Duh!

Oh my gosh! So I was talking to my sister this morning and describing a situation that had happened recently where I felt really unseen in my step-momming role. It’s been so hard in so many ways! Too often when people hear the word STEPMOM (dum dum dummmmmmmm) they assume it’s some woman hiding in the shadows with no opinion or is at least so emotionally disconnected from the kids that she doesn’t participate in any of their upbringing.

That’s exactly how my stepmom was!

But that’s not at all my experience!! Partly because the kids mom is so emotionally void, and communication deficient, I came in to MAKE UP FOR HER. In so many ways it’s been extremely dis-empowering.

One day maybe I’ll write a  book about what I’ve learned. 

But for now …. what if I find other women like me and create a support group? I mean, why not? I would have benefited so much from a group of women that aren’t gathering to BASH their husbands or the ex–wife’s, but to actively work together to find solutions.

I know that for me, I have started to feel much better about myself since changing my definition of my role.

Maybe there are women out there that need this group. Woa. I’ve often wondered why I’ve gone through all of this. Maybe I can help people after all…

There has got to be women out there that are in similar situations and want to feel more empowered, more IN CONTROL of their lives.

Boundaries Are For,…

The ones who want to make a freakin’ huge change in their lives! ha

Happy Monday!

Wow I can’t believe it’s already Monday again and the month of August is moving right along. Sheesh…. It seems like so long ago thinking back to last year at this time…. Getting Brian into a new school and preparing to do 3 hours of driving a day. Just to get him into a better environment. I was so willing to do whatever it took. Though I’m grateful I was like that, grateful I put everything aside for that, let me tell you, I am so happy for the lessons I have learned.

I know I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about staying in my own lane and not jumping in to FIX situations/people/experiences, etc. And since then, I’ve really chilled the f*** out.

Not that life has gotten easier by any means, but I feel LESS RESPONSIBLE, and have been pretty good at reminding myself of the boundaries I need to keep FOR ME so I can show up the best for myself and others.

It’s such a funny thing this boundary thing. It’s not about other people (since unfortunately we can’t control them anyway), it’s about ME. I have to stop MYSELF from doing things out of HABIT that I will later regret.

I am the only one in charge of creating the life I want.

 

Opinions Beliefs Baggage Oh My

So this may come as a surprise, but I had no idea I am so damn opinionated. I guess being around kids must bring it out, all these hidden feelings and beliefs about how kids should be raised, how people SHOULD BE treated, how CONSEQUENCES SHOULD go, how lessons SHOULD BE learned, etc.

Obviously being so highly opinionated in a very unpredictable, sometimes dis-empowering, confusing, sometimes overwhelming situation just makes it all the more difficult.

But is the situation the problem? 

Or is it because I’ve come into the situation with all kinds of my OWN baggage and crap and beliefs and opinions and I’ve felt like it’s
my DUTY!
My JOB!
My NEED to sprinkle them along until everyone else
believes,
acts,
reacts,
and chooses the way I think they SHOULD.

Oh shit.

This feels very very yucky to write, but unfortunately it may be true.

Now, I know I can’t just allow people to take advantage of me anymore. That’s something I have definitely gotten under my belt.

And yet, I also can’t
MANDATE,
or CONTROL,
or DEMAND things to be different.

So maybe it doesn’t need to be so black and white? 

The more that I sit and meditate and concentrate on my breathing, allow myself to relax, I am finding the space within. The small whispered gap that says it doesn’t need to be either extreme.

I am not here to be hyper vigilant for everyone else, running around teaching, and validating, and predicting and researching and making sure everyone has what they need, and everything is running smoothly. All the while slowly (or freaking quickly) falling apart.

I’m also not here to hide away in my meditation closet with my fingers in my ears totally unaware of what’s going on while my power slips through the door and I’m left a shell of a human.

Wow. I just realized that BOTH EXTREMES leave me only a portion of who I really am.

Ha! How freakin’ fascinating!

With either extreme, I lose myself.

Like I’ve mentioned a zillion times before, I know I am here in this place, in this space, in this house with these humans for many reasons. But it’s not TO CHANGE THEM the way I thought it was. Oh gawd I actually did.

It’s to change me.

  • Can I allow the world to move as it will?
  • Can I allow people to make their own choices, minus me JUMPING IN TO SAVE THE DAY?
  • Can I allow life to teach the lessons it naturally teaches? And if they are learned, great. If they are not, that’s okay as well.
  • Can I still speak my truth, desires, and boundaries and make sure that I am following through with them to take care of ME in the very best way?

