I hate the month of June

29 Jun

June sucks.  Big time.  I become paralyzed in May and it usually lasts until the 4th of July.  It’s a hard month for me, here’s why:  my father was born and died in June, my grandfather (who was the man who did most of my raising) was born in June (he died the same year as my father), my grandparent’s anniversary is in June, and Father’s Day is in June.  June is a reminder of everything I have lost.  I hate June. 

So many times during the month of June, I find myself curled in a ball, bawling my eyes out, but this June was a little bit better.  It’s been 9 years since my father and grandfather have passed.  How do I know?  I look at my middle daughter.  I was pregnant when my dad died and 6 weeks postpartum when my grandfather died.  Every year I say to myself, “This is the year to heal,” and every year I fall desperately short.  This year was better.  Finally. 

"This one is for Papa!" my daughter said before she went on stage.

My father was born in Hawai’i and I’ve made sure that my kids stay in touch with Hawaiian culture by having them dance in a halau (hula school).  My 8-year old is the consummate performer of my brood and has been lighting up luaus since she was 3.  My 3-year old performed a couple times last year, but has had a major case of performance anxiety this year.  She would be excited about going to practice and then proceed to cry and refuse to dance.  It just so happened that on June 11th, the 9th anniversary of my father’s death, our halau was dancing at a luau.  My 3-year old proclaimed boldly that she would dance, and when the time came, she did a Tahitian number with the rest of her hula sisters.  Her big sister and I were so proud that she finally broke through her fear. Perhaps he was the guardian angel on her shoulder, giving her the confidence she needed to perform.   Instead of spending the day in tears (like I normally would), I was given a wonderful opportunity to quietly celebrate my father’s life by watching my girls dance.  It was bittersweet.  He’s the grandpa that my girls will never know except through photos and stories.  He would have been 67 this year. 

And ironically enough, I’m posting this on June 29th which would have been my grandfather’s 97th birthday.  He would have been equally tickled watching his great-granddaughters’ dance (my mom and aunt were both professional Polynesian dancers). 

The loss of a parent deeply affects a child, even an adult child.  Healing takes time.  I’ve come a long way in nine years, but I still have so much farther to go. 

Have you lost a parent?  How do you remember or celebrate his/her life?  How do you keep his/her memory alive for your children?

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He just called us a “broken family”

28 Apr

We're not "broken". We're more like Good Seasons Italian Dressing.

Recently, DH had a few days in which he had to care for his girls during the week.  For us that means 5 kids, 4 different schools in three different school districts and a plethora of afterschool activities all happening simultaneously.   Since I’m still in “step-back” mode and because the schedules of my 3 children are overwhelming enough, DH was his own.  He had to make lunches, drive them to school, pick them up and take them to their after-school activities while working a more-than-full-time job.  Getting home late one night, he looked at me and said, “How do real families do this every day?” 

Wait.  Did he just say “real” families?  He did.  When I pointed that out, he said, “You know what I mean.  Original families, not families that are broken like ours.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh hysterically or smack him upside the head because of the two issues that jumped right out.  First of all, has he not watched me manage the schedules of my 3 children?  If you’re a mom with busy kids or if you’ve ever been a single mom, you know where I’m coming from.  My son swims almost 20 hours a week and my daughter dances 3 times a week.  I manage both of their weekly schedules not to mention meets, shows and the occasional birthday party or sleep over on the weekends, I work full-time and take care of our 3-year old, and he’s going to complain about getting home late one night??  I think he just figured out how hard it is to be a mom. 

The second issue which made me want to smack him is he called us “broken”.  Broken.  This from the man with the biggest pair of rose-colored glasses I’ve ever seen. You’d think he would have picked a better/different word.   I know what he meant: “broken family” is equal to “kids from divorced families”.  But when those same kids join a stepfamily, do you refer to the stepfamily as “broken family”?  I think not.

I’ve heard stepfamilies called several different things: crockpot families, salad bowl families, blended families. With DH labeling us a “broken family”, I got to thinking:  how would I describe our family?   I think at this point in time, our family (two his, two mine, one ours) is best described as an “Italian dressing family”:  we can blend together for short periods and act like a first family (what DH refers to as a “real family”), but over time, we separate again.  Would I like us to eventually become a fully emulsified creamy Ranch dressing family?  Yes.  But it’s going to take time.  In the grand scheme of the universe, we are a fledgling stepfamily.  We’ve only been at this for 5 years and despite our enthusiasm and good intentions, we know that blending our families is a process that doesn’t come with a timeline. 

