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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

Ten reasons our blended family works!

After reading many educated articles, I decided to detail what works in our home – in our family. We may not go about it right, and people may disagree but in our home, we are happy. We follow these 10 rules and are a very close blended family. I hope this helps you a little.

  • Discipline when the discipline needs to be done and per the situation – (no fair about it, and no waiting)

One of the reasons our blended family works is because we are a family. When my children do something that needs reprimanding, punishment or discipline, they get it per the situation and in that moment. There is no waiting until Dad gets home, or waiting for Mom to get home – and no difference whether step-child or not. If you have trust within your relationship, then the basic understanding of appropriate punishment should be understood. Ensuring that children’s behavior and respect for the parent exists at all times, not just when a certain parent or both parents are home. It also shows the children that you are a team!

  • Keep a united front – (even if you agree only to disagree)

This is the one I still struggle with, although I see and feel the importance. If you are anything like me and have Bio-Kids as well as Step-kids, you may suffer from ” they are just kids babe, geez!” for all kids involved. I stick up for ALL of them and can be a little pushover at times. But, trust me when I get my fill – I get my fill! After my repeated interjections, I noticed two things. First, they would go around husband all together and come to me to ask for, ask to, or ask anything. Second, if my husband told them to do something, they would come to me to “check” if they had to obey. This made me snap out of it and I started answering any query’s with ” I don’t know what did Dad say?”. They caught on pretty quick and it created better communication with my husband and I, and the kids learned to respect my husband more, and even me for not being a pushover. Remember children crave discipline and schedules, normalcy is key.

  • Tend to your marriage – (without you two, this family would be broken again. Let them see that happiness can exist  after divorce)

Following a tough couple of weeks, and endless crap from “the other parent” I felt like the glass was half empty. The husband and I were fighting, I was going to bed sad and worried about our marriage, the kids, everything. We had lost focus on us – we focused only on all the negative going on and the kids and their needs but not us at all. We forget to talk, to ask how the others day was – to even greet the other with a simple kiss. My husbands grandmother told me that regardless of her day, or her husbands day, she would be waiting by door when he got home with a big kiss and hug. Sounds a little silly, I know, but – it makes a huge difference.  Go on a date night, go see a movie, order pizza in and have it by candle light.  When the kids go to bed, play a game of cribbage, or even a video game – maybe a boxing game if your frustrated!! Any interaction is better than none, and will almost always open up the lines of communication. It is important for kids to see that just because they are part of a broken home, that they don’t have to continue to be. That sometimes things fall about in order to let other things work out. Seeing your parents happy, whether step or otherwise  is a good feeling for a child and an important feeling.

  • Take a trip – (even if it’s just a couple hour drive to a water park)

Following the tough couple of weeks above, I planned a trip without anyone knowing, not even the hubs! We were going only 3 hours away to a water park. We would leave on Saturday and stay one night in a hotel (kids always love a hotel-especially if there is a pool) and then come home Sunday in time to get our youngest back to mom. The excitement of them not knowing where we were going, was a thrill for them and myself. We all talked during the car-ride and played some games, the husband reached over to hold my hand as we drove. My love tank was filling up – and everyone was happy. Getting away – no matter the distance is huge for any family, but blended families where you get to deal with two sets of “other parents” sometimes we just need a break! With work and everyday life, we drowned out and sometimes take advantage of the people closest to us. Taking time to remedy that works wonders. We didn’t spend tons of money or eat at 5-star restaurants – but we did have a fantastic weekend that put everything back into prospective and back on track.

  • Encourage them talking about the other parent, discourage any negative comments as well. (I know, but trust me)

During our week with “little man” he talks non-stop about uncles, grandparents and even mom. As annoying as sometimes it is, and even hard to seem actively interested in every story – it’s worth it for a few reasons.
First, you can almost bet – the other side isn’t like that. In our situation he isn’t allowed to talk about me and dad to anyone on their side. This creates confusion, self-doubt, and unnecessary concern for a child. They should be able to love and share about anything they feel. I won’t lie and say that I don’t ever nod and say “oh really, wow, that’s great” without full knowing what awesome thing mom did – but to him he is happy he is allowed to say it! I still have to elbow my husband, when I hear him muttering under his breath, but he for the most part gets it too.
Second, is that “kids say the darnedest things” right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve participated in a conversation where all of sudden I will click in that something is being said that we should be listening to. Kids share all kinds of stuff, mom’s moved, mom has a new job, mommy’s boyfriend locks me in a closet – you just never know! Pay attention, and when necessary keep track and document it.
Third, and most importantly is that you are creating a bond, a trust with your stepchildren. If they feel like they can talk to you about anything, they will do just that. If they feel like you hate the other parent – they will withhold, reject, and even possibly remain loyal only to the other parent. They should love their parents, even if they are crappy parents and we just wish they’d take a long walk of a short pier – its about them, not us. It goes the same with badmouthing the parent – if you allow it in your home, they will carry it to the other home and vice verse. Its always best to air on the side of caution and expect the same and you provide.

