“I hate being a step mom!” I yelled at my husband while curled up in bed, bawling. I knew these words weren’t true the moment they came out of my mouth and I cringe just typing them, but I also knew that there were so many things about being a step mom that just really sucked, and I was over it at that point. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back this time (cause this wasn’t the first time over the last 8 years that I had uttered these words)? A scheduling conflict. Here’s the thing, when you’re a blended family you have to have some serious organizational skills to ensure that everyone (both sets of parents) know who’s going where and when. Here’s an example, this summer we needed to plan our vacation around Charlie’s swim team; the volleyball camps her mom had signed her up for; her other family’s vacation schedule as well as our own schedules. For the last 10 years, Joe has always included me on any group text so that I know any schedule changes and can input them into our family calendar. For some reason, his ex-wife, doesn’t always include me on these types of texts; or conversations are had at a drop off and aren’t mentioned to me. And that’s what happened this time. Again. I know, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, until it happens over and over for ten years and you are constantly left in the dark.
Was this the only thing that sent me into a crying mess? No. For a couple weeks, I hadn’t mentioned to Joe or anyone, how frustrated I was at continuously being ignored by Charlie. Yes, I clearly understand that she is 13 and is going to ignore all of us, but I’m also highly aware that it happens to me much more than to Joe. Ever since we have been married, when Charlie needs something or has a question, she will literally walk right by me, walk across the house to Joe and ask for his help. Do I think she does this on purpose? My head tells me no, but my heart tells me otherwise. And it still stings every time it happens.
A couple of months ago, I was talking to my therapist, and she told me about an article she had read about being a step-mom and how impossible it is to discipline your step-children. I actually hadn’t thought about it in that respect before. From the day we were married, Joe and I focused on making sure we created a family unit where Charlie never felt left out. I made sure to plan all activities (i.e. Picking out the Christmas tree, the pumpkin patch trip, decorating the tree, all birthday celebrations etc.) on weekends when we had her at our house. I made sure that if I asked Charlie to help out around the house, that I was also asking the boys to help out as well. If I set household rules, they applied to everyone. But every time I tried to instill these rules and boundaries, I felt like the evil stepmom. Was I allowed to get angry or frustrated with her, because she had broken one of the rules, like I did with my own boys? Was she going to go back to her other house and tell her mom what a terrible person I was or how strict I was or that I had yelled at her? Was she going to get mad at Joe because he married me and now I was trying to tell her what to do and how to live her life? Was she going to resent me because I was trying to be her mom and I’m not her mom? You guys, these are questions that are in the back of my mind EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! When I set rules and boundaries with my own boys, it’s fine. I can discipline them, however I see fit as their mom (obviously, not in an abusive way) I feel well within my right to have conversations with them about rules, to take privileges away, if necessary, and to raise them with the values that Joe and I have established for our family unit. But that’s the thing. Those are our family values and our values don’t always align with other family’s values and they are definitely different from Joe’s ex-wife’s family values. So what happens when they collide? How do we address that as parents?
I don’t have all the answers to all of these questions. I’ve been a step-mom for 8 years and have been in Charlie’s life for 10 years and it still feels like I am navigating new territory every day. Maybe this is what happens when you enter the teenage years. Maybe you have to re-evaluate the way you raise and address parenting for all teenagers. I do know that I’ve had to re-evaluate how I am as a step-mom. It’s taken a lot of conversations with friends who have step-parents, therapists and my husband to come up with what will work best for both Charlie and myself. A few of the things that we have implemented to save from any frustration is working on our schedules. Joe very politely reminded his ex that he would like her to include me on all texts so that I am aware of any scheduling changes or conflicts. Joe and I sit down with our schedules once a week and look at what we have planned for all of the kids and who is going to be dropping off and picking up (honestly, when we don’t do this, our week falls off the rails). Here’s the hardest thing that I’ve had to change and adjust in my head, I needed to take a step back. This is to protect myself as well as give Charlie some space. When we started this marriage, it was my intent to have Charlie think of me as her second mom. It seems that that’s not how it works. Charlie has a mom. She has a dad. And she has a step-mom and a step-dad. That’s a lot of parentals in her life! One of my friends told me that Joe should be doing most of the disciplining and rule setting for Charlie. I had a serious problem with that suggestion at first. Shouldn’t she think of us as the same? Shouldn’t she know that she needs to listen to me too? How am I supposed to do that when I am home with her all day and Joe is at work? My friend said “think of it like a quota. You can tell her/ask her to do things through the day but once you’ve reached your quota, it’s Joe’s turn”. So here’s what we do now. Joe establishes the rules, the chores and following through. He talks to her about what we expect at our house. I give gentle reminders through the day. And if a serious conversation needs to take place, Joe and I sit down together with Charlie, but Joe does most of the talking. On top of all of this, I’ve come to the realization that Joe and Charlie existed without me for three years. They had a relationship before Joe and I had a relationship. Charlie wants to spend time with her dad without my interference. This was a hard realization for me and was a serious ego hit. But, I’m a grown ass adult, and have learned to give them that time and space. Here’s how I think of myself at this point. My mantra with Charlie is “I’m the aunt”. Aunts help out, give advice, give gentle reminders but are also not the parental. They are the ones that can have those uncomfortable conversations that the parents don’t want to have or that the teens don’t want to talk to with their parents. So whenever I start overstepping my boundaries, or getting butt hurt or angry about rules not being followed, I think to myself “I’m the aunt”. I back off, talk to Joe and we have a conversation about it. Has this solved all issues? Absolutely not, for goodness sakes, she’s a teenager! Teenagers are crazy!!! But it has given us a good baseline to work from.