How would you describe your family?  You can stick with the food analogies for fun!  How does using the term “broken” to describe your family resonate with you?

Postscript:  When I told DH about this post, he said, “I have to say that moms are incredible.  You’ve got a knack that men just don’t have.   I seriously don’t know how you do what you do every day.”  Then he took his club and his bearskin and went back to his cave. 😉

“In the Blender” is now “Step In The Blender”

19 Apr

Slighty new name! New url! Same great topics and brutally honest writing.

My new url is: http://www.stepintheblender.com. The old url will redirect you to the new url, so no worries!

Stepping into the blender is a courageous thing to do.

Thanks for reading!

Help! I need somebody! Help! Not just anybody!

19 Apr

Do you ever feel like youre drowning, but youre too proud to ask for help?

This song has been playing over and over in my brain as I’ve been taking care of 3 kids (ages 15, 8 and 3) who have all been sick for the last two weeks.  I thought we were out of the woods last night, until my 8-year old daughter came running down the stairs to tell me that my 3-year daughter had just barfed all over herself.  My reaction?  I laughed.  After two weeks, projectile bodily fluids are now comedy instead of tragedy. 

What I’d really like is someone to put on a hazmat suit and take care of my infected offspring so I can have a cup of coffee and read a book in a place where no one is coughing, sneezing or barfing for 30 minutes or someone to just entertain them so I can get to the pile of dishes and never-ending loads of laundry.  What I’d like is some H-E-L-P.

Yesterday, in two different places, I came across the question: what’s your biggest challenge as a mom?  My challenge as a single mom was the same as my challenge as a married mom:  asking for help.   There are a few reasons why it’s so incredibly hard for me.  See if any of these ring true for you:

  1.  My first husband was always very critical anytime I’d ask for help with the kids while we were married and is even more so now that we’re divorced.  He made me feel like I wasn’t doing my duty as a mom if I needed an hour break to go run to Starbucks, grab a latte and recharge or if I asked him for help getting two kids to two different places at the same time (I know, physically impossible right? But somehow he expected me to be able to get them both there on time).
  2. Because of the guilt trip that my ex puts on me, I don’t like to ask DH for help with my two oldest because I feel that they’re my responsibility because they’re not biologically his.  He doesn’t feel that way at all, but I always feel guilty asking him to do things like watch the kids so I can meet a girlfriend for dinner or to pickup my son at practice so I can stay home and hang out with my two youngest (one of which is our BC).
  3. I am stubborn.  I want to be Super Mom/Wonder Woman and get it all done myself, but the truth is, I can’t.  Once I admit that I need help, I feel like a failure and that the Mom Police are going to arrest me for not giving it my all even though I’ve got absolutely nothing left give.  Ever feel like that?

If I had family close by, it probably wouldn’t be such an issue for me, but everyone lives a few states away.  What I learned quickly as a single mom was that I needed to swallow my pride and ask for help from the friends that kept offering.  I had two issues:  often times I needed help getting my kids to their activities when they were scheduled at the same time and sometimes, I just needed a break.  The first time I asked for help was hard, so hard in fact that I would have rather asked someone to pay my mortgage than admit that I needed help with transportation or just a break from my kids.  Early on, I didn’t ask for help often, but when I did, my kids and I both came back home recharged. 

Fast-forward five years and now I’m much better at asking for help.  DH and I have been lucky to have a trio of babysitters (whom we consider family) that will watch the kids at a moment’s notice or even do drop-offs and pick-ups, and I’m a bit more comfortable asking my in-laws for help.  DH has helped me get over the “my kids, my responsibility” hang-up by showing me time and time again that he’s completely committed to my children.   And most importantly, I’ve gotten my ex-husband’s voice out of my head and I know that I’m not any less of a mom for needing or taking a break. 

Whether you’re a single mom or married mom, how do you feel about asking for help?  Do you feel guilty about needing a break from your kids or asking for help with transportation or childcare? Do you rely on family or do you have a good support system of friends that are able to help you?

