Many thanks to the wonderful stepmum whose post “If you were warned” was the inspiration behind the following article which I wrote for this newsletter.
Like most other stepmothers I wasn’t made aware of the potential hazards I might encounter upon falling in love and marrying a man with an ‘ex’ and kids... and I wonder - if I had been warned - would I have run the other way or would I have continued walking the path I chose to take?
Like most step-journeys, mine has been rather bumpy at times. It too was filled with potholes and steep hills to climb, but it was a choice my husband and I made together. We found that by working ‘as one’ we are travelling in the same direction …and this helps us to continue moving forward.
As “If you were warned” brings to light many of the feelings and experiences that I am sure, many others have felt and have had to deal with throughout their stepfamily journey, I’m hoping that sharing with you some of the lessons I have learnt might make things a little easier.
If you were warned....
See this man? If you choose to be with him, this is what your life could be like….
Liz: If you stopped reading here, this sentence could quite easily be the beginning of a romantic tale filled with laughter and tears, hopes and dreams, disappointments and rewards, challenges and achievements, happiness and pain.
Lesson: We need to experience one to feel the other…for without rain there are no rainbows.
His X will always have control over YOUR life too...
Liz: The ’ex’s’ control is primarily governed by how much we allow her to have. If it feels overwhelming perhaps it is time to take back the control, regain the power to say NO and make some simple changes to minimise the disruptions and interferences she causes.
* It helps to get caller ID. This ensures you are pre-warned when she calls and makes it your choice whether to
speak with her or not.
* Limit all talk about the ‘ex’ to a specific time or day of the week. This keeps you focused and helps you to
minimise rehashing all the evil things she’s done.
* Don’t plan EVERYTHING around the kids and you won’t be constantly disappointed by the ‘ex’s’ last minute
change of plans. Instead, be seen to have a life of your own!
CS does not care if YOU have bills....in fact the more you make the more it is...
Liz: Yep, this unfair and I think most agree that the system needs a good overhaul. I believe that a board has been appointed to review the existing system and to, later this month, report their findings to Parliament. I feel, however, that it will be a long time before substantial changes are made to benefit the paying parent.
There are several sites which contain loads of information regarding this. There also is a poll in the forums and a list of various websites relating to Child Support enquiries.
You will be treated like dirt, stepped on, kicked around, verbally and emotionally abused and you cannot say anything about it...
Liz: I have spoken up for myself, speaking directly to both the ‘ex’ and her husband, along with addressing my husband afterwards regarding his lack of support and interjection at the time of the abuse. I don’t think it did any good. In fact, it probably only aggravated the situation further and, to be honest, left me feeling worse. Nothing was achieved and I felt sick for days, sorry for myself that I’d been accused of things that were untrue and judged by people who didn’t even know me. Looking back I realise just how silly I was to put myself in this position.
I now walk away leaving everyone yelling and causing their own scene. I make myself unavailable, therefore disabling a potentially nasty situation before it arises. If they call wanting to start an argument, I hang up. If they approach me when we drop off the kids, I quickly say my goodbyes and get back in the car.
Lesson: There are always going to be bullies who think they can push you around. Don’t give them the power to do so!
The X's feelings come before your own. It is up to you to co-operate at all times...
Liz: My husband used to complain that he just couldn’t win – couldn’t make his ‘ex’ happy, and couldn’t make me happy either. Hmmm! I wondered why HER happiness had anything to do with us….I didn’t understand his thoughts behind this but eventually realised that he assumed if she was happy there would be less stress for us. He neglected, however, to realise that she’ll never be happy.
Lesson: Be patient with him, he’ll figure this out in time.
The Skids sometimes will not listen to you…
Liz: You should talk to my mother! We didn’t listen to her and we weren’t her stepchildren. I haven’t met a kid who listened attentively all the time therefore, although frustrating, I think it’s pretty unrealistic to expect step kids to behave any differently to kids from bio families.
Lesson: It might be useful to find ways of rewarding the stepchildren when they DO listen to what is asked of them. Ranting and raving rarely helps but everyone loves incentives!
You will have a very difficult time getting ahead in life. If you do, beware that the X wants more...
Liz: I have friends who are in a worse financial situation than me and it’s not due to an ‘ex’ but to their particular circumstances. I cope by reminding myself that things could be worse and have, over time, come to realise that although there are lots of things I’d love to own, I actually have all I REALLY need.
