Stepmemo

A note to stepmoms everywhere


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Why This Is

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The girls when i met them, and only one liked me.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this a few times over the course of my blogging, but maybe I haven’t. Or maybe you’re new here. But about a year ago, I had been talking with a fellow stepmom in my family, and she was having a hard time. Among second wives I’ve spoken to, the common sentiment is that it’s rough going.
I kept trying to put positive little things on Facebook to encourage these women, but I found I had more to say than a little post would allow. So I looked into blogging.
All I wanted to do was tell people that family life is hard, and it’s hard for all of us. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. I want you to be encouraged that this isn’t forever.
Yes, they will be your spouses children forever, but they won’t try to come between you forever. They won’t drag remnants of a former life into your home forever. The drama isn’t forever.
The hard part is standing on the sidelines, being the cleanup crew and support staff in the meantime. There were a lot of nights I went to bed hurt and frustrated, feeling like the maid. There were times I had angry outbursts and times I cried alone. But none of that was forever, even though at the time it sure felt like it.
The kids got older and they saw how I toughed it out. They saw I tried hard and made sacrifices. They saw how much I love their dad, and how much I put them first and really appreciate them. I cherish their hands made things, I have shoeboxes full of old homework, drawings and school pictures. I have kept every Christmas ornament they have made, and take time to talk about each one all over again every year.
But most of all, I listen to them. When they talk I listen to them. I sit down and look at them and respond just as I would any other human being. I answer all of their big ugly questions, I support the positive things they do and I listen to them without judgment.
That alone has made the biggest impact in my relationship with my family. I have seriously cut down on my cleaning time because I’m just talking to the kids all the time. I saw a need and I fulfilled it.
That’s all being a stepmom really is, filling the gaps. There’s not much else to do, and it’s not easy.

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Not Sure What It Means, But Pretty Sure It’s Bad.

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Courtesy giphy.com

Wow. My day started off pretty normal and ended in a small explosion. We did the normal church and then return the kids to their mom’s. We stopped by my dad’s and visited for a little bit, that was very nice.
I went to the grocery store and talked myself into putting down some impulse buys. I’m terrible for that, ” this lotion only costs a few dollars, I’ve needed a pan like this and it’s on sale… ” always things I could do without and ends up adding like $10-$20 to the grocery bill like every week. So I racked up my testicular fortitude and put back a few things, and I was proud of myself.
It’s hard, especially after your go a really long time not doing things or buying things for yourself. It’s like waiting too long to eat, you’re deprived and you go crazy. You can’t stop yourself. So to get to the point where I know things are going to be more stable soon and I can wait is promising.
I was out, I was at the church for my volunteer project and I get a phone call from the middle child. I didn’t answer, my husband was home so I texted him to call her. He texted me back saying she hit her mom’s boyfriend and they were coming to our house.
Holy cow. I’m not worried about how he feels (the boyfriend). I’m not worried about anything but 2 things: what are the long term implications of this, and how will this affect the respect she has for adults?
There are a lot of complicated dynamics at the mom’s house. There are a lot of things I don’t like. The kids look to me for answers, and I do the best I can to explain things and not vilify anyone.
The boyfriend is something like a frat boy, but in his 30’s. Within the past couple of years, he paid for his over partying with prison time. He really likes himself, he thinks he’s very important and wants other people to think the same way. He doesn’t have a nurturing bone in his body. He started his relationship with the girls by demanding they respect him or else. He picks on them, starts fights with them, bosses them around, has them watch his son constantly. Their mom works long hours, is kind of emotionally detached sometimes and tends to side with him.
Today, he began picking on the middle child, and kept going all day. They got into a screaming match, and she made a big mistake and she pushed him. He exploded and charged her, so she pushed her hand out to deflect him and it hit him in the head. Then it got nutty, but no one got hit, and they are all here now.
Part of me feels like this is all my fault. I try to get the girls to believe in themselves and stand up for themselves. I worry that my talks with them have somehow mutated into this incident. I look at this and see myself at her age, and it terrifies me. I want better for her than that.
And I don’t know what this means for her time at her mom’s or where things go from here. She’s really such a good kid, and I’m worried. I don’t want people, anyone, to look at her and see this moment of ugliness, where she was upset and threatened and acted out. I want people to be able to see the smart, funny girl who is deeply concerned about justice, and loves to be silly. She has matured and grown so much, and it breaks my heart for her to have this blemish in the eyes of her mother.
My heart bleeds for these kids. I can’t protect them, I don’t make a lot of the rules for them, and I didn’t make them. But moments like this, and even just in general lately, I feel like they are my own.
Where do we go from here? I cannot choose the way.


