Be careful what you wish for.

September 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

If I could go back to my newly stepmommed self (step-girlfriend really, if you’re keeping score), I would tell myself to be careful what I wish for.

If I could say one thing to every stepmom who thinks that her stepkids’ mom is the worst, most alienating piece of shit for sending the crappy, too small clothes or being a control freak about phone calls, I would say be careful what you wish for.

If I could go back to every time I just felt that I KNEW what was going on with shewhomustnotbenamed but needed proof….well, yeah.

I have been trying to explain for years to family and friends who don’t understand how we don’t have full custody that there is a world of difference between a crappy mom and an unfit mom. For years I truly believed that what we’ve been dealing with this whole time is just a crappy mom who was keeping her crazy, unfitness in check just enough to be passable in society.

We’re getting a taste of what unfit mom looks like.

Now that full custody is within our grasp, is possible, maybe even likely, oh it hurts, so much. How could I have ever wanted that shewhomustnotbenamed would start showing to the world just how messed up I knew she was? Did I not realize what that meant?

Soon, I may have to explain to my stepkids how their mom is still a good person even though she is in jail. I might have to take them states away from their half-siblings. I might have to actually have to put in the work to untangle the mess she has made out of their lives and their psyches. I will actually have to dismantle everything they know in their lives. Good God, do you know how hard that will be?

I don’t mean to belittle any stepmom out there who is trying hard, but I am asking you to search your heart. Can you be working harder? Can you find a middle ground, learn to look the other way, fight with your husband’s ex a little less? Decide that maybe part of the problem is what you’re contributing and that you’re choosing to see only the bad parts?

Because if your stepkids’ mom reaches her breaking point, no matter whose fault it may be, no matter whether it was inevitable or not, to see your stepkids’ hearts breaking? To see their world fall apart? Nothing is worth that. I’m here to tell you, there is no satisfaction to be found in CPS having cause to investigate. Nothing to be gained to learn that she was throwing all your gifts away, badmouthing you to the kids, getting drunk at every turn, breaking the law, and god knows what else.

I’m a firm believer that what you put out into this world comes back to you. Even if it was never meant to be, even if it wasn’t true, I wish in those early days I had worked harder at trying, just a little bit, to believe that my stepkids’ mom was trying as hard as she knows how. Because now it turns out she’s as broken as I believed, only she’s not the one paying for it.

They are.

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Stepmom Challenge: 30 Days of Self Care

September 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

happiness aheadI’ve been quiet and pensive and slowly watching my life turn into something resembling a nightmare lately.

Enough.

I found myself looking back through tweets and pictures from the last 6 months and realized that I have completely lost my spark. And while I can (and will) wax poetic about all the things that are hurting my heart, in a lot of ways, they’re nothing new. What has changed is me.

I have spent the last year and a half learning that what makes or breaks my ability to cope with this roller coaster stepmom life is how well I am taking care of my self. Not only do I have to fill my own cup before I can fill anyone else’s, but my ability to see the positive, to keep reaching, to keep putting one foot in front of the other comes from that full cup.

I haven’t been taking very good care of myself.

I think, as stepmoms, we care so much and so deeply for others, our hearts for loving our husbands and our families, that we face a constant struggle to remember to take care of ourselves first and foremost. Our families depend on us being at our best, but we can’t be at our best if we don’t make ourselves a priority.

My life very well my be flipped completely on it’s head soon. I may go from being a 3 times a year stepmom to a fulltime stepmom. Which means I need to be at my best.

So I am putting a challenge to myself and to any other stepmom who wants to join me: 30 days of self-care. 

Today is September 1, the first of a month with 30 days. It’s a long weekend, with plenty of time to figure out your plan. But how hard can it be? Do one thing, every day, that fills your cup, that takes care of you.

Here are some things that fill my cup:

  • Going for a walk
  • Cooking a well-balanced meal
  • Taking photos
  • Journaling
  • Creating art for my home
  • Cleaning my house
  • Going on a hike
  • Doing a workout video
  • Gardening
  • Getting (or giving myself) a pedicure
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Blogging
  • Unplugging from the internet

I can do this. I can turn things around. One thing at a time. Every journey starts with that first step, right?

I’ll be tweeting about my journey under #30dayselfcare. Hope to see you there.

On how to miss your children.

May 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

I miss them.

Whenever I come to this empty white box to write, those are the words swirling around in my head.

