Redirection

Hello, old friends! It’s been awhile since I sat down and put my thoughts into writing. A lot has happened since we last met. Our 2 year old turned 3, we went on a week long beach vacation, I had a birthday, and I got a promotion at work! On deck, the latest news is that SD4 starts Kindergarten in 10 days! (Yes, we eventually decided on a school district by making a deal with BM… tit for tat, you know. That’s another story for another post…)

Another update that has shifted our family dynamic is that a few weeks ago, BM got engaged to her boyfriend of 3 months. I can’t say I consider him a part of the parenting team yet, but he is very nice and I hope that he doesn’t regret his proposal after he spends more time emerged in what is often our chaotic dynamic…

Through this summer, the [mostly] ups and the [occasional] downs (more affectionately referred to as “baby-mama-drama”)… I’ve realized that my feelings have taken a shift. Things that would have rattled me months ago now seem petty and like a non-issue. I have progressed in my feelings of “family,” and have continued developing my parenting style and abilities in this blended family.

The question that is always on my mind now is this big philosophical, and perhaps biblical one: What exactly is my role as a woman if I am never going to bear a child?

It seems silly, right?! I have two amazing stepdaughters. There are thousands of women in the world who are unable to physically bear children for one reason or another, and who are not as lucky as I am to have two beautiful girls to love on and care for. So why complain, Ashley?! Why worry about it?

Despite the obvious reasons above that my never bearing children should be a non-issue, the topic is still regularly on my mind. I’ve become more sensitive to pregnancy announcements, and have become hyper-aware to the fact that most TV shows and songs on the radio are about parenting to some degree. I feel absolutely sick seeing any post from a man about their feelings towards their wife/baby-mama in the form of “She is so strong… what a miracle… watching her carry then deliver our child…” My stomach is immediately in knots over things like this.

But why? There has got to be a way I can feel like I’m truly “a woman” without bearing children. There must be a reason God made me a part-time “second-Mommy” instead of a full-time “one-and-only.” There has to be a way that I can look back on my life when I’m old and gray, and not feel like there’s a void in my life because I never had a child.

So what is it? Where do I go from here?

I’m happy… so, so happy. I love my husband and my girls, and I love my job. We have family goals and I have professional goals, all of which are realistic and attainable. Life is good. So why is this issue always on my mind?

That’s what I’m going to explore, and process through this blog moving forward. I’d imagine that the content of my posts moving forward will remain similar to what they have been in the past, but know that I am writing from this place of personal hardship. Of grieving a loss that I ultimately chose. Of learning how I can be a woman without being able to do the very thing that makes me one.

This is my journey, and I hope you continue to follow along on this wild, beautiful, mess of a life I’m living.

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Double Life

How do you cope with your kids having a totally separate life from yours?

How do you cope with the fact that when your children aren’t with you, they’re with another parent/set of parents? They’re making those people feel like a million bucks, the same way they do to you. They’re showering them with cuddles, compliments, and love, the same way they do you. They’re giving other people their little sweet kisses. Making memories, memories that you will never be a part of.

Those parents are serving as their caretakers… serving in your role. They [hopefully] are feeding them, keeping them safe, loving them, and providing for them. They are getting to pack their lunches, brush their hair, get them dressed, take them to school, cook them dinner… all the things that you look forward to. They have their own bedtime routine, which probably looks different from yours. How do you cope with having another set of parents in the picture, when they can’t communicate with you without it being a disagreement or production?

How do you cope with not knowing if your children are being taken care of at all times? Are they being bathed? Are they eating well? Are they being watched at the playground? Are they dressed weather and size appropriate? How do you cope with feeling like your home is the better home, but having shared physical custody, and no firm way to prove your home is “better enough” for primary physical custody?

When your kids aren’t with you, even you are living a different life… a “double life,” if you will. Your daily routine is completely different, and there is an unimaginable void. How do you cope?

How do you cope with your children constantly bringing up their other home? Is it a sign they trust you and want to share happy memories with you, or is a sign they miss their other home?

How do you cope with being a part-time parent, when in your heart, you’re a full-time parent? If you’re the stepparent, how do you cope with being a full-time parent in your heart, when friends and family only see you as a part-time parent? 

These are the thoughts that consume my mind. These are just a few the pressures and realities of a blended family.

Friday Thoughts

Disclaimer: I just learned that you can make playlists on YouTube two days ago. Yeah, I’m nailing this whole “millennial” thing.

First, let me start by saying that I do not feel this way about any of my ex’s…

 

… but I hope that one of them feels this way about me! LOL. Like, don’t you hope you messed up [at least] one of your ex’s like this?! #Petty

Anyway y’all… this song tugs at my heartstrings!! I know Blake didn’t write it, so allegedly it’s not directly about Miranda or anything (yeah okay, Blake…), but man. The emotion in this performance!

