Monday, June 30, 2014

You've got a friend in me..

As a stepmom, I find a lot of my time gets sucked into being mad. Not just at Mama Ex, or Hubs or my stepkids. Sometimes I'm mad at everyone and everything. And I need someone to turn to. Lately on Twitter and blogs, I've seen a lot of people pondering where they can go when they're at the end of the rope. need friends. Good friends that can listen and help and offer advice. Here's a list of the 6 friends you need, and the situations for when you need them.

The Listener

Everyone needs a bitch fest. Sometimes we just need to sit down over a glass of wine or beer or club soda and just....spew. But this type of vent fest is not for every friend. You need The Listener.

The Listener This is not the friend that interrupts every two seconds to ask, "Wait, what were you wearing when Mama Ex did this?" or to say, "I know exactly what to do. You need to do the following things, in this order...." 

You need the friend that will listen with open ears, and an open heart and just let go...for hours if necessary. This friend is probably someone you've known for a long time, but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes people who don't know us well are the best listeners, because they don't have years of experience with us to navigate through. The Listener is there to serve one purpose. Listen. 

Best place to hang with The Listener: At home with no one else around. There will be ugly tears.

The Comic

You know her. She's the girl that can take a paper napkin and magically turn it into a 40 minute comedy routine. She knows you well, and she knows what you need to turn the frown upside down. This isn't the friend for the heart to hearts, when you're really needing answers about a problem. This is when you need to laugh so hard you wake up the next morning and feel like you did a hard-ass ab routine. Sure, you can tell her stories about Mama Ex and the kids and Hubs, and she's going to hear that and empathize. But she's going to be more concerned with doing a killer impression of Nikki Minaj on quaaludes in an effort to make you STOP thinking about Mama Ex and the kids and Hubs. And that's what you need right now.

Best place to hang with The Comic: At a hole-in-the-wall bar, where no one will care that you just laughed so hard you snorted cabernet up your nose.   

The Confidant

That's it. The last straw. You can't take it anymore. Your stepdaughter is a monster, Mama Ex is driving you up the wall, and quite frankly, you aren't sure you even want to be with Hubs anymore.

It happens.

You need a friend that can hear every awful, terrible thing you're thinking right now...and will keep it to herself. We all experience times when the stress of it all just seems insurmountable. We feel the only way out is to give up, throw in the towel, and throw around the "D" word (that's "divorce"). The Confidant has known you a long time and can see the difference between moments of weakness and true despair. She can decipher if you really mean the things you're saying, or if you just need time to cool off. Either way, she isn't going to judge you or hold you accountable for anything you're saying. 

Most importantly? She is a vault. 

She is not the friend who's going to hold what you say over your head later. Nothing says Lousy Confidant like someone who drunkenly brings you up at a dinner party by saying, "Hey, Ruby! Remember that time when you said you hated Hubs and hoped you could get a quickie divorce? Whatever happened with THAT!?"A true confidant has enough secrets to create Hiroshima on your life, but never will. 

Note of advice: if you've ever had even the slightest trust issue with one of your friends, she is not your Confidant.

Best place to hang with The Confidant: Like with The Listener, at home with no one else around. Perhaps a nice restaurant with a corner booth if you aren't sharing earth-shattering secrets.

The Go-Getter Coach

This friend takes no bullshit from anybody. She is in your corner all the way, and won't let anybody walk on you - including yourself. As stepmoms, sometimes we find ourselves taking a back seat to important situations because we don't feel like we have a right to be there.

The Go-Getter knows better, and she's going to let you know. This is the friend to seek when you're feeling sorry for yourself and need someone to WAKE YOU UP. To help you remember that you chose a great man with great kids and you have a great life if you'd stop sitting around brooding about it. Are times tough? Sure they are! Are you going to put your big girl panties on and deal with it? DAMN STRAIGHT YOU ARE.

The Go-Getter also has answers when you only have questions. She is a "to the point" kind of gal that doesn't mess around with "what if's" and "I'm nervous about"'s. She has time for one thing and one thing only: results.