Because (here’s the clencher) I have a ton of my own lessons to learn, and don’t need to be so concerned with what everyone else is learning!!!

DING! DING! DING!!

It’s not my job to be LIFE’S LESSON TEACHER. ahhahahahh Sheesh. Sometimes just jotting down my feelings is the best way I can find out what is really going on.

I can learn to swing from tree to tree, trusting that life gives everyone what they (and I) need to learn.

Just stay in your own lane, Jackie, stay. in. your. own. lane.

 

 

Holy Hell

Holy hell it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Sheesh! Actually it’s been awhile since I’ve done much of anything it feels like. I’ve started just making sure that I am making art, doing some writing, meditating, and the rest feels like it’s been driving Brian to/from school, and family stuff.

Something you may not know about me (why would you, I don’t tell anyone) is that I would like to have a baby. I think I’ve avoided coming out and saying that for a couple of reasons.

1. Everyone I know already has kids, and I feel like I’m starting late. So this has caused years of back and forth with should I or shouldn’t I? Do I want it or not. I think I was afraid people in my life would think it was a stupid idea, or that friends wouldn’t stick around. Funny, it sounds so silly when I spell it out.

2.  My husband has 2 kids, and quite honestly, especially this year, I feel like I’ve got them as well. Why would he want to start over with me? I mean he says he does, but for YEARS (literally for years) I denied my true feelings about having kids because I thought it would scare him away.

The truth is I want to be a mother.

My hubby and I have been getting acupuncture every week for months to help with fertility. My cycle has always been super long, and it really hasn’t changed at all since I’ve started this. Last week the acupuncturist mentioned she could tell I’ve got a lot of emotions that need to be released and she suggested doing some writing and FEELING. I am very familiar with Morning Pages. I did Artists Way 3-4 times and it was so incredible for me, so I thought why not, I can start those again. I gotta tell you though, at first even thinking about writing my thoughts down on paper, no matter what they were was giving me so much anxiety. I don’t know, I guess I was afraid of what I would find. But I started them anyway. Suddenly I am in a place of digging deeper into my psyche than I have in awhile. I am making all these connections and hidden realizations again! Ha!

I feel 1000 times more connected to myself than I have been in a long, long time.

This has been extremely helpful.

A couple of days ago during a writing sess, I realized something. I’ve been so drained, so emotionally trashed from running here and there, recalling our lists, contacting the kids mom, driving Brian, having parent convo’s, working things out with teachers, having more issues with him, etc. I realized that all of this, this parenting stuff could be the very thing that is preventing my body from figuring out my cycle. It’s like I don’t have the space to bring a new baby into the world.

There isn’t enough of ME to do it.

After talking to the acupuncturist yesterday, she confirmed it. She said that my body probably feels like I am already a mother, so why would it need to be more of one? It was a really sad realization. I am giving so much of myself, and yet, in this situation there is NO boundaries with my limit, or my role. It’s just this free for all that I keep jumping into over and over again. Maybe all of this needed to happen so I could see the truth of the situation. I know I have the power to change it, I do. I can make any changes I need, because I am not going to allow whatever outside forces there are to stop me from getting what it is that I want

FOR MY LIFE.

It’s hard because when I’m around these kids, I love them, I want to show up the best that I can. Especially because their MOTHER can’t mother, she can’t show emotions, or empathize so I’m automatically without even thinking, taking it all on. Unfortunately, no matter how much I do for them, and love them and try to give them what I think they are missing out on, it’s not enough. Though I think they appreciate it, the truth is, they want their MOM to give it. They will always want their mom to give those things.

So how can I be there, but not be so emotionally drained by all of it? I don’t want to disconnect. I don’t want to be uninterested. That’s not who I am, but how do I take care of ME at the same time preserving my emotional balance?

I would love any advice from someone that has gone through a similar situation. My acupuncturist said it’s very common for women that are taking on families like this to struggle with having their own kid. Please send any helpful info my way. I know there is a better way to balance things. I would love to hear any thoughts!

Sending you all love and light…

New Leaf New Life

Over the past year I’ve written plenty of posts about stepmomming and not knowing my role, blah blah blah. I know, it’s a super uncreative heavy topic. But it’s been a huge part of my life for a long time. Every time I’ve started to feel like I’m IN CONTROL finally of the situation, something else happens and I feel back where I started.

