This morning I received a letter from a fan of my Facebook page named Bobbie Ann Phillips and as I read it I knew instantly this needed to be read by all of you. This is her story and its an honest account of how it feels, of what we don’t expect, our fears and our goals. Enjoy!
” I never imagined I would have to co-parent with an ex of mine, much less an ex of my new husband. I did know I would be co-parenting with my own husband. I never imagined my husband would be someone else’s ex husband. I never thought I would have to share some of “my” weekends and “my” holidays, separate, from “my” son. I never thought I would have to long for the chance to do those same things with and for a son whose dad is dead. I also never thought my deepest fear would be that my third son may someday meet the same fate of a broken home. I never thought I would be fearing completely loosing two of my children if my marriage ever did fail. I never thought most of my scheduling would revolve so much around picking up one set of kids at 6p on Friday, meeting to drop off another kid before or after that, and then meeting back on 6p Sunday for drop off of two kids and then meeting before or after that to get another kid back. I never thought I would both look forward to, and dread those weekends at the very same time. I never imagined I would explain to two of my three biological children why daddy can not be here, or does not live here and the reasons be because of such different circumstances. Circumstances that would cause as much hurt for both of “my” boys and myself as both situations do. I never even imagined my children would have different dads. I never thought I would have “other” kids ask me why my husband, their dad, is not with their mom. I never thought I would be making beds, cleaning laundry, preparing meals, buying necessities, and supporting “other” kids. I knew “my” kids may look past all I do for them and it would hurt some. I did not know having “other” kids look past those same things would hurt as much. I never thought I would have “other” kids sometimes resent me for my role in their lives. A role they only want their mom, and their dad, to have. I never thought I would feel so much hurt for them, and for my husband, because they too come from a broken home. I never thought I would love each person in “my” blended family so much that I would wish each child could have their mom, and their dad, in one home. If I had that wish though, several of my biological children would not exist, and I would never have a chance to even meet two of my “other” children. I would have never met my husband. I never thought I would have to accept that because someone I loved died, and because a different relationship failed I would find new love and create a new family. I never thought I would agree that when one life ends another begins. I feel as though I have personally lost two lives and began a new one each time. I feel I am on my third life, and feverishly pray for it to be my last.
I never thought I would be the “other” parent that another parent would resent. I am that parent whose mere presence in a child’s life causes another adult resentment, and pain. Though “her” family ended long before “mine” began, I never imagined my place with my husband would be a stark reminder of another woman’s lost place with her husband. I never imagined That my place with my step children would be a reminder of “her” time she “has” to share, with me. I never thought my loving them could hurt her as much as it would if I did not love them. I do acknowledge that my presence does cause these things, though completely unintentional. I never imagined two children who “are not mine” would have me so wrapped around their little fingers. I did not know I could love a child I did not give birth to so much that it literally hurts. I did not know I would want to fight so fiercely for my time, my bond, and my place with two children who I feel with every bone in my body are mine. I knew I would have children that would fill my life with love, joy, hope, chaos and clutter. I knew I would do everything in my power to protect, love and cherish every moment with “my” kids. I knew I would become a mom by choice to children I gave birth to. I did not know that I would have that same desire to love, protect and cherish children not born to me. I knew there would be times my children would be angry with me. I knew I would make mistakes and cause hurt. I knew I would mend the hurt, calm the anger and explain why I do what I do to “my” kids. I knew I would both reward and punish “my kids” with no remorse because that is my job as their mom. I did not know I would feel so guilty by my own presence that I would overly reward, and seldom punish the children I did not give birth to. I never knew I would feel I don’t have the right to demand and earn respect from “other” children as much as I do from “my” children. I never thought I would always worry my actions and words would favor “my” children over the “other” children so much that I actually show more favor to “other” children over mine at times. I never thought I would say I am an ex, a wife, a mom, and a step mom, All in one. I am all of those things and I am these things at the very same time. I sometimes struggle to decide which hat I am suppose to wear at which time. All of these inner struggles are real, and part of my life. I am exactly where I want to be. I realize I am exactly where God planned me to be. I do have the husband and children I did always long for. I am thankful for all the good and bad that comes with this life and these roles. Yet I have no idea how to navigate my happiness and love without someone else being hurt, or resentful, in some way because of it. I have no idea why I even care that my presence, my role, and my place effects any person other than my husband, and our children. I just know that I do care.