  • Don’t treat them any different (Treat them how you’d want a stepparent to treat your children)

When the kids are home, they are home. This isn’t a pit-stop, it isn’t temporary or pretend – this is real life and a real home. We eat meals together, run errands together, attend kids sporting events and school functions together. It should be the same in your home. Children need to feel included, welcome, and at home whether they share your home full-time  or part time. If you have children in your home all the time, and one or two that are part-time – they need to feel like it was still their home, their room or whatever else while they were gone. If there is a rule for one child, it should be the same for the other, within reason of course. Your stepchild should never be less while in your home, ever.

  • Allow them to call you what they want (respectfully of course)

Here it is, the elusive, she we or shouldn’t we allow them to call us mom or dad? The answer is quite simple – YES. If the child wants to call you mom or dad, let them. If they want to call you Joe, or Molly, let them. Any variance of the two are acceptable per your home when it is their choice. Should you force them to call you mom, or force them to call you Molly? Absolutely not!  This goes with the Don’t treat them any different above, most of the time children especially younger – mimic siblings. When you have children calling you mommy or daddy and one that doesn’t, he most likely will at some point because he wants to be just like them. Or, even school age kids who will talk about their mom and dad at home, and you’ll see that even if they don’t call you it at home, they may at school to friends or officials, just to not be different.  I couldn’t tell my 1 year old at the time, that he couldn’t call me mommy, and that only brother and sister could. All it does is make them feel like less, not part of the family – and in our home we are a FAMILY.

  • Ditch the word:  Step (unless you’re talking about the ones that lead upstairs)

We never introduce the kids on either side as our step-son or step-daughter. My husband always says “these are my kids” or “this is my daughter” even though they are technically his step-kids. The same goes for me. In fact most people don’t know where a blended family until we share it, if we share it. The kids call their step-dad by his name or whatever rendition slips out, but at school, practice, or talking to others they always refer to him as their dad. By their choice. Step is an ugly four letter word and we just don’t use it. If you are looking for a way around it, and your uncomfortable saying they are your children, may be try “This is my husbands daughter”, or “My wife’s son”…etc.

  • Find a common hobby and share it ( or encourage their talent)

Every child has a desire or something they excel at. Watch them, interact with them and learn what this may be. It may even be something you do, that they begin to like or want to do also. Encouragement with children of any age is huge and goes a long way. Not to mention the undivided personal time with them is priceless.

  • Don’t step-back while they are in your home. (Remember: it’s your home too!)

Almost every article, at many educated women with years more experience and degrees, all say to step back – I say STEP UP. Last time I checked we lived in a world where the women are equal  to men, and this home I live in is as much mine as it is his (even though the ice cream in the freezer & the hubs don’t seem to agree). Therefore, when his son is in our home, he is just as much mine as his – okay? Granted,  on Sunday when he goes home, he is not mine as much – but still is mine in our home. If he is sick, or my children are home sick with my husband, we care for them, if they need to be taken to a doctor, we take them.  We do not sit back and wait for the other, nor will we ever. It is no different then if my stepson were on the potty and needed to be wiped, and I go do it. Am I supposed to tell him to wait until dad gets home, or just hold your potty till later because I am only your step-mom? NO WAY! We are a family, all for one and one for all.  Even daycare providers care more for children than “they say” Step-moms should be allowed to. That’s ridiculous – and I refuse to step back.

What do you think is missing? Did I forget a key element?

See you next blog – Jess

Children need it..and so do we.

 

 

There are always those painful aching parts in a movie where they touch your inner most fears or make you relive a memory that you hoped so desperately to forget. Every scene in a movie about a parents relationship with their child, gets me. It’s as if the right side of my chest is being pinched, I sweat and my toes on one foot nervously press against the toes on the other. Then before I know it, I make that god awful noise that sounds like you just released the emotion stopper and now tears are flowing  freely – but not the happy tears – the sad hurtful tears.

