Protecting the Newbies

I’ve felt a strange amount of loyalty lately to an unexpected group of people… I feel this loyalty to BM’s new boyfriend and his family.

Let me explain.

Since BM got a new boyfriend about 6-weeks ago, things have seemed to progress at a rapid pace. The girls immediately met him and his whole family, and spend a lot of time with them. He lives with his parents and sister, so I’m assuming that the girls spend most, if not all, of the time they’re with BM, with him and his family as well.

The rapid progression has my husband, his parents, and myself a little concerned. Despite the fact that I think things are moving a little too quick, I am feeling a strange loyalty to this boyfriend and his family in the sense of, I don’t want us to have negative feelings about them!

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Whether or not BM settles down and marries this guy, or another guy, I know my husband is going to have a huge issue with the girls having “another Daddy.” Which I do understand… I think this is a “normal” hurdle my husband will emotionally have to face. But he has no issues with the girls having “another Mommy” in me, their Stepmom. If I can be a “second Mommy” for them, we must accept her next husband as a “second Daddy”… am I right?!

And my Mother-in-Law (MIL)… *Backstory* This weekend, my MIL noticed that the boyfriend’s mom has the girls in her Facebook default picture… just her and the girls. You read that right- this lady put her son’s girlfriend’s [of 6-weeks] daughters in her Facebook default picture. I think it’s odd too, but my MIL went off about it. Last night she said to me, “I’m going to look [SD4] in the face and tell her that she’s not her Mimi, I’m her Mimi! I’m going to tell her that she can’t love her like I can because I’m her Mimi!”

As a Stepmom, I literally just stared at her in response. When she said that, what I heard was, “You can’t love them like their Mom loves them because you’re not their Mom.”

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I understand jealousy– trust me- but come on! Over the years, I’ve gained this hyper-awareness and hypersensitivity to people who either come across hypocritical, or just rude when talking about my blended family.

And I know, my girl brain may be getting the best of me here. But we need to look at the facts… you cannot fully accept me as the girls family, and not fully accept the step-family on the other side of the fence. You cannot say I’m a great Mom, but then not give this guy a chance to be a great Dad.

And I know, this guy and this family may not last, but I really think we need to start choosing our words and our mindsets wisely now. We will be far better suited in the long run to embrace these people and continue to set a good example for the girls.

So this is my PSA for everyone who is in, or knows of, or ever meets, a blended family. Choose your words wisely. Think about the big picture before you speak. Think about what you can control versus what you cannot control, and act accordingly. Practice what you preach.

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And know that everyone makes mistakes… you can’t get this 100% right on your first attempt… but progressing your mindset is far better than remaining hypocritical, or remaining and poor role model. The sooner in “the process” of having another family added to the mix we can all get on board, the smoother the overall transition will go. Trust me, resistance is nothing but negative in the long haul.

Hang in there, Stepmama’s!

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Let’s Meet in the Middle.

This post will be me talking myself off the ledge. As usual. Enjoy!

I’ve written about comparisons and feelings of inadequacy in the past. And I know that to be successful in a blended family, you have to let it all go.

But y’all… women are crazy!! Our brains are just wired so complicated that we give ourselves a headache sometimes…

I know it’s not just me, y’all…

When you look at the fine print, this weekend was a mix of everything I hate about being in a blended family. For starters, we didn’t have the kids this weekend (bummer). Then, I beat my husband to a cookout, and before he got there, all I got was questions about BM’s new boyfriend they all had seen on Facebook, and how quick it seemed for her to be getting serious. No worries, then my MIL chimed in to let everyone know BM & my husband’s timeline, and how quickly they got engaged and then married. I mean… she went into detail including exact proposal and wedding dates. Whew, I’m glad she cleared that up… *vomit*

We had a couple of conversations about how Kindergarten still hasn’t been sorted out for SD4. Logistical conversations are the worst, and when I feel the most powerless.

My husband had his share of what I call “unnecessary mentions” this weekend too. Referring to he and BM as “we” in talking about past experiences, referring to his wedding, but talking about his wedding to her, not to me… etc.

We all do these things. We all get nosy and ask intrusive questions. We all reference people or places from our past that we really don’t need to mention. I know I am guilty of unnecessarily mentioning BM a time or two [or 3,000] over the years. So I get it… no harm, no foul.

So let’s meet in the middle. We need to pick our battles. As stepparents, we have to tread lightly and understand that people (including ourselves) make mistakes. We cannot be overly sensitive… we must have thick skin for the war ahead of us. It is imperative that we meet in the middle, because that is the only way we can set a good example for our children. After all, that’s all that matters.

