Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Things have often been rocky for us, and pretty much perpetually. For right now, and hopefully for longer, things have been smooth. It's been nice and fairly consistent.

One example is that my husband has for the past year believed that his eldest daughter would stop seeing him. In his head, it was at any moment, for anything. It also seemed to be connected to birthdays. He connected her 15th birthday with this possibility, relating it to his own decisions at 15, and 16 seemed to signify her ability to choose- in his head. None of this was vocalized by her, but he was perpetually afraid of "the day."

The few in his life who knew this was his belief actively informed him that he was probably wrong, and encouraged him by reminding him that he is an amazing dad. He does have a good (enough) relationship with his daughter, even though it isn't perfect given the divisions falsely created between them over the years by his ex- and the obvious fact that she's a teenaged girl. He has been a support to her, and she has responded by continuing to have a relationship with him and not cutting him out like so many teenage girls do. Given his fear, he seemed to focus on the negative aspects and not the positives.

15th and 16th bithdays have gone by. She's still coming over. Her mom's persuasion has not overcome. She isn't driving yet, and that may cause some changes when she's officially driving on her own. But as his wife, and the person who witnesses their relationship the most- I don't see a complete cut-off coming. And if it does come, as it could, it will have little to do with him. It will be because of the power of his ex, or his daughter just being a teenager, or something trivial.

There have been near fall-outs in the past, and thinly veiled threats, and nothing has come of it- at all. His insistence that he still see her, that she still see him, have always won out over many, many years of her mom trying to create false reasons of separation. There was still motivation by his daughter to keep coming, to not resist time with her dad even once. She has texted horribly mean things to her mom about her dad and I and being with us, complained about us to her sister and some family, but none of it materialized into anything direct. She also does not seem to be afraid of anything- afraid of not coming anymore or something like that- and I therefore think that this is her choice.

That's even more powerful, frankly, than the custody orders. She has a mom telling her she doesn't have to see her dad, a mom who supports any angry whim she has against her dad and I, and she is a moody teenager who easily blames everyone else for anything. She's easily irritated, and she's constantly told that her two-home life makes her life harder and that things would be easier for her if she stopped coming to our house. Despite all of that, she has continued to come to our house at every expected time. Her negative actions against us have not materialized into actual actions, as I'm fairly certain they are not deeply rooted, then. Similar to any kid being angry at their parent for parenting but not actually "hating" their parent or not wanting to see them. They are just angry, lashing out, or saying things they don't mean. Everyone who knows my husband and his daughter know that they do have a relationship, they do have things in common, she does enjoy him, and she quite possibly knows she needs or wants him deep down.

So, in this case- maybe the only case- I am glad that my husband is, so far, wrong. He's still going to fear her officially giving up on him, even if it is unreasonable. I wonder if this is a very common feeling and experience of the divorced dad with minimal custody. I've heard of moms fearing their children leaving them, and I think this is a somewhat similar thing- except twisted, as it includes perpetual thought and emotional attacks from a constantly present 3rd party.

I was told about a year ago by a therapist that we can't live and act in fear of my stepdaughter hating us enough to stop coming over or stop communication with her dad. The doctor stated that teenagers are likely to do that to any parent, at pretty much any point, for who knows what reason. Something could trigger her choice to do that, and we would not have much power over that. She's frankly right, and with the amount of encouragement my stepdaughter receives to that effect, it would be no wonder. So in one way, my husband is completely right. In the meantime, let's simply rejoice that his fears are wrong right now and don't seem to be changing. In fact, its looking better as time goes on.

Similarly, I just realized something that I should have known for many years already. On the two weekday nights that my husband has 2 hour "dinner visits," my stepkids never, ever stress about returning to mom. They stress about nearly anything else relating to their mom's expectations and fear her angry reactions, but I have literally never realized until today that they do not really care if they are running late returning. They do not stress out their dad at the time that they should leave, turn off the TV, grab their stuff, or make any move for the door until he says "Ok, let's go." HOW did I miss this!? That is the most obvious sign of respect for their dad that I think either of them have ever done. They regularly show a lack of trust, faith, and respect in him despite his pure dedication to them, but this... This is so powerful. They've stressed about responding to their mom by phone, they have lost it over forgetting something they need to return to her, and they used to cry if they had age-appropriate child stains on their clothes because they feared displeasing her SO much. There are so many instances where we have had to calm them down, explain that they were with us, and that their mom could not control them- and effectively ruin their time with us- while here. That still happens, by the way. Just happened the other week. Their mom contacts them to "remind" them of her expectations last minute, pretty much immediately upsetting them in their last few minutes or hours of their weekend time with their dad.

So, given that power, even into their teenage years, its quite extraordinary that they do not tell their dad that it is time to go, get antsy, start sighing, or stress him out- like they do so many other things- when it is time for them to go back to their mom. They'd much prefer to keep sitting with him, watching TV with him or playing a game, even if it makes them a little late and their mom mad. They don't even gather their things or put on their shoes and jackets until he says, "Ok, time to go." And even then, when he makes that announcement, he usually has to tell them to hurry up! That really says something. Honestly, that is a super huge, positive realization and sign of what their real feelings are towards their dad.

What is it that you're missing, or your husband is missing? Is there anything, through all the crap, that quietly shines of hope, trust, or love? It took me years to see this, and my husband is still struggling to see it at all sometimes, so I know its hard. But I hope you find it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Take Control When You Get the Chance

One thing I strongly want you Stepmoms to know and do- something I strongly regret not doing- something I have to pass on to you:

When you have the chance to report something in an official means, do so. If you have the opportunity to get a restraining order, do so.

If the kids' mom follows you, harasses you, taunts you- Get even a sliver of documentation or a witness, or maybe not even that, and file a restraining order. More was done to me, and I regret to this day that I didn't take action when I had the chance. Even the effort of trying to get a restraining order is documented, even if it isn't granted. The attempt alone is worthwhile. Set a precedent that you will take action so that she doesn't try to continue it, escalate it, and frankly, ruin whole portions of your life, well-being, and mental health.

If you are being threatened, if you are being chased, if you are being screamed at: Don't take it like your husband did or does. Protect yourself, even if others- such as cops, in my case- tell you you have no case. A lawyer will tell you you have a case. Years of reading about how often moms file bogus restraining orders tells me we have grounds to take legal action. Use that ability, the law, lawyers, and any protection you can for yourself.

We were in shock. When we- my husband and I- were physically attacked, we were in shock. I cried my head off that whole night. That's when my shaking started. I was shaking out of confusion, anger, more confusion, and complete sadness. I had no idea what had just happened to me and felt like I was just in some sort of ghetto gang experience I was absolutely uncomfortable with, from someone else's life.

Most people (friends, family, coworkers) were amazed, shocked like I was. One person, though, laughed about it and said she felt bad for me but that it sounded like a typical night in her LA neighborhood. The cop (a female) we went to report it to the next night treated us like we were just trying to report an "almost fight", said we "didn't have a case" (they are not allowed to give legal advice, but do), and that it would have been best if I had let her hit me square on so that I could have physical proof of it. (The cop called and talked to her...Returned with a much lighter attitude to us and said, "Is she always that... emotional?" to my husband. From that point, she treated us like real people...)

Technically, the cop was right. On the other hand, it's horrible. Really? In order to have my person protected, I need to be abused first?

Forget that. If you are being threatened, screamed at, cornered, followed: DO NOT LET IT ESCALATE. Don't feel like me. Don't feel trapped. Don't have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Don't start shaking and suffering from anxiety attacks for over half a decade every time you go to a school or sports event or the [police station] to pick up the kids.

At the time, I remember a lot of the legalese I read stating that only the familial parties had any rights to protections. Screw that! We live in a litigious society, which ethically and financially sucks, but use it to your advantage in the case of protecting yourself.

And if lawyers or legal means are not an option (which they are- so keep looking, please) then use some of the protections we started considering for my husband, and consequently myself.

