My New Gateway to Sanity

I am relatively new to this blogging world and I owe all of my interest in it to a dear and treasured friend. You can catch up with her and the positively refreshing glimpse she captures of our world at The Dreaming Press. It was college where we first met. Sadly, our destined path took us on differing routes and inevitably we lost touch. Thank God for Facebook and it’s masterful gift of connection!  There is nothing better than finding someone you had once lost.  My heart sings with joy to have her in my life again.

Two years ago the thought had crossed my mind to blog my journey of becoming a stepmother.  Mi Hombre had even encouraged it, but I refrained. In all honesty I felt that I was in no frame of mind to be writing publicly. I was more in the frame of mind to be checking in to a padded room fully equipped with my very own wrap around jacket-and not the Marc Jacobs type if you know what I mean.  I am sure that with my seemingly bi-polar life the blog would have manifested into something truly dismal and bleak.  It would have served no benefit to anyone other than to witness the emotionally draining toll that it can take when you first begin to blend a family.

Instead I resorted to a stocked cellar of vino and berating Mi Hombre for the monster I perceived that I was becoming. Childishly, I had to blame someone and since it was his baggage that had my panties wound tighter than a girl scout knot, it only seemed fitting. However, when my hair started to turn gray and the laugh lines turned to frown lines I decided enough was enough…there had to be someone out there that understood my pain.  I started a Facebook group to support myself and other women who were going through similar and unnecessary unpleasentries.  “From Single Girl to Stepmother with Grace” was my confidant, my punching bag, my gateway to sanity.

Now, with the conception of this blog I have been reading and acquainting myself with the blogging world of Stepmoms.  I was delighted to find that there are so many of us out there in cyberspace trying to cause a paradigm shift. Us-‘Agents of Change’ are walking a parallel universe and striving one blog at a time to abolish the stepmother stereotype.  For me, I was equally encouraged to learn that normalcy meant struggling with the whole single gal turned stepmother adaptation process…and that consuming large amounts of wine and feeling like you belonged in a psych ward went hand-in-hand.

Undoubtedly, many of our stories sound the same.  The differences between us are in how each of us handles the challenges that arise and how healthy or toxic the relationships are with the ex and the stepchildren. This is my story and I am looking forward to sharing my own unique perspective now that I am a little more sane and a lot more conscious! Hopefully my experience will have the same impact on other single gals becoming stepmothers that all of your stories are having on me.  Thank you all for your warm welcome to the sisterhood! Thank you Gillian. You are my inspiration-a gleaming breath of fresh air, and an authentic spirit that I truly admire.

2009/08/27 at 9:09 PM 4 comments

The Shiny Bauble

The way Mi Hombre proposed to me was a disappointment. I did not squeal “Yes! Yes! Yes!” and I was not giddy like a school girl. I was not expecting a proposal, especially when we had just stumbled in from the casino, showered off the remnants of smoke and we were both in our hotel bath towels. Not exactly the most ideal atmosphere. He positioned his knee on the hotel room floor and asked, “Will you marry me?”…And I said, “OK”.

According to Mi Hombre he had cleverly intended it to let the shiny bauble fall from the casino slot machine, and I would then without hesitation squeal “Yes Yes! Yes!”  like a giddy school girl. Instead, he talked himself out of proposing that way for fear I would be devastated by the public attention that it would bring.  Then for two days after the official engagement, (trying to make up for my disappointment) he would take the ring off my finger during romantic moments and would ask me to marry him again…and again…and again.

Those moments, the unexpected and disappointed, the expected and excited all symbolized the beginning of the rest of my new life. It was official, and regardless of how the proposal was delivered, I wanted to shout from the top of the hotel in which we were staying, “Mi Hombre and I are getting married!”

2009/08/25 at 8:55 PM 2 comments

Meet Me in the Parking Lot After School!

Not long after the bomb, I was summoned for my very own Sermon on the Mount with Mi Hombre’s ex. It was disguised as, “I want to get to know YOU better.” A harmless meeting of two seemingly level-headed women. Naturally, being committed as I was I quickly reached out to the ex to schedule my “quid-pro-quo” session. After all I was dedicated to my relationship and ready to face the complexities that come with being in love with a man, with a child and an ex. I told myself, “She is just a ‘mom’ wanting to meet the woman that has been playing with her kid. No biggie…right?”

Boy was I wrong! Apparently, the idea of a woman entering her daughter’s life was enough to have her acting like Jekyll and Hyde. Our initial chance public meeting with Super-girl present was cause for celebration. She was cordial and voiced an overt happiness for Mi Hombre. Then strangely, the ex wouldn’t communicate directly with me afterward. It was as if she were in denial and suddenly I simply did not exist. Instead she communicated through Mi Hombre with an unsettling doom and gloom attitude. Her anguish accompanied every correspondence with him.

