To my own Stepmum

Dear Stepmum

I was having a think about the random path my life is going down and it has really woken me up to what you dealt with when you signed up for our dysfunctional instant-family.

I have never thanked you properly for everything you have ever done for me, and for my dad too.

I really appreciate the constant presence you are in my life, and I truly feel like you have been a very positive influence on me growing up – so thank you.

Thank you for giving me second chances. And for caring. And for our many long and random conversations in the kitchen – I loved those. Thank you for being there for dad since the beginning, even though it has been really really hard for you, too.

Thank you for being an amazing step mum and for bringing so many experiences into my life that I never would have had without you. I really respect your work ethic, and your commitment (or stubbornness, whatever you want to call it).

Thank you for being so funny! and for being honest with me, that’s important. I feel like I have always known where I stand with you.

Thank you for putting up with my crap and attitude when I was living in your home. Thank you for being so willing to open your home to me.

Thank you for my little brother. I cannot believe he is ten now. What a beautiful and thoughtful young man you have raised, I am so proud to call him my brother.

Thank you for taking such a big chance to come and be a part of our family. I love having you in my life.

I really appreciate you.

Thank you

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Que sera sera…

I recently found out that my hairdresser is friends with the mother (BM) of my fiances son. I found out through facebook so I doubt either of them know this, but it lead to a realisation about my place in step-parent land.

I try really hard not to talk badly about BM, for several reasons; firstly of course because as a stepchild myself, I know how damaging it is to hear that while growing up – it doesn’t matter what your parents did, they are still and always will be your heroes (even if it is very deep down inside). And secondly because I firmly believe that positive re-affirmation can make a world of difference – if I talk about a situation negatively, it will be negative, if I talk about a situation positively, it will be positive.

Anyway. My realisation was that I worry of what other people think of me because of our situation. From BM’s perspective, I broke up her family (unfortunately this wasn’t the case, as my fiance always told me they were never together. Messy situation.) And in fairness to her, I did betray her trust by using some emails she sent me against her in court. (On a side note, although I recognise it was a betrayal of trust, I would still do it again, I was protecting the man I love most and his son.)

But we live in a small community, everyone knows someone who grew up with someone else who talks to so and so. As evidenced by the hair dresser situation. I am way too caught up in how people might judge me, if they only know her side of the story.

My first reaction was, oh my gosh, I need to find a new hairdresser!

Sad. I don’t want to close off my community because of my choice to be with the man I love and his adorable son. I want my community to be wholesome and rich and filled with all sorts of people. Also I really like my hairdresser, she does a great job.

I need to learn to let go, I think. To accept that what will be, will be. I don’t think BM is a bad person – sure we all have our conflict from time to time, but we are also human…

So. Working on acceptance, openness and unity. Anyone got any strategies?

Creative Writing

I was lucky enough in High School to have really good English teachers, especially in my senior years, that made me want to do well in a subject that I already enjoyed and was good at and English quickly became one of my favourite subjects.

Growing up in the country, with no TV or mobile phone reception meant I read. A lot. I had finished the school library and the children’s/teens section of the town library by the time I was 12 (I moved towns shortly after so it wasn’t such a bad thing), and had a reading age of 16, when I was 10.

I have always loved to read, and to write – poetry, stories, essays, fiction, non-fiction, and most recently this blog. I love words, where they come from, what they mean, other languages, and how they all fit together in so many different ways. I love how a word can mean nothing, but if you change your tone of voice, it can mean everything.

So I want to share with you something I wrote, several years ago when I was experiencing a lot of anger over my parents lack of communication and thought in their separation.

Tear Stained Eye

The little girl sat stiffly in her chair. Tiny hands clenched at her sides, making frown like creases in the edges of her new dress. Her blonde ringlets were pulled into matching pink bows and her feet hung in mid-air, cased in small, shining black, leatherette shoes. She was the picture of innocence, a perfect angel until you saw her eyes.

Large blue orbs, the centres filled with a fathomless black, so deep, too dark to belong to a small child. They stared into nothingness, searching for the answers she needed. She blinked, just too late, unable to prevent the small, completely symmetrical tear from flowing down her cheek, pausing as it reached her chin, then slowly falling to land in her lap. Looking down, as if in total surprise, the little girl touched a finger to the damp spot, aimlessly drawing circles, concentration clear on her face.

All signs of discomfort gone, a small smile played at the corner of her lips, and she swung first one foot, then the other. The only sign of absence was her eyes, still staring blankly, in her own little world, seeing nothing, as she struggled with her task.