Since we were given improper advice and should have taken up counsel immediately, which would have been significantly, entirely useful in court a couple of years later in regards to custody, my husband improvised. He talked to officers he knew and asked for advice. He asked what he could do to protect his family from his ex and her family. They advised:

1) No child exchanges in personal, dark, unmonitored locations. Refuse meeting locations of that sort for eternity, as now you know what the person "might" do. If it is necessary to do an exchange at an unsafe location for some reason, then request officer accompaniment. (Which, we found, quickly caused the ex to say OK to safe locations, because you have to wait for an officer who is available to accompany you.)

2) Try to do all child exchanges at a police station. Do the exchanges IN the police station (find one with an open lobby at all times, then) because THAT's where the microphones AND cameras are. There may be a camera or two in the parking lot, where most people do exchanges, but it may not be on you since a parking lot is larger. You want the lobby where there is both camera coverage and microphones recording audio.

3) Keep communications on email, not in person or over the phone. Not only does she need to be recorded, but she also can't contain herself in person.

4) Leave any situation that isn't safe. This, for us, meant informing the children for quite a number of years that we may need to leave at a moment's notice, and that they are not to argue with us about it. We made it clear that if any of us were in danger, INCLUDING ME, that it was just plain and simple time to go. As a unit, we leave. We only employed this a few times, as the kids seemed to understand.

So, all of these things, by the way, were LAUGHED AT by the kids' mom. She called all of it "ridiculous." She mocked my husband. Ask yourself: What does that say about the person who laughs? If my husband and I were a danger of any sort, or if she wanted to make up that we were, then she would be doing all of these things, right? Yes, plenty of moms do all of these things to make their ex look bad, feel powerless, and feel like he is watched- even if there hasn't been any actual physical violence. SO, use it for yourselves.

Our problem is we're married to the man. The man likes to look tough. The man, father, likes to think and act like he can handle it all. They like to think they have it under control. They don't think of ways to make themselves 1) safe, 2) look better in court, 3) look like the victim. They don't WANT to be the victim. It's "unmanly," but it is also just not how they think. And yet, this is despite knowing that so many of our husbands were abused in some way by their ex spouses, mentally and physically. They are not taught, like many women are increasingly, to be aware of the signs and how to protect themselves. They may have gotten out of the marriage, but that was their way of "getting away from it." Little did they know that an abuser doesn't let anyone get away from it, as so many women's and child services and protection groups know. Abusers chase you down, because all they wanted was to control you and you stepping away from the marriage? That didn't end it. Just like if a battered woman tries to leave her marriage- It isn't successful, and he tries to find her.... Well, guess what? It's the same-damn-thing for female abusers. They're not going to leave you alone. They're going to show you that they can control your children. They're also going to start abusing and targetting the new wife, YOU. You have just joined the target, becoming a bigger- and much easier target.

But your husband doesn't realize that. He for some reason thinks you will be separate from his mess. He thinks he is a man, and therefore can "handle" his ex <chuckle> but that you are just with him and you will start your new life together....(Oh, and that his children are his, too, and that they will never forget how much he loves them....)

And unfortunately, you as a new wife, in a weird situation, will take his advice. He knows her, right? He knows what she's like, right? He knows her boundaries, right?

No. He doesn't. Men are naive to the capabilities of their exes. He may have yet to learn the fury of a scorned woman, but more specifically- He was somewhat blind to the abuse in the first place. Men don't recognize and identify abuse and aren't trained to. He knew it was a hellish marriage, but doesn't know the patterns, signs, and what he was actually married to. Therefore, he is unable to characterize her in general or predict what could happen post-divorce. As many books and the experts behind them state, and as any stepmom who's been married for a couple of years can attest to, ex-wives can flare up later when 1) during the divorce proceedings or a later custody battle, 2) a new girlfriend enters the scene, 3) engagement or marriage, 4) pregnancy of the new wife, 5) and even when they get remarried. Court filings correlate with these events, as well. (The majority- as in an  80-90 percentile majority- of divorce and custody filings are by women, aka Mom. And also, we as a society fail to remember that most domestic violence calls include both the male and the female committing violence, and that police house calls due to disturbances include equal amounts of male and female offenders.)

The man, over and over again, wrongly assumes that as time goes on, she will calm down and things will normalize. Well, if she's an abuser... No. If she still wants to control you, and has been able to through court and the kids for some time, she is still maintaining that abuse in different ways. And her added bonus? A Stepmom who is sometimes on her own. I am open game.

For years following that incident, and still now but to a lesser degree, I was followed. She made it very clear that she was there, near me, next to me, and maintaining her threat. She is much larger than I am, (which is amusing because I always thought I was too tall and too big!) and very clearly knew and showed that. She smirked at me a lot, as she does when she knows she has the ultimate power. She made it very clear to me that she was present, closer than necessary to me, and purposely so. "Hovering," if you will. If you think I may be a tad paranoid, I actually have witnesses- who witnessed it before I was close friends with them and were unbiased until they made their own conclusions. It's her way, it's something she does. She's never tried to be friendly to me; she's never tried anything humane. Nothing happened where we knew each other and then she got mad about it. She never tried to get to know me, but simply turned me into a bullseye of some of the crap she previously aimed at her ex-husband.

Someone who is an abuser doesn't learn easily. They don't get the hint or understand that they should stop. They don't realize that they are damaging themselves by continuing the behavior and pushing people (including normal bystanders) away. They alienate themselves very easily, which she does with ease. She blames her problems on everyone else, and I am the biggest problem most of the time. And that is possibly never going to stop.

But I could have protected myself, and should have. I missed my opportunity to take action. An abuser can at least be contained, as many women are able to do to just an angry ex-spouse that shouldn't belong in the true abuse category. I was under the advisement of someone who naively thought that she had boundaries, ("I never thought she would ever do that..." is one of the things my shocked husband said at the time. "I never thought she was capable of trying to hurt someone," despite the fact that she was a rager- which means it was only a matter of time.) On top of that, your husband is driven by the fear that they will lose their kids. Many men fear taking action because they think it will cause retaliation. But your safety is being overlooked. You're both not thinking of it as a harassment personal issue against you and instead thinking of it as a custody issue. I shouldn't have been duped by the wrong female cop who said she would do a full report we could use later and didn't, and I shouldn't have waited for her to leave a mark on me. I shouldn't have had to endure years of her being way too close to me, following me, hovering over me, and making me feel trapped. None of it had to happen, and I didn't need to develop an ongoing anxiety problem.

Take action when you get the opportunity. Take action the first time. Take action the second time. Make sure that you do something, especially if it can be legal and official. Don't let the chance to control her back, and keep her away from you, pass you by. Ex-wives don't tolerate a sliver of this behavior from their exes, so take a page from their book instead of your husband's for this one.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Are you needed? Is he?

Where are you needed?

Where is your husband needed?

Like really, really needed. As in your husband has to be present or both of you must be there for your step daughter or son?

More and more couples have 50/50 custody of the kids, so I fear that my blog posts will start to become passe! But I know there are still some of you out there- many of you- who are like us. You got a crap custody order from a court that still believed in the mom-parenting bias ("kids must be with mom"). And if you're also still like us, you've given up. We could go back and try our shot at the family court roulette, knowing full well that the courts are finally starting to move towards more even, fair agreements to fully capable parents (though not all, not all states, and not all counties...Who knows which way the winds will blow!)  But our kids are older and they are to the point where no matter how much money (and our lives) we spent on a lawyer, court prep, and the court mediation joke, the kids will make the decision based on their age and the level of manipulation they've sustained. One word: Pointless.