We also must aggressively fight for our families. We must remember that we will only be treated the way we allow others to treat us. We must stop comparing ourselves, and remember that sometimes first isn’t the best… sometimes last is the winner (Missing the Firsts but Saving the Best for LastSource: stepparentmagazine.com).

And when all else fails, we need to push forward with the tenacity of Todd Chrisley– a strong example of a father in a blended family- and heed his advice:

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Hang in there, friends! I’ll see you in the middle.

Mother’s Day

I’ve been piecing this post together for months… Just as I’ve been dreading this holiday for months…

I’ve never experienced pain the way that I feel when thinking about being a motherless, childless stepmom on Mother’s Day.

I’ve hated Mother’s Day ever since 2003. My “Mumma” (my grandma who raised me as her own) passed away in March 2003… I was 12 years old. That Mother’s Day was rough for me. As the years passed, I relied more and more on the fact that one day, I would be a mother, and then the day would have meaning again. I would have kids that through thick and thin, would be there for me. Kids who would be doing life every day with me. I knew I would be a great mom. Ever since 2003, I’ve known that was the goal.

Flash forward to Mother’s Day 2017, which will be here Sunday. I am a stepmom [and I love my stepkids]. But I am what they call a “childless-stepmom,” meaning, I have no biological children. A motherless-childless-stepmom on Mother’s Day. Great. I won’t even get to see or speak to my babies on Mother’s Day.

What hurts the most is when I see posts from men talking about how seeing their wife carry and give birth to their child was this awe-inspiring event. When they say things like, “I thought I loved her before, but I had no idea how much I loved her until I saw her give birth to our child.”

I’m not just a motherless-childless-stepmom this Mother’s Day… that is all I will ever amount to. I will never have biological kids due to my husband’s vasectomy. My Mother’s Day’s will always be painful… they will always be a reminder that my mother is gone, and a reminder that my kids are “just” my stepkids. A reminder that their BM got to carry them and plan for them with my husband. With my prince charming. My better half, not hers. Mother’s Day will always remind me that when I’m old and gray, if my husband passes away before me, no one will be there to take care of me. I’ll be alone. Mother’s Day will always remind me that I will never get to look at my child and wonder if it looks more like me or my husband.

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My husband… *swoon*… prior to reading this post, will probably not have any idea that I’m dreading Mother’s Day… How could he? He has great parents, and his Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are nothing but positive. But how can he love me knowing that I’ll never give him a child? Literally every dad out there will tell you, “I thought I loved her before, but I had no idea how much I loved her until I saw her give birth to our child.” He will never have that with me. He had those feelings with someone else. What can I ever do to push his love for me over the edge like that?! Nothing. I guess he instinctively will have mediocre love for me forever, without even realizing it.

And me… Mother’s Day… ugh. Will I ever even know true love? Another thing parents always say is, “I never knew love until I had my child.” So are the rest of us just fake-in-love? Do I even know what love is? How can I even show my stepdaughters love if I don’t know what love is? One of our good family friends literally looked me in the face recently and said, “You can never love your stepkids the way you love your biological kids. You don’t get it because you don’t have kids.” Will Mother’s Day always just be me constantly revisiting this conversation? When I think about it, it’s so draining.

I have a lot of feelings surrounding this topic… I swear, I could write a novel. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to dwell on the things that are out of my control. I know normally I try to wrap my posts up with positivity, but for this one, it’s all pain. I can’t tie a pretty pink bow on this one, or smile as I write it. This is real, raw emotion.

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What I can say positive is that my husband is awesome. And the fact that he had a vasectomy was never a surprise. And I know if he could take the pain I feel towards this day away, he would. He will, actually. I definitely won’t be sitting around the house lonely and depressed on Sunday. We will be together and do life like we do every day… which I should mention, every day with him is pretty amazing. He shows me love every day that is far beyond “mediocre love.” So I don’t know what I did to deserve that, but it’s pretty great. And our girls are the best. They truly are my whole world, even though I apparently “can’t love them like my own.”

I am hoping that next year, I can reflect on this post, and see that I’m in a better place. I’m hoping that each year, this gets a little easier. I know this will always be a huge void in my life. I know that I will always have huge insecurities with my husband because I cannot have a child with him, and I know I will always resent BM for having those moments with him. I know myself, and I know this will always be tough. But I’m hoping that as the years progress, my hateful feelings can shift perspective. Sometimes all we need is a new perspective. It’s all in God’s plan and God’s timing. I am faithful.

