August I am not ready for you. July, please come back.
August is here, whether I like it or not. And to me August means one thing.... my five year old starts kindergarten.
All day kindergarten. Five days a week kindergarten.
All day away from home. Without mom. Five days a week.
This will clearly be a shock to the system. My system. It will feel like someone cut off my arm, and took a giant piece of my heart.
I can already feel a loss and emptiness without my best buddy by my side, holding my hand, talking to me all day long.
I know that I am not being practical. We love our town school. We love our local teacher. We love our classmates.
I will be the blubbering, bawling, total mess of a parent walking to my car each morning.
And I will hide it all behind a smile - encouraging my five year old to be brave, to soar, to be his amazing self.
I want to say "good luck buddy" but more importantly I want to say "stand up for yourself, let your voice be heard, be kind, polite, and helpful, don't miss me all day, and always feel my love for you".
Adults are complicated creatures, as I am sure you have discovered. Just like you don’t always know why you forgot to pick up your towel or remember to stop slamming the door, we can’t always explain why we behave the way we do. And the older you get, sometimes those actions become very hard to describe without a sense of confusion, guilt and drama on our part.
No one ever has the goal of being a stepparent, (which really sounds terrible, doesn’t it?) because in order for that to come to pass something incredibly un-fun has happened, a spouse has been lost either through a death or divorce. So I am sure now as you dream of your future, you aren’t thinking, “well I hope that I grow up get married, have some kids, then lose my spouse somehow and get remarried to someone else who has kids and then we will have a happy blended family and I will be a stepparent and it will be great.”
Um, Yea, no one ever thinks that.
But as you know, things like do that happen and people have to adjust and make the best of their situation. And thus you and I find ourselves figuring out how to be family because I fell in love with and married your dad. You are my stepdaughters and I am your stepmother. It has been a few years and for the most part we have a good routine. But it is tricky sometimes, isn’t it?
I don’t blame your mom for being angry, in fact, I have more empathy for her than she will ever know. Although I do know in the end she will be happier when she is able to let go and heal herself.
In the same vein, you can’t blame your parents for divorcing, even though you think it would be easier for you if they were still married. I know it is a hard concept to think about, but trust me, they would both be unhappy people and thus you’d be growing up in one household that held on by a tenuous thread. It would affect you more negatively than the divorce, even though that probably sounds really weird to you.
I can’t speak to how other stepmoms are, but I’ve never wanted to be your mother. Which does not mean I have never wanted to “mother” or “parent” you, it means I have never seen myself as a replacement for your mom. I don’t understand women who do that, but I am sure some do.
What is important to understand is that when you were conceived and born, it was out of love. The two people who created you loved each other and you. That will never ever change, even if their love for each other faded, their love for you has not and never will.
So, as I was saying, you already have a mom and a good one. You’ve also got a fantastic dad who loves and adores you. He is happiest when you are with us and I love to see how engaged he is with you and how you clearly enjoy each other’s company. The fact that he is a great dad is one of the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place.
My job, as I see it, is for us to be an example of a loving, happily married couple. My job is to show you what is possible in a healthy relationship. My job is to help guide you into adulthood as one of several parent figures in your life. My job is to respect and love you for who you are and like with my own daughter, weather the ups and downs of engaging with you as you grow up. We will all continue to figure out who we are and our relationships will evolve. This is normal for famlies.
I am lucky because you are both great kids and while our road has been bumpy at times, you’ve never been hostile or rude. You’ve been able to talk with your dad, however awkwardly, about what bothers you about the divorce and as you get older, asking the questions that occur to you know.
I don’t need you to love me, although of course that would be nice and maybe it is happening slowly over time. I do know you like me and not just because you feel like you have to. For now that is enough and I only need you to know that I am here now in whatever way you might decide you need me. I’ll never stop being your stepmom or your dad’s wife. That’s ok. You’ll never stop being my stepdaughters, or my husband’s kids. But those are all labels that pigeonhole us into boxes we may not want to live in, we can figure it out without them.
Like I said, adults can be very complicated. Maybe even after all these words I’ve not explained myself well.
In the end, though, I do know that when the five of us—you, your dad, me, and my daughter--are out for a walk, posing for a group picture or on a fun vacation together that we are a family. And we feel like a family in a way that is not forced anymore. It is simple and good and as if somehow it is as it should be.
Even if the path to it was a complicated mess.
I am a fairly open person. I have great friends and appreciate the wonderfully supportive community that IS Mama Says. That being said, there is just something about this post that compels me to stay anonymous.
