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I never…words from a bio/step mom that hit home.

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

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Non-traditionally traditional

Maintaining, re-creating and even inventing new traditions is hard work on a blended family. Whether or not to carry on a tradition from a previous marriage – for the sake of the children , or to throw caution to the wind and start all over again is a question we asked ourselves. For us, there was one tradition that took no consideration as even as adults we enjoyed it as much as the children.

Every year the kids know they get a special set of pajamas and a special pair of slippers that can’t be opened or worn until our special night a week or so before Christmas. This particular tradition comes from my side, something I have done with my children since they were born. Which of course begs the question who is it really for, right? My youngest was a just a baby and it started because she simply wouldn’t sleep, and I was exhausted. My husband at the time loaded us into the car, pajamas, slippers and all and we went for a late-night drive. On our search for something exciting, while trying to get little miss to fall asleep – we came across beautiful Christmas lights. There were these two streets which came together  and would put on an elaborate production of animated lawn ornaments  and lights that led from one house to the next. The lawns were all lined in white bulb lights and every house had its own theme, yet still maintained the uniform flow. One stop for some hot cocoa later, and we had a tradition on our hands.

Over the years those nights came complete with diaper blowouts – being cleaned up along the side of the road. Vomit filled back seats when hot cocoa and our son didn’t mix; and of course some pretty great nights of looking at the most beautiful lights. One night a year we could peek into the life of a complete stranger, imagining what their life might be like, or how it would feel to live in a big home like the ones we visited. Homes that even if on the inside were broken, the lighting and theatrics would work as a beautiful cover-up.

As our marriage diminished,  the children needed that tradition, that piece of normalcy  – a gentle reminder that somethings do stay the same. Possibly even doubling the occurrence, which in this tradition it did, since now both myself and my ex-husband did them separately.

Now six years later we have both re-married and carried on this tradition ( minus the divorcing of course)  to our new spouses and children. The kids still get just as excited picking out the special set of pajamas and slippers, and help with getting their younger siblings equally excited. They still get ready for bed every night close to christmas just waiting for one of us to say tonight is the night – go get your pajamas on. The only difference really is that our daughter likes chai instead of hot cocoa – but the rest is pretty magical every time.

Thinking back now,  it is a pretty great realization to see that traditions can take form in any manner, not just from great-grandparents, which seems to be the norm. They can be passed down from friends, family, previous relationships whatever your heart and home are open to.

What tradition did you come about non-traditionally in your home?

Step moms aren’t made of steel

Thinking back I feel like I instantly became a step-mom, and honestly its a little shocking that it went so seriously so quickly. I remember being at my Mother-in-laws house for Christmas dinner, and all the family being there. My Stepson walked up to me and said something along the lines of “Mommy can I have some milk?”, and I didn’t know how to answer, and not about the milk, but the mommy part. I had at that point made sure that he knew how to call me by my first name, but because my children called me Mommy, he just picked it up. I of course stumbled, and mumbled and I overheard some voices behind me asking my mother in law “Did he just call her mommy?” and she very assertively said, “Yes, she is his mom when he is here, and we don’t see the need to differentiate in our home.” Getting him his milk, and moving on without a thought, our life just moved forward from there.

Being a mother to children whose father is remarried, I understood the stigma behind my children calling some other woman, Mom. It is not a dismiss-able, minor detail, and I talked to my mother-in-law and husband about how it would make me feel, and that I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. But, they both made a great point, I didn’t ask him or tell him to call me that, neither had my husband, he had done this on his own, and it would make him feel different if I made him stop and call me something different. But, I would by lying if I said that deep inside, I don’t still feel a little guilty that even two years later, he still calls me mom.

The difference between now and then of course, is that I am his mom, for all intensive purposes. He is the brother to my children, my husbands son, and we do everything any other normal family does. My duties as a mother to my two biological children, are no different with him, I still feed, bathe, and care for him. My husband and I provide a loving home for him, incur medical expenses, take him to regular doctors visits, kiss away boo boos, discipline him, and have weekend morning snuggle time. The only difference between me and my husbands ex-wife, is that I didn’t give birth to him. One small, MAJOR detail, that is constantly thrown in my face, a non-existent serious life event that will forever exclude me from all the future “Mom” events.

But, when we are in our little home, with our little family, I am safe from this exclusion. There is no worry about his wedding day, and when he has his first child, and what role I will play in those days, if any. We don’t talk about the day when he might come to me and decide to no longer call me mom, or the day he is old enough to not want to come for visits, and the possibility that he wont always love me the way he does now. Forgetting that I will more times than not come in second, possibly be forgotten, excluded and deemed the enemy by his REAL mom.  I forget he isn’t mine, that he isn’t fully my daughters brother, and my sons brother, and that he isn’t going to stay forever. Then, when Sunday comes, my heart feels heavy, the day is saddened, and I prepare for the disconnect that will continue my hearts beating while my son goes walking on his own for another week. Which in and of itself makes me feel like his is my son, because there is a quote that says ‘Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” by Elizabeth Stone. Which rings more truer that I ever realized.

Seeing the excitement, when we pull up to where his mother is waiting, makes my heart both happy and sad – obviously I love anything that makes his little heart happy, and even though for me personally she ranks nowhere, she makes him happy – and I know at the end of the day, if he never got to see me again, he would be just fine. Sure, he would ask about me, but he has his mom to fall back on. For me, if I could never see him again, my heart would suffer, it would break and I would never be the same, he is apart of me, he has grown into my heart, into my soul, he is an incredible blessing to my life, and it terrifies me to think of losing him.

But, this is the life I chose when I chose my husband and son to join us. I chose this when I decided to love without any conditions, to love completely, selflessly, and to never let him feel any less than mine.

We did it all backwards..and it works!

My mother-in-law will appear in alot of my posts, so we will shorten her to MIL. For you mind in the gutter readers, notice there is not a F at the end, although some may beg to differ 🙂 Now, eyes straight ahead, and back to the sublect at hand.

The normal process for life (which is rather boring and predictable if you ask me) is to date for a couple years, get marrried, get your career in order and then have babies. Well, since I lack any interest in boring and predictable its fitting that, my husband and I did it all backwards. I mean really, how could we not? When we met, we had already been married previously and both had children from those failed marriages, by far the highlight of those years.

So, when we struggle, when we think we have an impossible fight ahead, my MIL reminds us, that we started backwards. We had the house, the kids, the life, even the lifestyle – a ready made package on both sides, and then merged them! Thats insanity in a sense. You should notice, I used the word Package, instead of baggage, and for good reason. WE my children and I, and THEY, my husband and son, are not baggage – they and we are an extension, a bonus, an added benefit if you will.

Blending families, children of different marriages, lifestyles, ideals even, is hard, HARD work! And, yes we FAIL, sometimes, who doesn’t? But, so many times, wonderful, amazing times, we succeed, and we figure it out and the love from our once seperate rooted trees, have intertwined our families, our love and bond.

So, if you’re part of a blended family, and you feel like you’re in a uphill battle, barefoot, in 10 feet of snow – we are proof..there are sleds, snowboots and happy snowball fights on the way down, in the near future!

<3<3<3 Ms.StepMom

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