There’s been the whole feeling that:

  1. I need to do everything. It’s my job to teach them everything their mom can’t/won’t.
  2. They have a mom, so what exactly is my role??????????????????????? Even though they are at OUR house quite often, and even though I’ve been in their lives for 6 years.
  3. I feel like a failure. The kids have developed habits and beliefs that I don’t think are healthy. I SHOULD have influenced them enough to where they are on the right track. (Obviously MY WAY is the right track. I know.I can see what’s happening as I write this all out.)

 

Ugh. Can I just say a big fat UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH right now? None of these top 3 things feel good at all to me. In fact they make me feel pretty shitty about myself and my situation.

 

Believe it or not, I WANT to be in a place of joy and ease. 

I love them, and the more that I run around teaching, I am realizing that the absolute most important thing I can do is help them to know/feel that they are loved just as they are.

It won’t matter if I mention to them over and over again to eat vegetables, or to have compassion for others, or to remind them to be polite, or ways they can make friends. What will they really remember by the time they are adults?? The reality is, they will learn what they need to learn REGARDLESS of me constantly making

EVERY MOMENT A FREAKIN’ TEACHING MOMENT.

 

As I write that I’m realizing how crappy that sounds. Double ugh.

So… new plan.

I will love them.

 

My intention now, is to love them fully as they are. Which means: 

I will ask questions genuinely and listen and remember.

I will play with them.

I will notice parts of them that I admire.

I will tell them what I love about them.

I will ask them to help out, because I need the help. Not because I feel I need to teach them to help.

I will be present in the moment with them and have fun.

I will show up for them, because I want to, not because their mother may not.

I will still be clear about boundaries in our house.

I will laugh with them. Not to teach them to laugh, but because I like to laugh.

 

I’ve been in this better place for the past couple weeks. Meeting them where they are, and not feeling so much yucky pressure to FIX THINGS. It definitely takes practice. I can feel my stomach tying in knots still when I see or hear something I don’t love. But I’m getting better at saying to myself ‘It’s fine Jackie, just love her.’ And then my voice is full of love and my eyes are full of love. And then I feel good. I want them to know without a doubt how much they are loved for just being them.

 

 

 

 

I need a Change NOW

These past couple of weeks have proven to be some of my most difficult. Probably ever in my life. But through them, like icicles glimmering in the sunset, there are always nuggets of realizations and moments of discovery. This time is no different. I guess what gets me through the tough times is knowing without a doubt that there is SOMETHING for me to learn.

Something for me to deepen as a human.

Something that I may have missed before but that I am now ready to learn. 

 

So here goes.

The thing that has by far taken up most of my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy right now is BEING A STEPMOM. I know I know I’ve written about it a lot lately. I’ve done google searches and researched books that could maybe help me feel more empowered, more at peace, more in a place of joy. And yet most of what I read is pretty depressing. I mean it’s nice to see that I’m not along, but there isn’t a lot of ACTION ITEMS to try, which is what I am truly craving.

The truth is, I haven’t liked who I am lately. I’ve felt so tired and annoyed and irritated and quite honestly stuck. It’s a horrible feeling, and because there is probably nothing I dislike more than feeling like a victim, I know there is a way out.

There is always a path to empowerment, I just need to find it. 

This weekend was another one of those hard times. I spent most of it in tears, and exhausted from attempted to guide, and teach, and ask questions, and create plans, etc. etc. etc. and I’m left buzzing around from one thing to the next completely drained and unhappy. I don’t like feeling angry. I’m so sick of being upset and near tears so much of the time. This isn’t the way I want to be, and I know that my core is not.

Things need to change and I am so so so ready for it.

One thing I have learned from past experience is that the CHANGE I’m talking about needs to come from me. It doesn’t work to be waiting around for the ex wife to change, or the kids to change or the situation to change. They all have their own agenda and course to run.

The change NEEDS to come from me. 

But what is it? Hmmm…
I know I can meditate more.
I know there are a handful of things that I probably need to let go of.
I know I can’t do everything.

But how do I make these adjustments? 

Amidst all these questions running through my brain, I got this funny little realization. Perhaps it’s the title that is screwing me up the most. Since I’ve titled myself as a MOM, and the kids STEPMOM/BONUS MOM, there is instantly this pressure to do everything I can to encourage!  To shape! To question! To inspire! To lead! To guide!

Is it the word, MOM?

Though when I say it to myself I feel full, powerful, maternal, warm, and like I have a place in this world. But what comes out is burning weights of pressure.

If the kids don’t learn their manners, it’s my fault. If the kids still don’t have goals, or interests, I didn’t do something right. If the kids are horrible at time management, I must not have carved out time to teach them. If the kids are lazy, I screwed up.