BONUS: Schedule some time with your Go-Getter right before a confrontation/event where Mama Ex will be present. Not because you're going to punch Mama Ex in the face, but because you need to exude confidence and know that you belong.

Best place to hang with the Go-Getter: The gym. Burn off some calories and get endorphins flowing while you plan your world domination.

The Oracle

Okay, not really. She can't see the future, but she can certainly see answers that you never thought of before. 

(My Oracle just happens to be my mother-in-law (who knew?)!)

This gal is likely older than you, but certainly wiser than you. She's seen things you've never seen and knows how to navigate your situation because she has the unique ability to remove emotion from the equation. The Oracle can objectively look at every trouble, pick it apart, and put it back together again in a way that makes sense to you. 

The Oracle is likely armed with a pretty vast knowledge of what you've been through as a stepmom, so she knows all the players of the game. This enables you to jump right in with your problem, rather than having to give a lot of background info to catch her up. She is ready, willing and able to make decisions where you can't, and dole out advice that is sound and thoughtful, rather than impulsive and potentially damaging.

When in doubt on which friend to see, head to The Oracle.

Best place to hang with The Oracle: Anywhere. She is there to help you, to listen and to guide. Period.

The Stepmom

C'mon, you didn't think I'd forget about this one, did you? Ironically, The Stepmom can be a combination of all of the previous friends I just mentioned. Because The Stepmom truly understands where you are - because she is a stepmom herself. 

The Stepmom can be the next door neighbor, a Twitter follower, or even your best friend from high school. She could be new to the stepmom world, or she can have 25 years of experience. It doesn't matter. No one relates to the struggles of a stepmom more than another stepmom. 

The Stepmom is all of us. 

We are here to laugh, to cry, to vent, to scream. We are never too far away, but know when to step back. We understand custody decrees, legal battles, and practically have a doctorate in acronyms that no one understands (DH, SD, SS, SK, BM). And we will never leave you. Whenever you need us, we are here. There is no "best place" to hang with The Stepmom. We are every place, every time. 

So use us. It's what we're here for.


Friday, June 27, 2014

bed of rotten roses

The other day we talked about money relative to child support, and how frustrating it can be when it appears that Mama Ex is misusing the money that lands in her bank account every month.

Ironically, shortly after I wrote that blog post, a fellow #twitterstepmom (@stepMomsAnon) posted this picture with the question:

Is this BioMom providing abusive care to her children?

I immediately felt a lurch in my gut. I could identify with this picture. A few years back, my youngest stepdaughter was sleeping on a blow up mattress (she did have a bed frame, though) in her room at Mama Ex's home. The previous mattress was old and smelled, and needed to be disposed of. A new mattress was required, but Mama Ex didn't have the money to buy her a new mattress.

Fair enough. Mattresses are expensive. They can be a few hundred dollars, and we knew that Mama Ex didn't have that kind of disposable income. Rather than be petty and shout from the rooftops "THIS IS WHAT CHILD SUPPORT IS FOR!", Hubs and I decided we would do the right thing and purchase a mattress for his daughter. Basic living conditions are necessary for her to do well in school and have good self-esteem about her life. 

$150 wasn't worth an argument about semantics.

I felt good about this decision and even better that my SD was finally getting to sleep on a decent bed. All was well. 

But a few weeks later, Hubs saw a text from Mama Ex to her daughter in response to asking for a new toy. The text essentially said, "Ask Daddy if you want that, honey. He's responsible for getting you these things. Just like your mattress."

Then the feces hit the oscillating equipment on the ceiling.

(That means shit hit the fan.)

All this time, we were getting necessities for my SD, thinking that Mama Ex was just unable to pay for them. We didn't interrogate her, we didn't accuse her. We just took care of it because it was the right thing to do. But to find out that even if she had the money, she wouldn't have taken care of those costs because it was Hubs responsibility?

Not okay.