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Beef and a Nap; A Perfect Sunday

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Courtesy foodnculture.com

Today is a day of rest. I only half decided that, my husband decided the other half. I’m looking a little like I’ve been put through The Mangler (see Stephen King short stories), and feeling a bit that way, too. Work has been, well, complicated.
But I don’t want to talk about that, except to say I’ve only got one more rough weekend and that’s it. Thank God.
Today I came home in the morning and crawled into bed, freezing cold. I had told my husband that I had been STARVING and very much needed a burger. I’ve been eating lots of low fat sandwiches, I needed some real food.
He took me out for a wonderful lunch date. We haven’t had a date for a long time, and this was very nice. But he said I looked like I was going to fall asleep in my burger, so I enjoyed the social time while I could, then we went to Walgreen’s so I could stock up on some things I’ve been out of for a long time.
A burger and a trip to Walgreen’s. It was a really great day. I may not be a cheap date, but easy to please for sure.
He tried to be nice and go to the store for me, but that required thinking, and I can’t hang with that today. I will just go tomorrow.
I haven’t fully decided, but pretty close, that I’m not as low maintenance as I would like to be. I was in my 20s, but I like to have nice things now. I don’t mean I need designer jeans, but I like to be able to go out with my husband regularly. I like to be able to get my hair cut every few months, and I like to buy new clothes a few times a year.
And I like for us as a family to go do something cool a few times a year, like go to Chicago, or spend a weekend at a water park in the middle of winter when we start losing our minds.
All things that I see normal, middle class people do all the time.
So I’m nervous about it, but I may be needing a career change soon.
I will worry about that tomorrow. Today I’m resting and happy with the wonderful date I had with my husband. I sure hope there’s more to come!


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Big Finish to My Tuesday Crapdance

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courtesy purplepanda03@wikispaces.com

There was just about NOTHING I could do today without an interruption. Not like a necessary interruption, like “hey, can you help me? My fingers are caught in the paper shredder” things like “Oh, I know you’re busy trying to finish the newsletter and eat your lunch at the same time, but I need you to stop and make a copy of this recipe for me.” Not an exaggeration there. That happened.

I felt like perhaps I’m anemic for most of the day. Just working was like running in chest deep water, then people kept asking me crazy things. I had people come in and ask me to finish projects for them right now. I would face them, eyes glued on the computer and just say “yeah, that’s not my priority today”. I’m not sure how they responded, I didn’t pay attention.

Finished the newsletter and RAN out to my car for a rousing round of “Let’s Drive the Children!” Picked everyone up and was just completely blessed by the news that the middle child didn’t have to go to cheer practice. Hallelujia!!  Caught a break today.

So, after a nice dinner (I made it, we didn’t go out) and a mild meltdown over our personal financial crisis, I’m calling it a day. I’m not doing anything for anyone else for the rest of the day. I’m done.

One little tiny thing that was nice; the middle and youngest were sparring. They were having their battle of petty annoyances before dinner, as usual. During dinner, they both had gotten up for seconds, and the youngest saw the middle child in the kitchen and asked if she was looking for the last of the dinner rolls, and offered hers up. She said “I saw you looking around in there and thought you might want it”. Which may be small, but it showed she was both paying attention and being considerate (they will fight to the death over bread).

The greatest statements of who we are as people sometimes are stated in the smallest of our actions.


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Boo-Hoo Space-Out

courtesy summernash.blogspot.com

I’m overtired and having one of those selfish days. One of those days where I wish I had a nice date with my husband to look forward to. One of those days where I wish I could just go out and buy a pair of NEW shoes to replace my old brown ones that I’ve destroyed.

A couple weeks ago I got a new purse and it was great. I still look at it and say “man, that’s a nice purse!”. Almost everything I buy is second hand. I don’t mind much because no one notices. And I don’t feel guilty at the register.

I always wanted to think I was low maintenance. I always wanted to say I could do without. But after a while, one day you just wish you could do something. A nice date night, a shopping trip for yourself. Anything.

My last job was salary pay, and it was nice. We could afford to go do a few really nice things every year, and I could make a couple “new” shopping trips a year. But that’s not quite the case anymore. I miss it. I guess I’m more high maintenance than I thought.

That’s one of the biggest reasons I am looking forward to my new job. I’m imagining going shopping for something for me and going out to a nice, quiet dinner with my husband. Or to the movies. Or anywhere. We got to go to the zoo a few weeks back, and that was fantastic, but I don’t think a date is in the budget any time soon.

So I guess I’ll put my little boo-hoo lip away and go take a nap. Then I’ll try to make something nice for dinner with the chicken in the fridge. I start training for my new job soon, so relief should be on the way. I will keep daydreaming until then. I’m really good at it!


