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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

Nine secrets your spouse’s ex may not tell you.

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.
 

Divorce & the StepMom

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.

image

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. 

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

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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