So...despite my experience with this rotten and icky situation, my answer to @StepMomsAnon's question is still the same: No. That picture does not depict abusive care.

Poverty or near poverty is not a crime. There are millions of children who are sleeping on blankets on the floor at night with a mother and/or father doing the best he/she can to give them what they need. And they are failing to make ends meet. That is not abuse or neglect. That is an unfortunate situation that I can feel empathy for. Times can be tough, and we've all been there.

Don't get me wrong, there is a decidedly large difference between not being able to provide your children with proper care/clothing and choosing not to because you expect someone else (like the other parent) to handle it. Mama Ex probably could have paid for a mattress and didn't. Is it wrong? Hell yes. Is it abuse? Trust me, the Missouri court systems don't think it is.
But here's the biggest thing of all. IT DOESN'T MATTER ANYWAY. No one is going to show up at Mama Ex's door and demand that she change her mind about what the father of her children is required to pay for. Sure, we could spend several thousand dollars going back to court and once again slowly explaining to Mama Ex what child support is, and how it is to be used. But would it be worth it? That thousand dollars may as well go toward helping the kids with what they need that they clearly aren't getting elsewhere.

Is it unfair? Yes. Is this part of the responsibility of marrying a man with children? Yes, it is. 

As a stepmom, I face this situation a lot, and I know a lot of you are with me. Hubs and I are able to give the girls everything they need at our home, and we are able to give the girls everything they need at their mother's home. 

Does that mean we should?

Not necessarily.

I think Hubs children should experience both sides of the fence. As I said before, there is nothing wrong with living in a home that doesn't have every available amenity at all times. That's life, yo. However, when it comes to basic needs (like lunch money, mattresses, clothes that fit), I believe Hubs children should have those, even if that means we get to dig in our pockets and pay for it. I tell myself this every morning:

I can't make Mama Ex do the right thing. But I can hold myself accountable to do right by these children that I have committed to.

End of story. End of discussion.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Show Me The money

As I connect with more and more stepmom's out there, I hear the same story complaint repeated back to me over and over and over again.

The money.

Where's the money?


As a stepmom, you are forever expected to be okay with (okay, not forever, but for awhile) watching a significant portion of your Hubs' salary go right out of his paycheck, flutter through the air and land in Mama Ex's bank account. 

Where she gets to do with it as she pleases.

The money should go to supporting the children (hence that clever name, "child support"). But it doesn't always happen that way - or at least we assume it doesn't.

Stepmoms are practically set up to fail when it comes to having grown up, mature thoughts about child support. After all, we know how hard our husbands work for their money, and we can think of 12 zillion more productive things that WE would do with that money if we had it in our joint account where it belonged. Unfortunately, thinking about all the ways Mama Ex is spending our hubby's money incorrectly isn't helping anyone. And if you're talking about it out loud, chances are, the kids are hearing it.

Here are some tips for stepping away from the negative nelly approach to child support and focusing on how to make (partial) peace with it.

Glass Houses, Throwing Stones, etc. etc.

I know how tempting it is to assume the worst when it comes to child support. You see Mama Ex go on a trip to Florida but then see a notice from the school that the kids are low on lunch money. What gives??

 But c'mon...have you honestly never bought a new pair of shoes when the money should have gone to your car insurance? Have you never had a bank overdraft for something stupid? Unless your financial house is constantly in order and has never been out of order, you probably shouldn't judge Mama Ex's spending habits. Everyone makes mistakes and you wouldn't want to be held accountable to Mama Ex's financial standards, right? She doesn't want to be held to yours, either.

The Law Isn't Going to Change

I've heard it 10,000 times. "Why can't the government make it so that the money from child support can ONLY be used for housing, or food, or something that benefits the child?"

Because it won't make a difference. Think of it this way.

