If We Call a Mother’s Day Truce

I’m done.

Done with the clichés, the desperate attempts to force family into a suffocating box. I don’t fit anymore. I’m done. IMG_0070

This Sunday, we’ll celebrate one aspect of women’s lives with pink cards and red roses and lovely dinners. Our churches will have all of us mothers stand, and we will applaud our collective efforts of this past year. The kids will make some popsicle stick craft with far too much glitter and glue, and every mother is supposed to feel loved and cherished in this microcosm of community. Not all do.

But then, we will go home. Back to our non-traditional family, back to the every other weekend hurry up and do the laundry before it’s time to go lives.

Here, Mother’s Day isn’t as glamorous. Sometimes, it downright hurts like hell. My hands still sticky from glue and glitter that will never, ever, ever come off my clothes–I’m informed that being a stepmother isn’t a “real mother” so the kids give away their crafts or cards or whatever school or church made. The Mother’s Day bitter pill, swallow, carry on doing the work.

For another 364 days, we’ll hide behind how many laundry loads we do or how many doctors appointments we go to or how many mini-van loads of children we shuffle around to Scouts or gymnastics or dance or sports. We’ll bring out the big guns with puke we have cleaned up or snotty noses wiped.

But inevitably, birth mothers will lord over we stepmothers how hard it was, you know, giving birth. Believe me, we stepmothers know it isn’t easy. Somehow, pushing a baby out of your body negates every contribution another woman makes for said child. The ultimate mommy trump card.

We continue the cycle of mothering competition; a competition built on wiping asses and driving kids around. The constant barrage of “she doesn’t understand” or “she’s got it so easy, just every other weekend.” Enough. Just simply enough. No one will ever fully understand, nor can we base “ease” on how frequently the children sleep at another set of parents’ home.

I’m done.

Done with the bickering, the fighting, peacock posturing, cat claw meanness, justifying the work I do as a stepmother or yours as a mother. I’m done.

I’m calling in a truce for Mother’s Day, for the next 364 days, for the lifespan of every stepmother, birth mother, life partner, aunt, grandmother. A truce to celebrate the hard work of mothering. A truce to thank the community of women and men who mother our children. A truce to appreciate the contributions of another woman. A truce to give ourselves a break from the hard work. A truce to break down the walls of competition. A truce to raise our glasses high and say:

Yes, the job of mothering and step-mothering is hard. We’ve hurt and been hurt. We know the long nightmare filled nights, and we know the endless cycle of wash/wear/repeat. We know how to stain our pillows with tears when kids break our hearts. We know; we understand. We are mothers.

 

3 Practical Ways to call a Mother’s Day truce:

  1. If you choose to make  Mother’s Day crafts(church, school, or Scouting group), allow the children the option of making MORE THAN ONE. Make it clear up front because some children may not ask.
  2. If your children want to make a card or buy a Mother’s Day card for their stepmother or mother, let them.
  3. Remember Mother’s Day is a celebration, let every stepmother and mother celebrate in her own way.

Dear Church: Stepmother Isn’t a Dirty Word

Dear Church,

You may not remember me. I haven’t stepped across your threshold since March, and it has been even longer since we met regularly. Quite frankly, we may have never met again if  the quiet whisper of Holy Spirit or guilt or whatever doesn’t stop urging me to return. I feel the need to find a community of believers again. But like so many, I’m painfully broken and scarred and nervous about coming back. 

And you took great pains to push me aside, to leave me out, to let me know I don’t belong. I saw you roll your eyes when I stood up to be recognized as mother, then you had some balls for wanting to me to serve in your nursery. I left when I didn’t fit into your mother club because I haven’t yet shoved a new life out of my uterus. Perhaps, I made you a bit nervous when my kids were gone every other Sunday and claiming them as mine and not acting like a stereotypical stepmother.

For years, I mothered or if you prefer step-mothered my children(I will always and unabashedly refer to them as mine; they are a part of my soul and fiber and being even though we share no biological DNA). They lived and ate and slept and learned in my home, our home. I ignored the sleepy groans, the “I don’t wanna get ups.” We drove to school and slaved over homework and traveled to the beach, the mountains, even Disney World. For those years, I invested full-time in being a stepmother who didn’t resemble Cinderella’s stepmother. I loved as I know how to love because the Bible never really says directly how to be a stepmother.

But now, I’m mothering on the weekends, over the phone, sometimes, through email. I’m closer to the norm than I would like, but it is reality for now.

Maybe, this makes you a bit more comfortable. My new stereotypical stepmothering existence, a parent on the weekends, free and childless during the week. Or not. I understand why you may think I don’t deserve any recognition because parenting on the weekends must be easier. Hell, it’s practically part-time. But you don’t understand this: no parent is ever a part-time parent.  I worry from afar, and I hope the homework gets done  and video games and television kept to a minimum. I see the pain for my husband after phone calls when the kids cared more about the television than talking. Sometimes, they are flat out rude. How is this any easier? We both know it isn’t.