We are seen as unneeded, and nearly nonexistent, a majority of the time. My husband and I are extras in my stepdaughters' lives, though when with us, its clear that my husband is very important to them (well, off and on...they're teens, after all). Overall though, through many years, we're very aware that life would go on without him in their lives, which is very painful. Despite that, he didn't focus on his career, a new family, and move away as many dads do when they realize they are no longer allowed to be a part of the picture. He just maintained that he would be there, present, continuing the visits and every-other-weekends, despite our lack of necessity.

So imagine our surprise when he gets frantic calls and texts from his ex that he is needed for a signature!

That is shocking. For years, especially on forms that required "both parents' signatures," my husband, who lives locally and sees the kids about every other day (and has joint legal custody....), was not asked to sign a damn thing. We literally see them almost every other day, so there has always been opportunity for "both parents" to sign nearly every single school and sport form that ever crossed their mom's path. But, the kids never mentioned such forms, their mom never gave them, and we usually saw them after the trip, event, or registration. When it was too late, we had the joy of pointing out to the kids "Hey, um, so when a form says "both parents must sign"...That means your Dad. Did you know this is your Dad?" (Ok, well that last part wasn't in there, but he and I both honestly wonder if they really know that sometimes. For many years there, they were being convinced that their stepdad replaced their useless, real dad, and stepdad signed all forms despite joint legal custody and joint physical custody. There were, sadly, many conversations about what a Dad is, what he can do for them, and why he was still there. Very, very sad.)

So, can you now imagine our surprise? Can you glean our shock?

Turns out that in our state, it is a REQUIREMENT that both physical, actual, biological, official, government-recognized parents MUST sign before a 16 year old takes the drivers permit test.

Both of us had the exact same reaction: Oh. So...you are needed. You are necessary. I sort of wish he'd returned the form and said something to the effect of, "I'm glad my local presence turned out to be useful."

Side note: If you haven't figured out by now, this blog is depressing if you're not in this situation. If you are, you totally relate and you laughed at some of this. You're just happy to read someone else's discovery and moment of slight importance.

Unfortunately, I don't have anything to sign. There aren't any forms that ask for stepmom's signature, that I know of. It's probably better that way, as I wouldn't want a paper trail. =)

But in the meantime, it was actually quite wonderful for my husband to be requested and HIS signature needed, even for something so trivial. That is how much your parenting-self-esteem is diminished in this lifestyle. Maybe there will be more required signatures, that will require his presence and ability to use a pen.

I would now like to thank the state of California for being so gender inclusive on their official documentation. This is the second instance I've heard of recently in which the state has made it a requirement for both parents to sign documentation. (Don't try to ship your kids off to publicly-paid-for military school without the ex's signature...And no, I wasn't the one who tried it!)

Minor Mistakes

I've made mistakes.
We've all made mistakes.
You make a lot of "mistakes" as a stepmom.
As I've heard from the considerate and compassionate, you also make a lot of mistakes as a parent.

Are they really mistakes if you didn't really know, have never done it before, and you're just trying things out? In retrospect they are mistakes, but at the time you were doing what you thought would work. Knowing you made a mistake does not send you into the bad stepmom category, just like mistakes as a parent or spouse, adult or child are a part of life.

I know of my "mistakes" even though I know that it was just what I knew what to do. It's who I was, or it is who I am. I was a different person back then, back when I first started my marriage and stepmom life. I am a different person now, as we all age and grow, whether we're parents or stepparents.

My mistakes weren't really that bad. They were just judged as horrible by people who had no right to judge, and by kids who really don't know what a stepmom should or shouldn't be themselves. Every kid would like to dictate to their parent how they would like their parent to be, but I'm fairly certain that even if a kid was able to do control their parent in that way, they still wouldn't be happy. It's just common to not like your parents, and it is even more common to not like extra parents you never expected to have. And if you do like your parents, you still wish something would change or they could be different in some way... There's always that. It's a part of growing up and the development of independent thinking.

My mistakes were not pivotal. Sometimes I wonder if they were, and after discussion with my husband or friends, realize that they were choices or mistakes made with others in tow (a joint decision with my husband, the real parent), with others in agreement, or with others providing the feedback that they also wouldn't know what to do. Frankly, most stepparenting decisions, although they have been encountered by many others in some way shape or form, do not have step-by-step guides. Some people post things of that nature out there (thanks, stepmom life coaches for finding that niche market...) but nearly any time I read a "how-to-stepparent/mom" list out there, there are fatal holes in it that just do-not-apply to me. My actions truly related to whatever was happening at the time, whatever my stepkids were like at the time, whatever my spouse wanted at the time, and our general environment. So, that's just the way it went.

I've mentioned some of these historical mistakes with apologies to my husband. He usually laughs them off, immediately stating that it was either a mistake that was called for or not a mistake at all. He used to often say statements of "it was what we needed to do at the time." He's right, and we need to keep that in perspective. My minor mistakes (yes, they were minor) were without future information that no one would have. No one would guess or know what would happen 1 year, 2 years, 3 years down the line. We're still guessing, and we still have no idea.

We have to keep living in the world we're living in, and not living in a past world of choices we couldn't know the result of.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Try As You Might

There is an assumption that if you are a good, nice, sweet, giving stepmom, you will be treated as such. There is an in-kind assumption that if your stepkids treat you as a good, nice, sweet, and giving stepmom, you must be OK (or bribing them). There is an equal but opposite assumption that if your stepkids treat you horribly, you must be a terrible, evil stepmom.

Any stepmom reading this should know what the truth is.

It doesn't matter how giving you are or how sweet you try to be. You have likely gone through multiple cycles of trying really hard to be the best you can be, the sweetest wife and stepmom and semi-friend ever, only to find that it had no effect. You may have even kept it up for years. And then when you realize it had no effect, you wonder what's wrong with you. What you're doing wrong. What you could have done better. Why your stepkids still treat you as the evil stepmom you've tried so hard not to be.

We have a teen now. She doesn't use me for all that I could offer her. It bothers me that she doesn't know how much I could help or support or be there for her, as an alternate to her parents. Some have judged that. They think that she must not see me that way, because I was horrible or because of something I did. And they have ideas and theories as to how that happened. They've seen or heard so little of our lives, that I can't put any weight behind those theories. But, thinking about it, interacting with her on a normal basis, and thinking back to all of the years together, I know that I offered my help, shared things with her, and was there for her. And despite that, I'm still not looked at or used as the resource I could be by her. I was the one here, with her, week after week. I know what I tried, I know what she resisted, I know our moments together, and I know "our truth."

I know that I am up against a strong-willed, fearful mother that holds her teen as the secret of her happiness for some reason. She lives vicariously through her. I know that there is pressure for her daughter to put her mother first, act like they are in a mother-daughter clique, and mock the stepmom as the outsider. I know that my stepdaughter has absolutely seen what I can offer her and be to her, but she chooses to ignore it to a hurtful degree. It's most strange, but shows the power of motherhood, that she continues the charade even when away from mom 7 years later. She must have learned her lesson the first year she got to know me, when she imitated me, wore my clothes, and followed me around. I know that something happened way back then that changed our relationship forever, and that was back when I was trying unbelievably hard to be unrealistically perfect.

The stepmom articles are wrong. Even if you just try to be a friend, it doesn't mean it will have any effect. It is misleading to put that expectation on us, just like our families have unrealistic expectations of our behavior, reactions, and tolerance.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I don't do this blog for me. I don't remember there being a time where it was for me. I reread a quote on an empty blog (no posts, just page setup) that said that writing a blog is cathartic and good for you. It stated that it will help you (the writer).

I've never had that intention. If I wanted to write for myself, I would definitely make it private. I'd use one of those cool journal apps. I could even make this blog private. I'm a fan of journaling for my own good, and I probably should do that more often.

But that is not what this blog is. If you've noticed, I don't post recipes here. (And if I have, it was because it was related to something else or it was just that awesome...Correct me if I have actually posted recipes here, because apparently I've posted a lot and I don't feel like going through all of the posts right now...) I don't just post cute stories or thoughts. That sounds lovely, and I wish this blog was just a bunch of wickedly funny pictures of kittens doing crazy things.