Let's say Mama Ex gets $100.00 per week in child support. Let's say she gets $500.00 per week for her job. That's $600.00 per week, yes? Okay. You think Mama Ex spends at minimum $70.00 per week of child support on stuff for herself. NO FAIR!! So let's just pretend that suddenly the government steps in and makes it so that child support can only be spent on groceries. Fine. It won't matter. Mama Ex will just reallocate. Instead of using the $70.00 from child support on herself, she'll use the $70.00 of child support on groceries. And now she has saved $70.00 of her own money that used to go toward groceries. Which she can use to by stuff for herself. It's still $600 per week, no matter how you slice it. If she's determined to use the money for herself, she's going to find a way, yo.

And you sitting in the corner, mentally adding it all up and making assumptions about what you think she's spending will just make you crazy. And crazy isn't very sexy. Your husband likes you when you're sexy.

You Don't Know Mama Ex's Situation

Unless you are part of a very small group that probably exists somewhere, Mama Ex is probably not providing you receipts for everything that she's spending or receiving. You see a new pair of shoes and think, "UGH! Those TOTALLY came from child support!"

Um, how do you know? Did Mama Ex show you her bank statement?

Perhaps Mama Ex got a killer bonus at work. Maybe she went gambling on Friday night and made a cool $1,000.00 on Kitty Glitter. Good for her. Maybe her new boyfriend showered her with a "I think I love you" present. Perhaps she got them on a killer sale at Goodwill. The fact is YOU DON'T KNOW. You don't know any more than Mama Ex knows how much your car payment is each month. 


And her money is none of yours.

But My Stepkids Told Me....

BUT RUBY, you say. The kids told me that Mama Ex didn't get a bonus and she doesn't have a new boyfriend and she didn't win any money on Kitty Glitter. They kids TOLD me she bought that Michael Kors bag with her child support. 

Your stepkids are lying, yo.

Or maybe I should rephrase. Your stepkids are placating you. They are repeating back what they've heard you already say so they can win brownie points with you. Children do not understand child support. It's this weird mythological thing that's out there causing drama between their mom and their dad. They know Mom doesn't think she gets enough of it and Dad thinks Mom gets too much of it. Imagine how stressful that is for them. It's like living in a yo-yo.

Give your stepkids a break and never discuss child support in front of them. If a friend mentions it in conversation when the ankle biters are around, SHUT.IT.DOWN. Kids have enough to worry about without you bringing in the cost of child support each month. 

But the Kids DO Understand

Even more of a reason to keep mum. Imagine you're 14 years old and you truly do understand what child support is. You totally get that it's supposed to help make your life better at Mom's house because she makes less than Dad. Now imagine you hear your stepmom complaining that she is SO SICK of giving money to Mama Ex. In your head, that translates to, "My stepmom doesn't think I'm worthy of this money. I must be a pretty crap kid."

I realize there are extenuating circumstances out there and thousands of Mama Ex's abuse their child support dollars. And that sucks monkey butt. What you must ask yourself is, "what good will it do me to dwell on this?" It likely won't be changing any time soon. If you can, try and put a positive spin on it. Whether you realize it or not, that child support is helping your stepkids. It may not be helping them as much as you would prefer, but hey, that's life.

Now go buy your stepkids some ice cream and buy yourself some new shoes...   

Monday, June 16, 2014

The 9 Commandments for Meeting Mama Ex's Kids

I've been single. 

It wasn't fun.

Okay, I take that back, it was fun for awhile. I mean, at ages 18-24, it was a lot of Coyote Ugly moments with brief glimpses of "maybe this guy could work if I work on him a little." 

I actually cringe just thinking about it.

I was lucky that at the young age of 26, I found Hubs. He and his two girls changed my life in so many positive ways and I am eternally grateful. We were lucky - Hubs' kids pretty much liked me instantly. They were 3 and 6 and ready for Daddy to find someone that he loved. I fit the bill pretty well...and I loved to play with Barbies. 

10,000 brownie points to Ruby, please.

When I met the girls, their mom was married. She seemed relatively happy, but a year later we were told that she was splitting from her husband. They separated and now, six years later, Mama Ex has yet to find someone to settle down with.