I do not co-parent with my ex’s new wife or serious girlfriend, not yet anyway. I do know that the day will come when I will. At least, I pray it does. I do want “my” son to have another parent love him. I do want him to have someone else he can learn from, respect, love and cherish. I so want him to know I am okay with him loving some “other” parent. I want her to know that while her presence may cause some stinging, I’m happy to share “my” son with her. I want her to know that he’s “our” son, and that “our” will include her. I know that during my time as a step mom I have learned many things to do, and not to do both with “my” son and towards the “other” parent. I hope I will remember to respect her, and to honestly cherish her. I hope I will remember I should view any person my son loves as an extension of himself. I love “my” son, and so I will love those he loves and that love him. I hope I can remember I should love “my kids” mom because they love her and she is an extension of them. For the love of a child even the most difficult situations on all ends I am involved in will be handled with love and care, by me, for them regardless of how the opposing end on either side of these blended families are behaving. That is my goal anyway. I know I pray daily that God shows me the way to do all these things with Grace in each of the roles I am fulfilling.
~ Bobbie Ann Phillips
It is true, you may be scared and uneasy maybe even willing to self sabotage it once it arrives – but the ability to love someone new, a last ditch effort of maybe this could be the elusive one – is there inside everyone. But, why? Why not just completely rule out the possibility of love, why don’t our fears of rejection and heartbreak – keep our hearts locked down tight? And, what do we gain from loving again?
Read More at http://www.divorcedmoms.com/articles/why-im-not-afraid-to-love-again
Do you have an ex in your life, which makes your life hell? Does it feel like even though your spouse got divorced, that they are still married? Would it surprise you to find out that you put up with more than you have to, simply because the ex says you do?
Below are nine ways to stop allowing the ex to run your life. And, how to remove the welcome mat from your porch and your forehead respectively.
1. You didn’t marry them; they are not your ex.
This person your spouse or significant other married and consequently divorced, was not who you planned to spend your life with. The word exclude, starts with ex, do just that.
2. The ex does not own your spouse just because they share a child.
If your spouse is the non-custodial parent with visitation; it is difficult, but not impossible. Though no longer a team in terms of marriage, they are a team in terms of the child/ren. The ex can only control what the divorce decree says. If the ex has sole legal and sole physical, s/he has the say over schooling, medical and religion. However s/he is required by law to encourage and nurture a relationship with any and all family members of the child’s non-custodial parent. This includes stepfamily, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Better yet, did you know your spouse has a right to daily phone calls with their child, unless noted differently in the divorce decree?
3. If you want to attend a school or sporting event – you can. Doctors’ appointments too.
Sporting events are public; anyone and their grandmother can attend. If you want to go, go. Same goes for school recitals, back to school nights, etc. In fact most schools will do separate conferences so that both homes are involved in the child’s educational progress and needs. In terms of doctors’ appointments you can go with a spouse, or have your name added to the child’s file as someone who has a right to medical care and information. It is really no different than having access to a credit card or utility bill that may be solely in your spouse’s name. You can gain information and have some involvement.
4. Your spouse’s visitation time is your spouse’s choice to spend it how they wish.
The ex-spouse cannot commit you to anything on your time. This includes sports, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties etc. It is a double edge sword though because if by not taking the child to certain engagements will hurt the child in the process, it is a no win situation. But, by no means are you required to do it.
5. Follow your divorce decree, not the ex’s divorce commands.
It can’t be any more plain stated than this. The divorce decree is your spouse’s bible in a sense. It states what is expected, allowed and forbade. Non-custodial parents have more rights than most realize, like rights to medical and school records. Do your research.
6. If your spouse and their ex share joint legal and joint physical custody – your spouse’s say is just as important as the ex’s.
One is not more than the other. In some cases, one parent may have sole physical custody, while both retain joint legal custody. You need to know the differences of these and what your spouse has.
