Category Archives: Family

A Letter to my Children’s Step-Mother

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Today, on the Cincinnati Moms Blog my newest piece is published titled A Letter to My Children’s Step-Mother. Here’s a snippet for you to read:

“I’m not going to lie. When I first found out that my boys would have a step-mother, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I mean, I knew that this day would come at some point. But I also didn’t want another person in their lives. I had a difficult time seeing another “mother” who would help raise my children. I never had a close relationship with my step-mother, and I think that relationship clouded my vision. You truly care about my boys and love them. A hard pill to swallow at first, but easier now, as time has progressed.

It’s not easy sharing my amazing boys with anyone else. But I’m sure by now, after being in their lives the past 2 years, you are well aware of how amazing they are. You know first hand how intelligent they are, how loving and caring they can be, and how genuine they are.”

This took me a lot of time to finally put pen to paper on this topic. I went through several periods of grief, pain, hurt, jealousy, sadness, you name them. But just as any other writer would attest to you, putting down all those feelings on paper opens the floodgates of emotions, which eventually, at least in my case, will lead to some semblance of closures.

Co-parenting and dealing with step-families is not for the faint of heart some days. It’s obviously not something I would wish upon my kids or myself, but it’s the reality of our lives. So for my own sanity and those around me, I choose to make it positive. I choose to make it work. I choose to be thankful for everything that it could be and isn’t, and grateful for all that it is.

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The Tender Hearted

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My 6 year old is such a sensitive, caring child. Tonight while putting him to bed, he said he wanted to tell me something but he was afraid it would upset me. Oh boy!…..(I think to myself and gear up for something drastic!)

So I told him it was ok to tell me and I wouldn’t be upset. He told me that his step-mom is a really great step-mom. He told me this while crying and said he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. He told me I’m still the best mom but that she’s ok too.

Of course that brought tears to my eyes. Not because he had those feelings towards his step-mother. In all honesty, I’m glad that he feels this way towards his step-mother since he’s with her and his dad 50% of the time. But it brought tears to my eyes to see that he had such a keen awareness of my feelings and that even at 6 years old he is that concerned with how things will affect me.

I’ve had a lot of rough days as of late, in life, in dealings with issues with the boys, with my health, with my finances, just everything it seems. But hearing him say that to me tonight just put so many things in perspective to me.

So many things in life will try (and oftentimes succeed) to bring me down. Doing this whole raising kids thing on my “own” is not a walk in the park. It’s not a path I would have set out to choose, obviously, but it’s the path that I’m on. And there are so many times that I feel that I have failed my boys or that I just am not equipped to do this. Or that I’m going to screw up the boys’ lives. That I’m just a “bad mom.”

But then something like this happens. That little twinge of hope. That spark of recognition of my efforts and that yes, my kids are going to be ok. That reassurance that I’ve not totally messed up their lives. That my boys, deep down have good souls, loving and caring hearts, and the tenderness to know how to show others that they care.

That in and of itself is more than I could ever ask for. I am blessed beyond measure with these two boys, my miracles. I may not be a perfect mom (FAR from it), I don’t have all the answers and have even far more questions it seems. But these boys are proof enough to me that we’re going to be OK, no matter what is hurled our way. We have each other, and there is so much love resonating around us, that there is nothing we can’t handle together.

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Great Expectations

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I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve always had grandiose ideas of how things would happen (never once believing they would ever be a reality). Maybe it makes me an optimist…..maybe it just makes me crazy! I would like to think that some of my dreams and wishes and ideas would become a reality one day, but I just can’t shake the sting of reality.

And it’s not because I’m hopeless and lack any capacity to hope in my life. But one can only have their hopes and dreams dashed so many times before you start to give up on all of those other hopeful aspirations.  What is more likely, in my given scenario, is that my patience level (or lack of patience) is reached before any expectations can be realized.

I have a hard time waiting. Like, it’s excruciating for me to stand by and just quietly wait. One, I’m rarely quiet. Two, I just hate waiting. Over time, and having children, I’ve become “better” at it, but I’ve far from mastered the skill. I’ll forever be a work in progress when it comes to waiting. Sometimes it’s a good thing and I push for an answer while people are on their own clock. Other times, it comes to bite me in the, well, you know what.

