When Mother's Day hurts

Pinkn blossoms_feistyharriet_April 2016

Mother’s Day can be one of the cruelest holidays for women who are unable to easily or naturally conceive a child, for women who have made a choice not to become mothers (yet feel continually judged for said choice), for women who have a turbulent relationship with their own mother, and for women who fulfill a sometimes impossible and lonely role of stepmother.

I am all four of those things.

I hate Mother’s Day.

I do not hate you, my friend who is also a Mom. And I don’t hate your Mom either. I hate all the glowing, fluffy, emotional, social-network-y hubbub surrounding Mother’s Day. I really hate all the pointed advertising and sponsored content for weeks and weeks before to remind us about Mother’s Day, to remind us to celebrate, and appreciate, and buy stuff to let mothers know that they are Important and Appreciated and Valued. The Facebook posts and comments about the joys of motherhood hurt, the rapturous monologues about mothers who are your best friend and role models hurt. All of it hurts.

To be clear, if you post about Mother’s Day I’m not deleting you from my feed reader, nor will I harbor some kind of resentment on your happiness in being a Mom, or having an awesome Mom. I like to think we are better friends than that. Please understand what I’m trying to say. I know that I am on the VERY FAR END of the Mother’s Day Tolerance Spectrum: I’m an outlier. I get it. Hell, even the Olympic Mom commercials don’t get to me, I cannot relate to a lifetime of support and encouragement from my Mom. I am not allowed to fully support and encourage my stepkids because their “Real Mom” is threatened, she thinks I’m intruding and makes it clear that I am unwanted and unnecessary. Years of not relating and being pushed/shoved to the side has made me bitter and probably jealous. I’m not proud of that, but it is the truth. When it comes to mothers I feel like I’m over here in the Untouchable section all by myself. Part of me wants to just skip the internet for the rest of the week, open my feed reader on Monday morning only to immediately mark everything as “read” and then move on with it. The other part of me knows that there are probably women like me, and we should stick together, and even if we don’t know what to say we should at least throw up a white flag we can all flock to, birds of a feather, and all that.

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Being a stepmom means winning last place

A few months ago my media feed was full of a video showing a determined father dragging his daughter’s stepdad down the aisle at her wedding, showing the world that he cared more about his daughter’s happiness and inclusion of her whole family in her wedding day than his own (twisted) sense of patriarchal pride. I sobbed and sobbed while watching and re-watching that video.

I have been a stepmom for four years, and I absolutely do not see that kind of collaboration in my future. Honestly, I hardly see myself being included in big things like weddings and the birth of future grandkids. Blue Eyes’ x-wife and I are not exactly bffs, in fact, she hardly acknowledges that I exist. If we attend the kids’ events (school program, dance recital, ball games, etc) she pretends I am invisible; her “Ignore Harriet And  Blue Eyes” game is a strong one. She could be an Olympic gold medalist with very little additional training. The one time I sent her an email (to refute ridiculous accusations she had emailed directly to me) she threatened to file an injunction against me if I attempted to contact her again. And frankly, her dirty attorney is sketch enough to try and get that thru the court (he’s also a big fat liar-pants).

So, if in the future it comes down to the kids having their Mom at an event or her threatening not to be there if I am invited…she will always win. I’m not the Mom, and I refuse to put these two kids in that kind of situation. However, she has no problem creating that kind of drama, so because I don’t fight as dirty as she does using kids as ammunition, she wins. Always.

I know some of you are stepparents yourselves, and it can be a really difficult role. Granted, it can also be relatively drama-free if all the parties act like grown-ass adults who want the best for the kids who are involved. I do not have one of those relatively drama-free scenarios (clearly, see above and then read through the lines for the rest of the story that has to happen to generate those few highlights).

Mr. Blue Eyes and I are unable to have kids of our own, so I always thought it was tremendously lucky that he had two munchkins I could love and play with and support and watch grow. I have been a lot more removed from that process than I thought. Even though for the last four years I’ve lived 700 miles away, the lack of involvement in their lives has been pretty remarkable, for both Blue Eyes and myself. That was the biggest reason for him moving to Arizona a year ago, he wanted to have some kind of normal relationship with his kids, and his crazy X has done as much as she possibly can to hinder that as well. (She’s an absolute delight, a true gem, I tell you!)

A few weeks ago I had lunch with one of my favorite humans; Aunt Mouse is a dear friend and surrogate mother, as well as a stepmom herself to kids who are in their 20’s and 30’s and now having kids of their own. Mouse did not have children either, and was thrilled to be a grandma to three new babies in one year. Sadly, her stepkids always choose their mother over their stepmother (not entirely surprising), but due to a pretty antagonistic relationship where Mom is a bitch and Mouse tries to be a good human, the end result is Mouse is completely uninvolved. Mom wins, and when Mom refuses to even be civil to Stepmom (again, using her children as the go-betweens who have to choose to exclude Mom or Stepmom because they can’t include both), Mom quickly becomes the only player in that game. And Stepmom loses everything. It’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, ya’ll.

I am the Stepmom. I will always just be the Stepmom. I make sacrifices for those kids that are far and above what I thought, yet I get zero benefit or even any feedback. I can’t even text them on their fancy iPhones because SOMEONE thinks I have a criminal record and am a regular extortionist of children and so she has blocked my number in the kids phones. (I really wish I was exaggerating, but the truth is you cannot make up this kind of shit and she has it all nicely (falsely) documented in threatening emails she has copied her attorney on, so it is all ready to be entered into a case-file if she even gets a hankering to be truly evil.) If you think motherhood is thankless (and I’m not trying to insinuate otherwise), try and imagine what it is like to be one step removed from any positive interaction while still being up to your neck in all the crap and drama that comes along with raising small people.