7. The ex can only control what there is no control over.
If a void is visible, the ex will invade. One place the ex will try to invade is your marriage. This is your territory – be territorial enough to remind the ex, this is not their place, and their existence will not be tolerated. Stand your ground.
8. The ex’s issue with you, is a reflection of an issue with themselves.
Any parent who is content with themselves and their own level of involvement and parenting they provide will never limit or control the parenting or involvement of anyone else. This is a well-known fact.
9. In terms of child support, do your own math and research.
Many parents pay more than they should, and feel as though they have to roll over and take it. If your spouse feels there is a substantial change either in their income or the ex’s, request a review. If your spouse is on disability or the ex is on disability make sure the child support office is aware. You’d be surprised how many parents overpay because they failed to double check or request a review.
There you have it, nine ways to limit or exclude the ex’s involvement in your home, your marriage and the relationship with your stepkids.
Have you ever awoke from a dream that was so intense and real that your heart breaks as you open your eyes?
I dreamt about him again, and its such a double edged sword because even though for the duration of the dream we’re together again, there is always the waking up that rips him away.
Divorce sucks, everyone knows that, divorce with your children involved even worse, but nothing is worse than divorce with a stepchild. Nothing.
Ethan was only one when he blessed my life. Having had a hysterectomy after my son, I always believed God wasn’t done with me as a mother, therefore he brought me Ethan. We had him in our home every other week for a week at a time, which is virtually unheard of at his age.
At first, it was hard to get used to, because my children were 5 and 7 at the time. Diapers, sippy cups and highchairs were a thing of the past. But, it took no time at all to fall in love with this blonde little sweetheart.
He always called me mom, because he copied my kids. It was hard because his mother hated it. It was something he chose and though I was uneasy with it at first, I grew to love it and to call him my son. Raising him was a joint responsibility in our home. In every definition and action I was his mother, and I loved him dearly, and still do.
Through battles in court, battles between my husband and his mother, I fought hard for this little kiddo. My love for him and my relationship with him, is what started my blog, and my parenting page. My children took to him instantly and we were a family. And then after three years, we weren’t. He was gone.
His dad left for another woman. He left while my kids were not at home, and while Ethan was with his mom. There was and has never been a goodbye on either end. My children were left heartbroken by the dual loss of a stepfather and brother. And, I, well…I haven’t seen Ethan since. Except in photos here and there.
That is probably why I still dream about him. In my dreams Ethan calls me mommy, and hugs me so tight as if to hold me over until our next date in our dreams. He caresses my face and tells me “I love you mommy” the way he used to do. This time I was so happy to see him that I was crying, and woke up feeling as though I was going to cry. My heart hurts, still, a year later.
It makes me hate his father, and the woman he left our family for. The woman who informed me it was better for Ethan and my children, to not see eachother or the man that was a father type in their life. She has no children of her own, how does she know? She made the rules and he followed them.
While I’m thankful my ex is gone, and even more delighted that they two now are eachothers karma; I miss my son. I miss his laughter, his silliness, his sweet breathy voice and the way he loved me so. I miss him crawling into my lap, caressing my face and telling me stories about bullriding and hockey with his excited little boy voice. I miss him holding hands with his brother and sister and how excited he was to see them when he came home every week. I miss the 3 am tapping on my shoulder, saying “mommy can I snuggle you?”
Now, awake and emotional, I will go on about my day dealing with the loss of my son again. The sinking feeling in my heart, that dull aching pain which will exist unbeknownst to anyone throughout the day. I’ll suffer quietly because noone understands it and everyone expects it to go away because its been over a year. But, guess what? It hasn’t.
It hides away until we meet again in our dreams. I miss you Ethan, and love you always.
Okay, so it is hard… it really is. And, honestly if you haven’t thought to yourself “What the hell am I doing here, or dealing with this for?” at least once, you aren’t doing it right. Stepping into, or welcoming someone into a blended family – is much more than just another pound of ground beef for taco night. They do not call it blended for lack of a better term. Yes some days it can be blissfully blended, and some days the switch is left on puree/chop and you find yourself hiding in your room, scarfing down reese’s peanut butter cups like they are going out of style!