Here's the problem, though. Dating when your kids are 3 and 6 is different than dating when your kids are 11 and 14. The rules change. When children are still young, you can shift reality a little. It works to say, "this is mommy's friend Dave" without having to follow up with any other pertinent info. They couldn't care less. Does Dave smile at them? Great. Does Dave do a great Donald Duck impression? Even better! WE LIKE DAVE!
But the tides have changed. Hubs' girls aren't little girls anymore. They are wise, (like, scary wise) mini-adults who have seen their mom go through several relationships, and they have expectations for the type of guy they want to see her end up with. 

So, here are some basic commandments that I think men (or women) should consider before they "meet the kids" for the first time.

But Ruby, you say, you aren't an expert on this!!

Aren't I? 

I'm pretty sure I dated Hubs, a guy with two young girls. I went through this first hand and learned the hard way on a few things. So yes, I have self-qualified myself to give some advice. So there.

(But if you mean a licensed expert, no I'm not. That's what the OWN network is for.)

1. Thou shalt not bring gifts.

You may think I'm crazy, but I'm seriously not. You are meeting the children of the woman you are dating, not your future mother in law. (Potential mother-in-law's love gifts.) You might think "this gift will set me apart," but it's just showing the kids that you hope to buy their love. The first time I met my future stepdaughters, I came with myself and an open heart. I looked in their eyes and listened with my ears. I was present. After a few dates, sure, bring a little gift if you'd like. But don't use a gift to set an impossible precedent.

2. Thou shalt wash your hair.

Would you go to an interview in sloppy jeans and a t-shirt? No. Same goes for meeting the kids. I'm not saying you need to rent a tuxedo, but how you dress is saying something about you. Do you care enough to dress nicely for this woman? I would hope so. Believe it or not, kids notice everything. Holey jeans and a Metallica tank top circa 1996 may be your go-to chick magnet attire, but these are different kinds of chicks. These are little chickens that need to feel they are as important as the hen. You probably dressed up for your first date with Mama Ex, right? Follow suit with the kids.

3. Thou shalt not drink.

Think this rule is ridiculous? Then you aren't ready to date a man or woman with children. If you can't say no to booze for three whole hours while you meet her mini-me's, just move on. Nothing says, "I hope this is over soon" louder and clearer than ordering a double tall whiskey tonic. You never know what the kid(s) have seen before your time. Maybe their mom's last boyfriend was an alcoholic. Maybe their DAD is an alcoholic. Maybe the smell of beer makes them queasy. It doesn't matter. If you're nervous, just tell them that. 

Liquid confidence and children do not belong in the same sentence.

 4. Thou shalt not stay over.

I know it's early and you have googly-eyes for Mama Ex. I know she's the hotter than doughnut grease and you're having mind blowing, amazing sex when the kids aren't home. Let's keep it that way. Come over, stay for a bit, and then leave. This is especially true if you are meeting children of the opposite sex. Imagine you're a 10 year old girl and you wake up in the middle of the night and need to pee. What if you run into that big guy you just met tonight on your way to the bathroom? 

No thanks, I'll just pee myself and blame it on the dog.

Let's be honest, it's not like you're in Mama Ex's bedroom playing Monopoly (unless it's strip Monopoly). And the kids know that.

Think of it this don't walk into a gym after a four year absence and run three miles, do 40 minutes of the stairmaster and then 600 crunches. You ease into it. Ease yourself into this home. There's a right time for, "Mommy's friend is going to stay over." 

So when is the time right for a sleep over? A good indication is when the kid says, "Mommy, can Jack stay over so we can eat pancakes with him tomorrow?" If you hear that, you're golden. 

Chances are, you won't hear it on the first meeting.

5. Thou shalt not play touchy touchy.

This is similar to Rule 4, but on a more macro level. The kid(s) are watching you with their mom. Are you holding the door for her and easing her through the entrance with a respectful hand on her back? Or are you smacking her ass and saying, "Good GOD, woman!" as you walk into Applebee's? Both of those things are sending signals - make sure you're sending the right one.