Camo and Mimi are 13 and 11, respectively. They are too young to have to deal with the fallout of this crap, and old enough to be able to see what is really going on, which puts them in the position of having to deal with this toxic bullshit. Sigh. It’s a never-ending cycle of crazy. I can only hope that as time goes on Ms. Crazy-Pants will calm down a bit and make all of our lives easier. I don’t anticipate that happening in my lifetime, but one can hope.

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One week as a full-time Bonus Mom

I spent all of last week as the day-time caretaker of my two bonus kids, ages 10 and 12, while Mr. Blue Eyes wrapped up some work projects. I have never really spent a ton of time with them, and never by myself for more than a few hours. Honestly, I was worried about it. I want them to have fun and think I’m fun and I want them to like me and I want to make sure I don’t do/say anything that would be negatively reported back to their mother, giving her yet another reason to despise me.

It went better than I expected, we went swimming almost every day, played a lot of Monopoly and other strategy games, we went bowling, went to one of the trampoline air-gym places, more swimming, made fancy cupcakes, watched a little TV, went out for frozen yogurt, made waffles, etc etc etc. I didn’t lose my temper, I didn’t yell, and I somehow managed to keep my cool during the endless bickering of two tweenagers. (So! Much! Bickering!)

Other items of note:

  • The end of swim season was during the time we had the kiddos. I woke up early to take them to practice in the mornings so they’d be ready for their final swim meets. The kids’ Mom did not show up at the state qualifying swim meet OR at the championship meet…instead, she–the Mom–decided to throw herself a birthday party.
  • You read that right. She threw a “family” birthday party for herself instead of going to the state championship swim meet to support her daughter. For the record, her child took 5th, 6th, and 12th in her events out of hundreds of participants.
  • I found out that my phone number is blocked on the kids’ iPhones. This means that someone (ahem) has gone in to their phones and added my number to some kind of blocked/dangerous list so I cannot text or call them at all. Any guesses on who that might be?
  • This weekend the Crazy Mom sent a text message *to the kids’ phones* to “let them know” that she and her husband and their two little girls had spontaneously decided to just go to Disneyland for a week. “Surprise! So fun! We love Disneyland!!” Moo, who is 10, was crushed. She told me she has been begging to go to Disneyland for 2 years and it’s not fair that her Mom decided to go while they are spending a couple of weeks with us. She went on to tell me how much she hates her stepdad because he doesn’t care about her.
  • Camo, the 12-year-old, told me how he hates his Mom, how she doesn’t even like him and isn’t nice to him and he can’t wait to move out. This was a calm and rational conversation, he wasn’t upset about anything else, he just offered this as a statement of fact somewhere in-between his preference for Jimmy Johns for lunch and how he found a new strategy to beat us all at Monopoly. He’s only 12!!

I cannot believe the behavior of this woman, I knew she had no qualms about putting her children in the line of fire if it meant she could also hurt Mr. Blue Eyes or me. But this is beyond that. She is actively hurting her children out of…I don’t know, spite? Is she punishing them somehow (“neener neener, we’re at Disneyland and we didn’t want to bring you!”) because they are spending time with their Dad!? What the fuck is wrong with her!? No, but seriously. What. The. Fuck!?

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Taking out my anger on a Post-it

Over the last six months (ok, really, over the last three-and-a-half years), Mr. Blue Eyes and I have been fighting with his ex-wife on some pretty outrageous things: Blue Eyes wants to be able to spend time with his kids on a regular basis, and talk to them on the phone on a regular basis. Crazy, right? At any rate, we are finally to what I hope is the final stage of this latest battle, and I don’t want to jinx it, but it might actually look like we are not going to have to go to court. Maybe. I mean, who knows, when you are dealing with CrAzY you can never really be sure, even after a judge stamps his approval and the thing is in effect “law.” CrAzY don’t care about “law,” she cares about what is most beneficial to HER at this particular moment in time. (Note: Not most beneficial to the kids in question, that would be reasonable and show some demonstrated good feeling and caring towards them; no, she wants what is most beneficial for herself or as a second-best option, what is the worst possible outcome for Blue Eyes. A real gem, this one.)

At any rate, I have tried a number of mostly unsuccessful ways to deal with my frustration at this whole situation, my anger, and to try and process my emotions. Honestly, most of them are generally ineffectual, though I’d like a sticker for trying. But today, after the latest bizarre demand, I found something that simultaneously validated my anger and frustrations, helped to control and minimize the over-the-top negative feelings I was having, and soothed my heart and my nerves.

I wrote everything on a post-it. Not a series of post-its, just one post-it.

Postitnoteanger_feistyharriet_March 2015

I wrote over words again and again, filling every corner of this little piece of sticky paper with rants and scribbles and possibly a few swears and curses thrown in her general direction. As I both let out my anger and also saw it being compressed into a neat little square, I started to feel immeasurably better. Her behavior is absolutely not okay, and mostly illegal (don’t get me started on The System and how it was built and is perpetuated to generally fuck with fathers and overcompensate mothers who are willing to lie and cheat for personal gain), but as I saw all this swirling, heavy, dark stuff turn into abstract curls and lines of pale blue ink….it started to not seem quite so terrible. It’s terrible, don’t mistake me, but it’s only one little blue swirl of terrible that is confined to a three inch square. And that is something that I can deal with. I don’t like it, but I can deal with it.

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