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Altered photo by Jenny Frech 2011

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

That’s how I feel about my remarriage lately.  Being a step mom is hard.  It is THE most difficult challenge that I have ever faced.  And that includes my year of transition to teaching at a school full of negativity in which teachers were quitting mid-day.  At times it’s even more difficult than my divorce.

Before anyone goes running to Jeremy to tell him that these are sometimes the worst of times, don’t bother, he knows.  He feels the same way.

Trying to blend together two families of preteens and a teenager can be tricky.  All of the kids are in different places of healing after the divorce.  All of the kids have different personalities and coping mechanisms.  They all have conflicting loyalties,  and ways of looking at and moving in the world.  All of us have different expectations of what our lives should look like, and what our time  together in the household will be.

I came into this family with no expectations of forming mother-child bonds.  They have a mother, they don’t need me to fill that role.  I have a daughter, I don’t need them to fill that role.  As a teacher, I work with kids about their age every day.  I love my students without being their mom, and the students love me too, in a respected adult kind of way.

That’s how I envisioned my relationship with my step kids.

It has been so much more difficult.

Over spring break, the first real day in fact, two of the kids told their dad that they hated me.

I fell apart, utterly and completely, wailing-on-the-bathroom-floor-apart.

But deep down I knew it already.

The honeymoon of our new family was over, and the shiny newness of dad’s wife had worn off.  The complaints about my choice of foods had been increasing, as had the ignoring and avoidance of me.

I know I shouldn’t take it personally.

I know it’s not about me.  It’s not about my cooking.  It’s not about the color I painted their rooms.  It’s not that my daughter is here too and gets special treatment.

It’s about what I represent to them.

I could be Mary Poppins, or Nanny McPhee, or the pretty girl their dad marries at the end of the movie.  It doesn’t matter.

It’s about the empty place in their home that I fill with a puzzle piece from an entirely different puzzle.

It’s that mom and dad will never be back together.  It’s that they don’t like that I do things differently from their mom, but if I did them the same, then I would be trying to take her place.

It’s a no win scenario.  I’m the easiest target of their hurt, grief, and confusion. They cannot be mad at mom or dad.

It has nothing to do with me.

They can’t love me right now.  They would be disloyal to mom if they loved me.

It has nothing to do with me.

I’ve stepped back.  Instead I’ve let dad take over the running of the chores.

Jeremy does all of the cooking, most of the running around, and all of the tucking in at night.

I have nothing to do with his kid management, just the management of my own child (which is a biomom stepmom balancing act in itself.)

I’ve stepped back.

But, I am here for the kids.

They can absolutely count on me.

When I realized what they were struggling with, my heart began to break for them.  But I’ve stepped back.  I won’t push.  I won’t tell them what to eat.  I won’t tell them to clean the bathroom.  But I’m here.

I’m not going anywhere.

I’m here because I’m growing, learning, and falling deeper in love with my husband, my best friend, every day.

Our relationship grows through the messiness of our blended family.  Sometimes we are stretched so thin, it feels like we might break.

He listens,  we talk, and we both get grayer and grayer as we face these new challenges.

I’m here because I’ve committed myself to be my husband’s helpmate.  He loves his children deeply, so I am here.

It may be the worst of times.

But I’m not going anywhere because it’s also the best of times.

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I am a very happily married woman.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  In my past life, I was not-so-happily married for a little over 10 years.  It was a time filled with self-doubt, poor communication, and a dedication to trying to fix something that was never really properly functioning to begin with.  I won’t complain about that time in my life, because it was a tremendous period of growth and learning for me.

I was the one that finally said the words, “I can’t be married anymore.”  But, I am not one that thinks divorce is a good idea.  In fact, it is a truly terrible idea.  Divorce is hard, especially when there are kids involved.  But there is a time, and there is a place for it.

Today I was thinking about it again.  If one of the parties cannot forgive, forget, and move on, then there is no hope for reconciliation.  It doesn’t mean that you won’t stay married, it means that the hope for a healthy relationship is out the window.  I was not able to forgive, forget, and move on.  I held on to the “wrongs” committed against me and took them personally.

A few years ago I got some really great advice. “Life is so much easier if you realize that everyone is an idiot, but you have to include yourself in that”, says Lisa, buddy, former roomy, and naturalist extraordinaire.

It really does make things easier.  At the end of my marriage, I carried around a slip of paper in my wallet, and had it on my computer screen.  It had a symbol of a heart and a peace sign on it.  It was to remind me that I should have peace, love, and understanding to my now ex-husband.  It helped lighten my heart toward him.  It was the point in the relationship that every little thing the other person does, makes you want to scream.  Having the reminder that we are all a bunch of idiots (self included) was helpful during this time.

My husband, and I often lament that we didn’t find one another first.  It would have been so much easier to have one set of children that didn’t have to be shuttled from place to place.  It would be so much easier to not have outside forces that are annoyed by us.  But, on the other hand, we may not appreciate one another as much.

I realize that I married an idiot.

Instead of holding grudges, and clinging to my “rightness”, I am able to let the little stuff go.  It is surprisingly easy.  Jeremy does dumb little things all the time, and they are not even a blip in the radar.  When I squirt ketchup on my shirt for the hundredth time, he trips over my shoes, and I forget to get my oil changed, he just shakes his head and says, “Oh Jenny.”

Jeremy definitely knows that he married an idiot, but he loves me anyway.

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