I’ve been told a number of times by step moms that being a stepparent is the hardest job – and I agree…but why is that?
Too much credit, not enough effort
Broken homes, broken children
All the responsibility, none of the say
You’re an extra – sometimes you take a backseat
Struggle with finding your place
While all those are true, and validated I feel like it can go a little deeper. Stepparents carry along a stigma, and with any statistic, any stereotype and biased opinion – strong individuals like myself feel the need to stand up for, rally against, and prove the nay-sayers wrong. Some stepparents walk around as if the world owes them a favor, for taking on the role. However, those people are who create the stereotype, not negate it. If you are a good stepparent, it is because you are a good person. Because you have strong work ethics, strong resolve and most likely a good sense of self. We don’t get a badge of honor because we stepped into a role, we earn that honor, from the relationship and time taken to honor your spouse, by loving and caring for their child.
Think of it like this: take all your experience about parenting, life, and your opinions about religion and so on and throw it in a bag, every trick you have used to raise your children, and toss it all in there. Then add in every emotion, confusion, frustration, love, doubt, etc. that you have felt as a parent or human being – and shake that bag with all your might. Now take out all the experience, and opinions – and leave the feelings…that is being a stepparent. You have a bag of all these tools, ideas, and ways that worked for your children, or the desire of something to try, but ultimately you can’t always parent the way you want or see fit, because your role isn’t always to implement; sometimes it is solely to support.
Now if you are like me, you are an implementer, we always know the best way – the RIGHT way. Therefore, when we see struggle, you want to rush in and save the day – but you can’t. Can’t isn’t addressing your ability, it is addressing your position. And, that sucks…nothing is harder than having a motherly urge to fix a situation, and then realizing that it is not yours to fix. Trust me, I am fixer…I can fix an-y-thing! However, this is where being Dad’s #1 support comes in. Behind closed doors, discuss with him some options, opinions, etc that he can implement as he see’s fit. Then stand behind him and support him. There is of course, a sticky downside, you can’t get upset when he doesn’t agree or want to implement what you see as fit. And, although you may be muttering a smart ass remark under your breath – you will learn to smile, breath and try again tomorrow 😉
Will you love your stepchild right away, or will they love you? NO! In fact, I liked my boyfriends son more at first, before I started dating him, when he was purely my son’s friend. Then we started dating, and his son and I just butted heads at times. We still do, there are times where I am the frustrated, wicked step mom, and there are times when he loves me. It is expected that both you and your step child will have hard times, a child is a wonderful blessing yes, but as with your biological children, you will get frustrated, irritated and disappointed. The difference is the bond being built at birth, verses being built following the break of another. I’m sure you have heard the saying “It takes a strong man to step up to the plate another man left at the table” but what about the child whose plate was served by one person, and cleaned up by another? That is a monumental life change. Its an act of getting to know each other, likes, dislikes, building a foundation. I am sure there are times where I am seen as the evil step mom, and there are times where I just don’t get him; but at the end of the day – we keep trying. And eventually, it will make more sense, it will be less effort and more natural.
Ahh Blended…lives, homes, beliefs, families, parenting, rituals, traditions etc… that is a whole hell of a lot to blend; does that even all fit into a blender? No wonder, the top blows off and you have an explosion in your kitchen at some points. But, we learn to enjoy the mess it makes, when the lid is off.
One of the most vital parts of being a parent is making mistakes. Mistakes are what causes growth and results in lessons and ultimately change. On a daily basis I make mistakes and there are times I lay awake at night reviewing those, and how I made them, why I made them – and how to not make that same mistake again. Quite possibly I am about to give you more credit than deserved, because I am hopeful you lay awake at night and feel some sort of anything for the abandonment of your child. You do feel bad right? Maybe cry when no one is around because you make the same mistake day in and day out. You get angry at yourself for not calling, writing, asking for photographs, or knowing how his day is, right? You do realize the irreparable damage you have caused your child, right?