And now as I’m approaching 40 (much too quickly I should say), I wish things were done differently in my past. Maybe if I had spent more time being patient and waiting and not rushing things, my outcome would be different. Maybe I wouldn’t have these grandiose dreams and desires for a different life.

I’m not saying my life is awful. It’s not in all reality. I have two amazing boys that are smart, well-adjusted, happy, caring, loving, and all around great kids. I have a loving boyfriend who treats me well and makes me feel safe and comfortable in our life. I have a roof over my head, a car that runs (most of the time!), a good job, and enough money to pay my bills. Things are tight sometimes and I struggle during the month sometimes, but I rarely go without. Of course, I don’t have all the extra things that many people enjoy, but I’m happy.

Of course, my life isn’t perfect. I’m a divorced mom with two children. I have shared custody of my children, so I don’t always get to see them and there are days that I don’t see them because they are with their father. I miss my boys, immensely, when I am not with them. I know that I “should” appreciate the time I get to myself, and enjoy that “freedom” that not everyone has, but I don’t. I WANT to spend more time with my kids. I ENJOY the time I am with them (mostly – hey, boys will be boys!). I wish I wasn’t the divorced mom that has to shoulder the weight of raising my boys. Yes, their father helps to raise them when they are with him, but it’s not that we raise them “together”. I guess it’s hard to explain if you aren’t a “single parent” navigating the waters such as I am.

And of course, I would love that childhood dream of a wedding to come to fruition for me one of these days. I’ve never had the chance to pick out bridesmaid dresses or even HAVE bridesmaids. My first wedding was a trip to the Justice of the Peace with a few family members as witnesses. Again, because we weren’t patient and just rushed into things. And look how that turned out…I digress.

I’m not saying that I HAVE to have the big fancy wedding. In fact, I know that we CAN’T afford what my childhood dream wedding would consist of. But in all reality, who really can? Because of hastily made financial decisions in my past, finances will always be an issue going forward. Lessons learned, and in all honesty, I’m better off in the long run. But the expectations I’ve had in my life for the wedding I’ve wanted to have is one that I’ll need to put out of my mind. Because reality comes into play big time in that planning.

Just like my wedding “expectations”, I had a lot of expectations growing up, both placed on me and self-imposed.

I was expected to attend a Christian college right after high school and graduate in 4 years, possibly be married or engaged at the end of that college stint and start a family shortly thereafter.

WRONG!

It took me almost 10 years to finish my college degree. I attended a few different colleges, changed my major so many times I’ve lost track, moved, gotten various jobs and then eventually got married. I WANTED to finish my degree BEFORE I had children, and I almost made it! I finished up my degree a few months after I had my first son. It wasn’t ideal, and it wasn’t the expectation of most people of what would happen, but it DID eventually happen.

I was taught growing up that friends would come and go into our lives, but family would always be there. That was the expectation I had growing up.

WRONG!

It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable with how this plays out in my life. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve not fully been able to come to grips with this. You see, throughout all my struggles in life, I have found that my friends are the ones that have stuck around. Of course, there have been friends that have come and gone. That’s just how life plays out. You grow apart from people and eventually part ways. That’s just how our lives play out on a daily basis. But through my divorce and subsequent trials, I’ve seen that my friends, my TRUE friends are the ones that stuck around. I had high expectations that my family would be there for me. And some have. Don’t get me wrong. But there are some that I thought would have stuck by me, but they haven’t.

You see, you grow up one way being told one thing. You are told what to EXPECT in life and that a, b, or c is going to be the only options and that’s how it’s going to be. But in all reality, it’s wrong. You can hope and expect until you’re blue in the face. But until you are faced with reality and the specific situations at hand, any and all expectations fly out the window!

I fully expected that my life would turn out a certain way because I stopped attending church. It didn’t.

I was told to expect to be single after my divorce indefinitely because that’s how it was supposed to happen. It doesn’t.

I fully expected certain family members to stick by me and support me in my time of need because that’s what family does. They didn’t.

You see, expectations, great or small, can work for us or against us. They can bring us closer to our desired reality or push us further away from the expected outcome. I don’t think that having expectations is a bad thing in and of itself. It’s when our expectations are too far reaching. It’s good to have dreams and aspirations. It’s beneficial to set goals and attempt to reach those goals. But it’s also wise to not set yourself up for failure either.

