Monday, August 27, 2012

The Yo-Yo Life of a Stepmom

image via

When I saw this photo, I had a good laugh because it speaks so much to how I often feel in my life as a stepmom and with a partner who frequently is away on business. One day you are in the center of a busy life, fussing about meals, schedules, activities, implementing family goals and trying your best to raise a little one, have a healthy relationship with your man, and have a home that everyone loves and enjoys being a part of.

Then everyone leaves and it all goes silent. I watch other moms with their kids who they enjoy and get to be around 24/7 and I wish we could have that kind of stability and continuity. I feel sad that we can't make even some simple parenting dreams come true like team sports. It's impossible to get the little one involved in a team when she's in two cities far away from each other for part of each week. Either she misses practices or she misses games or both.

It feels like we are constantly stopping and starting our progress because of continually changing custody arrangements put upon on us by the court. Family traditions have to be fluid because you don't spend every holiday together every year and frankly you don't know what to expect each year, things always seem to change. I constantly have to say no to really fun family events because my family won't be around. I have to get used to the deafening silence when they leave me here alone. One day I'm making three meals a day and then for up to a few weeks I'm not even making a meal for myself. Sometimes I feel like the central figure in a family and then suddenly feel like the star of Single And Alone In The City.

Even more demoralizing is to realize that it will always be this way. We will always share this child. We will always have her for only part of the time. Most frustrating of all is that this is despite her wishes, her dad's wishes and my wishes.

So while I continue to find my way through this sometimes shocking yo-yo life, I have to find a way to count my blessings, let go of feelings of failure than can sneak in when we can't be like "normal" families and look at all the good we can enjoy. And when I have down time, it's a good time to rest up, make plans and look forward to the good days together.

Can you relate to my yo-yo life? How do you manage it? I'd love you to share.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It Goes Quickly So Enjoy Every Moment

image via

Yesterday I knew it was time to go through the Little One's closet and drawers and pull out all the clothes and shoes that don't fit anymore. It's a task I have to do every few months. This time it was particularly emotional when I pulled out the last of the clothes we bought her a couple of years ago. Clothes she first wore when she was transitioning from tiny toddler girl clothes into legitimate big girl clothes a couple sizes too big. Some of her, my and her Dad's all time favorites.

The little white shirt with the blue embroidery down the front that she wore to the 4th of July parade two years ago. We have the most darling photo of her standing on her aunt's lap, clapping her hands, with her hair in two braids trimmed in red, white and blue ribbons.

The light pink shirt with all the red, purple and fuchsia flowers all over it is going too. This was a shirt that would go with anything and she has worn with so many different pants, skirts and shorts over the years. She mentioned a few weeks ago how sad she was to see that one go.

The white tee shirt with the appliqued fish in the fishbowl is too short for her now. She's a tall girl. That was one of her favorites too. Awww, sad to see it go.

Saying goodbye to all those clothes really just represents saying goodbye to sweet days we'll never get back. She's not a little girl anymore. She's getting taller all the time. She can read to herself. She can dress herself, shower many things she used to need her dad and me desperately for. As much as I enjoy having more free time, I miss her needing us so much. Not that she doesn't still need us, but it's different now and it will keep changing.

We'll never have that little speed demon who Daddy had to run after at full speed when she would take off down the sidewalk, across the park or towards the road. I won't be able to pick her up for much longer. All this reminds me to enjoy every day, they go so fast and you never get them back. And it inspires me to enjoy every day to come because I know I will look back on them with deep love and joy down the road.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Competing With Mom VS. Blessing The Child

image via

I recently heard an accusation made against a stepmother. The claim was that she was trying to replace the bio mother. That got me thinking about what my goals and efforts as a stepmom are. I pondered that for a while. What was my motus operandi anyway?

Initially, when I first learned my new guy was a father, I was sad, nervous and fearful about what that would mean for my life if we made a lifelong commitment. I knew immediately that it would mean there would always be another woman. And another woman who was unable to get along with my guy. There would also be a child that would be passed back and forth between us. That would complicate things.

Things changed for the better the first weekend I spent with my guy and his child. It was an instant click. It was good, fun, sweet, charming. It was awesome. From that point my goal was to be the kindest, sweetest, most loving stepmom I could. In time my role evolved a lot into home-pre-school teacher, cook, reading partner and much more.