We have never been introduced, which is difficult, given the lack of involvement you have in your child’s life. I’ve seen you at one baseball game, when you moved back for a month, ten months ago, only to abandon your child, again. Since that time you called at Christmas, and not since. There are times; I desire nothing more than to shake some sense into you, and ask if you realize what you are doing, what you are losing? This is your child, my god! However, I feel as though that would fall upon deaf ears, and a cold heart. I’m not nice like everyone else, I don’t give you credit for being a good friend, or continue to bite my tongue for the sake of graciousness. You are messing up, you are wrong, and lack in any accountability what-so-over. But, my opinion won’t change you, will it?
Instead I want to let you know something’s you don’t know about your child, and his life. Since you left again, he had his first school dance, where he didn’t dance at all, but had a blast. He loves dress shirts and ties, and really wants a three piece suit. He played football, and basketball for the first time. The other day he started baseball; and is showing strength in pitching. At practice the other day, he got hit in the head with a ball; don’t worry though his dad was there. He is terrified of getting hit with the ball by the way. He is having a nerf birthday party, which he is very excited about. There will be a nerf battle, and we ordered this great nerf gun cake, and his friends and family will be there, all of his family but you of course. Do you even know that tomorrow is his birthday? That he is turning nine? Will you even call him? Well, in case you don’t we are taking him to see the Oregon Ducks play a baseball game, he has no idea – and will be ecstatic! He even gets to meet the players, how awesome is that?
See, I may be just dad’s girlfriend, but I have to wonder if I worry more about this little boy than you do. Sure, I have only been in his life for a year, the shortest amount of anyone but I can tell you this, in a years’ time he already asked me three times, if he can call me mom…because he doesn’t have one. In fact he is making this board for his room right now, one of those tri-fold poster boards that you use for science projects – you know? Any how, he is putting pictures of his family on it, and he said “I’m going to put my dad and you in the middle and then us kids under that and on both sides.” Doesn’t that break your heart? Where is he putting a picture of you? Or, did the role of mom – not create a picture of you in his mind? That breaks my heart as a parent. We share a home, a life, and are building a relationship every day, and there are hard days, mainly due to you. But, I don’t give up, and move away because when he moved into this home, he became my child too, and he moved into my heart. When he comes home from school, we help him with his spelling words, his multiplication facts – which he struggles with, and I try to show him I am woman he can trust, that won’t just leave one day. I grew up without a mother, and it something no child should experience.
Yes, he has constants in his life, Grandma, Aunts, and friends that have filled a void since you left fulfilling any piece of the role of mom – but you and I both know – no one can fill that role and void but you. He will always hold out hope that one day you will pull your head from wherever it is stuffed and realize the mistake you are making. Meanwhile, tomorrow I will spend the day with your child, and every time his fathers phone rings, I will hope that you are calling and that you don’t call at the same time. I hope you call because he so desires you to remember him, and what easier day for a parent to remember their child, then the day they were born. And, a part of me hopes you don’t call because in a sense it is easier for him to not be reminded that you exist, and get hopeful you’ll call again, or maybe come for a visit – only to be left sitting on the curb – with a broken heart.
He is a sweet boy, damn it! So naive in this world still; he is funny, extremely goofy and wants nothing more than to please. While snuggling with his dad last night, his dad said “You are almost too big to snuggle” and your child responded with, “I still fit in your lap” which was true. How long has it been, since he sat in yours? You never realize what you have until it’s gone, and you are losing a connection with your son. You already lost a wonderful man, a giving man, a man who selflessly busts his ass to provide for your son, without the help emotionally, financially, morally or otherwise from you. He nurses the scrapes, attends every practice, every game, school conferences, plans birthday parties, etc…because he takes his role as a parent, seriously. When are you going to? Because, honestly every day you don’t, is a day you will regret down the road – and when your child is grown that void, will fill with questions of self-worth for himself and distaste for the woman who gave birth to him.
Laying in our overstuffed chair with my now almost eight year old son, and ten year old daughter – my mind wanders. How did they grow so tall, their legs so long, their fingers and hands so big. It seems like just yesterday, there were still protected within my belly – and now their live, loud, funny and smart people. When you hear people say “don’t blink – they’ll be grown before you know” I should have listened.