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Be realistic. That’s the mainstay thought I must have. Have REALISTIC expectations in life. Will you have to lower your expectations and desires? Most likely. But that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your ultimate desire to succeed. Sometimes you just have to readjust the route you have to take. But in the end, the only expectation we can ever have, is to be happy. Do what you need to do, and take whatever road you need to take to get there. But in the end, when I peel back all the layers of expectations, if I find myself happy and content in the end, that’s what matters most.

Sure, I have big dreams and high expectations in life and for myself. And what I can attain, I will. But what I can’t reach or have as my end game, I will put the expectation of ultimate happiness on myself. And that’s all I can expect of myself and those in my life. I have high expectations for my own happiness. And those expectations are within each and every one of us.

 

 

 

 

Now Serving, #78……

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More and more these days, I’m finding that I’m constantly pushing myself to the back of the line. I’m giving up my spot in line, so that someone else can benefit for the umpteenth time. Maybe it’s because I’m such a generous person and love to see everyone else succeed while I flounder back and forth, just trying to catch my breath. <Insert HEAVY sarcasm!> But while I’m sure that statement sounds absurd to many people, it’s partially true.

I think this goes back a long way. I’m inching closer to 40, and I can look back to my elementary school days and see this pattern starting to take shape, so yes, it goes back a ways.

I always struggled to fit in. I was (and if I’m honest, still am) a little different than everyone around me it seemed. Part of this I blame on my mother. If you saw some of the things she dressed me in, you’d understand! Mismatched clothes, shoes that had different color laces, and the Dorothy Hamill bob haircut….I digress. I’m only partially kidding. My mother was also a single mother, and I know that she did the best that she could. In all honesty, I’m seeing myself mimick my mother in her selfless, giving of herself.

But honestly, as I look back at much of my childhood, I was always awkward, socially and otherwise. I was always the girl that was bigger than everyone else. I remember vividly looking at my 2nd grade glass picture and I remember that I was only a LITTLE bit bigger than the other kids in the class. These days, some would have considered me skinny back then. But, as we all know, kids are cruel, and they’ll hone in on your insecurities and capitalize on them. So starting in 2nd grade, that’s when I can see the demise of my innocence.

As I grew up, I struggled, almost on a daily basis. Struggled to see that I was a good person. Struggled to acknowledge that I am a great friend. Struggled to fathom that I could even potentially be somewhat attractive. To this day, these are still constant struggles. I always wanted people to like me…I thrived on the acceptance. So in that instance, I would do whatever it would take to be accepted. So began the cycle of putting myself last and elevating the needs of others on a continual basis.

Part of this stemmed from a very strict religious upbringing where it was frowned upon for women to put themselves ahead of others. Women were the “helpmeet” for others. They were to put everyone else first. We always talked about this acronym: JOY which meant, Jesus, Others, Yourself. That was ingrained in us from as far back as I can remember. Which, for the most part, is not a bad way to think about life. But if you are constantly putting yourself last, you run out of steam to pick yourself up and function at times.

Now, I’m not saying that putting others first is a bad thing. Not at all. In fact, I encourage that mindset with my children on several occasions. My boys are 8 (almost 9) and 6. They are selfish people. I’m not shy about saying that. I think that all kids this age are selfish to an extent. As a mom, I encourage them to think of others. I implore with them to not fight over who is first all the time. I try to teach them that you don’t always have to “win” and that there’s no shame in helping others. In fact, I’m starting to look at opportunities where we, as a family, can put that mindset into a tangible action, whether it’s volunteering at a soup kitchen, or participating in a toy drive, or giving out care packages to homeless people. I’m trying to teach them to look for the opportunities to help others and live a more selfless life.

BUT, in the same notion, I don’t want them to feel burnt out and constantly giving of themselves that they feel like they are suffering. That’s a very fine line to follow, especially when I feel like a hypocrite for doing just that myself! I honestly don’t remember the last time that I did something JUST for myself. I’m wracking my brain to think of a time where I wasn’t putting everyone else’s needs before my own. And that’s not a bad thing necessarily. It’s just draining and exhausting.

I’m sure you have ALL seen this meme, whether it’s floating around on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (which I still have YET to sign up for!):

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And yes, it’s quite kitschy, but it’s so true! I fail at this, often. And what I’ve figured out about this is devastating. There really was no “lightbulb moment” where I sat there and pondered this and said “Eureka”!! No, this is something I’ve known for a long time, but have failed to implement in my life on a consistent basis.