I have just realized the terrible voices that run through my mind all. day. long. No wonder I’m exhausted. No wonder I have this anger hiding inside my body. No wonder I’m feeling small and yucky and not enough.

I was realizing all of this after my husband pretty much required me to go out to the garage to meditate and paint. Both of these are things that I love and center me, but usually when the kids are here, I have a difficult time doing them.

Anyway, after a good hour of Jackie time, I realized something else. Though it’s obvious I need to make ME wayyyyyyyyyyyy more important than I have been. In fact, I need to be the first one that gets attention. I also realized that I don’t need to say the word ‘MOM’ to myself. It’s fine whatever the kids see me as, but to me,… I can be just Jackie.

If I am just Jackie, then I get the FREEDOM to show up as me. NOT as someone that needs to teach them or guide them every minute. NOT every second should be a teaching moment anyway. What if we are just a couple of souls that are hanging out in this lifetime learning from each other?

What. Woa. This just took the pressure way off.

Now, I still see myself as a MOM, but what if I am more of a universal mother, NOT NECESSARILY THEIR MOM?

I walked back into the house, and noticed right away the change in the energy. I felt a desire to chat with them and laugh and it felt easy.

I was being Jackie.

I let go of the PRESSURE to do anything else. The kids and I hung out and watched Project Runway. Ah! It felt so much easier and smooth, and we were chatting and discussing the whole time. I felt myself being interested in their observations and enjoying myself the way I am with anyone else.

I know everyone has a way that works best for them, but this might actually be mine. I’m seeing that even if I had my own kid, the pressure to BE SOMEONE’S MOM, can be overwhelming. And yet, they are on their own journey just like we are. They are here for their own reasons, and maybe I’m only here to softly guide and continue along my path side by side. I don’t know, I haven’t worked all this out yet, but it definitely feels better, and I like just being Jackie.

What the HELL is my role

The biggest question of my life right now,…

What is my role????

I’ve told myself I am confused about this question because

I am a stepmom.

Right away the words STEPMOM fill the room with hazy smoke, the kind where you can’t see 2 feet in front of you, and you suddenly have no idea where you even are. Just THE WORD is full of questions. 

But then for some of us, the role gets even stickier.

I’m not ‘just a stepmom.’

In fact, I am the kids main emotional support. I am the instigator, I am the listening ear, I am the one figuring things out, communicating with teachers, connecting the dotes, finding therapists, locating new schools, discussing, giving consequences, and driving all over the place.

It’s a strange dynamic because I enjoy being a part of a family. I love being relied on and knowing that they can trust me to follow through.

But,… I’m not the mom. I’m just a stepmom.

Right?

Am I only doing these extra things because their MOM can’t? No,… that’s not entirely  true. My love for them continuously grows the more I do. The more I learn about who they are and what they need, the more I want to show up.

Because I love them.

And then again there are times when I get super annoyed that their ACTUAL mom doesn’t know even a morsel about them. I get angry, and I feel taken advantage of, and I want to step down.

But what would I be stepping down from when my ROLE was never established in the first place?

What would I do if I ‘stepped down?’

Who would fill these roles if I didn’t?

So I go back and forth between feeling obligated and then really wanting to show up. Sometimes I have lots of energy for it and I feel empowered and strong. Other times I’m seething with anger and want to scream at everyone.

My feelings go back and forth, just like the hazy, muddy, slightly skewed title of ‘stepmom.’

I was thinking about this today as I was doing yoga.

MY ROLE is all over the place and nowhere and has no definition and is yet all encompassing. I was starting to get anxious just thinking about it.

But then I realized something else.

Why am I so special?

I mean, am I the ONLY one that doesn’t have a clearly DEFINED role?

I’ve been so caught up in my STEPMOM identity and what that means or doesn’t mean, that I didn’t give myself a chance to check out everyone else.

Maybe the reason this has been so confusing for me, is that we ALL seem to have some weird idea that our ROLES, any of them, should be clearly defined and explained.

We must feel like we SHOULD know exactly what it means to be a good wife, or good friend, or great sister or daughter, or excellent employee.

We SHOULD have learned what the parameters are, what is expected, what isn’t, how we can EXCEL, etc.

The more I think about it, there isn’t one single thing in life that is surrounded by clearly created black and white boundaries and definitions, right?

What if the very concept of ROLE is just bullshit?

What if it completely depends on who the person is and their intention for how they want to show up in the world? Wow. That just took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. Seriously, I felt them just fall.

What if I don’t need to do ANYTHING to perfect my ROLE. 