Sometimes it is this straightforward, gut-wrenching, I miss their smiles and I cry if I think about it too long kind-of missing and other times it’s a quieter, ongoing longing, missing knowing how they’re doing and missing their sweet little voices. But I miss them all the same. It’s this pack I carry with me everywhere, the missing them.

We are exactly two years into this journey of long-distance parenting. I can’t even explain the pangs in my heart typing that out. Two years. There are so many things that I have missed in those two years.

It has got easier, I will admit. But it has taken work. AJ and I had to make a conscious effort to take things out of that Missing Them pack that had no business being there, to make it lighter, to make it through. Guilt [did we do enough? are we doing enough? will it BE enough?], regret [if only we had known, if only we had done more while we had the chance, if only…], anger [she manipulated the situation, she is manipulating the situation, she will continue to manipulate the situation]. But unpacking these things, the guilt, regret, anger, and so on, it makes room for other things. Things like hope, faith, preparation. Happiness even.

I feel like I have figured out the right way to miss them, finally. Looking at old pictures and smiling, telling stories with AJ and laughing, sometimes choosing to let the grief in and to feel the void. There is no right way to live across the country from your child, of course, but it’s that whole thing about letting something go so it can return to you. When I stopped focusing my grip so tightly onto what I had lost, something more precious, more beautiful has returned.

I don’t want to live my life in and around the spaces the kids leave behind, walking in sadness with the ghosts of their laughter. I want my life with AJ without the kids to be this incredible, abundant, breathakingly beautiful thing so that every time they walk back into our lives, we open our arms wide to welcome them back into the fold.

I was worried it was selfishness, letting go of my sadness. But it’s not. It’s just another way to love them with my whole heart.

A letter I wish I could send

March 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

I wish you could see the value of seeking help.

It doesn’t have to be an admission of failure, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You are holding on so white-knuckle tight to what little you have and it is suffocating everyone. When will you see that letting go is more powerful than whatever it is that you’re doing now?

It’s not normal to continually be fighting and separating and reuniting with your spouse. It’s not normal to constantly cut family and friends out of your life. It’s not that people don’t know your life, it’s that there is so much bullshit in the way that having normal, healthy relationships is not a possibility for you right now.

I don’t know that I blame you all that much. I look at your past, your mom with her mental illness, your dad coming out in your teen years, and I see that it would be very difficult to come out of that situation well-adjusted and healthy.  What I do blame you for, however, is the choice to not seek help.

I don’t want you out of the picture. I don’t want to be the only mom. I want you to get help, to get healthy, so that my kids don’t grow up having the same relationship with you that you have with your mom. They will struggle their entire lives if this course doesn’t change.

What is your breaking point? How many times will it take before you realize the damage you’re doing to your children?

How long will I be cleaning up your messes?

Dark night of the stepmom soul.

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

I think we all have reached the point at one point or another, sometimes many times over, where it all feels too big to handle anymore. What did I sign myself up for? How can I keep doing this? There is no way out.

I feel myself teetering on the edge of reason, lately. I am one little leaf blow away from toppling over and wondering when this nightmare of my life will end. I am able to stay positive in the face of so many challenges…for now. But what will be the straw to break my back?

I know that thinking this way is just setting myself up for failure. Reality is, I have grown so much over the last year in my role as a stepmom and wife, I have found a support group that values beyond measure, I have a great therapist if things get too out of control. I do not resemble, in any way, that scared, anxious girl who naively thought that she would just have to brave it out for a bit and then she could get back to real life.  Joke’s on her, anyways. This is real life.

But the fear still lingers, doesn’t it? I am stronger and wiser after 6 years of living in this world, but it is extremely hard to know if the fear is a realistic expectation based on experience or if it’s some sort of post traumatic, self-preservationary reaction. I feel the familiar habits wanting to creep back (check my email, check AJ’s email, check google news, check facebook, check the local paper, look for something to buy on Amazon, check twitter, make lists, keep moving, keep moving, anything to stop the real thoughts from taking over) and it is WORK to keep them at bay. But I have to. I have to conquer my demons so that I am not fighting myself as much as everything else. I can no longer afford to give in and let her cause chaos in my life.

We have some big mountains ahead of us to climb. As much as I do not want to continue to fight, my kids deserve for me to continue to give everything I’ve got. I’m not afraid of the risk—what do we have to lose, at this point, really—but I am afraid that it still won’t be enough, after all this time.

I was given this life because I am strong enough. I’m not going to look in the mirror and cry anymore. It is a new day, and I have the power to make it whatever I want it to be.

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