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Empty nest-ish

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Youngest child working hard setting up new camp gear

It seems like we haven’t had the kids in forever. We had them last Wednesday, and they have been at their mom’s house since. It was probably for the better last week, since last week was a total nuthouse.
We got them for a bit on Sunday, and they had an extra special case of Sunday-itis. They had been working and unpacking and bouncing off of each other at their mom’s house and came to us extraordinarily pent up with energy and frustration. It was a lot to take in at once. It was like a wave of crazy rolled over us. It was all over pretty quickly; they had to go back to mom’s after church.
They have been there since. I have been crazy busy, even without them here. Our dryer puked out and had to be replaced (MOUNTAINS of laundry, people), needed to get a new phone (so I can actually have a phone conversation) and some other assorted garbage. I got to go to the gym, have a fire with my brother (and this time the dog didn’t try to kill him) and get a little sleep.
Yesterday was nonstop till about 11pm, so that sucked the weekend right out of me, and today was only about 2 hours shorter.
I have a lot to cram into the week and I’m getting a lot done, but it does feel strange for there to be no kids in the house for so long. It’s like a taste of empty-nest syndrome. But that will all be relieved when we go for a long camping trip this weekend. I can’t wait.
But right now, I’m gonna go collapse.


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The Heavy Side of Balancing

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This job is a balancing act, and the biggest problem with that is the whole “balancing” part. You struggle and adjust, do a status check, a perimeter check and a general inventory, make all applicable adjustments and start again.

If the house is well cared for, and the kids are doing great, I’m sore, exhausted and haven’t had a real conversation with my husband in like 3 weeks. If I’m doing well (eyebrows not growing out of control like forgotten hedges, rested up, not breaking out in acne) and my husband and I are doing great, the house is a mess and the kids are crabby.

I’m constantly questioning myself. Constantly doubting. Everyone will tell me “but you do so great with the kids”. Well that is fantastic, and I work hard at it so it is appreciated, but that doesn’t help at work, keep the house clean, take care of the dog or keep my marriage afloat. I mean aside from the obvious tie to my marriage.

Right now, the house has been pretty clean and the kids are happy. But my skin is a mess and I’m wound so tight that I’ve just come to assume I won’t sleep regardless of how tired I am. Time with my husband is precious and fleeing. The summer bedtime schedule is very liberal and my brain has usually shut off by the time they go to bed.

I love having good days, and I always hold hope that they are more than just good days. I always hope that they are a newfound sense of balance and a new standard in our lifestyle. And I always do my best to chalk bad days up to just having a bad day.

But sometimes when your life is tied up between two houses, it seems like no one can balance all that weight, and you begin to wonder if you are cut out for the job.

I guess in the meantime I’ll take another inventory.


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I’m going crazy, who’s driving?

I have always maintained that the definition of insanity is to continually repeat the same action while expecting a different outcome, but the last 24 hours may have proven me wrong. Yesterday, the youngest child’s room looked like I fed booze to a badger and a raccoon and trapped them in her room for 2 days. Being that this is an ongoing problem, my husband asked her what SHE thought he should do. She facepalmed and said “this is a lot of pressure to put on a kid, dad”. I kept my head down so she wouldn’t see me laughing.

This morning, while getting ready for work, I had horrible stomach cramps. I doubled over on the counter and groaned “oooh, I’m gonna have a baby!” The kids all stopped and looked horrified. The oldest giggles and says “this is a bad way to tell us”.  For the record, there is no baby.

At work I caught myself USING MY HANDS while talking TO MYSELF. I guess I didn’t get the point. Then I spent the rest of the day fighting off a viscous dress wedgie.

At home again, after arguing with the youngest child how best to clean the most disgusting grill in existence (she may only be 10, but she knows everything, just ask her, or don’t, she knows more when you don’t) she tells me her eye is bothering her. I keep catching her putting her dirty hands in there, and she says “I need an eyepatch”. I said “you need a facepatch”. She says “I have an idea!” then runs inside.  Then this happens. Notice she’s still on the ripstick. It’s an Ace bandage.

Photo: Right now, this is going on at house.
The “facepatch” in action.

At least being a stepmom is funny some days. You have to just go with it, don’t care if things go wrong and laugh when they go nuts. Because they will.


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If Momma Ain’t Happy…

I was reading a book today, and it said something important and profound at the same time; “The properly situated family has marriage at the center; families shouldn’t revolve around children”. Now the joy of the stepmom situation is that there’s a lot of insecurity and worry there. The children worry that there’s an attempt to replace their mother, the husband worries that the wife will not want to shoulder the burden of his family, and well, a stepmom has enough to worry about. Sometimes the father automatically doesn’t trust his wife to have his children’s best interest at heart. When problems arise he is quick to defend his child, often undermining any authority his wife has. Authority is something that’s complicated in these situations anyways, so being undermined in front of the child you are supposed to take care of is pretty insulting. Guys, seriously, don’t do it. The problem with taking the child’s side, assuming the child is right or putting the child first is this: children don’t often know what’s right. They don’t know what it takes to run a house, they don’t know why things are done a certain way, and they don’t know how to take care of themselves or anyone else. They do know how to do things selfishly and get out of control if you give them control. You got married because you love that person and want to spend the rest of your life with them. Remember that; the child will grow up and move out, you will still be living together. If you have a healthy marriage, you are modeling something positive for them to grow up with and you will both be happy. If you two are happy with each other, it’s that much easier to make sure everyone else is happy. Trust and put each other first and remember…