The relationship between a child and parent is monumental, its original, un-copied, unlimited, unedited and the most precious relationship to exist. When I see struggle within that regardless of the whose side, my heart feels every piece of that – movie or in real life.

Growing up with a un-supportive father, and an absent mother there are moments I will forever long for, knowing that they will never exist. Moments like having my father walk me down the aisle. Father /Bride dances kill me every time, and being able to say I was my Daddy’s girl and know it was true. Or,  maybe to  have been there when he passed away –  But, you know life sometimes just doesn’t work out how you plan. Take this story for instance.

My husband was born of a hateful man – a man who abused his mother and left them both when he was a baby. I’m sure my mother-in-law hoped for something better, and when my husband was two, a man entered his life. My mother-in-law said she knew he was the one  when she walked into the living room and saw them sharing a bowl of cereal with one spoon. She said from then on it was the two of them – she even took a backseat. They did everything together and he wanted to adopt my husband as his own – he wanted to be his father in every sense of the word. He had decided to adopt him even before they had plans to marry. My husbands biological father signed his rights away, and the rest was history.

Everything about my husband is his “dad” and when we talk about who his “dad” is, it’s never been the man who left his mother. Often times I think my husbands strong feelings towards respecting mothers stems from that. A couples years after his parents married, a little brother came into the picture – along with a lot of doubts. Many people thought that once he had a blood-child an actual biological child – my husband would get the backseat – be less important. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Their father loved them the same, he was just as involved, just as dedicated. My husband stayed close to his father and his brother was a mama’s boy – but the four of them were a family.

They hunted, fished, camped, boated, spent hours on end doing homework, shared the discipline and so on. The characteristics that used to irritate my mother-in-law like getting the kids all hyped up before bed – or being the life of the party that never wanted to stop – are all the things my husband is. He would stop and pick up hitch hikers, women standing in the rain, and would defend his wife in such a manner that women would die for. Sure he wasn’t perfect, I still hear stories today – and although I have never met him I still admire this man so greatly. Their family had it all.

One morning an impromptu hunting trip with my husband and some family & friends ended in a horrifying tragedy, where my husband at thirteen – heard a gunshot and his father’s voice for the last time. When I say that the loss of this father was huge, that’s an understatement – 600 people attended his funeral and I am yet to hear one person that didn’t love him. He still comes to life when we watch home videos of when the boys were younger, and my mother in law and I watched their wedding too. He had eyes that told you exactly what he was thinking, and when she walked down the aisle to him, he couldn’t have been happier.

Quite a few years later now, I entered the family with reservation because my now husband is my junior by a few years. Having two children of my own, naturally I worried about what his intentions were and as we dated more, I questioned how someone this young could know what he wanted. One night following an argument that mainly existed because of my fear of being left or hurt, and for the kids to go through that pain as well – my mother-in-law shared with me the story of her late husband.  She told me after sharing all I shared with you above, that all my husband has wanted was a family – and that family to him has never been tied by blood. In fact at this point, my MIL was re-married with a step-daughter of her own as well. My husband was well versed in “step” life.

When I see my husband with my kids – it lights up my existence and their lives. He plays with them, he gets on their level,  he does homework with them, and isn’t afraid to not be their friend. He is protective, loving, stern and a role model. Watching  T.V. at night, I can look over and find my son snuggling with him, or my daughter with her head in his lap, and his fingers running through her long blond hair. My heart melts, my hearts happy and I know it’s all because his Dad loved him.

You see 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 a parent. 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 – if only for a small portion – or in our early years like my husband or in your later years like myself. Calling someone mom, was huge to me, and I never did it. Until my husbands mom acted like a mother to me, and at 31 years old I finally got the person that my husbands father was to him. A little piece of completeness.

In closing, tonight when you look at your child – 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 that extra love, that extra time, that 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?