Irreverently, she came up with every excuse she could conjure up to delay our meeting from happening. Confiding in Mi Hombre that she felt things with me were moving too fast for her daughter – we understood it as it was moving too fast for her. We caught on to her ploy when conveniently every date I offered up to meet her there was some sort of conflict with her schedule. According to her, it was just never a good time. I felt that she was being catty and selfish, but I respected Mi Hombre’s vow to take the high road. We went along with it for the summer and when fall arrived all patience was lost.

I was angry at Mi Hombre for the ex’s complete avoidance with me. Obtusely I believed that having been married to her he should be able to influence her behavior. “Who am I kidding! He has no clout with her.” I reprimanded myself when I began thinking clearly. Exasperated by the ex’s intentional delays,  Mi Hombre told her that we were going to move forward with sleepovers because it wasn’t fair to Super-girl to have to commute the distance between our cities in a single day. Finally, she agreed to meet me…ALONE.

I could not understand why it was necessary for us to meet alone. What couldn’t she say with Mi Hombre present? When her email arrived I felt as if I had just received a note from the school bully that said, “Meet me in the parking lot after school…Just YOU!” I experienced the same hair-raising effect I did as a child only her correspondence actually read, “Meet me at my house after work.” Inquisitively, I questioned her agenda. She played it off as not being able to “be herself” in Mi Hombre’s presence, that she would inevitably censor what she wanted to say if he were there. So I obliged.

It was an eye opening experience, and in all honesty a little unsettling to say the least. I listened to the 2 hour monologue on how Super-girl passed through her Va-jay-jay (au naturale), how great she was as a “mother,” how no one can possibly know anything unless the are a “mother,” how she would never ask Mi Hombre for child support because she had ended the marriage and most importantly, how she wanted everything and everyone to be in her daughter’s life. Incidentally, there was not a single question about me.  Not even, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” Nothing.  It was one of the few times in my life that I was rendered speechless. In my silence, I remembered that bullies bully because they are afraid and if I weren’t truly in love with Mi Hombre I would have just stood up and walked away.

2009/08/25 at 3:55 PM Leave a comment

A Swim In The Deep End

FACT: It is estimated that 50 percent of first marriages in America will end in divorce. The odds are even higher at 60 percent for consecutive marriages, and then if you add kids to the mix it moves your rate of potential failure to a staggering 70 percent.  I know you are thinking “Wow!  That’s encouraging!” Just imagine how I felt at the revelation of this jolly factoid when I began proclaiming that I was ready to try marriage again for yet a third time.

Nonetheless, I was convinced that if I were going to say, “I DO!” then the only “D” that would be heard of in this marriage would be the “D” in “…until death do us part”. The grim statistics for consecutive marriages with children had me more determined than ever to ensure that I was going to do things right.  My tenacity led me to begin a journey towards cultivating a healthy remarriage and sent me on my own personal stepmother crusade.

I knew very little about what it meant to become a stepmother. Single career women don’t romanticize about settling down with a man and his already established brood.  We envision a much more passionate love affair filled with romance, late nights, and jet setting about the world before settling into a chic urban retreat. There was no history of discussions involving custody battles, parenting agreements or baby-mama-drama over cosmopolitans with my gal-pals.

What little knowledge I did possess was through hands-on experience in my professional life and the jaded stories from my single mom friends who have “dead-beat-dads” to contend with.  Sadly, stepmotherhood has never been painted as a pretty picture. Instead the very mention of the word in my social circle was met with a facial grimace and a cringe followed by the predictable Disney stereotype society so willingly embraces. This in itself left little to be admired about the idea of becoming a stepmom and me wanting even less to entertain it.

It was clear I was heading into uncharted waters.  When I began my research on becoming a stepmother in 2006 there wasn’t much of anything supportive out there—a few books and blogs, but no support group I could turn to, no local meetings at the town hall, no hot-line I could call.  I needed a person.  Someone who could look me in the eye and tell me it was going to be worth it. My own Life coach….”My Guru” as I have affectionately called her for over 10 years asked me, “ Are you sure that this is a path you would like to go down?”  I thought, “Oh my God! Will someone throw me a life preserver? I am going to drown out here in the unknown.”