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I’ll tell you what song does directly apply to me, in reference to my husband…

 

For real, though.

This weekend we’re celebrating Father’s Day celebrating my husband and my father-in-law and all they do for our family. I even bought myself my husband a Father’s Day gift… we’re getting family pictures made! I am thrilled.

We’re also 9 days away from leaving for the beach! I’m not sure what I’m most looking forward to… playing in the sand with the girls, shopping, or the look on my husbands face when he realizes I really could just lay by the pool for 12 hours a day.

This will be our first family vacation, as well as the girls first big beach trip ever. So we’re pretty much as stoked as can be!

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There I am…

Happy Friday, Friends!

Walking the Tightrope

As we prepare to formally request modifications to our custody agreement, I am a little anxious. After tirelessly documenting every detail of the past 1.5 years (since the last court date), I feel a sense of calm knowing that we’re prepared, but I also wish I knew more. I feel like we’re walking a tightrope, and could fall in either direction.

Do we have the right type of documentation? Will it hold up in court?

Is what we consider to be regularly denying access to the girls, actually her regularly denying us access? Or does BM see enough gray area in the current custody agreement to skate by?

Do we have enough documented incidents of her instigating arguments and lashing out? Or will the judge consider that petty and not care about it?

How can we get the judge to care about BM’s poor standards for hygiene, if we do not have concrete proof?

Do we have enough to clearly paint the picture that BM has been manipulating the custody agreement- and the girls- this whole time, but doing so in a manner that is just under the radar as to not give us a “slam dunk” case against her?

Will the judge care that she only gets the girls to preschool about 5% of the time (if that)? Will the judge realize that our oldest is about to start Kindergarten at a school where she will have to be there an hour earlier? How will that work if she continues to have them on school nights?!

To that tune, will the judge care that she has stalled in coming to a compromise on a school district, just so that we miss the deadline for the one we live in?

Does the fact that she never returns all clothes on each exchanged- as directed in the custody agreement- even matter because they’re just clothes? Or does it matter because it’s something in the agreement she is not adhering to?

Is the track record we have documented the past 1.5 years enough, or will we need more?

We’re on the tightrope. Will we fall on the right side, or the left side? What I know for sure is that on this tightrope, I do not want to make it across in the same situation we began.

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!

Five Things: Memorial Day

ONE: We took the girls fishing for the first time this weekend… I was sure it would be a disaster, but they loved it. We used the live bait (worms) and bobber approach, and actually caught more fish than we had all year so far! They both loved holding the bass and throwing them back in the water. They loved grabbing the worms and watching their Daddy put them on the hook. SD4 actually caught about 4-5 bass by herself! Reeled them in and everything. It was wild. This was a day my husband and I will hold close to our hearts for many years to come.

TWO: There are major structural changes going down in my office. Some changes have been announced publicly, and some changes I know about because of my expert detective work. Regardless, I am hoping these changes will allow me to go for a promotion this summer! I am genuinely praying that the Lord will open up an opportunity for me where my career could develop for many years down the road. Wish me luck!

THREE: SD4 took her Kindergarten early entrance exam for BM’s school district about a week ago, and BM still has not told us how it went (although SD4 has told me twice that she did not pass). Maybe SD4 doesn’t know what she is talking about… or maybe BM is stalling to buy time, because she is dreading committing SD4 to our school district. Either way, I know the first real sit-down between my husband and BM in about two years is on the horizon [and I know I am not invited because I am a “distraction”]. The thought of a sit down (especially one I am not present for) terrifies me, but I know my husband can handle himself.

FOUR: My husband is working his tail off for us these days. We are going to the beach for a week at the end of June, and he has not let an “extra” work opportunity pass by, because he wants us to take as much “play money” as possible. He has actually said, “I want the girls to walk through the stores and buy whatever they want.” I am so thankful for everything he does for us, and really hope he thinks I pull my weight. Sometimes I question that about myself (i.e. a night home alone is much better spent with a Bud Light and Netflix than it is a dust rag and vacuum). But I don’t want to be a bench-warmer… I want to be a legitimate team player. Cheers to constant self-reflection and self-improvement!

FIVE: I’ve been dreaming a lot lately, which is out of character for me. Dreaming about the day when we have a big back yard and a grill. About the day we have a boat. About the day I get a baitcaster. About the day we have a Coke Zero fountain in the kitchen. About the day I am permanently tan without effort. Okay, maybe some of those won’t happen… but I’ve been dreaming! I know most people in their 20’s do not have “everything they have ever wanted,” but it is a little daunting to think about how many years it will take to make some of our dreams come true.

For now, I will keep prioritizing family, grinding at work, and keeping my chin up!

-Ashley

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.