Archive | July, 2010

NMKNMP

28 Jul

Have you made a U-turn?

 

What???? 

NMKNMP is internet shorthand for “Not my kid, not my problem”.  Have you heard yourself utter those words?  

NMKNMP is like its own little city.  For some of us, it’s a place that we arrive when we’re driving aimlessly between the cities of “What I Say Doesn’t Matter” (population: 1-YOU) and “Wasn’t Blending Supposed to Be Easy?”  (population: 1 million).  We arrive at NMKNMP completely defeated because we’ve come to the conclusion that our input about what goes on in our stepchildren’s lives means nothing.  

For others, it’s a place that we come to as giddy as we would be about a bucket full of cash and a weekend in Las Vegas.  We’re overflowing with the new-found freedom that we’ve discovered after learning the steps to the “Stepmother Stepback”.    We arrive, unpack our suitcases and hit the pool. 

I got to NMKNMP because I took what I thought was a wrong turn.  I tried for three years to blend our families, without much success.  I was frustrated and kept wondering what I was doing wrong.  I came from a blended family, had children of my own, and naïvely thought, “This should be easy!”   Ha! I had no idea what I was up against.  After reading “Stepmonster” and a few very teary conversations with DH, I knew I needed to head in a different direction. With total support from DH, I declared that I needed to stop encouraging the blending of the family like an overenthusiastic cheerleader.  I needed to concentrate on myself, my relationship with DH and my own children.  I needed to do the “Stepmom Stepback” and fast.  

So I did.  

It was easy to take a U-turn since my stepdaughters are EOW, but I still felt guilty.  I had to hang up my Super Stepmom cape in the closet and that’s not an easy thing to do for this overachiever. But ultimately, it turned out to be the best thing for our family.  DH has total responsibility of his two oldest daughters on his weekends.  He manages their meals, their bedtimes and whether or not they brush their teeth or change their clothes.  When we first got together, those were some of the day-to-day issues that he left for me to manage.  It made perfect sense to the both of us because I was managing my three children as well.  But now, what gets done and what doesn’t get done, is his responsibility and honestly, he’s done a great job at stepping up to the plate.  All that’s left for me to do is show them love while they’re here and let me tell you, that’s a very refreshing place to be.  Battles over clothing?  Not my kid, not my problem.  Battles over meals?  Not my kid, not my problem.  Don’t want to go on a family outing?  That’s okay, I’ll take my three kids and you can catch up when and if you feel like it. 

I found myself in the city of NMKNMP thinking that I wasn’t going to like the accommodations but found that once I had checked in and unpacked my bags that the amenities were quite nice.  My stepdaughters were being taken care of by their father, who’s really discovering his own parenting style after leaving the “dirty work” to his ex-wife (for the last 9 years) and me (for the last 4 years).  No longer did I feel guilty about not trying harder to blend the family.  And best of all, my relationship with DH is better because I’m not so stressed out every other weekend.  

What about you?  Have you arrived at NMKNMP?  How did you get here?  What do you like and dislike about it? 

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First Marriage Artifacts

23 Jul

 

Digging through mementos can be like an archaelogical dig for your kids.

 

Recently a great topic about first marriage artifacts came up.  Here are some of the questions that were asked.  See if any of these issues strike a chord with you: 

Has your husband kept letters, photos and other mementos from his ex-wife? 

Does he have his wedding video tucked away somewhere?  

Do you allow your stepchildren to display pictures of their mom in their room? 

Do your in-laws still display the wedding photo or family photos with his ex-wife in their home? 

I remember going to DH’s parent’s house in the first few months of our relationship and seeing his wedding photo still up on the wall.  I had mentioned it to a girlfriend and she was surprised to hear that I really didn’t care.  She thought I’d be insanely jealous, but I wasn’t.  Why should I be?  They were married for 13 years and had two children together. He had a life before me and I was the “new kid on the block”.  After a few months, the photo had been replaced with a solo photo of DH and about a year later, that solo photo had been replaced with a photo of us.  I was happy because to me, it meant that his parents finally considered me a permanent fixture in their family.  

