Archive | August, 2010

What Comes Around Goes Around

17 Aug

My stepdad should get a medal of courage for raising me.

 

I was raised by a single mom who decided, much to my dismay, to get married when I was 10.  My new stepfather was a nice man with two young sons (ages 7 and 4) from his previous marriage and I wanted nothing to do with him.  I was the proverbial stepdaughter from Hell.  I refused to live with my mother and stepfather instead taking refuge at my grandparents’ home.  My mother and I had lived with my grandparents since I was born, so staying on wasn’t a big deal, and I suppose it was easier on my mom  to let my grandparents deal with my snit fit.  She was 18 when she had me, so my grandparents stepped in and did the bulk of the child rearing. When I was 13, my mother and stepfather decided to move the family from Los Angeles to the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.  I was in the middle of my eighth grade year (my last year of Catholic elementary school), so I graciously told them to go ahead without me.  That’s when reality kicked in and my grandparents told me that it was time to go live with my mother and stepfather, full-time.  We packed the car and I moved to a city I had never seen. 

I gave both of my parents a run for their money throughout my teenage years.  I’m sure my poor stepfather thought more than once, “What the Hell did I get myself into??”  I was a horrible teenager.  I was a snot-nosed, back-talking, disrespectful, “you’re-not-my-dad-so-I-don’t-have-to-listen-to-you” kind of stepdaughter. You know the one that you fantasize about smacking into next week?  Yeah, that was me.   I wasn’t being poisoned against my stepdad by my biological father, I was just a mega-brat, plain and simple.  

But when I turned 16, my stepdad wanted to adopt me.  After a bit of legal wrangling with my birth father, my adoption went through and my dad handed out See’s suckers that said, “It’s a Girl”. I remember him saying, “I always wanted a daughter”.  It was nice to be wanted even though I had worked hard at making myself difficult and unlovable for years.  

When DH and I started our life in the blender, I figured I was an expert in the stepfamily department having been raised in one and because I had been a biomom for 11 years.  Ha!  Let’s just say what comes around goes around.  I’m sure my mother and stepdad (who were only married for 11 years) have several laughs when they hear our stories.  Whether it’s karma, paybacks or God’s practical joke, I’ve got my hands full.  I try to keep in mind my stepfather’s attitude of calmness and graciousness in the eye of the storm that I created.  

If karmic justice is at work for former challenging stepchildren like me, wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was at work for the biomom that actively engages in parental alienation or purposely poisons the children against their stepmother?  I wonder what happens when she becomes a stepmother and the same thing happens to her?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if she changed her behavior toward her ex and his new wife/girlfriend and stopped her campaign of ridiculousness?  

I am thankful that I came in a bit prepared.  My heart goes out to the moms that get blindsided, especially the well-intentioned women that naïvely believe that being a good biomom automatically qualifies them as a competent stepmom that their stepchildren will adore.  If you’re not a stepparent, it doesn’t make any sense when someone tells you that being a stepparent is very different from being a bioparent.  If you’re about to become a stepmom, strap up and hold on. You just might be in for a wild ride. 

What about you?  Are you a formerly horrible stepchild that is now the stepmother of children who wish you’d just go away?  Did you assume that because you were raised in a stepfamily that you’d be prepared to raise a stepfamily of your own?  

Are you an overly critical biomom who became a stepmom and got a taste of what you’ve been dishing out?  Or are you a stepmom that secretly (or not so secretly) wishes that biomom would marry into some seriously challenging stepkids?  

 

Fashion and Decorum When You’re Drunk and Over 40 at an Outdoor Concert

15 Aug

Note:  Every once in a while I’ll write about something other than biostep family issues.  Last night’s experience at an outdoor concert gave me a few things to think about which I’d like to share with you.  If you’re 40+, this is required reading.  If you under 40, TAKE NOTES.  I only tell you this because I care about you.  You’ll see what I mean.  Read on…

Just because you're 45 and going to a Sara Bareillis concert doesn't mean you should try to dress like her.

Yesterday I went to an outdoor concert at Marymoor Park in Redmond.   The concert, sponsored by The Mountain (103.7) attracted my 40+ demographic and featured Sara  Bareillis, The BoDeans, Jakob Dylan and Robert Randolph & The Family Band.  The temperatures were soaring (high 80’s/low 90’s) and when Seattleites mix hot weather with alcohol, suddenly all good middle-aged fashion sense and decorum go out the window.

As I looked around, I realized that it was time to take notes on how to age gracefully and dress appropriately.  Here’s the list of do’s and don’ts that I compiled:

  1.  If a woman is over 40, she should not wear shorts with a word emblazoned across her butt, even if her butt is cute.
  2. If a woman is over 40, she should not wear a bikini top to a public event (the beach or the pool is okay) unless she’s got abs like Dara Torres. 
  3. Don’t walk out of the house looking like a Stevie Nicks clone, no matter how tempting it might be.
  4. When wearing a dress and sitting on a blanket having a picnic, sit in a manner so that no one can see your underwear.
  5. Cropped tops are cute, but not when your flabby belly is hanging over your too tight belt (see #2).
  6. When drunk and dancing to the music, don’t continually reach over and grab your husband’s butt, especially when you’re the only ones standing up and you’re toward the front.  PDA’s are fine, but be a little more discreet.
  7. Don’t be the woman always standing in the beer line. 
  8. Don’t wear your new high heels to a concert in the park, especially a concert with beer.
  9. Gentlemen, just because you can take off your shirt in public doesn’t mean you should.  Your belly is not as hot as you think.
  10. Unless you’ve been lifted or augmented, a great bra is always a good idea. 