Please know that this entry is about me, as a step-mom, and how I have had to change my way of thinking and parenting. I am very aware of how hard this situation is for Charlie and that she has to navigate some seriously tricky situations, bouncing back between two very different households and establishing her own personality amongst all this chaos. She is an amazing young lady and one of the kindest souls you could meet, but step parenting is tricky, no matter how awesome the child is. I also understand how hard it must be to be Charlie’s mom and watch another person come into her daughter’s life. But I can’t write from their perspective. But I can write from mine, and hope that it helps any step-moms out there know that they aren’t alone as well as give them some tools to use in their own lives.
A couple weeks ago I wrapped up my life as I’ve known it for the last 11 years. Technically, 11 years is how long I have been a teacher. But if we are going to be really technical, I’ve been working with children with disabilities for half my life. And now it’s over. So why did I decided to leave the best job I’ve ever had? Because I’ve actually been following the wrong dream. Is that actually possible? I’ve been struggling with this idea for a long time. People will say “you are exactly where you are supposed to be”. And I believe this. But I also believe that somewhere along the way, I lost my way and followed the wrong dream, the wrong passion.
When I was a senior in high school, I took a psychology class. At least, I think it was a psychology class. Honestly, I have the worst memory, especially of high school. It could have been a social science class or a philosophy class. What I do remember is studying the behavior of people and groups of people and absolutely falling in love with it. It lit me on fire to study it and learn about why people did what they did. I followed this love in college and became a psych major. I loved every aspect of it! Ok, that’s a lie. For some reason, I had to take psychology of statistics class (twice) and hated it! But I digress. The parts of psychology I loved were the aspects of observing people and trying to figure out why they did what they did. After I graduated, I thought I would eventually go back to school and become a therapist. But I floundered. And I listened to other people’s opinions. I kept hearing that I was too sensitive and would end up taking my work home. That I would struggle listening to people’s problems all day long. So I stopped. I stopped following that dream. But my love of it didn’t stop. I continued reading psychology books, self-development books, anything I could get my hands on that talked about behavior. So much so, that my librarian at the school I work at, knows my love of psychology and has set books aside for me. I used to sit in the psychology section of Barnes and Noble and just read books for hours (yes, I realize that I just aged myself cause it’s almost impossible to find a Barnes and Noble now)
So, what was I going to do with my life? The only thing I knew and was good at, was working with children with disabilities and helping shape their behavior. I started working in group homes. I worked with children who had been neglected, abused, abandoned and stabbed (yes, stabbed). These children had serious aggressive behaviors and often times we would have to call the cops. I knew I had the patience and compassion to work with these challenges but what I didn’t have was the bank account to survive on $9.00 an hour, living in San Francisco. So, I followed the money trail, and decided to become a teacher. Hahaha!! Actually, what really happened, was that I had a friend who was entering the teaching program and she convinced me that I should do it with her. So I did. And she didn’t. She dropped out. But I was committed. I figured this was my dream. This would be the perfect job. I could still use my psychology degree, still help people and get summers off. (Ha!!! Clearly, I was naïve) While I was getting my degree and trying to find a full time job, I was a substitute teacher. I always found myself in the special ed classes and the teachers always requested me as their substitute because they knew I got it. To be honest, I went to a private school up through high school, and didn’t even know special ed classes existed (I seriously hate admitting to that) so this type of classroom and teaching was totally new to me. When I finally got a teaching job, I started off as a kindergarten teacher. I loved those children and how sweet and innocent they were. But, I didn’t feel the challenge. I knew they would learn what they needed to learn, whether it was from me or another teacher or their parents, they would figure it out. I missed the challenge of the students who REALLY needed my help. I ended up losing that kindergarten job (blessing in disguise?) and ended up getting hired as a special ed teacher for an intensive autism program. I truly loved that job. For a year. I swear, I feel like a bad person admitting that I didn’t love teaching. Aren’t you supposed to have a deep passion for teaching if that is the profession you choose? I did love the