This blog is aimed at the target audience of stepmoms, like myself.

It has shaped itself to be a commentary on stepmom knowledge, literature, and experiences. The more I read, whether from social science or social media and web forums, the more it shapes this blog. I use my own experiences to illustrate, but this would be a very boring blog if I just shared my day-to-day strife. Sometimes I feel like sharing pieces of that strife, but with a greater intention and purpose.

There is a missing piece of criticism and critical analysis of the stepmom literature and discussions occurring currently. It is also infantile- Very few books existed when I became a stepmom, and although the number has probably tripled, it is still small in scope. Yet, a vast percentage of women are stepmoms. How much mom literature is out there? Much more important topics, I know. Babies and all that...But stepmoms aren't new. Only the discussion is.

Maybe not every post is terribly insightful. Sometimes I am just trying to share something important, like a blog or book of great worth to women like me. Yet overall, the intention of my blog is to be critical of what we know, what we are told, and what we see as stepmoms. And in that, I also try to weave my own advice in along with a general summary of the advice of many others, whether professionals or the large numbers of stepmoms I read and talk to regularly.

The end game? I am actually trying to shape the conversation somewhat, and possibly influence future stepmom literature and dialogue.

Thanks for reading, anyways. Sorry about the lack of recipes and hilarious kitten pics. I know it's disappointing. BUT Feel free to suggest topics that you feel are not addressed, or are addressed poorly in the stepmom/stepparenting web-&-lit-o-sphere. (Interaction, communication, and collaboration? Also very healthy.)

Keepin Busy

I do a lot of stuff.

I've always done a lot of stuff.

I hate not doing a ton of stuff.

It is intrinsic to my nature.

It is clear to me that someone does not know me if they advise me to take up hobbies or focus on my interests.

My stepmom life continues, whether I keep busy or not. Drama in stepfamily world happens, whether I'm busy or not.

I cannot overstate that I do a lot of stuff. I do keep busy. Many of the busy things are things for me, or only include me, or include my husband and I, involve socializing and fun, or maybe even include my stepkids.

I advise on this blog regularly that you find things for you, to do, to keep you busy and keep your mind occupied and distracted. At some point, you will start to lose it, and your marriage, if you don't have anything else going on. If you stopped seeing friends, if you stopped doing your hobbies, if you haven't picked up any new ones, or if you just stopped being you...You're not being your best self. You buried a part of you, and it will come out raging later and make you question your marriage and all that you sacrificed.

I know that you might be busy like me. But don't make excuses for not going out, going to an event with friends, or doing girl-time or other adult-level, your-age-group socializing. The kids dad CAN absolutely take care of the kids. You CAN ask him to come home, take some time off, or order a pizza instead. You CAN serve them dinner and then skedaddle, letting Dad put the kids to bed. You can let it happen, you can make it happen, and you'll find out it wasn't that hard afterall. You'll realize that the kids enjoy their dad, and that you ARE allowed to have a life.

I think I've heard of "mom guilt" before. I definitely see "dad guilt" all the time, though it is mostly unwarranted and unhelpful. Well, there's stepmom guilt. I felt it any time even considered a social outing with friends or business travel when my skids were little. I felt like I had to be there, had to make dinner, and had to take care of them. This was particularly ridiculous considering we're only every-other-weekend parents, but I still had it, and I now see it from a lot of other newer stepmoms. Seems to be an under-5-year thing, but it is particularly strong in the first 2 years, which is precisely the time frame when you should absolutely be continuing some friend/girl time.

The first 2 years are such a huge transition- almost to the point of insanity, as most of us experienced. The first 2 years include moving away, leaving your past, and being just too far away from friends and family. They include taking on other people's kids, who you may like, but are very clearly not yours (sometimes stated overtly by them, other times made apparent by their upbringing and behavior...), joining a man in his home, possible the home he shared with his ex-wife, or joining the community of his ex-wife. Your first 2 years of marriage truly include entering a world that is not yours. PLUS there's the marriage part. Minor detail.

Three, four, five years later, don't find yourself looking back, realizing that you could have been investing in your friendships still and other relationships, as your stepkids are still there, your husband is still there, and whether they like you or not at that point, you still have a social life to live.

You'll realize it at one point or another, but I'd really like it if you knew it right away so that you could stop canceling out on girls night with the stepmoms that are long past this realization. If you kept up your you-time now, you'll be healthier later.

Strong Fathers

If your husband has a hard time parenting/being a parent to/guiding/talking to/understanding his daughters, buy him this book in the format he may actually read (or listen to) immediately:

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know by Meg Meeker

If he won't read it, read it together. If he won't listen to it, listen to it together on a road trip.

There's a challenge workbook that goes along with it, if you feel so inclined:
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: The 30 Day Challenge

Meg Meeker's book is based on social science and research. It is not a Dr. Phil TV show. It's real, and it will wake him up as a dad.

Don't get it for him for Father's Day. Get it now, and help him understand what Father's Day really means when the day gets here.

Why is he not much of a dad to them?
He doesn't know how to be. He is scared to be. He fears their moods and their possible dislike of him.

Our culture tells us that dads are of trivial importance to a daughter in comparison to mom. Plus, the court judges, lawyers, and mediators tell us the same. The statistics say the same. And likely, his daughters will say and show the same choice.

Many men may not even know what being a father looks like, if their own father left or they've had to redefine it. We also live in a time of "just keep the kids happy" in order to avoid their wrath. Fathering has definitely changed in definition today.

This book will empower him and help him understand how important he is.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

True Stepmom Gifts

Dear Husbands,

Although you may be lovingly aware of what your wife has given up for you, just to be with you- And although you of course tell her alllll the time about how thankful you are that she joined you and your children instead of starting a fresh life with someone else- Think of getting her something from you for Mother's Day, beyond just the children's gifts. And if things are difficult in your marriage right now, lately, or this past year, then this is direly important.

(And yes, definitely, the children should also be giving her something as well, as belief follows action...This shouldn't even be questioned. Although your wife is not their "real" mom, she still does things for them, often playing the mom role in the absence of their mom, and thus deserves the partial mom title, whether the children agree or not. Children don't agree with most as it is, so don't let them question this. And you current wife performs "mom" in a different way, which will always be seen as "not mom" for the rest of their lives despite the truth that she is still being a "mom" to them during your custodial time.)

Make the gift from you meaningful, as she chose to be a stepmom because of her love for you. She chooses to put her neck on the line daily, risking interactions with your ex-wife, getting attacked by your ex-wife, and also getting attacked, ridiculed, and even humiliated by your children in front of others...She watches as the children she wished were hers, with you, get more and more distant or fight to even be around her. So think of what she gave up for you, and then make this gift meaningful in response to that.

Given that each woman and couple are different, there are "big" gifts you could give her that specifically relate to her. I can't tell you what those are, whether it would be alma mater gear from the school friends she moved away from, a trip to see her friends or family, or replacing something she lost when she married you and moved. Maybe a trip to somewhere you went together, pre-ex-wife-and-kids reality. There are probably many thoughtful, specially meaningful things you could give her in honor of her dedication to you and your kids despite it all.

But beyond those entirely thoughtful ideas, consider de-stress gifts, such as spa day- alone, with friends, or with her mom or sister. If spa certificates or reservations are too much for your budget, there are spa-like gifts out there, such as massage oils, aromatherapy, soothing lotions, and soft, sensual robes or super soft pajamas. Make it clear that you are trying to help her relax, and that you want her to have some down time- that it is OK for her to have some rest and self time.

What is her favorite thing to do? Buy gear or accessories related to it, set up a day of it, or buy gift certificates for her to do it.

What is her favorite store that you and the kids just can't stand and vocally complain about? That's the store you should buy her something from or take her shopping at.

