Monday, August 18, 2014

The Pursuit of Excellence

I grew up in a household that instilled excellence in everything. As a side effect, you were never quite good enough. However, all of my siblings and I are successful in our own way. We are all very driven, and I'm extremely grateful for my parents expecting excellence. It was funny growing up being the family people wanted to emulate. I would have teachers and church members say constantly, “I wish I had a kid like you” or “I wish our family was like yours.” For many reasons, my childhood was not something I look back upon with fondness. It’s ironic to be well thought of and be miserable.

Flash forward to adulthood. Give me any crappy day of adulthood, and it’s a better day than being a kid. I don’t want to paint everything in a bad light. My parents were truly invested in our upbringing, and I know they loved me and I felt loved by them. We have a great relationship to this day, and I speak to them often. There are just some sorrows that must be kept very secret.

Nonetheless, I find myself fighting the issue of excellence as a parental figure. One thing I promised myself is that I would accept best effort over pressuring my stepchild for perfection. Let’s be honest, it’s extremely stressful to strive for perfection. I want what’s best for my stepchild. Luckily, my stepchild didn’t grow up with the same stress I experienced as a youth. However, I know they have their own stress with the divorce.

I’ve found the best thing is to focus on doing your best rather than having the most optimal outcomes. Good grades were of huge importance growing up. As were expected, and, for the most part, achievable. Because of differing education values in my stepchild’s households, I find myself in a losing battle at times. There are times when we’ve feared they would have to go to summer school due to poor grades.

I received a letter from the district because a packet that should have been completed by my stepchild was not submitted. This packet was from their history class from the last school year. School starts in another week, and things are looking so great. Here’s to hoping that we can get this class credit fixed and that we’ll avoid failing any courses for 2014-2015.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Almost a Decade

I've found that the longer I’ve been married, the less I have blogged. The tempo of life seems to quicken, which makes it harder to find time to do things like share my random thoughts on being a stepmom. However over the course of twelve months, I have many stories I could share. I do find it cathartic to blog here simply because it becomes a great way to release my frustrations. Any stepmom knows that your life is full of frustration that you just have to accept.

If someone had told me ten years ago that I would have dealt with this past decade of stress, I would have laughed at you. It wouldn’t have seemed possible. Ten years ago, I was engaged, and as any winsome fiancĂ©e perceives, I just assumed life would be sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. You think that you will be able to easily settle a disagreement, and let’s be honest, you don’t even think that you’ll disagree. I figured that we’d have our issues with the ex, but I never expected it to be quite the plague. Partly, it’s been her controlling disposition, and my husband’s willingness to acquiesce.

I don’t necessarily blame him. Sometimes the easiest way to end contention is to let the other party think they win, even when you still disagree. The ex espouses that belief that it is her way or the highway. When I look back at #1 reason of marital discord in our relationship, it’s been her. From the beginning of the marriage, she was having long conversations with him about her hopes in them reconciling. As a new bride, that’s a pretty big blow, and you feel really, really stupid and wonder if you should have gotten married to that person. Luckily, it wasn’t anything my husband was interested in; he just listened to her because he didn’t know how to stop her.

In the recent years, she has made poor parental and life choices that have negatively impacted us. In future blog post, I will expound on why my husband went on a Hawaiian vacation without me due to the controlling machinations of the ex. My last birthday wasn’t very fun as my husband was quite the phone argument with his ex along with my mother-in-law. I’m already accustomed to birthday disappointment, and this just added to the sadness. At least I’m really good at buying my own birthday cake and driving to my sister’s house to share it with my nieces. In the end, I shouldn’t care because an adult birthday really isn’t that important, but it still hurt my feelings.

There have been a few times throughout our marriage that I didn’t think we would make it. We even came to the point that we really thought we would divorce, and we starting to go down that road. I remember feeling like I just wanted a release from the pressure and negativity with the ex and also that of my husband. As silly as it sounds, when it came to the decision of who would take the dogs, I realized I didn’t want to divide up anything. What I really wanted was a divorce from her control, from my husband’s sadness and anger, from my own resentment of having to deal with so much pressure and stress.

Life is hard. There seems to be no easy way around it. Divorce sucks. There is no happily ever after unless you are watching a Disney movie. We are broaching our tenth anniversary in December. Ten years that we haven’t murdered each other or murdered our marriage. That’s probably a good reason to celebrate, right?

P.S. To any stepmom or other casual reader who has read this blog, thanks for listening. Thanks for sharing your insight, asking questions, and even criticizing me. It’s nice to know there are people out there that are interested in coping as a stepparent.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Disclosure Statements

School started today. To be specific, high school started today. Right now my stepchild is sleeping the evening away, and I can’t blame them. They came home with a handful of disclosure statements. I asked to read them, knowing that I would be responsible to locate or buy any necessary items: pencils, binders, etc. Disclosure statements require a parent or guardian’s signature. Basically, teachers want to ensure that a parent or guardian has reviewed the objectives, grading scale, and policies of the course. I think it’s a great idea.

I asked my stepchild if they needed me to sign them, and we had this lovely exchange.

Stepchild: “No, you aren’t a parent. You don’t have the legal right.”
Me: wondering where they got that idea “I am a guardian.”
Stepchild: “I already have parents.  I can have one of them sign it.”
Me: “Okay, but please make sure your dad reads everything.”

