Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween, and Boundaries

In general, I am not a holiday type person.  I’m not a fan of Christmas, or Easter, or almost any family related holiday, mostly due to the fact that most of these holidays are connected to really crappy childhood memories.  All but Halloween.  Halloween was always fun, my mom rarely got drunk, and we always went all out with the costumes.  Never store bought costumes, the kind of costumes that you start a month beforehand.

To this day, Halloween is the one and only holiday that I hold sacred and still go balls out on my costumes.  Since Halloween usually falls on a weekday, my BF doesn’t get to take the kids trick or treating, so we found an activity during the weekend before that we can still all get dressed up, eat some candy, and the best art…it’s a huge scavenger hunt that my aunt organized in my hometown every year.  The best part was that I hit the jackpot when it comes to costumes.  I found a very Marie-Antoinette style pink dress for my stepdaughter at a second hand shop.  It had a few stains, and needed some sewing, but it was only 7 bucks, and I knew I was up to the challenge.  I also found a lovely blue princess dress for me too.  After some sewing and stain remover, I showed the dresses to her and she just glowed, asking me more than once if it was really « all for her ».

So all in all we had a great time last Sunday, 2 princesses, 2 ninjas (the boys) and a Greek God (the BF).  My cousins and their kids were there too, we scavenged, we hunted, we played and ate candy.  We stopped by my BF’s mother’s to show her the costumes and she ooohed and aaahed and gave them more candy.  Then we got them changed and brought them back to their mom’s.

Then, last night, we get a phone call from my oldest stepson.  He wants the costumes that we used this past weekend.  My BF asked to talk to their mom, she explained that she brought out their costumes from last year and they don’t fit, and since it’s the night before Halloween, she doesn’t have the time to get new ones.  My BF said that he’d see and call her back.  He told me what the call was, and I was furious.  After all the attacks and insults she has poured on me lately, she has the gall to use the kids to ask me for the costumes.

First of all, I bought the costumes myself, they are a non-essential item that I wanted, so I paid for them and did the repairs myself.   Second, why did she wait until the last minute to try on their costumes, it’s not like she didn’t know when the 31st was.  Third, she wasn’t even offering for us to go with them, she just wanted the costumes.  As far as I could tell she assumed that we would say yes to the kids if they were the ones asking and so didn’t have to spend money on costumes.

My BF and I discussed it and decided that no, we would not bail her out.  It sucks for the kids, but at the same time, we did our part to make sure they had a fun Halloween activity with costumes; it’s not our responsibility to provide for hers.  We are responsible for the kids’ wellbeing and happiness when they are with us, and we make sure that they have everything they need at our place, but other than the child support my BF pays, we are not taking any more responsibility for providing for her.

It was hard for us to hear the oldest upset, and we know that she probably spent the rest of the evening dealing with an inconsolable 8 year old, but this time we are setting our boundaries.  It’s not the first time she has assumed we would pick up the slack, and it probably won’t be the last, but it was the first time we’ve said no, and I think it’s a good start for us.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

12 lines – Questions that are swimming around in my head

Writing prompt from Mama's losin it, write a post in just 12 lines.  These are the questions swimming around in my head.

1.      Will I be able to keep my job?
2.      Will I ever get out of debt?
3.      Will my BF’s ex ever just leave us be?
4.      Will my relationship survive all of these external influences?
5.      Will I be able to keep depression at bay through all of this?
6.      Are we really doing all we can for his kids?
7.      Am I a bad person because I kind of hope he doesn’t want custody?
8.      Will things go ok when my mom visits?
9.      Is my dad ok?
10.  How am I ever going to get everything done?
11.  Where the eff are my effin keys?
12.  Am I forgetting anything?
Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More than I bargained for

Before I met my current BF, I had always said that I didn’t want to date a guy who had kids.  My reasoning was that if he was a good dad, I would always come second, and I didn’t see the fairness in that (since I don’t have kids, the guy would be first for me) and if he was the type of guy who would put me first, he wouldn’t be a good dad in my opinion, and therefore not the type of guy I could be with and respect long term.