Pregnancy for me was incredible. The feeling of them moving inside of me, or getting hiccups – every little kick, drag or roll, excited me to no end. Hearing their heartbeats, planning their names, their lives – imagining who and what they would be, consumed my every waking breath. Worrying clouded by dreams at night as well. What if they are missing a finger, or are born with an incurable illness, what if they are ugly?? Yes, I worried about that – you are not normal if you never worried that your kid might be the ugly kid. Yes, we would love them anyhow, and tell they were perfect and beautiful either way – but I still worried.
Truth is, my children are beautiful, so beautiful that if I hadn’t know for a fact, and attended their own birth witnessing them come out of me – I might wonder who they came from. Their eyes are green with specs in them that I believe are awesome sprinkles. Their skin tone is one many purchase in a tanning salon – or spend countless hours baking in the sun to attempt achieving. My daughter has long golden, soft, blonde hair that drops past the middle of her back – effortlessly. My son, carries a smile that aids in avoiding or lessening punishments when he rarely misbehaves.
If you are like me, you may not have planned your pregnancy to one or possibly all your children. My daughter was planned, and my son was a blessing. With Gracie – I soaked in everything, especially once I found out she was a girl! It was all over then! Everything was PINK, girly, sparkly and frilly! She was born gorgeous, truly perfect and pink. Never in my life, have I ever felt the love you feel as you hold your child for the first time – the bond, and promise to never lose sight of what is most important.
My son, he was a different story – I found out I was pregnant with him during a hard time in my life. My husband and I were divorcing and I was in a constant state of disbelief, hurt and anger. Many times I secretly hated that I was pregnant, and questioned how I would be able to do this alone? What would people think – Who would ever love me? When I found it he was a boy, I cried and was angry more – all I knew was girls..what am I going to do with a boy? They are loud, dirty, obnoxious and unruly – what in the hell was God thinking giving me a boy to raise on my own? My delivery with him was difficult, and he had a small pallet so when he cried, he snorted – something now I wish I would have enjoyed a little more. He had a small face, and a protruding chin – he was a boy. He also became my world.
It feels almost impossible to express a mothers love for her children. With Gracie, I never thought I could love anyone as much – until Gage came to me. God was smart, knowing exactly what was given to me – one of the greatest blessings a mom could hope for… a Son. My daughter is witty, spunky, too smart for her own good, beautiful beyond measure and can make me laugh when I need it most. BUT, my son, Gage – he has the heart of an angel, his eyes can tell me he loves me, misses me, needs me, is hurting, anything without him uttering one word. His hugs don’t just wrap around me, they envelope my soul. His smile – makes me regret every day I questioned why he was being gifted to me – and makes me wish I had enjoyed him longer when we were still one.
Still, I spend moments of where I just gaze at them both and thank God they are mine. It’s hard to verbalize the pride I feel when I watch them succeed at something, or do something kind for another – or at times just how they breath. Questioning myself under my breath..I made this? Me – the most imperfect person, who has made mistake after mistake – how do I deserve such miraculously perfect children to call me mom – everyday? It’s enough to bring tears to my eyes now as I write this, and on many occasions past, present and future.
The point of this blog is for those mothers pregnant – maybe scared, worried, alone. Soak this all in, every Dr’s appt, every heartbeat, every uncomfortable elbow in your side, braxton hicks or even the fiftieth trip to the bathroom. If you lay in bed alone – remember you aren’t alone – you are becoming a mother, you are the beginning of the most important person you will ever be. Nothing will ever surpass being a mom – no love will ever touch it, and no person will ever love you back they way a child does.
Life is hard, and things don’t go as planned – and when you think you have it all figured out; you’ll find out that’s not always the case. However, one thing is planned and perfectly meant for you – and that is the child your carrying both in your belly and in your heart. Enjoy them, enjoy this moment – because you never have this again. You will wake up one day with a boy who is eight and a girl who is ten on your lap – and although they won’t be tiny – you will realize you still have the whole world at your fingertips and close to your heart.