I texted my husband to let him know it’s all on him. I’ve also decided to retire from buying any needed scholastic items. It makes sense; the kid already has parents.  They can deal with the lovely responsibility.

Remember how I’ve wanted to move away?  This is just another reason to do so.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ode to Moving

For at least five years, I have wanted to move out of state. Every year, this desire seems to increase. I’ve never felt baby hungry, but I have felt the "I want to move so badly" hungry, if that’s a thing. I’ve never loved the state I live in. I was born and raised here, so you would think I would have become accustomed to it. The thing is I hate, and hate isn’t even a strong enough word, cold weather, and I live in a state that is six months of cold, bleak weather. The other six months are decent to quite nice, but I’ve only got a few more months of nice before the crappy weather is back, and you could almost say, it’s giving me anxiety. If I was a bear, I could just hibernate for half of the year and not have to deal with the weather, but, alas, I am not so lucky.

My husband has never wanted to move, not even to another house within the same valley. Plus, with my stepchild just starting 10th grade, moving isn’t really an option of my husband. I feel trapped, which is a feeling most stepmoms can probably relate to. I want to change my situation, but I really can’t. I know other stepmoms want to change their situation, improve their family life, and have some sort of semblance of consistency, but that really a possibility. In a way we have chosen to stick it out because the good should outweigh the bad, even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

I’m not saying that this is a feeling that solely stepmoms feel, I’m certain ex-wives and ex-husbands feel the same when there is a child involved. You crave some sort of constancy, and the lack of constancy becomes your consistency, but it’s never as good as you know it should have been, at least how you wanted it to be when you married your ex-spouse. As stepmoms, we typically have advanced notice that our life won’t be exactly what we had hoped. It still doesn’t help.

-And I still want to move.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Final Decision: No Babies

I decided that if we ever were to have a child together, it would be within 5-7 years after we got married.  It was an analytical choice, and I’m really good at making those.  I have been married almost 9 years now, so there will be no kids.  I’m at an age where the opportunity for birth defects increases, so that doesn’t work in my favor.  Additionally, as I have mentioned in other blogs, the idea of having a baby scares me more than anything in this world. 

My stepchild will graduate from high school in just a few years, and I’d rather not restart a family.  Yet, I wonder, will I regret not having a bio child in 10 or 20 years?  I see the personal happiness and individual growth that having children provides, but I’ve also seen the immense stress and pressure that comes from raising children as well.  I definitely relate to the stress and pressure effects just from being a stepmom.  In a way, being a stepmom is like all the bad aspects of having your own children with very few of the good.  I hate to sound so negative, but I know other stepmoms can relate to this. 

In the end, I just don’t need any more stress.  My life is stressful enough.  During my MBA, I had horrible, recurring nightmares that I got pregnant and had to balance school, work, consulting, and a baby.  I would be quite happy to never have a dream like that again.  My husband would rather not have another child, so that’s that.  I just hope this is decision is nothing I will regret.  Usually I’ve found I regretted things I have done and not things I haven’t.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stepmom a of Teenager

The year is over halfway done, and I have not blogged for quite a long time. If it weren’t the comments that trickle in every now and again, I probably would have not blogged today. My stepchild is a teenager now. We’re talking full-blown, getting ready to start high school in the Fall, thinks they know everything teenager. Regardless of whether you are a child of divorce or not, the teenage years are never fun for the youth or the parents. We still do the one week on, one week off arrangement that’s been going on since I met my husband. There are pros and cons to it for everyone. However, I’m not certain that there is a good arrangement.

To be honest, it’s best when parents just stay together. Divorce is hardest on the children. Ex-spouses seem to get over it with time. Whether they despise or still love their ex, people move on. Children do not. They’ll always hope their parents would have stayed together. They’ll always hope their parents will get back together one day. They always wonder if they did something wrong to cause the divorce. As a stepmom, I have been privy to this hope and grief. I’ve had my stepchild express that they wished they could just be a family again. One would think it would be a bother to hear it, but I’d rather my stepchild be honest than mask their feelings.

Being a stepparent is a challenging role. It has brought upon ineffable stress. I tried creating a Facebook support group, but it turned into such a negative thing, that I ended up deleting it. I was hoping it would be a resource for stepmoms to collaborate and give advice, but I ended up having to placate other stepmoms, stop online arguments, and deleting posts people regretted, and removing angry bio moms. All in all, I realized that there really isn’t a good space for stepmothers. We get trapped in the middle, and others purposefully trap themselves in the middle. Let’s be honest, the adage “two’s company, and there’s a crowd” is very true.

I’ve found over time, I’ve removed myself from parental responsibility. I was never one to assume a maternal role from the beginning. I’ve always considered myself akin to an aunt or friend. Someone that is supportive of my stepchild’s life and goals but with a little bit of authority. When I say authority, I don’t feel bad asking them to clean their room when it’s dirty or do their homework.

In the end, being a stepparent is like living in no man’s land. There’s not a good place for you, so you just have to deal with it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dealing with a Difficult Ex-Wife

This is recommended reading for all stepmoms:

Here's a basic summary of the article if you don't have time to read it:
  1. Don’t expect appreciation from her.
  2. Let go of wishing she did things the way you do.
  3. Recognize the need for boundaries.
  4. Remember that she’s your husband’s ex, not yours, and it’s his job to deal with her.
  5. Don’t take it personally.
If you haven't discovered, you should take a look today!

Thanks to a great stepmom that shared this article with me. :)