What is the restaurant that your ex tells the kids is too expensive or too fancy for you two to go to? That's where you should go with her, on a night without the kids- or with if you purposefully want that report to go back. What is the restaurant that your kids have turned into a place you can't go anymore, for whatever kid reason? That is also another candidate for dinner out.

What is something that you two haven't done together in a super long time? Maybe it was just lunch together, brunch, hiking, sitting at a lake, or some activity- Do it. Plan it. Make it happen on Mother's Day.

Mother's Day is a really, really rough day for stepmoms. I do occasionally read how a stepmom doesn't care anymore. I only partially believe it, because I know how I feel and I read a great deal many more Facebook posts every Mother's Day from stepmoms talking about how horrible they feel and how they wish it all can change, which they know it won't, and that they stay anyways. In fact, every Mother's Day, in every Stepmom group there is, there's at least one discussion post from the moderator asking if everyone survived. Beyond that, there is article after article posted about how to "get through" Mother's Day for stepmoms. You may not know this, because you're not allowed in (they're private and closed, to ward off court-centric ex-wives), so I'm letting you know that how your wife feels and acts is extremely common. In fact, I strangely have the same conversations with stepmoms over and over again, and each time the stepmoms involved are just amazed that others feel the same way and think the same thing. Despite our differences, your wife isn't especially crazy or difficult. she's just in an especially difficult situation.

Despite whatever happened this year, despite whatever your wife (the current one you want to keep, remember?) did or didn't do, despite whatever anger has been between you, and despite whatever your kids hold against her, she is still the woman you married and enjoyed pre-kids and your ever-present ex-wife (whether nearby or as channeled through your kids and your phone). She is still there, but she is in a confusing state and strange world that has until recently been kept hidden and hated. She is only responding as she thinks she should, and trying so hard despite wanting to give up.

You are her encouragement, and she needs you. But most of all, she really needs you to make her feel loved on Mother's Day- and not necessarily (but maybe) in the Valentine's Day way. Figure out what is missing now, what she really needs, and what will honor her attempt to be the third wheel in your family experiment.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Today is officially, literally, Parental Alienation Day.

Need a summary on what it is? Why it's a problem? Why it happens and continues?

This is a fantastic news-show clip featuring two dads from the National Parents Organization.

Real Story: Shared Custody, Parental Alienation

Please share! Post it on your Facebook profile in honor of today and to help others understand what it means and what it is.

What they describe in the video is an issue in EVERY STATE, and across the globe.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Taken Hostage?

A psychologist informed me that my husband and I are letting ourselves be taken hostage by the kids, their mom, and our fears of court. I explained a number of different  life choices we would like to make and how we are terrified to make any of those choices a reality.

The biggest example is fostering. If we choose to foster or adopt, or even start to go down the path, the kids and their mom will use it against us. If we actually did foster or adopt, there would be some issue with it. We only went to an information session, and it caused the kids to tell a number of important, court-influence-level people that we want to replace and forget them. No matter what and how many conversations my husband had with the kids stating that he wishes they were with us much more and they would get a sibling and family out of it, this was still the result.

This is probably the most tenuous topic for a stepfamily with a severely low amount of custody. Adding more kids to the family could mean scaring off the stepkids even further, thereby deeply hurting my husband even more. And we aren't talking about typical little kid concerns or sibling jealousy...Teenagers don't want to add kids to the family, despite how it could be good for them. The oldest kid is so close to just walking out on us for good, because of the very strong message she receives from her mom's family: that she doesn't need her dad- ever.

But keeping our family in the state it is in is painful in itself- empty rooms, unused toys, and knowing that you are not really parents 75% (or so) of the time, despite your efforts to be involved in every way possible outside of that limit. This arrangement feels fake, surreal, and my husband works himself so hard to make up the time, to show two kids that he loves them as much as a full-time father. The reality is he becomes the invisible, background, after-thought father. They've been trained to consider him as such, and to value him as a lesser component of their lives. And the system, the court custody agreement default template, helps kids to see the secondary parent in this way, beyond the bitterness of the ex. Honestly, a kid is going to simply think, "I don't see you, therefore you must not want to be with me," no matter what you say, how you say it, and how much you love them. (This is why even-time shared custody solutions are proving such great results, because it cuts out the artificial confusion children experience from a primary and secondary time arrangement.)

Knowing that we would be capable, good parents and fighting for years to be that to two kids who often go to lengths to show us they just don't need or want it, hurts. We have broken hearts that have felt very empty for large swaths of time. Knowing that there are kids out there who need parents, guidance, love, homes, and everything we can offer sounds like a wonderful way to give in ways we just court-ordered can't. It is true that my stepkids do need us and need our love, but we have no power over the amount or timing of it. And that powerlessness is also what makes this all so unbelievably frustrating.

And what if said teenager did walk out on us "for good?" Well, she could come back. If we use a room for someone else and reorganize the house for a foster child, then she definitely won't come back. Keeping their rooms empty is sadly so important, "just in case." Teenagers, and young adults, change their minds and their life situations change so quickly, that we need to have the space for empty bedrooms AND additional rooms for foster kids. This just isn't possible for us, and I don't believe its possible for most families, either.

I watch the show Extreme Home Makeover. I love seeing how loving families have made homes out of near nothing. It is unfortunate that in many of the chosen cases the kids are sharing rooms (sometimes to a ridiculous point), but they're really happy or loved, prior to the new McMansion they're given. The kids always say something like "Wow! I've never had my own room!" This somewhat amuses me about the show, because the kids at some point will have to share rooms again in a short period of time- college dorms, marriage- or, in many of the cases, you can tell that the parents, if they were foster parents, can see how many MORE kids they can take in given their new massive home. Those parents know that they were blessed because they served, and they want to turn that kindness around into more generosity. They know that their new mega home will be put to good use, and that other kids will come into their home in a matter of time. But their kids know that that is what their parents do; they are loving, have a lot to give, and help others. They accept that life changes and there are others in need, like they were at one point before they were fostered or adopted. They know that the love they were given must be shared and passed on.

People say that kids get over it when another child is brought into the family. I've heard, seen, and read a number of stories about the toddler being jealous about the new baby (my stepkids included), the new sibling, or being confused about an adopted sibling. This is a part of life and family. But I don't think the average family feels such fear like we do about this topic/decision. I don't think most families have to consider their own kids literally leaving them and not coming back if they choose to foster or adopt a child in need. A typical parent or family can trust that their kids will adapt and accept. We cannot assume the same.

The psychologist mentioned at the beginning of this post stated that kids, and teenagers especially, will not like things parents will choose to do, no matter how hard you try to please them. No matter what you say, no matter what you set up for them, they will be kids and teenagers and be unhappy about something. Something could make them so angry, and you could have never seen it coming. Something could cause a teenager to leave, and you may have had no power over it. It's more that we need to accept that we need to live our lives and accept that the kids may be terribly unhappy about it- and that we may lose them even more.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

I know that we're often criticized for our "parenting."

I don't really consider most of my involvement with my stepkids as parenting any longer, because they're older now and I've severely cut back in my involvement with the kids in general. This is also primarily due to a major change in circumstances that we waited for for many years. I step in when I have to (their dad is unavailable), when my husband has asked me to, or when the kids have asked me to. Overall, my husband does the parenting now, though he often discusses things with me still and his choices are built out of years of  our parenting together.

I realized that I hear moms criticize other moms constantly. It seems like absolutely no mom agrees with any other mom's parenting. This judgement is simultaneously held as a belief that they alone are the only one in the universe that knows how to parent/mother their own child.

Believing the latter should probably actually lead to the opposite: acceptance and tolerance of other parenting/mothering styles, since it assumes that parents hold privileged knowledge of their children that none other could discern. Instead, it seems to continue the train of judgement on everyone else. This follows the post-modernist belief that we each hold our own truth, as long as your truth doesn't come in contact with my truth...