 6. Thou shalt not discuss the kids' Dad.

I don't care what you've heard. I don't care what you have proof of. Daddy-O is off limits. If the kid(s) mention him, simply nod and change the subject. You have not been around long enough to give your input. Mama Ex may hate him. The KIDS may even hate him. But you get to be Switzerland - nice and neutral. Even if Mama Ex brings him up, simply quietly say, "We don't need to talk about that, I want to know more about these cuties!" Easy, simple, respectful.

Are you sensing a theme??

7. Thou shalt be interested in the kids.

This is as much an interview for you as it is for them. Children are not optional - they are the free (and amazing) gift that comes with mom. It's okay for you to wonder and discover if this is going to be a good fit. Ask about them. What do they love to do? What do they hate to do? What's their favorite movie? Who is their favorite singer? By showing interest in them, you are learning about your girlfriend's parenting style while at the same time learning about them. There's a lot to be gleaned from this first meeting if you pay attention.

8. Thou shalt be yourself

Kids have amazing bullshit detectors. And you can't beat them. So if Tommy asks you if you like to camp and the idea of sleeping outside gives you hives, don't lie. Try something like, "You know, Tommy, I don't really enjoy camping outside, but I LOVE to set up a good fort in the living room. Have you ever done that?" Boom.

Understand that there's a very good chance that, if the kids are in a stubborn mindset, nothing you say will be the right answer. And that's okay. This is an adjustment for everyone. If you spend the whole evening weaving a web of falsehoods to impress them, it's all for naught if you plan on sticking around for awhile. You can't be everything they want you to be. You can't be their dad. 

Be yourself instead - it's a lot easier.

9. Thou. Shalt. Wait.

Meeting the kids is not for date number two. Or four. I'm not going to tell you what number to pick, but it should be higher than eight. In addition, the children should already feel like they know you before you meet them. Trust me, it will make it easier. In fact, Mama Ex should have mentioned you in several light-hearted conversations before the meeting. It's not okay for the kids to come home after school and be told, " You get to meet Mommy's boyfriend tonight! YAY!" 

Like I said before, ease into it. This isn't an easy process and it takes time. Lots of time. If at first it doesn't go well, just regroup and try again. I mean, even Julie Andrews had to work awhile before those von Trapp brats liked her, right? And she's Julie friggin' Andrews.

(That was a joke, people.)

If you need me, I'll be sitting behind this computer, ready to give you my un-professional and often un-asked for advice. :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

look back, learn forward

I really fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to the subjects I write about on this blog. Sometimes it's about Mama Ex, sometimes it's about the stepkids, sometimes it's about my infertility journey relative to being a step parent.

I apologize if this gives all of you blogger whiplash.

Today as I walked my little wiener dogs all around the neighborhood, I did something I often do, which is to reflect on my life a stepmom and how far I've come. I enjoy looking back, not to re-hash what I did wrong, but to see what I have learned. It's impossible to grow as a stepmom (let alone a person) if you aren't retrospective about your journey along the way. And so, my friends, here are a few things that I felt worth mentioning as I've made the transition from single to stepmom in the last 7 years. Do you identify with any of them?

The Kids Grow Up

I'm not sure how in the world I didn't see this one coming. When I first met my stepkids, they were 6 and 3. Our relationship came relatively easily (Mama Ex's did not, more on that another day) and I loved everything about them. I loved that they listened to what I said, and most of the time, agreed with it! But a few week ago, I realized, these kids are 11 and 14 now. They're becoming actual people. The list of things to help them with is getting longer, more complex and more stressful. They're getting more expensive. They talk back. Somehow, when I got married, I naively didn't worry about "as the kids get older." It was just this ambiguous thing off in the distance that would show up someday and I'd deal with it then. I wish I had taken a little extra time to prep myself for the inevitable change in the kids. Physically, mentally, can be overwhelming when you aren't ready for it.