Healthy living is a big part of my life, and a big part of my family. I work hard to research healthy foods, buy them, make them, and serve them. We also stay very active, and talk about the importance of exercise (in many shapes and forms).
I have had my babies and I am ready to get in shape. I have recently started running again which feels great. Amazing. Awesome! There is something very calming about listening to the rhythmic pattern of my feet. Run Run Run.
The problem with running.... my postnatal bladder. Tonight I pushed myself to run further than I have in years. Half way to that goal I was trying to "hold it" and I just couldn't. I peed my pants. I finished my workout with wet shorts. Dang! It's not fair. I was just exercising!
I can't be the only one with this problem, right? I should call my OB and talk about this embarrassing issue, but it's just that, embarrassing! And what can they suggest to me?
So for now I will run... wet pants or not.
This was not my plan.
Kids were not in the picture of my future in any way, at any time in my life. I was a strange little girl who at age 7 said, “I don’t need a man, and I’m not having kids.” So I spent my life living for me. I did not pine away or hope for the right man to raise my kids with, because I did not want to live that life. Sure, I had my share of long-term boyfriends, but it is amazing what you will settle for when you don’t care about having any kids.
I was having a grand ol’ time, living life all for me. Then I got distracted and the next thing I knew, I was pregnant. Ok, I’ll come right out and say it: The first baby was an accident. So I stuck with it. I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Within the course of a year, I went from never wanting kids to being pregnant and married. I went from “Never, ever, ever will I wait on a man like my mother did,” to being an old-fashioned homemaker.
The roller coaster of emotions that ensued in the next three years was overwhelming. I went from shock, to giddy, to sick, tired and huge in 9 months. Then, after the baby was born, I was back to giddy, then resentful, guilt-ridden (from the resentment), angry, depressed and completely lost. I did not know how to do this mother thing.
So I read books...lots of them. Some helped, and some only made me more confused. I have seen therapists and searched for friends who understand what I’m going through (not many, I must admit). It is hard to find women who don’t really care for babies, and can hardly stand to be around a two-year-old. I loved mine, of course, but could not wait until we could have a more logical conversation.
I spent so many years living for me, that learning to live completely in the moment for an illogical little creature has been the hardest lesson of my life. But I have grown tremendously in the last few years. The growing pains have been unbearable at times, but I am stronger, more resilient, patient, and compassionate. I have found a deep well of love in my heart that I did not know existed.
Because I have children, I have not allowed myself to consider running from my relationship when things get difficult, as I once would have done. I have learned to accept my husband’s faults and deal with living with someone who I am not always compatible with. I have learned to compromise as well as stand up for myself.
There have been times, in the midst of misery and post-partum depression, that I felt I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was not going to make it through this. I feel like I have risen to the surface, and most days I am swimming somewhat gracefully to shore.
My children have forced me through the most painful growth I could ever imagine. I thank them with all of my heart for coming into my life and being my teachers. I know I am not done yet. In fact, I have only just begun on this path as a parent. I am still growing, and some days will again make me wonder what the hell I have gotten myself into. But most days I know that my children have helped me to become a person that I never would have been without them. I only hope I can do the same for them.
And if you have anything to say about what you read here, don't forget to make a comment. Let's start some dialogue about motherhood!
Fantasy #1: Perfection, or Something Close To It
It’s not that I would be a perfect mother, wife, human being; it’s just that I would be much better at all of those things than I am in reality. For example, I would rarely raise my voice, or hint at impatience. I would have enough time and energy for everyone, always ready to get down on the floor and play, or stay up late and “play.” I wouldn’t give the quick answer; I would give the right answer, the one that takes time. My kitchen floor would always be an acceptable place to set down a baby; I would always have on hand the ingredients needed to bake a quick batch of chocolate chip cookies; and I would never leave dishes in the sink overnight, wet clothes in the washing machine for more than twenty-four hours, or vegetables in the refrigerator until they rot. The answer would be Yes more often than No. “Yes! I do want to read that book, sing that song, play that game, hear about that thing you saw again and again and again . . .”