I think it's just another example of woman-to-woman hate. There was an interesting line in the most recent "The Good Wife." The main character poses that it's not really a question of whether men and women can be friends- but whether women can be friends. I have always wondered the same. There are so many unnecessary judgments, gossip fests, assumptions, grudges, and intolerances built up between women, and mothering is the most sensitive topic of them all.

I think that it is wise for all women to keep in mind that for every woman you judge based on her mothering style, you can be sure that others have judged your mothering, as well.

I even hear endless criticism of women, from small comments to entire discussions, who have extremely unique circumstances, such as bouts of serious illness, large and complicated families, mental illness, poverty, or children with special needs. We even hear and see it in the news, daily, regarding famous mothers that we don't even know...We judge single instances caught on tape with extreme superiority, as if our own parenting is perfect and we would never say something cruel to a child or make such a "hideous" mistake.

Mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. But some parents parent the way they do because they have to. We have a right to question the parent who is endangering the life of a child, and many of us have specifically been tasked with reporting such abuses to authorities. Beyond that, taking instances out of context, trusting someone else's word without understanding the parent or home, or coming up with your own layer of assumptions on top of a situation, just continues the cycle of mothers judging mothers.

And sadly, given the habits we have of telling too many people what we think, those judgement very likely make it back around to the judged, causing unnecessary hurt and a wall of distrust.

John 8
New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 
10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”11 “No, Lord,” she said.And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”


The majority of my blog posts are not specific to the day I write them. They bubble out of thoughts, concepts, and a conglomerate of memories, readings, and stories. If I wrote something depressing, I don't only feel that way on that day or at that time. If I write something about an event, the event may have happened years ago. Upon reflection, most likely while driving my car or in the shower, I decided to share that event (or series of events) with some commentary relating to the framework of a larger topic. I write some draft thoughts down, write some of the blog and finish it later (sometimes much later), or I only write the title. It has even been a year before I revisited an initial post draft.

This is also why sometimes there are 3 posts all in one day. It just...happens.

You Shouldn't Care...


Telling someone they "shouldn't care."

I have read a lot of Stepmom articles that if they were boiled down, the article could be summarized as "You just should't care."

Apparently, that is the secret to inner peace. Not caring.

I feel like some of the authors that write to help stepmoms are either no longer stepmoms, in an ideal situation, or lack the turmoil that the rest of us face.
This is in relation to a number of various topics. You should't care about your husband's lack of support of you, your husband's ex harassing or even stalking you, your stepkids hatred of you in the home you equally provide, or the future of your stepkids. Whatever it may be, you just shouldn't care about it. Voila! Problem solved!

Sounds lovely. There would be no need for any stepmothering literature whatsoever if this was an easy-to-accomplish mindset.

I request that anyone who authors anything that will be published step back and review what you're actually asking another stepmom to do. Is it tangible? Did you give clear advice, or generic thoughts? Were there examples that could actually be applied to the vast amount of women, or were they "ideal"? Were you limited by space for a short article and therefore didn't really get into anything of any depth?

We're craving depth, actual solutions, and constructive directions. Please don't disappoint us again.

What a Part-time Father Looks Like

He drives to other cities, flies to other states, just to see them.

He spends every last penny on them, whether its dinner out, a souvenir sweatshirt he can't afford, or a "special" trip on the last of his credit.

He travels to softball games in other counties just to talk to them for 2 minutes through a gate. Maybe they'll give him a hug, too.

He calls, texts, posts, and voicemails just hoping for a response or one pick up.

He buys them gifts for holidays he won't even see them on, hoping they'll get his intended message that he thought of them all day.

He goes to endless lengths for birthday and half birthday parties, because he wasn't invited for years.

He puts aside money for them and buys things for them, just in case.

He can't be a parenting, guiding father 75% of the time, so he has to shove all his parenting into a few hours on 2 weekends each month.

He doesn't get sleep, doesn't take a break, doesn't do anything for himself when his kids are finally with him. He exhausts himself catering to their every whim, while also trying to parent them without ruining the entire week, weekend, or night.

He sneaks out of work regularly, risking his job, career, and reputation to pick them up or see them receive a small award.

He begs their mom for more time with the kids, which will either be ignored or ridiculed.

He has to defend himself to his own children, because they "hear" so much or forgot the actual events.

He constantly walks a fine line between invisible father and a man trying to lead a new life- or any life, really.

He continues to go to his children's events despite negative reactions and comments from other parents, and even teachers and coaches, who have been told "vague" negative things about him. He shows up, smiles, and applauds anyways.

He focuses his energy on plans that will be best for his kids' healthy development, activities and trips that will  help them see beyond their circumstance and narrow lifestyle.

He puts off work trips (hurting his career), surgeries, and vacations knowing that it could cause him to miss a short, often frustrating visit with his kids. He doesn't apply for better jobs, or even try, because he knows that he can't move if he did get the job.

He knows in his heart that he can't give up, no matter what others tell him or how hatefully his kids treat him. Because if he did, he knows they will hate him that much more.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Stepmom Involvement Conundrum

As documented in a number of stepmom books and articles, Stepmoms often take on all of the appointment scheduling and completion of tasks that a mom normally would. This is a phenomenon in itself, but unfortunately realized by most of us. We're honestly not sure why no one else schedules dentist, doctor, and hair appointments...among other things.

In my case, we have a trivial amount of weekly custody, yet schedule  and do the majority of the necessary "maintenance", hygiene, and medical appointments. Sometimes they all get pushed to the summer, when we have more time. Other times, we have only every other Friday and the random Monday holidays for scheduling direly late appointments for required things like school-district-mandated shots. We also frequent weekend clinics.

Why doesn't Mom do them? There's a number of theories. Each family has their own. Yet even in cases of a very functional, involved mom, this still is likely to be the case. Reasons vary from busy-ness, work schedules, other kids, their own health issues, lack of insurance (or claim of), "not enough money" (even though there's plenty child support somehow making up for the lack of a dad's presence and involvement), doesn't like insurance-approved doctors, laziness, disapproval of traditional medicines, and "I was going to take them" or "I'm going to take them." (That last one includes elusive or even phantom appointment dates and times, which upon a simple phone calls, verifies that the doctor's office hasn't heard from Mom in months to years.)

Many stepmom sources of advice advise that you don't make the necessary appointments and let the kids and their actual parents deal with the outcome. Don't stress yourself out, and let the parents or kids come to their own conclusion that they failed the kid's hygienic and medical needs.

But many of us are smarter than that. If we do that, then we know that our husband will end up footing the bill for the eventual high amount of recovery and repair work down the line, even if the child is an adult. Because we know Mom won't pay for it, and the adult child probably won't be able to for years (not in this economy anyways- I couldn't for a number of different things that came up in college and beyond), and the court will likely mandate that the father pay for any extraordinary need despite the mom's responsibility to care for the kids in her time with the already-given child support.

So, although I continue to hope that these appointments will magically happen without my involvement, I still make the phone calls, find out about doctor availability, and book them. I've tried a few different strategies, such as:
1) Coerce husband to make it happen.
Outcome? .... Yeah, well, you know. Decline to state.
2) Husband tells (asks nicely) ex to do it, noting how poorly the child is doing or how long overdue the typical, short check-up is.
Outcome? "Of course I'm going to do it. I have it scheduled for [way too long past due]. How dare you insinuate I don't take care of my children."
Success rate? Usually appointments are canceled, so about 15%.
3) Make the appointment on Mom's time. Tell husband to notify her of appointment and let her know she can change it if necessary.
Outcome? That actually can work, with a lot of huffing, puffing and fire. So its not a tactic used very often, though a little amusing.
Success Rate: Only attempted once or twice, but very effective.
4) Make the appointments, take them myself, or make husband take them.
Success Rate?: Works. Totally works every time.
Outcome?: About 40% also receive a huffing and puffing email response of "I was planning to take them." We consider "planning to take them" a year after the due date null and void, and ignore such emails.
5) The strategy I really don't recommend: I asked that some things be included in the last court custody mandate (through my husband). Those suggestions were laughed at, because "Of course Mom will take care of these things."....