For me it was pretty cut and dry, and for all of my 20s I avoided guys with kids.

Then I got to the end of my 20s, and my cousin helpfully pointed out that in this day and age, finding a guy in his 30s who didn’t already have kids AND didn’t want any (as I have no intentions of having any myself) was a pretty unrealistic expectation.  She also pointed out that I was at a stage in my life where even if I met Mr. Right the next day, there would be plenty of people who would come before him in my life.  I was past the age where a man could be the center of my world, so why should I expect to be the center of theirs.  This didn’t worry me, since I have always been very ok with the single life, but it did get me thinking, so I decided I would set aside my « rules » and see how it went.

Then, breaking all my rules, I met him.  He was everything I never wanted, and he was the one for me.  We went really slow, dated for a few months before even considering bringing the kids (or the ex) into it.  I thought long and hard about what I though dating a guy with kids implied, and whether or not this guy was worth it.  I thought about what kind of role I wanted to play in these kids’ life.  I decided that I would be the same as with my niece and godson, and extra adult in the support system.  I knew that the situation with his ex was, shall we say, difficult, but my mom’s side of the family are pretty much all crazy as a bag of hammers dysfunctional, so I figured if I survived them, I should be good.  I knew his mother was imposing and one of those people who is « always right », but I have no problem standing up for myself when needed.  I decided to dive in.

What followed was a whirlwind of family and household dynamics that I never could have prepared for or imagined.  Within a year, everything I knew had changed.  I ended up in a family and home that I never saw coming, but it was still good.

I developed a pretty great relationship with the kids, and the healthiest and most fulfilling relationship with a man that I have ever had.  His ex and I seemed to be able to work together.  His mom and I have found our common ground, and she has even acknowledged I was right a few times.  I figured we were on the right track.

Then, for some reason I still don’t know, his ex decided I was the enemy.  Where before she often asked me to get involved, now she was aggressively excluding me.  Where once she expressed the desire for us to be friends, now she is attacking left and right, to the point that my BF, his mom and brother have felt the need to intervene and defend me.  It’s gotten to the point that I have felt the need to consult with a lawyer.

Perhaps due to her animosity, we are having more trouble than usual with the oldest.  Definitely due to her animosity, my BF is stressed .  On the one hand, he doesn’t want to fight with her, but on the other he knows that he needs to have my back.

In the past few weeks, I have realized that as much as I love my BF and his kids, this whole stepmom gig sucks.  I never expected it to be easy, but I never expected to live in a minefield either.  I also felt my nemesis depression trying to sneak up on me.  I don’t think I ever expected his ex to have this much of a presence in my day to day life, even when the kids aren’t there.  It had been a long time since I had felt this isolated.  I guess I just generally realized that I was overwhelmed and under-equipped.  

I bought myself a couple of step-mom books and decided to take a step back, focus on me a bit.  I know I can’t avoid the ex, or the resulting drama forever, but taking a break and trying to find a new game plan is about all I can do to keep sane and not run for the hills.  There is no way in hell I'm going to let her team up with depression to take me down.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On being selfish

For the past couple of weeks, my BF has been gone on a business trip.  The day he left, his ex decided to unleash a huge pile of drama.  Enough drama that he actually reconsidered leaving because he didn’t want to leave me alone to deal with whatever she may do.  Enough drama that I actually thought it time to consult with a lawyer.  I told him to go, that I would be fine, and that I would just do my best to avoid her.

I consulted with my lawyer, and without getting into the details, he reassured me that things couldn’t get any worse than they had been in the past year, at least not legally or financially.

After seeing my lawyer, I decided that I would spend the second week avoiding all thought of her.  I would focus on me and that’s all.