Like biological parents, stepparenting doesn’t come with a manual.  So I made do with what I had.  I found solace in the book by Sally Bjornsen, “A Single Girl’s Guide To Marrying A Man, His Kids And His Ex Wife.” I started a support group on Facebook to cope with the nuances of blending a family. I confided in my dearest friends, and stocked up on wine for the (not so graceful) tidal waves of inexplicable emotions that accompany transitioning to not only remarriage, but also becoming an instant parent.  Admittedly, it has been like treading water most of the time.

Picture 2

2009/08/17 at 10:29 PM 3 comments

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Never Say Never

It had been decided in the parenting agreement between Mi Hombre and his ex that there would not be overnight sleepovers with Super-girl present until the opposite parent had a chance to meet their ex’s new partner.  “Fair enough” I thought.  The only trouble was I lived in another city over an hour away.  This made play-dates with me treacherous on the little 5-year-old Super-girl.  Not to mention very tiring for our love life.  We had spent six months seeing each other when he didn’t have his Super-girl. Sometimes that would mean for us having only phone or email contact for over two weeks at a time.

Now, for a wining and dining romantic woman such as myself this was clearly unacceptable.  I was in L-O-V-E with Mi Hombre and I was old enough to know that this wasn’t some puppy-love infatuation fling. This was the real deal. I have never been surer of something in my entire life.  I wasn’t just sure, I was CERTAIN.  I knew this because I swore that I would never again considered marriage, especially after two failed attempts at it.  At the time that was all I was thinking about. The more I thought about it the more I began letting go of the long list of “I will never’s.”

You know those things that we secretly or sometimes out loud tell ourselves we won’t EVER do.  My list became one big fat contradiction to everything I was getting ready to say yes to.  For example, I once heard myself say, “I would never conceive of dating, let alone marrying anyone with kids.”  Or “ I will never sell my house with my Zen garden, I am going to live there until I die.” And my personal favorite,  “ I will never again relocate my life, my job, or my friends for any MAN.”  I laugh loudly now at the thought because at the time I could think of nothing more than that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Mi Hombre. Even though it appeared to go against what I stood for.  Somehow it made absolute perfect sense to me.

So, I vowed to never say never. I ordered a ton of step parenting books, and began my search to find the information that I needed to learn about becoming a stepmother. As time passed, Mi Hombre and I fell deeper in love and the pain that we felt with each absence became unbearable.  We both knew that it was time for me to cultivate a more significant relationship than play-mate with Super-girl.  So, I agreed with Mi Hombre…it was time to tell the ex about the seriousness of our relationship.

2009/08/15 at 9:44 PM Leave a comment

Wicked Wicked Stepmother

“But I don’t want to have a stepmother!  They are all MEAN!” Cried Super-girl as Mi Hombre and I shared the news that we are planning a future together.  Talk about a heart wrenching reality to see through the eyes of a child from divorce.  She was so paralyzed by fear of the stereotype that comes with the label stepmother.   She even thought of ME…the woman she squeezes with all her might and says “I LUB you!” to as possibly turning MEAN if I married her father and became her stepmother.  All I could think of was, ”Thanks a lot Disney! Thanks for making my adjustment to stepmotherhood that much more trivial.”

We wiped the tears and held her tight.  It wasn’t long, Super-girl came around…”Will you marry me too!”  she would say with excitement…”Now hold up kid, don’t rush it, you have to get engaged first!” I would say.  Laughing at how quickly she adjusted to the idea that I wasn’t a wicked witch incognito.

2009/08/04 at 5:00 PM 1 comment

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It’s all Ella Mental!

If you asked me 3 years ago would I consider becoming a stepmother I would have choked emphatically NO! Probably not just no, but HELL NO! I would never entertain the thought of trying to raise someone else’s kid(s) or be married to a man with an enormous load of shh...Shall I just say, B-A-G-G-A-G-E (Pronounced: OMG!) I have seen enough drama on the colourful trails of adventure in my life, enough to know that I would simply not ever knowingly plop myself down amidst the chaos of a stepfamily.

Well, in 2006 I ate my words…

I am a 35-year-old career woman, wife to the most dashingly authentic man on this planet…sorry ladies…and gents! I am a “Mother” ( I quote this b/c I don’t believe that you have to pass a spirited life through your Va-Jay-Jay to be one.) …of 4 wild-hearted four-legged children, and the stepmother to a wickedly brilliant 7-year-old stepdaughter.

Feel free to accompany me as I write about my vastly changing life, my kids; both four-legged and two, my (step) Family (I place this in parenthesis b/c I don’t consider anyone under my roof with the term step, they are simply FAMILY to me!) … and the trials and tribulations of transitioning from a single woman into a stepmother (not always) with grace.

Ella Mental Contact

stepmotherwithgrace@gmail.com

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