Fantasy #2: Another Man
Okay, this one is kind of embarrassing, and I would feel a bit better if I knew that other people shared similar thoughts in their lowest moments and worst stretches. Because we all have them, right? Right?! You see, my husband, the father of my children, has tragically died! Or left us (and now I feel much less guilty about replacing him because what did he really expect when he took up with that other woman?). His replacement likes to have conversations with me, enjoys spending time with my kids, and is willing to adapt to fit in with our lives. He lays in bed with me and talks, wakes up happy to be with us instead of grumpy and full of expectations, and his patience begins right where mine ends. And that’s all there really is to it. If I think about it, it turns out he possesses all the attributes I love about my husband (whom I do love), but I get to start over with all the good things. Plus he’s younger and cuter, too! It’s just a fantasy, after all.
Fantasy #3: More Than One Woman
You know how people sometimes say, “There aren’t enough hours in the day. I wish there were two of me!” Well, I don’t want two of me. How irritating would that be? I do want another woman around, though. Someone to be a friend to me, a caregiver to my children, and a helper with the endless household tasks. We would share both the fun and the tedium of our days; support each other professionally, creatively, and emotionally; and neither one of us would ever have to feel overwhelmed or lonely in this whole parenting thing. She would be the best friend who never has to leave, who fits right in, and her responsibilities would be mine. Together we would build a solid, loving home for children, husband, and each other. It’s a lot of work, after all, and sometimes I think it just takes more than one woman to do it well.
And if you have anything to say about what you read here, don't forget to make a comment. Let's start some dialogue about motherhood!
I’m a Yeller. When it comes to motherhood, I have about as much patience as a bull with a banderilla stuck in its neck. There isn’t a chapter titled “Rage” in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. As someone who always prided herself on her patience and loving nature, anger is the part of motherhood I could never have imagined.
I am an introvert; a lover of silence, harmony and order. My children are not quiet, never leave me alone, and they turn my house into a battlefield on a daily basis. Sometimes I don’t feel very loving towards these two small creatures who are stomping like angry elephants over the calm life I continue to—optimistically—envision.
In my early twenties, the vision of my future life included only the patter of fingers on the keyboard, not that of tiny feet. My imaginary writer’s turret didn’t come equipped with a safety gate. But when I got married it just seemed that a child was the next natural step. I don’t believe I ever questioned whether I was truly made for this new role.
When our beautiful little doll-baby came along I didn’t chatter away at her as I have witnessed with other mothers. My default mode was mute. And nursing was difficult. I felt as open as a 24-hour diner and as over-worked and under-appreciated as the waitress inside. I wanted my body, personal space, and time back. My writing—even my journal—was neglected due to exhaustion and lack of creative inspiration. Along with my milk, I felt the Real Me being devoured by this tiny child.
As she grew up, the toys and the tantrums began multiplying. My quiet, orderly world had become a place of constant noise and chaos. And although I had my breasts back to myself (albeit far below their former position), I now found myself gasping for free time while digging out from under plastic trucks and fuzzy giraffes. Especially when the second child came along, I longed for peace, for things to stay put, for a beautiful home, for my writing, and on some days, for anything other than motherhood. I felt oppressed. Resentful. Rage-ful.
And I started yelling. The Silent One was vanquished in a storm of frustration.
I can feel calm and then…bam! I’m screaming like a junkie in a police car. The anger which erupts when a grumpy, overtired 1st grader lets half-smashed food fall from her mouth both shocks and scares me. Or, when we have arranged a day of “kid fun” (i.e. adult hell) and they refuse to get dressed but then cry in frustration when we miss the parade. Or, when the tiny, but powerful fist smashes into my leg because my Mama-powers do not extend to making the hot sun go away.
The anger is a pressure in my chest which, at the worst moments of defiance, illogicality, and sibling rivalry increases to a physical pain. Sometimes when I have yelled myself to tears, I imagine running off to a cottage by the sea, just my pen and I. I never would, of course, but at times I long for nothing more than peaceful irresponsibility.
I hate The Rage. It does nothing more than give me a momentary release while polluting our home with bad energy for far longer. But I fear if I was capable of restraining the monster, it would only retreat to a deeper place, ultimately causing me greater pain. The answer is to not allow The Rage to enter at all. In an effort to be pro-active, each morning I write in my journal, “It will be a calm and loving day…”
One day I hope I can truly say it was.
Would it have been better if I’d kept all that to myself and internalized the self-belief that I am an inferior mother? Are you judging me as a bad mom?
Or are you sighing in relief that you’re not the only one? If you enjoyed this article, read more in the Anonymous Issue of Mama Says by subscribing and every issue will be sent directly to your house. No more wandering around town looking for it!And if you have anything to say about what you read here, don't forget to make a comment. Let's start some dialogue about motherhood!