This past week felt a lot like how things were when it was just me and my old cat.  The dishes didn’t pile up, neither did the laundry.  Things were quiet in the house, I slept soundly and in general things were serene and drama free.  I hadn’t experienced this in a very long time, as in over a year, and it brought me to a realization, I missed this.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my boyfriend and his kids, I am happier and more satisfied with my life in general than at any other time in my life, but I miss being able to be selfish.  I miss being able to ignore the phone, not having to pick up after anyone but me, not having to worry about if someone else is forgetting something.

I also miss being able to choose who is part of my life.  There are a lot of people that I have minimal to no contact with that surprises people.  When I tell people that I have only seen my mother twice in the past decade, they are shocked.  I made a conscious decision a very long time ago that I refused to have people in my life that did not have a positive impact in my life, no matter who they were. 

Unfortunately now I have to deal with someone who seems hell bent on making my life difficult on a regular basis.  I can’t get rid of her unless I am willing to sacrifice the 4 people that I love that are attached to her, and that is too much of a sacrifice.

I guess I miss the control I had over my life before.  I could make decisions without having to think about how they will affect these other people, or what his ex will do if I do such and such.  I’ve been reading up on the subject, and it seems that I am not the only exhausted step-mom out there, and that my biggest mistake was trying to fix everything and doing too much.  So I guess the easy answer is to step back, take care of myself for a while, let everyone else work it out on their own.  Frankly, I don’t know if I can do that, I’m a doer/fixer by nature, it’s not in me to just sit by when I could be doing something.  My biggest fear is that if I don’t DO anything than things will get worse and people I love will suffer, but if I keep this up, I’ll suffer. 

I honestly don’t know what path I’ll choose.  All I know is the BF comes back tonight, and we go get the kids tomorrow, so I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In defense of the cleaning lady

These days my BF and I are doing our best to cut expenses wherever we can, but there is one expense that we both agree is necessary, no matter what other people say…My cleaning lady.

Even when I was living alone with my cat in a one bedroom apartment, I had my cleaning lady.  She came every 2 weeks for a couple of hours and took care of all of the grunt work.  My cousins (stay at home moms) used to tease me and say that they just couldn’t understand how I couldn’t manage when they had whole families to clean up after and I only had myself.  I tried many times to explain that I worked full time, and did a lot of overtime, so all of the errands that they did during the day, I had to cram into my evenings etc. etc.

I will also willingly admit that I despise cleaning, I have never been a tidy person, and no matter how hard I try to discipline myself, I just don’t care enough.  I love having a clean and pretty living space, but when push comes to shove, it’s low on my list of priorities.

But it was also more than that.  The feeling of coming home after a long day at work to a spotless home is worth every penny.  I’ve had my current cleaning lady roughly 6 years, so she knows me, and how I like things organized.  She pays attention to the little details and honestly gives the impression that every 2 weeks, a fairy godmother has gone through my home giving me a clean slate for the next 2 weeks,

Now that I have the BF and 2nd cat full sharing my space, plus the step kids on weekends and bigger apartment, she has really become indispensable.  Especially since she is scheduled for the Tuesday following the weekends with kids, and we have moved her up to 3 hours each time. 

The fact that we don’t have to worry about scrubbing floors or toilets etc. gives us the chance to be fully present with the kids when they are there, instead of worrying about cleaning up after them.  The kids spill something, no big deal, I wipe it up with a rag to get most of it, but it doesn’t make me mad because I’m not thinking « Dammit, I just mopped ».

This past weekend I was watching a friend’s 10 month old baby while she was in the hospital.  Needless to say, at the end there were carrots mashed into the carpet and fingerprints all over any glass or screen within baby reach, but I wasn’t stressed, I was able to focus 100% on comforting a baby who was very stressed out because she missed her mom.

I haven’t even gotten to how having her means that my BF and I never fight about domestic chores. He does the dishes, I do the laundry, and we both pick up after ourselves.  We each only have to worry about one main housekeeping task, so when we get home from work, we can just enjoy each other.

It also helps that I never have to worry about the stress of having people over unexpectedly, since the worst case scenario is that there are dishes in the sink.