Headphones

I’m training myself to wear headphones and listen to music at work. Most people in my office do this, and I have never understood how they do it… I think it distracts me from my work.

But nonetheless, here I am, wearing headphones, listening to Ed Sheeran “Shape of You” (obsessed) while at work. This is all because I’m trying to drown out the noise of one coworker. The one who literally never stops talking. The one who cannot answer an email without processing it out loud. The one who has worked here the longest, but needs to ask the most questions. The one who has lived an extremely sheltered 30+ years, and seems to have no real grasp of reality. Okay now I’m just being rude… I digress.

This got me thinking… I’ve been trying to wear my metaphorical headphones a lot lately. To drown out any and all negativity. To drown out the things that make me feel anxious. To drown out the possibility of an expensive therapist.

I know that I am in control of my reaction to events, and of my emotions, but man is it hard sometimes! I’m almost always in control of my reaction to things that upset me… I’m decent at keeping verbal outbursts contained… I call this “Grown-Up Ashley.” *applause* But my emotions get the best of me. Thanks, estrogen…

I have a few key measures in place to get my emotions back “in-check” once something happens out of my control… 1- vent to my safe people, 2- breathe, 3- take an ambien before bed. Solid plan, right?

Seriously though, I’ve been working hard at not emotionally overreacting to things that are out of my control. As a stepmom, there is a lot out of my control. There are a lot of false allegations that come out of BM, and a lot of harassment towards my husband. This is where my emotions get the best of me.

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I don’t know if I will ever have complete control over my emotional reactions to things… Does anyone have this superpower?! If so, please enlighten me.

What I do know is that I can choose happiness. Every day. The things out of my control are just that. I have to take life day by day, and live in the moment. I never want to look back and think that I missed out on things because I was too caught up in the “what if’s” and the “but why’s.” I never want to miss out on quality time with my husband or our girls because I’m too wrapped up in my own thoughts. I want to be present, always.

So, I’m choosing to wear my metaphorical headphones more often. I’m drowning out the nonsense, and staying present with my life, with my family… with everything that matters.

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And as for my coworker… Well, I’ll continue adapting to my real headphones to deal with her…

The Good Times…

You know those times where it just feels like everything is working out… like everything is going to be okay?? That’s where I’m at in life right now. And it’s awesome.

This story isn’t going to seem that way at first but trust me, there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

I get so wrapped up in anxiety about the girls and our family so often. We’re on the brink of picking a school district for the oldest to start Kindergarten in… we live about 10 minutes from bio-mom, but we’re in different school districts. Joint legal and joint physical custody. So how do we choose?! Will this choice ultimately give whoever’s school district they’re in the “upper-hand” if we end up back in court down the road? If we choose bio-mom’s school district, are we ultimately giving her primary physical custody?? Are we putting the nail in our coffin?! As it is, despite having joint physical custody, we only get the girls 10 overnights a month. Bio-mom refuses to give us any more time than we already have with the girls, and says she will not agree to changing the current schedule unless she gets them EVEN MORE of the time- overnight every school night. We already don’t get them half the time… we would lose SO MUCH precious time with them. So much. And it kills me to think about. It seriously keeps me up at night. Why would she do that to us?? Why would she want to keep them from their kick-ass Dad??

Then it hits me. The calm I so desperately crave. It will all work out. The custody agreement will not change unless it is agreed upon in mediation, or fought for in court. NONE of us want ANY of that. So chill out, Ashley. *That’s what I tell myself.* No matter which school they go to, we will make it work. We will get them there and pick them up just fine. We will all have to make some changes, but they’ll be changes that work best for everyone. So what if she already thinks she has primary legal and physical custody of the kids… she doesn’t! So brush it off, Ashley. No big deal. I release these feelings when I’m in the shower. The steam comes over me and I just feel so free. Free from my thoughts, doubts, and worries. I pray for us. I pray for bio-mom. I pray that these girls will ultimately look back on their childhood and see they had 3 strong role models as parents their entire lives. (Hopefully 4 if and when bio-mom settles down again!).

This blended-family-journey is not for the weak, and I know I am strong. My husband and I are strong. Our family is strong, and whereas I could choose to spend all of my free time pondering the what-if’s, I will instead focus on what is. I will focus on time with my family, and follow my husband’s lead in knowing that everything will work out. Life is messy, but life is so, so good.

-Ashley