Two faces loomed out of the dark. That was all she could see. At that point in time, nothing else mattered; the ties between the three of them were inexplicable, twisted, a triangle of love, hate, hope and above all, manipulation.

But she was only seven and these feelings were much too complex for her understanding.  In that moment, all she felt was as if she had a rope tied around each arm, and each face was pulling, pulling… and it hurt! It hurt so badly. An emotional ache. But it didn’t matter, she was only seven and the little girl loved those faces, she didn’t realize it would ever be possible to not. That was her mummy and daddy and she loved them.

That was then. This, however, is now, and that little girl is long gone, buried underneath years of lies, anger and emotional turmoil.

The young woman lay in her bed, her heart pounding. Choices are never easy, she realised, and no matter how much thought, or therapy you put into them they would always come back to haunt you. She didn’t blame herself though, how could she? Whatever decision she had made, there would always be the feeling of guilt, the feeling that she had betrayed someone’s love. She took a breath and vowed to any gods who were listening, she would learn from the mistakes of others. Because, what kind of person would she be, to make a little girl chose between mummy and daddy?

I wrote this long before I met my Fiance, had any notion of becoming a stepmum, or even having children at all. This is where I am coming from – this is my past, and I will do everything in my power to help our Boy have an easier path than I had, one with less struggle and pain. If my experiences can help one boy have a more carefree childhood, one where he doesn’t have to grow up too fast – then that’s good enough for me. I may not be able to change the world, but I sure as hell am going to do my best to change his world.

Explanatory note.

I am not dealing with my anger and conflict well lately, and get worked up easily. I am tired all the time and have trouble concentrating (which is an issue when I am currently trying to attempt a double degree, one of which is Law).

Men, you should stop reading here.

8 months ago, I went to my doctor for a standard check up – we have excellent health services through the university which are covered by our fees, so I thought I might as well make the most of it! In the course of the appointment, the doctor found out the birth control I had been using for the last four years to control my migraines, could potentially have bad side effects, since I get the type of migraines with auras.

At that point, I was a straight A student, with lots of energy, no monthly mood swings, and so much compassion and time for everyone else in my life. It was excellent. If I ever get back to that, I will never take it for granted.

The doctor recommended a different kind of pill, and said it may take a few weeks for my body to readjust and to give it time. Quite happy with this, I started taking the new medication. Well, 12 weeks later, I was tired, moody, my nails were snapping and breaking and I was extremely pale – the reason? I hadn’t stopped bleeding since starting the new pill. Well and truly fed up, I returned to my doctor.

Convinced that I had given that pill my best shot, my doctor recommended a different brand – which was also much more expensive. Also a series of blood tests, which indicated my iron levels were well below the healthy range and I was severely anemic. Unfortunately by this stage, the anemia had taken quite the toll on my social and academic life – I never had the energy to go out, and if I did, it would take days to recover. I would get 12 hours sleep a night, and wake up in the morning so exhausted I almost vomited, and struggled to concentrate in my classes. That semester, my grades dropped to a B- average.

My poor fiance, had no idea how to deal with what I was going through, it’s quite hard to explain to someone that your life is falling to pieces because you are ‘tired’. I had gone from super understanding, thoughtful, caring partner, to super moody bitch.

Oh also? my skin is worse than it was when I went through puberty. Gross.

So I tried the other pill. No luck. Went back to the doctor. In October last year, we decided to go for a Mirena, which basically is an implant into my uterus, which slowly releases the birth control hormone and lasts for 5 years. The side effects – I should stop bleeding entirely. Sounded like heaven.

Like anything, the doctor warned me it may take a while for my body to adjust. Initially I was having light bleeding, which I figured would stop. And it did! Yay! for the first time in 4 months, I WASN’T BLEEDING.

It lasted a week.

Since then, I have lost so much blood. Every day. Non-Stop. Let me tell you, It’s doing wonders for my sex life, not.

I have been taking iron supplements for months, trying to keep up my levels as fast as I am losing it. I certainly don’t feel as bad as I used to, but synthetic iron replacement isn’t quite as good as just not losing it in the first place.

Back to the doctor today. I wanted to tell her to GET THIS THING OUT OF ME. And please god, just let me go back on the pill I was on before.

She starts throwing around phrases like ‘see a specialist’, ‘you need an ultra-sound’, ‘have you got health insurance’, ‘more blood tests’. And no chance of going back to my other pill, by the way, apparently it causes strokes for people like me.