My hope was that I would be able to keep my mouth shut and be polite when it came to the other woman. A smile from the distance. For the most part that has worked, but there have been times when I have had to go Mama Bear and stand up for my man and his little one. I'm honestly not afraid to do that if necessary. I'm saying that with the understanding that it has only happened 2-3 times in years.

This week I sat down and looked back on my stepmom performance, analyzed what my motives were and tried to take a mature look at what I can do to do it all with more wisdom, intelligence and less worry. It can be challenging to stay focused on what those motives are when you are dealing with constant game playing and seeing your partner and his child continually hurt.

But I reasserted for myself that my goal is and must be the health and well-being of this child. My goals must be focused on the health and well-being of our family. Anything other than that is a distraction and if obsessively focused on, a big mistake on my part. So I'll keep plugging along, focusing every day on that mantra. No matter what problems and criticisms might come. That brings me a great deal of peace and helps me see my path going forward.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Building A Community of Fellow Stepparents

image via

We had another good day at the courthouse recently that reminded me of what so many other stepparents, attorneys, social workers and child advocates have said.

Keep doing what you're doing. Keep putting your child(ren) first. Follow the court order and show the court who you are and the life you are creating for your child(ren). Eventually the court will see the situation and realize who is causing problems and what is in the best interests of the child.

Having that faith and keeping securely on that path can be a tough one. That's when having a support network helps. Last summer a young woman came up to me and complimented me after watching my stepdaughter and I together at a museum. When she heard I was the actually the stepmother, she was even more pleased and shared with me a story of her own amazing stepmother and how stepmom and her father fought for her for eight years before her father was finally able to get custody.

She has become a treasured blessing and family friend as we have continued to uncover over the past year that her story is almost identical to our Little One's experience with her mother's addiction and abuse. These two girls, 18 years apart, have become dear friends and there is no one better to help teach our Little One what she must do when she finds herself in a bad situation with her mother.

For me, online connections with other stepmoms has given me a real boost on those days when we are worn down and discouraged from this long and muddied effort to protect this little girl. Sharing our experiences, knowledge and courage is an amazing gift to other families and especially parents who are going down the often difficult and costly road of protecting their children's best interests within the court/legal system.

If you are discouraged, let me encourage you to seek out other stepparents who can be positive influences for you. There are some great bloggers out there sharing inspiring stuff. If you are in a period of calm encourage other stepparents you may find who are struggling. It is so easy to get bogged down in all the negative feelings this situation breeds, but staying positive, focusing on the kids and living your life well is the happiest path for sure!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Be Positive With Family, Take Complaints to God

image via

It's been my luck to come upon wise words for marriage and family life from many different directions the past few weeks. One of the ideas that has really stuck with me is the idea that we are loving, supportive, respectful and kind to our families. We do not spend our energy trying "to fix" them. Rather than publicly or privately criticizing, we can take our concerns to God and ask Him to help our loved one to grow and overcome their weaknesses. We can also ask God how we can support His plan for them.

Yes, we should love, guide and teach by example. But it is not our responsibility to fix them. It is God's fatherly calling to teach and develop them. We are there to help in that process. And as mere humans, we often do not share in the magnitude of God's vision for our spouse or families. We may not truly see who they are or who they can become. We just know that things annoy us and we, especially women, feel the need to point that out...sometimes constantly.

I have been trying to put this to the test this past week. I have caught myself several times from wanting to lecture my dear partner for little things I think he "should" do better. Of course, catching myself every time, I realize that my imperfect emotions are not the perfect teacher nor should they be.

When I see God working in his life and in the life of our little one, I am amazed, thrilled, overjoyed but most importantly humbled. It's easy to forget that just like me, they are continually being guided, taught and loved from above. I would do well to stand down and let Him above take control rather than trying to wrestle it away from Him and my family members. I am here to love and guide. I am a helper, not the captain. I should ask Him what I can do for them, rather than spend my energy telling them what they need to do for my expectations. It sounds so ludicrous, doesn't it, to forget these things, but we so easily forget them every day.

Try to go without criticizing or feeling the need to correct another. Even if that's not who you really are, chances are you will catch yourself thinking or acting on something that should not be in your control. This is something that I really want to work on. I am going to focus on praying for the blessing of my partner and family members and avoid any context of trying to show them their weaknesses or air complaints. I will pray to let God teach and help them grow and ask what I can do to bless and support His plan for them.

I'll let you know how it goes. Is this something you find challenging too? I'd love to hear about your journey to "let go and let God" with in your family. Sending you and your dear family warmest wishes for your joy and success.