I’ve personally struggled with style since entering my 40’s.  I don’t want to be the middle-aged woman that looks like she’s trying too hard and I certainly don’t want to embarrass my teenage son.  I want to be comfortable and current, not 40-something and frumpy.  Finding your balance is hard, and last night I took a few mental notes of what NOT to do!  I implore you my friends, if I walk out of the house looking like an idiot, please love me enough to tell me to go back in a change into something more appropriate.  I promise to do the same for you.

The BioMom PlayBook: Moves That Are Sure to Backfire

8 Aug

Sometimes dealing with BM can get nasty

I recently read an excellent article on “Remarried with Children” called “How Sabotaging Stepmoms Hurts Your Children”.  I posted a link on a few of the stepmom support sites that I frequent, and so many stepmoms commented something like, “I wish BM would read this”  or “I’m going to send her a copy anonymously”.

I’ve always joked that when ex-husbands get re-partnered or remarried, that someone gives the ex-wife a BioMom Playbook.  Seriously.  If you read through the posts of stepmom support sites it seems that biomoms’ behavior is uncannily similar and oh-so-predictable.  I know from first-hand experience because I’ve been that psycho biomom (read my article, “Confessions of a Biomom Gone Bad” in July StepMom Magazine). 

The major issue is usually an emotionally incomplete divorce.  Do you know of a biomom that throws herself at DH in an attempt to get him back? Or do you know a biomom that tells the kids, “She’s the reason why Daddy’s not coming home” or tells them that you stole their daddy away from her even though you didn’t meet him until after their divorce?

Wow, I can see a lot heads nodding in agreement.

Here are the other “Top Ten” plays:

  1. Making derogatory about SM’s appearance, style or ethnicity to the kids.
  2. Telling the kids “Don’t talk about that woman in my house.”
  3. Grilling the kids about what went on at Daddy’s house.
  4. Telling the kids, “You don’t have to do anything she says because she’s not your mom.”
  5. Constantly dragging DH to court, just ‘cause you can.
  6. Telling the kids, “Daddy has another family now.  He’s forgotten all about us.”
  7. Telling the kids, “If you like her, it will hurt Mommy’s feelings.”
  8. Dating multiple men and introducing them all to the kids or marrying multiple times in order to make DH jealous.
  9. Actively engaging in completely alienating DH.
  10. Or when all else fails, making false accusations of abuse.

Are there any other “plays” that I’ve forgotten? 

Wouldn’t it be nice if biomoms were handed a rule book instead of playbook?  I vote for the rule book to be a print out of “How Sabotaging Stepmoms Hurts Your Children” and a copy of “No One’s the Bitch”.  Being a stepmom is hard work, but it’s impossible when you have a biomom that continues to sabotage your every move.  When this happens no one wins.  The stepmom feels like she’s got a target on her back and is constantly dodging arrows and bullets (and in some cases nuclear bombs) and the kids suffer from anxiety and pent-up anger.  The worst part?  Listen up biomoms:  the kids end up resenting YOU.  Yes, you.  When you work really hard to get your children to hate your ex-husband and his new wife, most of the time it ends up backfiring. Why?  Because in most cases, the kids get wise to your antics.  You can talk smack about the other household all you want, but when the children see consistency, decency and love at their dad and stepmom’s house, they know that all your trash talk is motivated by anger, jealousy and your need to control things you cannot.  It takes much more energy to engage in a one-sided war than it does to lay down arms and call a truce for the kids’ sake.

So, biomom, is it really worth it?  Click the link to the article, read it and dig deep.  Does it strike a chord?  If it does, are you willing to change, not only for your kids, but for your relationship with them?

“Can I call you ‘Dad’?”

6 Aug

We knew this day would come, but I figured it would be years from now.  My 7-year old daughter popped the question to DH a couple of days ago: “Can I call you ‘Dad’?” 

As many of you know, DH and I are not legally married, but throw around terms like “husband”, “wife”, and “stepchildren” quite liberally.  However, when it comes to the terms “mom” and “dad”, we get a little fussy.  From the very beginning we decided that our kids would only use those terms with their biological parents.  DH maintains that “Dad” is a special name and that he doesn’t want to take away the title or the honor from my ex-husband.  On the other hand, the thought of my children calling someone married to my ex-husband “Mom” makes me sick to my stomach (Iike I’ve said before, DH is the kind of guy that makes you want to be a better person).  My ex-husband hasn’t been in a serious relationship since we split up, so I haven’t had to cross that bridge yet, but just thinking about it bothers me.