Let me know if you have another strategy that works for you! Maybe a carrot approach that includes the child support payment be picked up at the dentist's office, at the time of a pre-arranged appointment? That sounds ingenious!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A New Stepmom Show on PrimeTime

In case you weren't aware, the new comedy 1600 Penn features a powerful, beautiful stepmom as First Lady. Jenna Elfman pulls it off very well.

I encourage you to watch it. The very first episode, and the subsequent episodes, touch on a number of stepmom topics with an older, young adult daughter. Other situations also arise with the other 3 kids.

It's not a drama, you're not going to get your answers from it, but it is fun to watch. I think as a very large stepmom community, we need to support shows that show Stepmoms in a positive light like this. Encourage others to watch it, so that maybe one tiny notch can be struck in the mythology of the stepmom.

Always in the Unwanted Spotlight

About half of my blog posts could be titled "Contradictions," or some variation thereof.

The contradiction du jour is that it's not all about me, but still, it keeps being all about me! Stepmoms would prefer less be about us, as a matter of fact.

There's a view from most stepkids, moms of our stepkids, and even in-laws that we think everything is all about us. That we're self-centered, focused on destroying others, and want all the money, our husband's to ourselves, and to forget the kids for eternity. This list could be triple in length, but I'll stop there. Everyone has heard someone describe their stepmom in that way. Dr. Wednesday Martin did research on perceptions of stepmoms and found that nearly all stepmoms are viewed as pure evil, with vindictive motives of the bad characters in horror movies and Grimm (which, are quite similar...). (StepMonster, 2009)

Most of us are not actually that kind of fabled evil stepmom. We're everyday evil stepmoms, where we just function as people, and in response to most things we do as people, are slapped with the evil stepmom label. We fantasize about how easy it would be to become actually evil, and occasionally we think of borderline evil plans, and then we laugh, shake our heads, and silently pray for our family situation to get better. But the reality is, being someone's second mom just makes you the target of all possible hate and anger from so many people.

And that's how in the end, apparently it is all about me. It is the case that somehow nearly everything wrong with my stepdaughter's life has something to do with me. Her parents, the ones with the bad marriage and the choice of partners, can't really be to blame...It's really that the existence of me is to blame for most everything, but particularly bad moods. I must have caused those, and it was probably something I said. Somehow everything I say causes most things. Our house may be completely fine, but if I did something... usually something a stepparent, one who has taken care of her for 7 years would do...I have officially ruined her life for the weekend and possibly months.

In regular families, as many have assured me, teenaged girls can be this way with their own parents. But us stepmoms know that unfortunately, many stepkids have a unique situation where they get to forgive their parents quite quickly and aim that pure hatred at an easier target with less power. That's my case, because she knows that being nasty to her parents will just get her in worse trouble. The worst part is....She's not just an angry teenager. She can simply tell any member of her family her typical teenaged angst against me, and they don't assume she's a teenager (just like they didn't assume she's just a kid when she did the same thing every year before). They actually believe I did or said or was as horrible as she claims. Will an angry teenaged girl also tell the same people and kids about the other good things I did? Nope. So they get only the dirt, and think, "Well of course that poor child is unhappy- Her stepmom is so horrible to her!"

Beyond her, her mom still believes that I am the root of all things wrong. So, years later, I know that there is way too much focus on me, way too much insistence that I cause my husband to do or think the way he does like he's a puppet, and that I somehow cause all these unhappy things. No, no- it's not all me. I know it's not all me. I'm completely confused on why I'm the cause of so many things, but I guess according to the kids' mom...I am the center of all bad things. Aim the spotlight. My husband is just to the right of that spotlight, but not really in it.

And then beyond that, there's their extended family. Throughout the years, even members outside of the stepkid and mom unit reason that all choices, well, the ones they disagree with, must have come from me. I can't tell you how many random things I've heard, later through the grapevine, were attributed to me- which was always a blatant distortion of the facts, completely leaving my husband's free will and parenting out of the story. Sometimes it was because the kids were the source of the information, and other times assumptions were made on top of facts. My poor husband...I seem to control his every movement.

It's very curious, to me, how much I seem to be involved.

I really would prefer to be seen as what I am in everything regarding the kids: Secondary to my husband. I am not the leader, but I am a partner. I support him. My husband, when it involves the kids, is the one who decides and chooses. Things I do and say, as I've written here before, are results of many events prior and decisions and discussions he and I have had together. Unlike my stepdaughter's assessment, it is not "all because of her"- where the "her" is me, in complete disgust.

Well, actually, yes, some things are all because of me. As a matter of fact, we wouldn't visit extended family half as much as we do if it weren't for my financial contributions and family planning. Trips that I dread, but know we must do on behalf of the kids and the family, I make happen. We wouldn't have a home, because my husband could not maintain a mortgage on his own. She wouldn't have so many of the things and furniture she and our family have. We wouldn't have all the pets, we wouldn't have the money to do nearly all of the activities and trips that we do, and she wouldn't have an even bigger family that takes care of her like their own. She wouldn't have had someone that took care of her for years when her dad worked longer hours, further from home.

There's a number of other things, but yeah, that's what I'll take the actual credit for. The rest of it is exaggerated, misunderstood, or not even about me. If it's not all about me, then I'd like everyone else to stop making too many things all about me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Husband Tricks for Crazy Stepmom Mode

Upon the stepmom's entrance to the dark side, a husband needs some effective strategies:

To keep your family together and avoid more courtroom controversy:
1) Let stepmom leave. If she's frustrated, upset, sad, moody...let her go. Let her go somewhere else. Let her see friends, take a walk, and leave the family activity. Let her hide out in the bedroom. Bring her what she needs, check on her with kisses randomly, and remind her that a bath is a nice treat. Accommodate, in other words.

2) When she's upset, remove her cell phone. Displace it for a while. Who knows what could come of it if it remains in her possession. Or, remove its battery or cancel service if she's too smart for the displacement trick. Unless she just calls friends....But she can use your phone for that anyways. Or a computer.

3) Distract! Provide distractions for her to tide her over. A spa gift certificate is the best possible option, but have a number of more affordable options up your sleeve. - Promise of dinner at her favorite place the night after the kids leave, OR get a babysitter and make it happen tonight or tomorrow night. - Flowers (remember those?!?) - Gift certificate to her favorite place - Or, simply, a glass of wine or a margarita (or in my case, a martini). Bonus: The act of making it for her is a two-in-one: She doesn't have to go to the effort and is given a treat, while she's also being sent the discrete message, "It's time to chill."

4) Find another task for her to do, away from the kids. Walk a dog, get something elsewhere, or take a small trip to pick something up...Anything to give her time to let out fume and recompose herself.

5) Buy her a kitty or a puppy (from a shelter!)- if you don't already have a house full of them. Her own little pet to cuddle with and care for is so comforting in times of stepkid "you're-not-my-mom" turmoil. Plus, they're very soft.

6) If there's a Facebook war, turn off WiFi or take her somewhere else. Dinner, fun, ice skating, movie, hike, mall...Pick anything. Literally anything. An activity of fun is all she really needs. Because nobody wants to be in a Facebook war anyways.

7) Book a trip to some island. Show her pictures and proof of purchase. Then ask her to research spas, outings, and restaurants for the trip. And this better happen, or expect Divorce 2!

8) Have the kids make her something, whether it's a physical "thing" or a drawing or baked good. All of it is absurdly touching. But keep in mind: The effect from this will last a very short time...Especially if they loudly whined while doing it.

9) Put on her favorite movie. If the kids complain, give them laptops/mobile devices and headphones with some other movie.

10) Probably the #1 most effective way to handle a stepmom who's losing it? TAKE THE KIDS OUT. Somewhere, anywhere. Take care of them. Feed them. Whatever. Make it last.


