Steppin' Up: Stepmom Empowerment

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Becoming a stepmom is no easy task. It's a journey for both the new stepmom, the husband and the children involved. Read my own personal story from my stepmom days and know that you aren't alone, that you CAN do it and that you ARE a vital part of your stepchildren's lives, no matter what anyone else says.

Submitted: March 22, 2017

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Submitted: March 22, 2017

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Girl. Grab a snack, a drink, the entire wine bottle…I got you. We are going to be here a while.

The struggle is SO real.

Something so often overlooked and minimized are the struggles of being a stepmom. There are some support pages here and there but I feel like we stepmoms just get brushed off and left to figure it out for ourselves, carrying the burdens and pains in silence.  But our journeys, our struggles, our downfalls and our triumphs all need to be shared.  We need to speak up and be the support not only to these new children in our lives but also to other new stepparents who have no idea where to turn.

As a stepmom, I feel like we are often subjected to more abuse at the hands of the ex.  I haven’t quite figured out why, but female exes tend to exhibit the most vindictive, jealous and hateful behavior I have ever seen.

HI! I’m Christina and I am the target of one of those female exes.  I refuse to call myself a victim because I refuse to let her affect my life or psyche the way that she so desperately wants. But girl, do I have stories. The trouble is, we are stuck.  As a good, peaceful natured person, you just want to be there for the new child or children in your lives, but don’t want to overstep any boundaries.  You have to deal with the glaring, stalking, harassment and the children being used as their biological mother’s mouthpiece for spewing her disdain and hatred towards you that you just can’t seem to figure out.  You tried to be nice. You try to bridge the gap; you try to be cordial and positive. But it seems no matter what you do, you are always wrong and frankly, you’re just the asshole. The biggest asshole of all assholes. You can’t win. And if you’re dealing with a truly insecure and mentally and emotionally damaged ex, you never will win until she comes to terms with her own issues and chooses to work on them.

My story is frightening, painful and heartbreaking both to listen to and tell. I’ve been a target of immeasurable hatred since the day I came into my husband’s life.  He did everything right.  He waited until he talked with his ex about our relationship, who, by the way, was already in a secret relationship with another man, to introduce me to his children. He wanted to ensure everyone was on the same page and that he had her blessing, if you will, before introducing a new person into their children’s lives.  He also continued to be there for his children every day, something I supported wholeheartedly. His ex was fine, at first.  Kind of.  Us women can pick up tension like magic. And let me tell you, it was there.  A glare every time she saw something that shattered the image she wanted to have of me: the vapid whore who could never measure up to her.  Things as small as me baking cookies, seeing my house, my job, the fact that I was much older than she assumed and the breaking point – her children actually bonding with me. I was attacked as often and as hard as possible, every chance she got. I became the main name drop in every court document in the custody dispute she started after figuring out that I was not going to be the worthless fling she wanted me to be. You want to talk crazy? The woman even had her attorney put in official court documents that the Judge should order my husband to leave me and move back in with her.  It doesn’t stop there.  She also requested that the Judge order that he refer to her as his “wife” and sleep in the same bed as her. If my husband chose not to comply with this, she would continue to try and take his children from him, permanently. I’m not even joking. It felt like I was in the twilight zone. Some alternate universe where acting a fool is completely acceptable and encouraged. Luckily, the court did not entertain those ludicrous requests but unfortunately, they did begin to entertain every one of her shenanigans thereafter.  That was almost 3 years ago and we are still dealing with her hatred. Even through all of the attacks, I did my best to remain strong.  I continued to try and form and maintain a relationship of trust and respect with my stepchildren. We carried on, while she got away with things that anywhere else, would be frowned upon.  Moving county to county with a boyfriend much, much younger than her. Refusing to work or support her children financially and attempting to put the children in the welfare system, despite my husband and I having the means to support them.  We had to fight for it, but I covered their health insurance and paid every single one of their medical bills.  All the nights they were dropped off sick, with pneumonia, barely clothed in freezing temperatures and the oldest with underwear that had been worn for so long, it had fecal matter stains. When I met the oldest, she was 3, almost 4, and she was not even the slightest bit potty trained.  My husband worked full time and believed his ex, a stay at home mom, when she said she was taking care of their child.  So here we go – a boundary that I have to cross because I want this child to have a normal life and learn how to use the bathroom so she can enjoy things like preschool, swimming and be prepared for kindergarten.  The list goes on and on, and no, no court or judge cared. The neglect and abuse was incredibly obvious and we did our best to protect them and counteract all the negative with the positive parenting and environment in our home. The story could continue for hours, but sadly, it ended up with the ex basically giving my husband an ultimatum: he can either cut me off completely and adhere to every one of her demands, all of which went against the court order that she agreed to and was in full effect, or he could never see his kids again.  He obviously wasn’t going to divorce me, so she did what she said she would and he hasn’t seen his kids in months. No judge, court or police force care.  He has tried everything and no one will enforce the court order, mainly because she is an incredibly manipulative person who tricks everyone into believing her stories of woe, none of which are true. Between defrauding the state with fraudulently obtained welfare benefits, using multiple aliases to open accounts and draining her own daughter’s college savings to buy herself things, the woman is an absolute nightmare. And I’m not apologizing for that.  And neither should you.

The truth is, I could go on and on all day about my experience and how it affected me, my marriage and my life overall. But at the end of the day, while it is important to have an outlet to talk about our feelings and struggles, it is the children who suffer the most in circumstances like this. And they, too, are forgotten.  I can only imagine the damage this woman, and many other counter-parenting exes, have done to their children. It breaks my heart and I would give anything to change it, to not see my husband struggle with the pain of not seeing his children, to not know the pain that the children must feel who have to experience this and the horrible things they are told. And if you’re still reading this, you probably feel the exact same way.  You know the struggle. Caring for children that aren’t yours, loving them as your own and being a punching bag for someone else’s insecurities all at the same time. It’s not easy. And I want to let you know, that it’s okay. If you have taken on children that aren’t your own and love them and treat them as your own, you are an incredible person and you deserve all the credit in the world. There are times where you want to give up, where it feels like there is no end in sight or where it just feels like you are doing something wrong.  But please know – you are not doing anything wrong. And through all the struggle, tears and hard days and nights, you are building something for that child/children that they will never forget.  You are giving them something that their own biological parent isn’t even giving them – unconditional love and respect. Love that’s not based on a competition of households or conditional upon whether or not that child will join in on their hatred. Stay in that space and as much you can help it, do not engage with the aggressor. Stand your ground and stand confident in the fabulous woman, mother and stepmother you are. You have every right to be in that child’s life and you have every right to care for them and love them. And if you’re dealing with a neglectful biological parent, do not feel bad for a single second for stepping in and taking care of that child the way that they deserve. And most of all, do not be afraid to use your voice. Speak up. Share your stories. Find a community where you can vent and find strength again. Talk to your husband about your feelings and stand up for yourself.  Just keep your head up, keep doing what you are doing, maintain strong boundaries between yourself, your family and the aggressor and stay true to yourself. You got this, girl.

And please, go get yourself something from Sephora. Or your favorite wine. Whatever it is, do you. Take care of YOU, too, and keep that self-love, real girl glow.

 


© Copyright 2017 Christina Celeste. All rights reserved.

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