Lesson: Being loved and accepted by my husband, kids and family is the greatest wealth of all.
Earlier on my husband succumbed to the pressure of paying the ‘ex’ far more than he could afford, but he eventually came to ‘see the light. Many part-time fathers do this and it’s often out of their guilty belief that their children are solely their responsibility and they should be paying for everything because they are no longer full-time in their children’s lives.
Now, if the ‘ex’ wants them to have additional luxury items, she’ll need to seek employment herself.
Your new spouse will be stressed out...
Liz: Some men have difficult ex-wives, other’s have difficult mothers (mothers-in-law). I guess it’s the luck of the draw. We make a point of taking a break from thinking about the ‘ex’ and all the problems associated with her.
Lessons: We’ve discovered that it’s vital for our relationship’s survival to have some ‘us’ time during which we don’t think about anything else. This may mean sneaking away every so often and when this isn’t possible to just allocate some time to be ‘ex-less.
You will spend thousands of dollars on lawyers, court dates, mediation, child assessment, etc, etc, etc...and expect to do this several times...
Liz: I can relate to this. After nearly 8 years of fighting for what is right we have realised that no amount of formal paperwork or court appointed orders will achieve what we originally set out to achieve.
Lesson: The laws are only as good as the people abiding by them and, although incredibly frustrating, you soon realise what is worth fighting for and what is not.
You may not be able to ever afford to have a child of your own…
Liz: I understand how hard it is to manage finances, particularly when there seems to be a continuous stream of money being given to another family. I do believe, though, that with compromise and some clever manipulation most of us can LIVE OUR DREAM. Sadly not every mother can stay at home to raise her baby. Many have to return to the workforce far too quickly. But this happens in nuclear families, too!
Lesson: Rather than accepting that you cannot afford a baby, perhaps you could look at part-time work. With the help of friends, family members or even by organising a babysitting club with other part-time working mums you might be able to earn a little cash to take some of the pressures off you both.
You may never be able to afford things for your own children...
Liz: That’s also true for some nuclear families! When I was growing up my father worked whilst mum stayed at home to raise us 3 kids. While most of my friends had a VCR, we were content with the rare trip to the movies. While other kids went on holidays interstate, we were lucky to stay with grandparents or at friends’ houses. While my girlfriends wore label jeans, I had 3 pairs of cheap jeans to choose from, and so on.
Lesson: As long as your children have the general necessities -along with your love, support and encouragement, they are far wealthier than most children in this world.
Whatever the BM says is the truth...you, of course, misunderstand her...
Liz: Of course we misunderstand her just like we misunderstand our husbands when they say they didn’t mean it …or they didn’t say such and such. My hubbie says that there are many things I don’t understand… and he’s right. There are times I just can’t figure him or his ‘ex’ out… but I love him all the same.
Lesson: All that matters is that you know what is true. Just remember that a clear conscience is the softest pillow.
Your name and reputation will be torn apart...to everyone possible. Even strangers believe what is being said about you…
Liz: Yes, there will always be some people who do that and I pity them as those who repeat gossip are worse than the person who invented it. I live in a small rural town; in a house that the ‘ex’ once lived in; in a street where her parents still reside; and amongst neighbours who knew my husband and her as a couple. This has made things extremely tough at times and it’s been heartbreaking to hear the rumours and lies that have been told about both of us.
Lesson: I don’t care anymore as other’s opinions really do not matter. I’ve learnt to rely only on my husband’s, my children’s and my family’s support and encouragement.
You do not have an opinion...
Liz: Yes you do, it just might not be taken on board or be administered. I’m guilty of making this type of comment all the time, finding it difficult to accept that although I might have a suggestion regarding the kids - and a good one at that- it might not be a viable option.
Lesson: It’s not easy to switch between taking care of the stepchildren when they are with you and having no say at all in their lives when they return home, but it’s something we have to accept.
… there is a 50/50 chance you MIGHT get along with the X. In the event you do get along, it may only last a short time, and might only mean she won't verbally abuse you to your face...deal with it...
Liz: That’s my story, too! She hated me… then she thought I was ok… suddenly she thought I was her best friend and… now she hates me again. You cannot win!
Lesson: Always remain true to yourself and remember there is nothing to be gained by lowering yourself to her standard. Be polite and friendly at all times and ask yourself if her acceptance of you is really that important.
You can be sure that all those nasty rumours she spreads will wear thin after a while as all that she accuses you of is completely contrary to the behaviour you continually display.