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

Being a Mom

Being a mom means more than having given birth to a child. Its loving and knowing a soul before you even see it. It’s carrying, and caring for a life completely depending on you for survival. It’s giving air to the lungs that grew with-in you, and sight to the eyes that will never see you as anything but mommy. Its sleepless nights, its nursing scratches and scrapes, its being stern and protective. It’s teaching them to talk, to walk and to eventually run. It’s learning to hand your child to a stranger to let them teach what you cannot at times. It’s bracing them for a fall, and dusting them off after they do. It’s seeing them cry, and not knowing how to fix it, so you sit on the floor and hold them and cry right along beside them.  It’s teaching them, that they are smart, capable, funny and giving them the security to do great things. Its building their self-esteem, supporting their dreams and loving them unconditionally. Its letting them go, letting them fail, and teaching them how to get back up. It’s going without, so that they don’t have to, and being okay with it.

awesome

Being a Mother, is a gift that is unimaginable to any woman who does not have a child in their life. It’s a connection that is unmatched and insurmountable in any form or other relationship.  It’s a love that grows continually, a love that always wants more and better. It’s being terrified that you can’t prevent pain, injustice, heartbreak, and at times even death.  It’s laughing at jokes that aren’t even funny, but the way they say it,makes its hilarious. Its listening to stories, that go on and on without a point. It’s always being available for the “mommy watch ME’s” and “mommy I need you”.  It’s drowning out the word MOM repeated over and over, in attempts to get your attention. Its songs sang out of tune, and settling squabbles with siblings. It’s being mean, and teaching hard lessons, that hurt you inside so deep you want to cry, but you must stand strong with resolve. It’s being strong for them, when you are weak. It’s smiling when you want to cry, and crying when you’re smiling with pride.

It’s looking through photographs and feeling your heart swell with love and happiness when you see the beauty, the happiness and life in your child’s smile and eyes.  Its confusion, mistakes, uncharted territory and blind folded guessing. It’s snuggling on the couch watching a movie, braiding hair till your fingers hurt, it’s being woken up early on Saturday morning because they want to crawl in bed and be close to your heart. It’s having the worst day, and having them hug you and tell you ”mommy I love you”, and needing nothing more.

It’s a blessing, a gift, a relationship that never ends, and a love that never dies. It’s the best thing I have ever become, the greatest love I have ever felt and the best part about being me.

Tough moms blend with the lid off!

blenderOkay, 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.

#1 Dad

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.

Make them aware that they are loved.

It doesn’t matter where the love comes from, it doesn’t matter if it’s a bio-parent or a step-parent – as long as there is love being freely given. Someone who gives their time, their energy, their love without any regard for a personal gain – solely to benefit the child. We all get some portion of this in life. A little piece of completeness.

When you look at your child/stepchild – look at them and see the child – not the other parent. See what needs they have, what talents they possess and can share with the world given your love,  your time, and your extra attention. Don’t be afraid or too busy to hug them, to discipline them, or to not be their friend. Because, inside of us all we have that small place that’s missing something? Don’t you?aware

If I could have a word with you

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?

nerfInstead 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.