Early in our relationship my youngest SD said, “Since you’re going to be with my dad, does that mean I have to call you Mom?”  Here’s what I said, “You have ONE mommy who loves you very, very much. She’s the only person that you should call Mom forever and ever.  Same goes for Dad.  Just call me by my first name.”  This one was easy to solve since we have the girls EOW (every other weekend) and we really don’t have a close stepmom/stepchild relationship (even after 4 years).

However, there were a few things we didn’t take into account like time invested.  Our four-year anniversary is coming up.  My soon-to-be 8-year old daughter has now spent more of her life living with DH than she has with her biological father. Not to mention that over these last four years, he’s the one that she’s learned to count on.  DH has become the father figure, not because he’s trying to, but because her dad just hasn’t been emotionally available.  DH and I also have a 2-year old daughter together, so it probably makes sense to a little person for all the kids in the house to call DH by the same name.  When it came up, DH handled it very gracefully.  They talked about why she shouldn’t call him Dad and then talked about alternative names, which of course, got really silly. 

Today, she’s back to calling him by his first name, but I’m sure it will come up again.  DH says that 10 years from now if they want to call him Dad (and their father continues to fade into the sunset) he may let it slide, but for now we need to keep it on a first name basis. 

How do you handle the maternal and paternal titles in your home?  Is “Mom” or “Dad” sacred?  Does the stepparent have a different name like “Pops” or “Momma (Your Name Here)”?  If you’re a family with two mommies, are you both “Mom”? 

If the stepparent in your family is called “Mom” or “Dad”, how does the biological parent feel about it?

“If I knew what I was getting into, I would have never married you”

2 Aug

Would you have married him if someone told you what you had in store?

 

Being in a stepfamily is not for the faint hearted.  There are issues with the children, issues with ex-spouses and sometimes, there are issues with between you and DH.  I’ve heard women say more than once on stepmom support sites:  “If I knew what I was getting into, I would have run the other way.”  Some of us have even said that to our husbands/partners.  

Think about it for a moment.  Did you know what you were getting into?  Did you know that your stepchildren would ignore you in your own home?  Did you know that BM would constantly throw herself at DH in an attempt to lure him back?  Did you know that you’d become well-versed in the family court system because of the number of times you’ve had to go back for child support or custody hearings?  Did you realize you’d be a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome?   

Many stepmoms that I know have had their bags packed and have threatened to leave or have left for some time (or permanently) when they’ve had it with the drama that often accompanies a stepfamily.  We share our stories, find the common thread and then wonder what do to.  Is the conflict manageable enough that you should you dig in your heels and stay or is it so out of control that you need to get out in order to maintain your sanity and reclaim your self-esteem?  

If you could’ve looked into a crystal ball and seen your future, would you REALLY have run the other way?  

Oddly enough in the middle of writing this post, I picked up Allison Winn Scotch’s “Time of My Life”.  Without giving too much away, let’s just say the book is about “do-overs”.  It has nothing to do with stepfamilies, but everything to do with what I’ve heard myself mutter more than once about several issues in my life: “If I knew how this was all going to turn out, would I make the same decisions?”  (Note: great read if you’ve asked yourself this question more than once)  

DH has said, “I wish I would have met you twenty years ago.”  I remind him that our current bliss wouldn’t be a reality if we didn’t go through what we did in our former marriages.  My 14-year old son has asked me, “Do you regret marrying Dad?”  And I always say, “Not for one moment because I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I like who I am!”  I’d change my reaction to a few things here and there, but I wouldn’t walk away from what would be the dismal failure of my first marriage (or my out-of-control teens or twenties for that matter).   

I remember very clearly the first time I said to DH, “If I knew what I had to deal with before I fell in love with you, I would have run like Hell the other way”.  It blindsided him and hurt his feelings and that’s exactly the intended effect that I wanted.  I wanted to jolt him to seeing all the issues that lay in front of us without an end in sight.  It was a sobering moment in our relationship.  

Once I did the “Stepmom Stepback”, I had to rethink what I said to DH.  Would I leave if I knew what was in store for me?  Now that I’ve changed the way I think, adjusted my expectations and stopped reacting, the answer is no.  I wouldn’t leave.  Stepping back has given me a whole new perspective (it also helps that DH and are perfectly matched and absolutely nuts about each other).  We’re definitely stronger as a team:  his über-calmness coupled with my “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude helps us to get to workable and more realistic solutions fairly quickly. He calms me down and I fire him up.  We’re a good pair and both devoted to making this work despite the grenades that get hurled in our direction.   

I look at it this way:  I can let the drama destroy me and my relationship with DH and run for the hills, or I can use it to strengthen our bond.  I’ve chosen the latter.  Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not the patron saint of stepmothers and there are times that the issues make me want to scream expletives loud enough that the neighbors can hear, but I haven’t felt the compulsion to pack my bags (or throw his stuff out on the porch) for a very, very  long time.   

What about you?  Have you said, “If I knew what I was getting into, I would have never married you?” or something to that effect to your husband?  How do you decide whether to stay or get out?