So here’s the deal; for the last 8 months, I’ve been bleeding 80% of the time. I’m exhausted, hormonal and my grades have dropped. Hoping my doctor could help me today, all I get is some medication to stop the bleeding in the short term until we suss out the problem (which also has the side effect of nausea, yay) and some more iron supplements. I have to get my third blood test in six months, I mean, cause who doesn’t love needles? and then sort out insurance claim forms to cover the cost of having an ultra sound (which by the way, doesn’t fix anything, just tells us whether the Mirena is even in the right place). If it’s in the wrong place, we take it out, and start again, and if it’s in the right place, then I’m just special, and it isn’t working – next step, see a specialist. Because I totally have time for that.

I don’t have the energy to focus on any one else except me at the moment. My course load expects about 45 hours a week, I do another 10 hours a week part time work to pay the bills, and then this. I need to be selfish, I need to take care of myself, I can’t deal with anything else right now.

That isn’t too unreasonable – it’s only until I’m healthy again.

Good thing life isn’t that easy then, huh? 😉

Powerless Step-parent – Take Two

So many expletives running through my mind. So much anger, indignation and fury. SO POWERLESS.

Maybe that’s the lesson I am learning, this trip on earth, to handle situations and create calm in amongst the turmoil of something that is so far outside of my control.

My stepson got conjunctivitis last week, poor kid, no fun for anyone! And so contagious of course, he really shouldn’t be at day care. That was Friday. On Sunday he went to the doctor and we find out he also has tonsillitis and ear infections in both ears. The real Tri-Fecta. But when you put that many kids in a melting pot of viruses and each others germs, what can you really expect, it’s Russian roulette and only a matter of time…

My partner immediately asked for the Monday off work – as any parent would do, no WAY should that boy be back in daycare at least until he has finished his antibiotics and his eyes have cleared up. You’d think. Unfortunately work was too busy for him to take off Monday, but my mother in law was able to take the day off and drive over (it’s about an hour) and my partner was able to finish a little earlier than normal – no worries.

Tuesday and Wednesday no drama either, my darling fiance, putting his son first, took a sick day, and another day without pay – but children first, right?

Thursday. The boy is still sick of course, and only half way through his antibiotics, definitely not well enough to go back to daycare. My partner has to go back to work – luckily the Boy has two parents right? You’d think.

My partners Grandparents offered to take him on Thursday while the boys mother was at work, it was only five hours – no trouble. The Boy loooves his great-grandad. And they live 2 minutes from where the Boy lives with his mother. Perfect solution!

Well. I just got this text from my partner. (I live far away while I’m studying, so unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do from here)

“apparently he was fine yesterday and last night and his mother made the call to send him to daycare (side note – without discussing it with my partner) the staff at day care said he was fine today and put himself to bed for a nice sleep”

Unfortunately, I don’t agree with this line of reasoning, so I told my partner that I felt angry that he wasn’t being looked after and indignant that the boys mother hadn’t either taken a day off herself, or left him with the Grandparents. If he is still on antibiotics and his eyes are still showing signs of conjunctivitis, I personally, don’t think he should be at daycare. I said to him, I would rather pay his mother out of my student allowance if she couldn’t afford the day off – I don’t think she is a bad mother, but I don’t agree with this choice at all, not when we have alternatives.

My partners response – “I don’t want to fight about this, I don’t have the energy. I know my son and think it was a bit soon for him to go back to daycare, but why must you put me in a position to fight about it, it’s not the end of the world.”

Well shit.

I told him we would have to agree to disagree and that I didn’t want to talk about it any more because I didn’t want to fight with him about it, I’m tired, have my own health issues, as well as trying to keep up with doing two degrees at the same time.

What am I supposed to do? Am I over reacting? I know I am exhausted from my own stuff and don’t have the same amount of clarity as usual, but still, what am I supposed to do with all the emotions…

All I want, is for that poor little Boy to have the chance for his immune system to recover. Is that so wrong?

My partner is accusing me of making him feel like a bad parent. Way to turn the whole situation around on me. We have so many options available so the Boy doesn’t have to be at daycare while he is unwell, we are so lucky there is family that close, even if he seems better, I can’t help but feel like that extra day would have done wonders helping his immune system get back on track.

I feel better for having had this vent.

Day Care Dilemma – The powerless step-parent?

It has taken me a little while to write about this because whenever I thought about it, I would get so charged and worked up.

My stepson’s mother informed us of her decision to go back to work almost two months ago. Although of course it would be ideal for The Boy to have a stay at home parent for as long as possible, we of course understood her decision, and had no problem with that part of the situation. Then we were informed that she had picked his daycare – and my partner was ‘welcome to go look at it’.