I feel like I’ve failed my children so often by not being able to do everything for them that I want to, or even that their father can give them. I know I shouldn’t compare, but it’s hard not to. I don’t make a lot of money, and as single mom, it’s a month to month struggle sometimes. I don’t want my children to struggle because of me, or despite me. I want to afford them all that life has to offer them, and in doing so, I’ve found that I’m in a sense, failing myself more.

For example, this past Christmas was difficult financially. I had surgery a month before Christmas and was out of work for 6 weeks with minimal disability pay. I don’t have a huge savings account, so that couldn’t offset it too much. I wanted to be able to give my boys a great Christmas, but just couldn’t afford it. So what does this mother do? I took the money I was given for Christmas and the gift cards that were given to me, and I in turn used them to buy my children gifts. I used the gift cards to buy groceries for my boys. I’ve had a spa gift card for almost 2 years now. I’ve yet to use it because I haven’t made the time for myself. I’ve often thought about gifting it to someone else. But again, that’s all on me.

Because of our crazy life schedules during the school year, family meals were a rarity. I’d get off work in time to pick up my boys from their dad, rush home, take the dog out, make food for my picky children (who tend to just want to eat grilled cheese and quesadillas), help with homework, get the boys showered and ready for bed, get clothes set for the next day, pack lunches, and get my boys to bed. Eventually, I would sit down to eat, but usually not until everyone else was taken care of. After my kids were asleep and taken care of, THEN I would eat or finally sit down for the first time in hours, usually to a cold meal or something just thrown together.

That’s not fair to me or my children. They need a mom who is refreshed, who is alert and enthusiastic. Not someone who is always run, run, run to get everything done. Not someone who is constantly feeling like a maid or butler or short order cook. They need a mom who is PRESENT. I’ve failed my children in this time and time again. If I can’t take care of myself, how in the world can I be expected to take care of others? There’s definitely a flaw in my reasoning that I’ve been holding on to!

It’s NOT selfish to take time for myself and get a pedicure (when I can afford it).
It’s NOT selfish to make sure my children learn to do things for themselves so I don’t have to do everything.
It’s NOT selfish to say “no” sometimes to all the requests that are hurled your direction from family, school, church, etc.
It’s NOT selfish to take a “day off” from household chores (THIS is my biggest struggle).

As a mom who co-parents, I have shared 50/50 custody with my boys’ father. This means that I have some weekends “off.” There are times when I won’t have my children for a few days while they are with their dad. But what does this mom do on those off days? Clean up toys that the boys didn’t clean up before they left. Clean the house, dust, mop, vacuum, do laundry, clean closets, cook, etc. I am in a constant power struggle with myself. I feel like I HAVE to be doing something at all times so that others aren’t disappointed in me. This all goes back to feeling like I don’t fit in and I need to do anything to be accepted. But in all reality, a Netflix and chill day is sometimes all that I need to be “refreshed” and ready to tackle the next day, whatever may come of it.

People aren’t going to reject me if my house is messy or dusty. People aren’t going to look down on me if I don’t put the laundry away for a day. People are not going to judge me if I have some wayward Super Hero Mashers in my living room. I have kids, young kids, and my house proves that. I don’t live in a museum, and honestly, never will. But I have to let myself relax and take some time off. The laundry will be there tomorrow. The dust isn’t going to get outrageously out of hand in one day. It’s ok if my kids have a pop tart for breakfast and not a gourmet pancake and bacon meal.

What it really boils down to is that I’m too hard on myself, and instead of letting myself relax and just “be”, I’m constantly on the go, giving all of myself to others so that I can feel validated. But in turn, when I do that, my children suffer. And that is SO counterproductive. I don’t want my boys to “follow my example” and feel like they always need to put themselves last just to fit in. I want them to know that their needs are important as well. I don’t want them to feel so downtrodden and their own feelings pushed aside. Yes, it’s a hard pill to swallow and sometimes comes with a side of guilt.

But more importantly, I want them to learn that they need to be their best selves in order to give their best selves to others. And this mommy needs to learn that it’s ok to take a break and take some much needed “me” time. The guilt associated with it can be harsh, and sometimes overwhelming, but there is going to be a learning curve to this new mindset. A mindset that has taken over 30 years to accomplish.

Now Serving………..

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