See you next blog ~ Jess

What people think of you, is none of your business ~

Its always the quiet moments, snuggling on the couch or even helping a child get dressed, that they drop your jaw to the floor with a harmless sharing moment. “Mommy and I have special, private words” said my proud stepson to me one night. With some conversations that are held with any of my children that begin during a time when inside my head I am already co-communicating with myself about the happenings of the day, a bill that needs to be paid or coming up with that all too perfect response to someone that chapped my butt earlier, I replied with the standard “Oh ya honey, that’s great! ” You know those moments if your a parent, when in all honesty you have tuned them out, but are such a great parent that you can still mumble an interactive response during the exact key moment. Moms are stealthy- trust me. Anyhow – he kept going and somewhere in between the ” ya, we can’t tell anyone else” or “mommy-blank, really doesn’t like you” I snapped out of my mommy tune out moment and quickly retorted with “wait- what honey, say that again”. He of course obliged because he simply loves talking and can literally talk from the moment he wakes, till he falls asleep – its that exciting to him. Quickly I am privy to the secret word, without having to ask and my head is in full explosion, along with the rapid acceleration of my heartbeat that wants nothing more than to leap out of chest and clobber this woman! And not because my name in her home is changed to Bitch!

Being called a bitch is not a new thing, trust me, I have heard it  and been it and at times proudly. The part that irks the ever living crap out of me is that she does this with him, a three year old little boy who simply wants to like and love, and be liked and love. “How dare she talk like that about me to him” I think to myself, “What gives her the right to have nothing better to do with her time than to sit and create pseudo name for me with him, to make herself feel better?” Then, the other part of my brain, the part that investigates the inner workings and tries to understand what led up to this point, the brief moment of where I give her the benefit of the doubt, like what she was doing was somehow warranted, which I can ASSURE was not – kicks in.

At this point little one is in bed, and my husband is getting the earful of “You’ll never guess what I heard tonight” which is of course is received and responded with a casual ” whats that” and he takes one more spin on his cellphone hoping for BIG money on Slotomania. Filling him in, I share the fear that I think all parents, especially stepparents carry – ” Do you think he gets in trouble for talking about me, or sharing stories about me?” “What if loving him, and spending time with him, is hurting him?” then my heart shatters in a sense. Of course, my husband oblivious to the guilt I am feeling and the actions I am seriously questioning, confirms my current fear that “of course he talks about you, he loves you, your his mom”. “Oh no” I think to myself and panic sets in. I make a silent vow to myself that, that’s it, no more – I will stop loving this little boy, I will pull back and not interact with him, and I won’t snuggle with him anymore, and I most definitely will not allow him to call me mommy any more – its JESSICA – Jessica is my name from now on. Heartbreak sets in deep within the pit of my stomach, feeling as if I just lost, gave up, gave in and I’m embarrassed of the tattered and torn super step-mom cape that I theoretically just through to the ground and jumped on over and over with anger and frustration and the dirtiest, most serious, heaviest step-mom shoes to make sure my mind got the point across to myself! After all, if this is what it takes to make my stepson unaffected, and safe then – that’s that.

All this interior battling and self esteem bashing, has made for a defeated and exhausted step-mom, and soon I’m asleep.  What feels like a few short hours later, I’m awakened by a small hand caressing my voice and a LOUD whispering voice asking “Mommy, can I snuggle you?” my half-opened eyes see my favorite little man – my stepson – in front of me. Without a second thought, I swoop him up and tuck him in tightly beside me. Facing me, he is still caressing my face and with his breathy whisper he says “Mommy, I love you” and kisses my cheek. My eyes close, and with him in my arms, I respond with “Mommy loves you too, baby, so much!”  I mean, who was I kidding anyway, this momma ain’t no quitter! (and yes, figuratively speaking, I did patch up any holes my stomping created, and bravely tied back on my super step-mom cape, with confidence.)

We as parents owe it to our kids to keep them out of our adult, manifested, diarrhea of the mouth (and some brains) situations. It is our job to love, to guide, to protect, and to be adults. It is not our job to be right, or to win, or even to judge the other parent when they obviously fail miserably at the most simplest of parenting 101 – even though we do. My stepson, your stepchild – or any child for that matter at a young age is a product of their environment, they learn, share and interact with they SEE and HEAR. I remember my grandparents saying “Little ears, have big mouths” and boy were they right. At the end of the day, who cares what BM, the lady down the street, or the nosy lady in the cubicle one row over thinks about you – or says about you. It doesn’t create your self worth, or diminish it. One of the hardest quotes I ever read and had to seriously sit and let sink it – because it was gut-wrenching and accurate was this “Your opinion of me is none of my business.” –Randy Pausch, and although I don’t know Randy from Jack, Bob or Paul, he is right and that is true.

Don’t let the small-minded, get the best of you – love yours and his, or hers and yours and be happy. After all, the best revenge is happiness.

 

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