Well this immediately riled me up. Not only was it a direct violation of their parenting order (which clearly states that all parenting decisions are to be made jointly), in my opinion it was a massively disrespectful move on her part! Where does she get off, enrolling this child in a day care, where he will spend almost more time than he spends with his father, without discussing options!?

Of course we did go and have a look and do our own research. And compared to the other day care in the area (there are only two) it did seem to be the best. Our offers to look into home based care options or a day care a little further away though were flatly denied – her decision had been made, and apparently it was final. Grr. Strictly speaking we could have taken her to court – if she pulls something like that again though, we might make a different decision, but really that’s the last place we want to be, the parenting order was supposed to HELP the situation…

And then to make things even more enjoyable – she asks us to help pay for it. She text us saying that after paying his daycare costs, she was going to have an additional $100 a week. So now she’s got MORE money, and still wants us to pay more? excuse me. My problem with this doesn’t actually stem from the money at all – absolutely my partner should be liable for the costs of his son, and he pays his child support religiously, and if we truly felt that she wasn’t able to provide for him, we would do every thing we could to scrape the extra money to help. But it isn’t like we don’t have costs of our own… I’m a full time student, and my partner works a 60 hour week to support our family as best he can. Not to mention, if the Boy’s mother is so broke, how is she affording sky tv and a gym membership? doesn’t quite add up in my books.

Well. Day Two at Day Care, and our day to pick him up – only to pull into the car park to find two children loose, unattended, by the busy road. One of them was so distraught he wouldn’t leave my arms for a good twenty minutes after I picked him up to take inside…

I didn’t think it could get any worse. Let me just tell you, if he was my son, I never would have sent him back to that daycare… But of course he isn’t my son. How am I supposed to reconcile with this – I care for him and love him and want to protect him, but I’m not allowed a say. It got to the point where the Boy’s mother was all ‘ I’m confident they are doing everything they can that it wont happen again ‘ and my partner was just so sick of having to talk to her that he just agreed to keep him there cause it was easier. Ugh.

All other Stepmums out there – how do you cope when you feel powerless? what strategies have you got?

Which Step-parent should I be?

The last couple of days this has been something that has really stuck in my mind. I always knew my relationship with a man who already had a child wouldn’t be an EASY path, but that doesn’t bother me – what doesn’t kill you make you stronger right? and the things my partner and I have gone through together… Well lets just say it’s enough to last us a lifetime.

But it’s not about what is easy or difficult for ME that has been bothering me – its about what my little stepson will have to endure, because of the decisions we, as his parents (step or otherwise) have made now. I don’t know whether it makes me ‘luckier’ than other step-parents since my own parents are separated, because I sure as hell know what I would have preferred in the same situation that funnily enough I find myself in now, too.

Let me lay this out for you:

Option One: My step mother always told me not to be in a relationship with someone who already had children. Oops. The thing about that piece of advice though, was that it hurt me quite personally – here was a woman who had been part of my life since I was four years old, who had helped toilet train me, taken me shopping, put me to bed and watched me grow – and hadn’t she just said she resented having step children? that’s what 12 year old me understood anyway.

Option Two: On the other side, my step father treats me like his own daughter. He is a man who I don’t remember not having in my life, who changed my nappies, read me bed time stories, told me to stop being a brat when I went through that awkward pre-teen stage and watched me grow – at times, he has been much more of a dad than my biological father.

Now here I am, engaged to a man I love and cherish and will happily spend the rest of my life with, playing house and building our world together, our family together. But the thing is, we already have a family. The mother of his child was three months pregnant with their son when we met and started seeing each other – they were never officially ‘In a relationship’ – which probably makes it easier for me to deal with, since they have very little history as a ‘together’.

From the beginning I told her that I didn’t want to be a ‘Mother’ to her son. And I don’t – I’m young, still studying and not ready to have children for a very long time. Here’s the catch – I AM his fathers partner, I AM here for him, I DO love him, I WILL support him, he WILL be the older brother of my own children – so what am I supposed to be to him?

While having this dilemma I searched other ‘step-parent’ blogs. One of them really stuck with me. Like the ‘bonus mom’ in that blog, I am taking Option Three: I am not his stepmother. I am not his mother. I am his Person. I’ve also realised it’s not my decision, or his fathers decision, or his mothers decision to make. It’s actually his decision, because the relationship between myself and this little boy is a private matter, his choice, his life, and all I can do is be the best I can be – not even for him, but for me.