What if I just get to be Jackie? I can do more or less depending on what I feel, but I don’t need to have all the answers, and I certainly don’t need to FEEL like I have to do anything. I’ve just decided while writing this that my only requirement is that I’ll do everything with lots of love. Love for the kids, and my husband, and his ex-wife, and my family, and my friends,…

But most importantly, I can have a lot of love for myself, and let myself OFF THE ROLE HOOK!

 

The Power of Being Seen

I told my stepson this summer that I was going to start giving him more attention for things he does that we APPRECIATE. Now, when you read that you may think that we must be a couple of strict, picky, parents. We’re not. But especially with two separate households, the kids can pick up on a lot of habits that wouldn’t be my choice. ahah I’m laughing to myself as I read this. No doubt in my mind that I’ve viewed ‘my choices’ for their lives as the ‘best choice.’

Anyway, I noticed over the summer that he was used to getting more attention for being disruptive, impatient, zoning out, and not following through. I think it sort of became a habit for us to notice and point out those things, so of course it only kept him bringing those attributes on even stronger. I suddenly saw it all for the first time, and made a promise that from now on we were going to notice all the wonderful loving things he does instead.

I may have already written about this, I don’t remember. I haven’t read back on my past blog posts. If I did, bear with me, this leads into where I’m actually headed. ahhah

Back to the story: He was surprised, and could hardly make eye contact when I started complimenting him so often. And I gotta admit, it wasn’t easy at first. I found little things and mentioned them to him. I said things like, ‘Wow, I appreciate that you moved out of the way when that person was walking right in front of you. That shows how aware you are…’ or ‘I’m grateful that you let me see what you’re working on. I love that you want to share things that are important to you.’

After about a day of this, he started to change. A little at a time he began showing up differently. He started using the manners I had asked him to use, he began putting his napkin on his lap in a restaurant, he even brought us kind little gifts that showed he was thinking of us.

He is one week away from starting at his new school, and has already began his computer programming classes, and he has transformed. I feel like I’m getting to know this precious being for the first time. For the past week, as we are putting him to bed, he looks up at me and says, ‘So what was your favorite part of the day for you?’ and ‘What are you most looking forward to?’ He’s courteous and playful and silly and happy and sharing his feelings. Last night I sat on the couch wrapped in my robe with his little head resting on my shoulder. He kept reaching for my hand to hold. I had no idea this little guy was so loving, so kind, so generous and thoughtful.

Isn’t it funny? We always assume that when a kid is ‘acting out,’ they need to learn to be BETTER to be DIFFERENT. But what if we just need to see them more clearly? Because when he’s getting his needs met, he WANTS to be kind, and helpful, and even patient.

Even beyond him, I’m loving the transformation with me. He’s only responding to the changes I’ve decided to make, and it’s completely transforming the way he sees the world and the way I see him.

Ahhhh! Love this parenting thingy.

My Life as a Bonus Mom

This all used to be really hard. In my head, these two little beings already had a mom and a dad and I was this new person swimming somewhere in the middle of everything. I didn’t know what I was doing and constantly felt like I didn’t have a place.

For so long I did not see myself as a mother. I felt like more like an imposter, a projected image of what I thought I should be and yet having no clue at all. I also felt that they would never love me as much as their ‘real parents.’

I was embarrassed that ‘real’ parents would see me as a fake mom or that I just couldn’t possibly understand what it means to be someone’s mother.

But I held on.
I breathed.
I asked for help.
I believed deep inside that this must be for a reason. I must be here for a reason.

And then, fast forward 5+ years and here I sit a completely changed woman.

Without a doubt, I have become a mother.

I have rocked both of them when they have been in tears.
I tell them no, respectfully.
We have worked through some really really tough situations together.
Sometimes I have to remember to be kind.
They roll their eyes when I sing 80’s ballads at the top of my lungs.
There are moments when they are upset and needing to hear something that will help. I open my mouth and pray that I will show up.
I fiercely stand up for them.
I am learning to be more patient.
I hold their hands and remind them I will always love them no matter what.
I teach them consciously but they teach me unconsciously far, far more.
My intention is to truly see them as best as I can. And when I’ve done that, I will learn how to see them even better.

I had no idea I had what it took to be a mother and yet here I am. And you know what? It doesn’t matter at all anymore that they already have a mom. Who says one mother is enough anyway?

Every single day, hard days or easy, I thank the Universe and God for this family. My ‘place’ had been waiting for me all along, and there is no ‘place’ in the world I would rather be.

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