I don’t consider my cleaning lady an employee who does my grunt work, she is an essential part of the team that helps my family run smoothly, and me keep my sanity.  I will be cutting out many other things before I touch that expense.

Friday, October 12, 2012

My place

For the past couple of months, my BFs ex has been telling me (in rather rude ways and in public) to stay in my place of a stepmom.  She has gone so far as to tell me that if I wanted to have an influence in a child’s life, I should have given birth to one.

My first instance was to reply that anyone can give birth to a child and that in my opinion giving birth is not an indicator of parenting ability, but I held back.  In fact, I have avoided replying and interacting as much as possible.  The main reason being that this was totally unexpected and out of the blue.

For the past year, she has been the one asking for my help and support, even encouraging me to get more involved.  Until a couple of months ago, she had never put up any sort of barrier between me and the kids.  Then in July it all changed.

In July we moved into the new apartment, where the kids have rooms and a yard.  We had the kids for a week in the summer, and I took them to their appointments, except for the ones that she had indicated that their father had to take them.  After that week the first shot was fired.

She called my BF furious that I had taken one of the kids to a psychology appointment, an appointment that she had not indicated that I couldn’t.  I hadn’t even participated in the appointment, I dropped him off, and picked him up, that’s it.  She said that I had no business bring the kids to anything official.  We chalked it up to her usual controlling ways.

Fast forward to September.  She tells us that she may be going away for a few weeks in January, and asks us to take the kids.  We agree.  She calls a week later to ask my BF to go to a parent night at the boys’ school, he replies that we’ll go.  She forbids me from going.  We are confused, she had asked me to be there with social workers in the past, why not this?  We reply that it would be good for the teachers to meet me in case I had to go get the kids while she was away, she says no, it’s not my place.  She says that she doesn’t need to have « his girlfriend shoved in her face during the week ».  Again I am confused, we had been shopping for the kids together a mere month earlier.  She goes on a tirade on my Facebook wall, again saying it’s not my place. 

My BF had been asking her for months to go with her for the reports and information, but she never called him, just went herself and then gave him a summary.  My BF decided that enough was enough and that he would go himself to see the psychologist and get the information about his son himself.  He and the psychologist ask me to join them, they say it’s my place.  What we learn is stunning to say the least, but I won’t go into that here.

Then this week, she finds out that my BFand I have been to see the psychologist.  She is furious, and attacks and threatens.

So here I am, trying to figure out where my place is exactly.  My BF says one thing, the specialists another, the kids another, their mom another.  I feel very alone, and very much an outsider, it’s hard to not know where you fit in your own home, your own family.

Who decides my place, her or me? Can she change her mind at any time and redefine my place?

She claims I am trying to take her place, I’m not.  I don’t want her place, I don’t want to be mom.  I just want to be me, wherever that place is.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

September month end

Last night my BF and I had our first month end talk.  For the past few weeks, we have been on a sort of spending fast, trying to curb our impulse buys.  We did pretty well actually, better than we expected for the first month.

All in all, we only had 2 impulse incidents.  The first was when we went to a festival with the kids.  We had planned a picnic lunch and brought water bottles to avoid kiosk junk food, but when we got there, we found out that there was a boil water advisory for the town.  The bottle we had brought lasted for most of the day, but on the way home we bought some drinks and baby carrots at the grocery store, grand total of 10$.  The other was when we were rushing between dropping off the kids and heading for an out of town event.  Neither of us had eaten lunch and we wouldn’t be served dinner until 8, so we made a stop at McDonald’s.

More importantly, we stayed within 50$ of our planned budget, and reduces our spending by over 200$ compared to last month.  Woo-freakin-hoo!

One other thing we noticed was that in total between the two of us we had made 15 trips to grocery stores, 15, in a month.  We decided that our next plan of action is to plan our meals better and reduce that by half.

I think the best part of this whole thing is that now that we are open about our finances, we are working as a team, which makes it a whole lot easier, kind of like having a workout buddy, but for your budget.