have a bit of disposable income, and I liked to go shopping. But I loved buying things for them. They would get so excited over just new clothes, and I loved getting them cute things so they could look nice. It was just a lot of fun, and I really liked it. I loved to be able to provide things for them, and I really started to kind of feel like I was filling a “mom” role. We kept them for 6 nights a week for a long time, more than 6 months, but I can’t remember exactly.

When their mom got settled and started having them regularly, it started some problems for me. She would buy them something and they would come home so excited to show me. “Look what mommy got me!!” It would be something small (she was kind of on a budget, new place and had to get all new stuff) and I knew she didn’t spend much on it, and it just made me crazy. I was so jealous. I felt like “who is she to just jump back in like she never left? She wants to buy stuff for them NOW? Where has she been? Who does she think she is!”

She’s their mother, that’s who.

I had a really hard time with it. I busted my butt at work and went out and spent my hard earned money on those little monkeys I loved so much, and she just stepped in and made me look like a chump. She didn’t even have to try, and it was so much effort for me.

I didn’t know what to do, so instead of carefully finding a balance, I totally shut down. I backed off and spent way less time with them, I put distance between us so I wouldn’t feel so hurt and insulted. My husband would just tell me “they’re kids, they don’t know better”, and I can promise you, that did nothing to help me. But he didn’t know what to do.

The distance I put between us hurt our relationship and I had to work to repair it. I’m still working to repair it. They were young and impressionable and I left a bad impression.

Sometimes kids will do and say things that really hurt. They can be unbelievably mean because their emotional barometer doesn’t measure adult pain. They don’t know. It sucks, but you’re the adult and it’s up to you to handle it like an adult and simply (and very calmly) say “hey, I don’t like when you say that, it’s mean, and you wouldn’t like it if I said that to you.” Then wait a few minutes and change the subject. That’s it. Done. It takes a lot of effort to hold your tongue and only say the basics, but it really is all on you. Even though you’re not their mom or dad, you’re still parenting.

Whether you want to admit it or not.


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I Think We Stuck The Landing

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There have been a few wonderful barometric moments with the kids lately. We’ve had opportunity in connecting with them camping and fishing, and then I had a little sample of them on my own with my husband gone. It’s neat to have a chance to do a mental wall-mark for how their personalities are growing. They are really turning into their own people, and I have a unique viewpoint to be able to gauge what they need next.
That being said I will start with the middle child. I know this is out of sequence, I understand how that whole “order” thing works. But she had really been doing very well. She’s joking a lot more, she’s more willing to play with her younger sister and doing so much better about arguing, insulting others and being bossy. She’s finding her place, finding who she is and finding her security in that.
We’ve begin starting the always pleasant talks about how she should be aware of her surroundings, be ready to protect herself and not listen to what other people say, especially when it makes her uncomfortable. Aside from self-defense 101, she’s doing great in cheer leading and often teaches the other girls. It’s a huge boost for her confidence and patience. I see her with them and she’s really becoming a leader. She’s also reading a lot more and that is helping her conversation skills.
She still thinks it’s funny to be lazy, and that absolutely refusing to do things is somehow endearing, but I believe she will grow out of that. She has grown out of the things that made me so fearful for her future. She is her own person.
The oldest child got a very early start at “self-knowledge”. Most of the work with her is discussion and maintenance. But she’s ready to move on to disappearing into her friends. She is very ready to get back to raising money for Africa, and she’s pretty determined to get back there next summer. If we start soon I think she will make it. Everything just fell apart this year. She is super excited to be in high school, and has a new haircut to prove it (she chopped her long hair and just got her braces off). She a new girl with a new beginning. I’m excited for her. We’ve had a lot of talks and I feel like she trusts the anchor she has in us.
Then there’s the youngest. She keeps pushing to try and be included with the benefits of her sisters’ ages, but without the responsibility. She can’t figure out why it’s not working. We finally broke the “reading is lame and being stupid is cool” attitude that she adopted from the kids at school. She’s been proud to read and is reading much faster. She likes going to the library because it’s a taste of freedom. There’s now a positive connotation to reading. Then while we were fishing, she saw turtles in the lake. She loved them and wanted to catch one. While we fished, she took her shoes off and spent hours in the much, trying to catch a turtle. When she got one she was so excited she almost cried. I wanted her to be able to keep it, but the logistics of keeping a turtle on a camping trip is complicated at best. I thought that a turtle would make a good birthday present. I was skeptical before of her ability to keep a pet, she regularly forgets to bathe, brush her hair or teeth, and flushing the toilet is a mystery. But she is really maturing and I think it’s time. She’s negative and skeptical a lot, and someone her age shouldn’t be that way. I will keep working on that by correcting language and being excited about her accomplishments. She loves that. But she is really turning into a little person and growing out of acute little sister syndrome. She’s improved so much, even just over the summer.
So with the new and improved kids, we are all mentally prepared to conquer the school year. It’s gonna be a big one.
I’m not excited because they’ve driven me nuts all summer and I want them out of the house, I’m excited because they all have a new beginning this year. And they are all more ready than they’ve ever been.