When DH moved in, he only had a few family photos.  On the other hand, I love taking pictures and I love scrapbooking.  I have several albums in an armoire from the mid-sixties to 2002 and digital albums dating all the way up to yesterday.   The photographic documentation of my life and the lives of my children is really important to me.  In fact, if my house was on fire, after saving my kids, I’d go back in for the scrapbooks.    

Having those old albums with pictures of the crazy life that I lived in my twenties complete with photos of old boyfriends was a problem for my ex-husband.  It was an even bigger problem that I wasn’t willing to burn every single picture just because of his raging jealousy (I didn’t know until later that he had a similar album filled with old girlfriends that he had kept hidden for years).  Luckily when DH moved in, he and I were on the same page when it came to mementos from the past.  We think that it’s important to keep pictures and letters from your ex.  I think it’s especially important for the kids from that marriage to see that there was a time when mom and dad loved each other and things were good! 

While there are no pictures of my ex-husband displayed in the common areas of the house, they are still present.  When my husband and I first separated, I made a small album for my then 3-year old daughter with pictures of her daddy. She still has that album.  During that same period, I planted a few frames of pictures of my son and his dad in my son’s room.  Those have since been retired to the armoire and replaced by teenage boy things like posters and banners.  On the other hand, there are no pictures of DH’s ex-wife here for his stepdaughters since they are EOW.  They are content to go a weekend without a visual reminder of their mother, but if they needed one, we still have the Christmas card photo of her and the girls that she sent us a few years ago.  All other mementos from both marriages are tucked neatly away in storage and may or may not ever be retrieved, but they are there when and if the kids ever want to take a look. 

So today’s question to ponder is this:  What kind of first (or second) marriage artifacts are you willing to keep in your home?

“Are they all…yours?”

21 Jul

One of these things is not like the other...

Since the day we became a couple, we’ve always gotten looks when we’re out with all of our kids.  We each came to the relationship with two: I have a son (15) and a daughter (8), he has 2 daughters (9 and 7).  Two years ago we added yet another girl to the mix.  We are a motley, mostly estrogen-driven crew of seven.  Some passers-by will look at us with pity while others smile knowingly about the joys of fairly large family. If you look at the kids, it’s obvious that we’re a blended family.   

Recently, in a guest post Café Smom, a BioMom listed her expectations on just how a stepmother should behave.  One of those expectations was the following:  “I am their mother. Don’t ever try and take my place! Be there for them but know your role and never introduce them as YOUR kids!” (emphasis added)

I take issue with the last part of that statement. 

I am well aware that I did not give birth to my stepdaughters and if you didn’t know us, it would be obvious by looking at us.  To the casual observer we either have two of my daughter’s friends tagging along, I’ve adopted two children or I’m their stepmother.  They look nothing like me, nor could they pass for being mine, but if someone asks me or DH “Are they all yours?”  We will both most certainly say “Yes!” 

In my opinion, saying something like, “Well, these three are mine, but these two, well, they’re my stepchildren,” does nothing for blending the family. Suddenly I can hear the old Sesame Street song “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” playing in the background.  That’s not the way I want any of the kids to feel.  I want my stepdaughters to feel like they belong even though we only see them every other weekend and I want them to know that we are a family even though their dad and I are not legally married (see “Unmarrieds: What do you call each other?”).

Oddly enough, in the midst of writing this post, I was at Costco with my two daughters and my best friend’s three daughters who were visiting for the weekend.  An older couple came up to me and said, “I just want you to know that you have a very beautiful and very well-behaved family.”  I loved that they assumed they were all mine and replied with “Two are mine and three are my best friend’s daughters.  I’ll let their mother know what a nice compliment you gave them.”  That made me think: should I be saying that about my stepdaughters?

I’d love to hear from EOW stepmoms who have been in the trenches five years or less:  how do you introduce your stepchildren?  Do you introduce them as yours or do you point out who belongs to which parent?  Do your stepchildren mind if you introduce them as yours?    