Taboo Topics: Things Stepmothers Don’t Want to Say Out Loud, Part 3

12 Apr

Are you "chummy" with the biomom or do you keep her at arms' length?

This is the third installment of my conversation with Heather Hetchler of The Stepmom Connection.  The third taboo topic that we discussed on March 16th was:  “I don’t want to be friends with the biomom.”

While I really admire Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine and the revolution that they’ve started getting biomoms and stepmoms together—for some of us, it just doesn’t work.  Some of us don’t want to be friends, ever.  Some of us want to keep communication to a minimum.  Does that make us failures?  No.  It makes us honest. 

Let’s face it, most of us are never going to write a book with the biomom like Carol and Jen and most of us aren’t going to start a business together like Lisa Teal-Webb and Lisa Webb of Lisa & Lisa Stylish, Sporty & Special Jewelry (yes, that was a shameless plug for two moms that I admire for coming such a long way).  We feel pressure to “make nice” with his ex and feel guilty for wanting to hold her at arms’ length.  Heather mentions in her companion post “…whether it’s right or wrong, typically the mom sets the tone for the relationship.”  Being a biomom and a stepmom, I can attest to the truth in that statement.  I think about the Tracy Byrd’s song, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and that can certainly hold true in blended family situations.  The stepmom can keep extending the olive branch, but when the biomom keeps whacking it with her machete, it gets a little discouraging.  It gets so discouraging in fact, that I wrote a post last month (“Here’s a news flash:  I don’t wanna be friends”) on this exact topic.  I compiled the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the hundreds of stepmoms involved in online support groups and the post got quite a few comments.  Stepmoms are frustrated; so frustrated in fact that they give up because they feel that they’re “damned if they do, damned if they don’t”, so why put out any effort at all? 

Personally, I don’t have a relationship with the biomom (that’s a mutual decision on both of our parts).  That lack of relationship was also the impetus for me to do the “stepmom stepback”.   I appreciate the fact that she’s kind to my biokids, but that’s as far as the niceties extend.  I don’t think we would have ever chosen each other as friends if we had randomly met one another because we are very different people.  The only thing we really have in common is that she used to be married to the man I now share my life with, and that alone is enough of a reason (for me at least) to NOT have a “chummy” relationship.  However, I’ve had a nagging feeling over the last year that the needs of my stepdaughters are beginning to outweigh my own personal reasons for not having any sort of relationship with their mother. But then again, a relationship of any kind would mean that both parties would be participating.  Would I like for us to be cordial to one another at the kids’ events?  Yes.  Would I like to be able to communicate if necessary about the kids’ needs?  Yes.  Do I need to meet with her for coffee or lunch or friend her on Facebook?  No.  I’ve got my boundaries and I’m sure she has hers.  Only time will tell what, if anything, will happen.

 If you have a relationship that works with the BM or SM in your life, please share how you got there and how your relationship functions. If you decided not to pursue a relationship with the BM or SM, please tell us why. 

Don’t forget to read Heather’s companion post on CafeSmom.

Taboo Topics: Things Stepmothers Don’t Want to Say Out Loud, Part 2

21 Mar

If you could have looked into a crystal ball and seen what was coming, would you have stayed or run the other way?

This is the second installment of my conversation with Heather Hetchler of The Stepmom Connection.  Because the audio didn’t record correctly during our conversation, we’re cross-blogging it so you can join in, too. 

The second stepmom taboo topic we discussed was:“If I knew what I was getting into, I would have never married you.” 

Ouch.

So many of us have thought this, but have never said it to DH.  I blogged about it last summer because I said it to my DH, and it wasn’t pretty.  Here’s my disclaimer:  this is not something that I would suggest you say to your spouse (no matter how angry or empowered you feel), unless you’re prepared to work on a solution with him and own your part of the problem.  The outcome can be positive or totally devastating to your relationship. 