students. I loved helping them learn. I loved the challenge of figuring out what it is they loved to work for. I loved the challenge of discovering why they were showing certain behaviors. I loved creating lessons that would reach all my students and their learning needs. So what happened to my teaching passion? I didn’t actually get to work with the students as often as I would have liked. I was constantly in meetings, writing reports, writing IEPs, responding to parents and administrators. And honestly, it was exhausting. When I was young, unmarried and didn’t have my own family, I was able to commit myself entirely to that job. But after getting married and having my own family, I found that I didn’t have energy when I got home. And when I was in my classroom, I was so tired from 3am feedings and diaper changes, that I couldn’t give my all to those students. I switched to a less intense class, hoping I would be less stressed, but I still wasn’t happy. So what was I supposed to do now? I had spent years on this road and it was the only job I knew.
Everyone always talks about following your passion, but I didn’t know what my passion was. I don’t have talents that are obvious so I wasn’t sure what I was good at. I had to do a lot of soul searching and talking with my own life coach to find what energized me, what made me vibrate inside. Turns out I have a lot of things I’m passionate about but two of these stood out as things that I’ve always been interested in, psychology and writing. While listening to a self-development podcast, I realized how much I still loved psychology. I realized that my talent is analyzing (some people, like my husband, friends and family members might say my talent it overanalyzing J). Seriously though, I love to research everything and figure out why we do the things we do and then use that information to help others. But I knew I didn’t want to go back to school to become a therapist, I wanted something different. As I was reading a book written by a life coach, it hit me. I could be a life coach! So, of course, I researched this idea and realized how much I wanted to do it.
Along with psychology, I’ve always had stories running through my head. I’ve always narrated and authored my life. It dawned on me that I actually liked to write. I wasn’t sure if I was good and I wasn’t sure what to write about, but I knew that I needed to do it. But here’s the thing that kept nagging at me, I knew I had to use our grief from our miscarriages to help others. I knew there was no way we went through all that pain just to let it go and let others suffer without support. So through a lot of talking with my own life coach and a lot of meditation, I realized that I needed to use all of these passions to help others through their grief and provide a place where women could go to feel supported through the hardest times in their life. And that’s when I decided to create a blog to show women how I got through the hard times. At the same time I decided to become a life coach and specialize in grief support. Bang!!! The moment I figured this out, it was like something in me lit on fire! I knew that was my true calling. Every time I sit down to write, it energizes me. Everything about it lights me on fire. And through this blog, I’ve had people reach out to me about miscarriages and infertility and I’ve had the opportunity to help them and give them a shoulder to cry on. I love being able to support them and be there for them when they need it the most because I know, from experience, just how important it is to have someone who understands the pain that goes along with miscarriages.
So, am I sad to leave the only profession and the best job I’ve ever had? Yes, a little. After all, if it weren’t for that job, I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t have met some of the most incredible group of ladies that worked in room 408 and who became life-long friends. I wouldn’t have been inspired by some of the best special ed teachers and behavior analysts one could ever work with. Do I believe that you have one path? Yes and no. I do believe that I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t detoured (off roading, is more like it) off my path. But I also believe that you have a passion. It might be buried deep in you and it might have been ignored for a while because you listened to other people’s opinions, but it’s still there. You just need to find that thing, the thing that makes you vibrate inside. The thing that lights you on fire and gives you energy. Now I finally feel like I’m back on the right path. I have a feeling of happiness and excitement about my future that I haven’t felt in a long time.
I'm an average girl who has discovered her passion for self-development after warrioring (yes, it's a word) through 6 miscarriages. I took that passion and applied it to helping others find their passions through High Performance Coaching. Boy mom to two "energetic boys" and navigating the art of being a step mom to a teenage girl, all while working daily on maintaining an authentic relationship with the best husband around. Sometimes mindful. Sometimes a runner. Always a little crazy!