The Princess Gene

5 Jul

A recent guest post on Café Smom  by Jessica (Sassy Single Mamma) stimulated a lot of discussion in the BioMom and StepMom community.  The 23-year old single mother of two posted a list of 12 things that “a Smom should do/be”.  The one that everyone was talking about was #12:

12) You are his wife, but I am the mother of his children. I’m not saying I’m better then [sic] you! I’m saying he has a responsibility to take care of his kids, and part of that is making sure his kids [sic] mother is okay! So when he says I got to drop my car off at___ because hers broke down and needs to get to work… Don’t complain! Realize its [sic] for the good of the kids.

The responses ranged from an agreement to a suggestion to program AAA into her cell phone.  My response, to all women, not just specifically Jessica, was this:

#12 doesn’t fly. I’m with Ellie: program AAA into your phone. And while you’re at it, learn how to use a screwdriver and a hammer, learn how to pump your own gas, hang your own blinds, install a car seat properly, start the lawn mower and change a light bulb. Part of being a single mom (and a woman) is modeling to your children (especially your daughters) what a self-sufficient independent woman looks like. We don’t need a prince on a white horse to rescue us because we have it under control!!!

I remember the days when my husband first left.  The lawn needed to be mowed and I couldn’t muster up enough strength to get the lawn mower started because I had shrunk to skeletal-like proportions on the “divorce diet” (all stress, no food).  I was standing in the front yard in tears when my neighbor came over and asked if I needed help.  Completely defeated, I said yes.  Once he got it started, he offered to mow the yard for me, but I protested.  Damn it, I was going to mow the lawn ON MY OWN.  And I did.  It was the proudest moment I had experienced in months. 

With my ex-husband gone, I knew that I had to get familiar with basic home and car repairs or at the very least, find someone to tutor me should I need help.  I made a vow never to call my ex to ask for help with anything.  The one time I did break down and call (my car wouldn’t start in the McDonald’s parking lot) he said, “What do you want me to do about it?  Figure it out yourself.”  Click.  I called AAA and never looked back.

Part of being a woman is modeling self-sufficiency to our children, especially our daughters.  Too many women rely on men to rescue them and in turn, pass on “The Princess Gene” to their otherwise capable daughters.  You know the gene I’m talking about:  problems arise, the princess sends out a distress signal and waits for the dashing prince on the white horse to gallop in and rescue her.  In many families the BioMom presents herself as the princess.  Sometimes the incessant requests for help from her ex-husband are out of pure helplessness or lack of resourcefulness, some are in an attempt to woo him back and still others are because of a victim’s mentality coupled with an attitude of “you owe me”.   Nevertheless, it’s my opinion that it is a single mom’s responsibility to take care of herself and her children and NOT rely on her ex-husband.  Of course there are times when we need help but constantly relying on your ex-husband to bail you out on simple tasks that you could take care of yourself doesn’t make you look like the intelligent and capable woman that you probably are.  My guess is that most ex-husbands would feel a lot better knowing that the mother of his children can pump her own gas, paint a room, use a weed wacker, check the oil in her car and hang a picture (all of which I have heard BioMoms ask their ex-husbands to do). 

What do you think about Sassy Single Mamma’s #12? 

StepMoms: does the BioMom in your life constantly ask for help from your husband?  Does he rush to her aid or does he tell her to figure it out on her own?  How does it make you feel when he helps her out on projects?   Or is the BioMom in your life totally self-sufficient with an “I can do it myself” attitude? 

BioMoms (married, single or in a relationship): do you often rely on your ex-husband for help with projects that are typically “man’s work” or do you have an open invitation from your ex-husband for assistance anytime, anywhere?  Do you feel that he “owes” you the help since you are the mother of his children? Or is your ex-husband the last person you’d call in a pinch? 

 

 

“Confessions of a BioMom Gone Bad” in StepMom Magazine (July)

2 Jul

I just had my first article published in StepMom Magazine called “Confessions of a BioMom Gone Bad”* in which I expose my horrible behavior has a BioMom. I was wickedly bad.  It’s not a time in my life that I’m particularly proud of, but I thought it was important to disclose since no one ever talks about the depths to which we as women (not just moms) will stoop to get what we want, regardless of who or what we destroy.  

Have you done something in your role as StepMom, BioMom, Wife or Ex-Wife that you’re not particularly proud of?  Care to share? 

*You need to be a subscriber to view the magazine.  If you aren’t, I will be reprinting in here in a couple of months.