My husband does not read my blog. Unless I tell him to or read it to him. As he puts it, "It is not meant for me." He usually has heard the beginnings of a post already, and he lives it with me...So why bother? He also so nicely added that I don't need his validation, as others have validated this blog quite well enough. 

Thank you to the followers of this blog, whether you are a stepmom sister I've never met, or a friend or family member I actually know in the non-blogger world. This blog is meant for stepmoms, quite obviously, and I use it to provide insight, analysis, responses, and share resources.

Your comments are welcome, and I don't mind fully responding. But my husband has asked that I moderate comments from those that we know personally. If your account links to me, your name would be known to others, or your comments reference specifics...It has to go. Don't blame me; blame "the man."

Despite freedom of speech, divorce courts have ordered blogs be taken down even if they don't break any laws or use names. Feel free to look into that, as it's somewhat disconcerting. A number of blogs I've referenced in old posts have been "closed" for that reason. I walk a fine line, and I self-edit a lot after the first publish to maintain enough anonymity. In fact,  I've pulled down entire posts for that reason. I sometimes run them by my husband to make sure he's OK with the post and that it doesn't reveal too much. You may also notice that I flip back and forth between generalities a bit too much, admittedly to the point of confusion, but that's on purpose. I am trying very hard to keep my blog public to readers around the world (which is super exciting to see, mind you) rather than going the route that many of the popular blogs I used to follow have had to take- restricting their blog to only a few members by invite. 

In fact, I probably scared a number of you who thought this was my final post: a farewell. I've read quite a few of those, but that post isn't today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Who's Driving the Family?

Ooh, good stuff! Love the analogy!
When parents-for misguided but positive intentions-place their child before the stepparent it offers the child a rich and tempting opportunity to engage either, consciously or unconsciously, in unhealthy and manipulative behaviors. They may believe they are the most important person in the family and their stepparent is in a subordinate position. If a youngster is in the driver’s seat, it is best to remember they have not yet learned how to drive the family vehicle and that a crash is inevitable.-By Dianne Martin, BSW, RSW

From an article in Stepmom Magazine:  https://www.stepmommag.com/2013/01/14/2855/?_login=052d63bb54/

The Will

It's really important that your husband have a will, and that you know what's in it. Hopefully, he's willing to sit down with you and talk with you about it, taking your input and feelings into consideration. And I hope that you are given priority in his will, as the kids usually have an entire large family beyond you two to take care of them. You, on the other hand, don't have a secondary spouse's home to go to and another husband to suddenly take up your costs- which is usually what the kids have- Another home to go to, another family to ask for money from, another place of support. When your husband passes, you get to deal with the plans and major life change, while your stepkids may be adults at that time and might not even participate in the end of life plans. Especially if they swore you both off as the secondary parents who just aren't important.

Although we are not set up yet, we've discussed it. Bad, I know- but at least we're talking. We haven't ever talked about my will, though. My will at this point would be very simple: My husband will take it all, and give to others as he sees fit.

I realized the other day that in many cases, the working-successful-career stepmom will likely have more to give in her will than her husband's. Many stepmoms deal with the frustration and pain of their husband's income being split in half (give or take) for their ex-spouse and children. We continue to work, even if we have our own kids too, to make up for the lack of what our husband's can afford. We make the home, and lifestyle, a reality. And if our husband passes, we will likely continue to work, just like we did before- maybe because we are younger, because of our own kids, or because we have a career lifestyle.

And it occurred to me that therein lies a new strategy with those stepkids. Husbands might want to point out to older stepkids that their Stepmom is more likely to have more to give as she ages and in her will. Burning bridges with her is a pretty dumb long-term plan, really. It might be a financially sound decision to maintain relationships with dad AND stepmom, instead of focusing on the fight of who gets dad's money- which has usually already been siphoned off for years through alimony, the divorce itself, and child support. In fact, many men sold their assets in order to continue paying for alimony, custody, and their own homes and new families. There might not be anything left in their wills, but stepmom's funds can be protected by state law and not factored into the decades of child support.

I think this is overlooked. It might sound callous or calculating, but so much of family dynamics is tied to finances. It's true. Dependency, large downpayments, cosigning, college, emergencies....A lot of people are tied to family and maintain relationships with some sort of financial element, even if it's just guilt. Adult stepchildren have great financial incentive to keep stepmom in their lives, as grandma to their own kids, or friend into the adult years.

Would I put my stepkids in my will? At this time, no. But if they maintain a nice relationship with me, including me in their lives and with their future families, there's a very strong chance. If I see them as my only kids in the future, that truly makes sense. But at this time, they make it very clear that I am primarily an annoyance that would be better off not existing. That's too bad for them; I will probably be the only one left with any assets of either of their parents some day long into the future.

Afterword (in response to a comment)

A lot of the documentation of hate towards a stepmother for adult stepchildren is tied to her "taking dad's money" and warfare after his death over assets. Without a will, everyone will lose money in court deliberations. I see this more as a reality, and this post was an elaboration on a small realization. It was partially facetious, though quite honest.

One hopes that family doesn't stick around for money alone, and if your family is there without that incentive, and your family wouldn't war over assets after a funeral, then you are very blessed.

But sadly, this is a major truth for many; Many stepmoms are blamed and hated, long after dad has passed away. If the motivation of some kids is based on finances, which for many that is a large component, especially if they were raised by someone who is also calculating, then it could actually be worthwhile to make kids of that frame of mind to think twice about how they treat those that could help them long into the future. Sometimes one has to point out what the hater could be missing in order to spur a more open mind. So, expanding on the concept, as the stepchild matures, they would see their stepmom for who she is, because of the effort towards a relationship. In this case, belief and attitude would be following action, which is a tactic proven in social psychology. And that being said, a relationship would be developed even if the initial eye-opening moment was related to finances. Sometimes, that's all a person can see. There are many out there who are blinded by how they were raised, what they're being taught, or pure selfishness. And children have a hard time seeing through the fog and confusion, particularly when they have at least one person feeding them hate. We've found that sometimes, especially with a teenager, we have to point out simple, cold things to open her eyes and make her reconsider her path.

Boiling it down, wills are specifically tied to relationships. They reflect who and what is important to the deceased. So a stepchild that continued to be selfish and calculating wouldn't be able to maintain that relationship.

Join the Club

I can see the writing on the wall.

Ok, that's much too dramatic. Maybe a bit misleading.

I can relate, though. I now can relate to so many stepmoms out there. The stepmoms who just couldn't stay any longer. The ones who had to move on. The ones who completely detached from their "families."

I think I have become the Evil Stepmom.

It was a joke before. Before, I could see how easily I was twisted into an Evil Stepmom. It's very easy for everything I do and say to be misconstrued and used against me.

But many of us feel like we have turned into an Evil Stepmom.

For a while, we fight the notion. We can't believe people cast us as evil so quickly. We fight, fight, fight. We try so hard to not be that evil stepmom that the populace thinks we are. We know we are better and we firmly rise above it.

But, the people who matter don't notice or care. And their issues outweigh ours, and eventually, it wears and tears us down. We realize there's no point; there never was. Your efforts were all for naught. There's anger. There's depression. Then there's giving up.

I am now on the other side of resentment and bitterness. I now see where I am, how the kids view me, and that there may not be a return. The other side isn't peace or acceptance; the other side is hopelessness. There may be an acceptance...of what it is, and that the situation is not going to change, even in the future.

I'm fortunate to have an understanding and forgiving husband.. So fortunately, I will not be leaving my marriage. Our relationship is damaged from the strife over the years, but we are still a we. Most stepmoms can't say the same.

And yet, I still have gone through the transformation process. I can pinpoint moments, stages, and draw the cycle out. I think many other stepmom sites have done that already, so there's no need for me to elaborate. But I just wanted you all to know- I have joined you.