Mama Ex May NOT Grow Up

Call me optimistic, but I always just assumed that one day, the pettiness that we deal with when it comes to Mama Ex would just melt away. Eventually, she would really see that I am not here to cause her harm or steal her children. I'm just here to love her children the best that I know how. I saw us all getting together and having dinner together with the kids to show them a united front, laughing at how silly we have been over the years.

It hasn't happened. And I have to realize that it may never happen. I might have matured and grown less petty and selfish, but maybe Mama Ex won't. I might reflect on things I could have done differently, but maybe Mama Ex won't. As my fave basketball coach used to say, "You just play your game. Let them play theirs."

Thou Will Be Judged - and So Will Hubs

I really thought that by 2014, humans would have evolved enough to know that not every family is two parents, 2.5 kids and a Labradoodle. But there are those out there that still crinkle up their nose like they smell a rotten potato when I say, "these are my two stepdaughters." Like we're a bunch of lepers walking around infecting everyone else.

I remember when I first introduced my two stepdaughters to one of my aunts. She looked at M, then at T, then to Hubs, and back at T with a strange look on her face. Later, I overheard her talking to my mother and she actually said these words:

"Well, I can see the resemblance between M and Hubs. But, did you ever wonder if T is actually his? They look nothing alike. I know Hubs and Mama Ex were never married. Maybe he's paying child support for a kid that isn't even his?? Ruby should really think about that."

I was dumbfounded. This was coming from a woman with four children from three different men and a minimum of three divorces under belt. Where did she get off making judgments about my family? I've learned over the years that people automatically assume they have a right to say these sorts of things because those kids aren't your kids. It's like open season because the children don't share my DNA. And that is messed up.

The point is, as a stepmom, you and your husband will be judged by awful, ignorant people. The trick is to handle them with dignity and grace. Hold your head high. You are a wonderful stepmom and anyone who questions you can take a long walk off a short pier. And then drown. Which leads me to...

Don't Take it Lying Down

When my aunt uttered those words about my stepdaughter, I had only been a stepmom for about five minutes. I never corrected my aunt or stood up for myself and I've regretted it every day since. I have learned there is a time and place for silence, and a time and place to find your voice and use it.

No one is going to be your advocate except you. 

  • If a teacher mistakenly calls you Mom during a teacher conference, it's okay to say, "Actually, I'm the kids' stepmom. You met their mother Jane last week. I know it can be a little confusing!"
  • If someone tells you - in person or via social media - that you don't have a right to give input regarding your stepchildren, (kindly) set them straight. Let them know that you share time with the kids and have a very vested interest in their well being and always share your input with your husband. Ultimately, the biological parents have the final word, but your input is expected and most importantly, valued.
  • If a doctor asks you to sign a legal document, it's perfectly okay to say, "I would, but I'm Cara's stepmom, so I need to have her father or mother sign this. We'll get it right back to you." Don't do what I did three years ago and make up some lame excuse like, "I need to read the fine print on this first and then sign it later tonight, thanks!!" That's acting ashamed of being a step parent. You have nothing to be ashamed of. People are going to get it wrong sometimes and correcting them shows that you know yourself and your boundaries as a stepmom well enough to be honest. 
  •  If you're at a school event/doctor appointment/music lesson/recital/whatever and Hubs can't attend, don't be a door mat. Let's say the music teacher gives Mama Ex a schedule of upcoming recitals, politely say, "May I have one of those as well? Bobby's father and I will want a copy for our records." No, you aren't being a bitch and no, you aren't violating your boundaries. You and Hubs are a team and you share your life with his children. Many times, if it's just you and Mama Ex at the event, people will make the assumption that you're Mama Ex's sister or a good friend. That's not their fault; they don't know any better. But that doesn't mean you can't correct them.
As a stepmom, you're learning new things every day, and it's not very likely that you'll get it all right the first time. If you make a mistake, brush it off and right the ship the next time. 

Hey, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a family. Give it time.