This is a big one.  I was raised in a stepfamily where everyone got along (and still do to this day) and had two bio kids of my own when DH and I got together.  He had these two adorable daughters that were 5 and 3 when we met and I thought, “This’ll be EASY!”  Well, it wasn’t (that’s the understatement of the year).  There were issues with everyone from his children to my in-laws and everyone in-between.  Then one day, in a moment of extreme frustration, I looked at DH and said, “If I knew what I was getting into, I would have run like hell the other way.”  When the words make it from his ears to his brain and he stopped being stunned, he looked like I had slapped him across the face.  Honestly, that was my intended effect. I wanted to jolt him into action, but I felt really, really bad.  Luckily, it ended up being a turning point in our relationship.  We both had to get honest and talk about what our expectations were going into the relationship and how they weren’t were being met.  Our reality needed more attention, and fast.  I needed to do the “stepmom stepback” and have NO expectations and he needed to step up as a parent.  He needed to really listen to me when I vented and help me formulate a solution, and I needed to heed some of his positive words of advice.  I needed to ignore the drama and he needed to manage the slings and arrows that were being thrown our way and essentially be my human shield.  Once we starting paying attention to and managing our reality, things got better quickly.  Ask me now if I’d run if I knew what I was getting into and my answer would be no.  Having the drama and conflict in our lives has made us so much stronger as people and absolutely unbreakable as a couple.  For me, it was a good thing to say out loud, albeit very risky. 

If you’ve felt this way before did you say it to your spouse?  What solutions did you come up with?  How do you manage your expectations vs. your reality?  How do you get your relationship back on track?

Be sure to check out Heather’s companion blog post on Cafe Smom.

Taboo Topics: Things Stepmothers Don’t Want to Say Out Loud, Part 1

17 Mar

Just because a woman doesn't love her stepchild as if she's her own doesn't mean she's going to treat her like Cinderella.

Technology wasn’t working for Heather and me the day I was a guest on The Stepmom Connection.  Because the archived video only included my audio, we decided to cross blog the topics, so you could get in on the conversation too.  Be sure to check out the companion post on Cafe Smom

The first taboo topic we discussed was:  “I fell in love with my husband, not my stepkids”. 

When I was at the height of my frustration with being a stepmom, I read Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin.  I came across this sentence and quickly wrote it in my journal with the words “LIBERATING TRUTH” right by it:  “Many of us can’t feel maternal towards our stepchildren.  While we did indeed choose a man with children, it would disingenuous to pretend we chose the kids.  We chose HIM, they came on the side.” Finally.  Someone said what I’d been guilty about feeling.

A few weeks later, friend on Facebook posted that having a stepfamily was hard on her marriage.  It was right after I had read Stepmonster (and I was feeling very empowered) and I commented on her post by saying, “During times like this, that I have remember that I fell in love with my husband, not with his kids.  Take care of your relationship first.”  Within 10 minutes, I got slammed to the mat by a soon-to-be stepfather.  He asked how I could NOT love my stepchildren since they were part of the package? He loved his soon-to-be stepdaughter and couldn’t imagine marrying her mother if he didn’t love her like his own.  He told me I was an awful person; a cold, heartless shrew.  It’s exactly that kind of thinking and criticism that keeps stepmothers silent. 

Let me say this out loud:  If you don’t love your stepchildren, you are not defective.  There is nothing wrong with you.  If you’re a stepmom that felt maternal love towards her children right away, count yourself as lucky because for the rest of us, it takes time and for some of us, it never happens.  And for all of you that are shocked by that, please know that just because we don’t love our stepkids doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to do right by them.  Get the images of Cinderella out of your mind, ‘cause it’s just not gonna happen.

What makes things even more confusing is if you’re also a biomom.  You may not love your stepchildren as much or in the same way as you do your own biological children and that’s okay.  It may come with time, or it may never come at all, and that’s okay too!  I remember the first time I told DH “I don’t love your kids like I love mine and I might never.”  Instead of being judgmental or getting upset, he said, “That’s okay, give it some time.”  While my relationship with my stepdaughters continues to grow and evolve, I still don’t love them like I love my biokids.  I continued to feel guilty about it until someone said to me, “So what if you don’t love them like they’re your kids?  Are they expected to love you like they love their mom?”  No, they aren’t and it would be wrong if they did.

If you don’t love your stepkids, give yourself some time and some grace and adjust your expectations.  One of the stepmoms in the chat room said, “Let the relationship evolve organically.”  It may happen.  It may not.  But you’ll need to deal with whatever  emotions or relationship that evolves.

How do you feel about your stepkids?  If you don’t love them like they’re your own, have you ever admitted it?  What was the reaction of the person you told?  If you do love your stepkids as if they’re your biokids, what do you think of women that don’t?