I have watched you my entire life glorify, exalt, and praise mothering as long as it existed neatly inside your idyllic family picture. Not all families do. I wish you could see how you have pushed those of us “non-typical” families and parents to the fringes. Sometimes, we leave and never come back. Perhaps, you will never understand stepmothering until you stop treating it as some dirty word.

Stepmother isn’t a dirty word, but “forgotten” is.

For many of us stepmothers, we feel forgotten and lost in your church circles, your Christian parenting/family blogs. We look for some small in road to the conversation about the struggles we all face as parents–whether we have “step” in front of our parental title or not. Whether you dear church like it or not, we are still a part of you, and we beg for a seat at the table, to be part of conversation about parenting and loving. We want you to hear our stories and understand us.

 

Redeeming Cinderella’s Stepmother

Today, I am honored to be guest posting for Rachel Held Evans. I am sharing my thoughts on faith and step-parenting. 

Redeeming Cinderella’s Stepmother

Summer by Mark Askins

No little girl ever wants to be Cinderella’s stepmother. We dream of princes and balls and weddings and babies, but all of those things would belong to us first. We would mother our own biological children, not someone else’s. No one wants to be a stepmother.

 

The Bible doesn’t offer us a shining example of a stepmother. We could posit that Sarah was the stepmother of Hagar’s son Ishmael; however, she forced both Hagar and Ishmael to leave after the birth of her son, Isaac. Not the best pattern to follow. Literature isn’t kind to us either. We give away poison apples, prey upon feeble-minded men, and force servitude upon the stepchildren. Even the Greek playwright, Euripides said that “it is better to be a serpent than a stepmother.”

 

I am stepmother, not a stereotype.

 

To read the rest of this post, please head over to Rachel Held Evan’s blog. I’m part of her series Faith in Parenting.

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In which I am the Outsider

I am the outsider.  

Photo courtesy of Alejandra Mavroski and Flickr Creative Commons

Foam meal cartons, chicken tenders, green beans, slaw filled to them brim. The price includes a dessert, a Pepsi, and the feel goodness of supporting a struggling family. A typical benefit dinner in a typical small Southern town. We have no dinner resturants so Friday night benefit dinners draw the whole town to the Fire Station. We eat around folding plastic tables where fire trucks usually slumber. Our mouths too full to talk at first, then we swallow and the flurry of words spills out.

All round us people laugh and talk and smile. Men slap each other on the back, and women swirl from table to table hugging, greeting, chatting. My kids join the throng of friends, classmates who have escaped the stuffy building for the cool, muggy outside air. Soon my husband disappears like the others gone outside. I’m alone. Even in the crowd of people, I’m alone. I scan the crowd, but all of the faces look familiar and strange. But the conversation still buzzes around me.

Yes, I live in the small town, everyone knows your name town. The epitome of rural life. But only if you were born here, only if your kin have lived on the same street for years. Not for people who hail from another state, another city, another small town like me.

I am the outsider.

Scene change, the pews forest green or blue or red, whatever in vogue color for padding. A dewy morning, a Mother’s Day morning. The church filled with children and their mothers, grandmothers, wearing corsages of red and white flowers. We sit in the back pews and admire the special Sunday school crafts for the mothers. Crafts, I won’t be given. The “I made this for mom” or “you’re not a real mom, you didn’t have any kids” cut like daggers, but I’ve heard them ever since I began doing this full time mothering thing.

During the service, all mothers stand recognized for another year of loving, giving, sacrificing, and I stand too. I feel the looks of the other women not so comfortable with the word “step” in front of the word “mother.” Perhaps, I make them uncomfortable since I became a mother through my husband’s divorce. Perhaps, they  put too much stock in Disney’s Cinderella. I don’t know, but they don’t say anything. Silence speaks more than words.

Sometimes, they ask when it will be my turn. To have a baby, to procreate, to legitimatize my role as mother. I joke about only wanting puppies or kittens or something called a career or now’s not the best time(not sure if there ever is). Perhaps, it is impossible for people in the church to fathom how a 30 year old’s biological clock isn’t sending out its usual siren song–babies, babies, BABIES! Maybe, mine’s just broken. Again, I’m left on the fringes. Outside the safe, normal realm of being a mother.

I both loathe and love being an outsider. Perhaps, it is just easier to watch, to sit back and wait, to avoid hurt. I have grown accustomed to being on the fringes.

I am the outsider.

 This post is part of Joy in This Journey’s Blog Link up: Life:UnMasked. Join us and link up your story too.

 

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Puppies Make Better Moms

We Made it—HELLO, FRIDAY! While I spent extra time and wasted gas this morning heading to a doctor’s visit that was canceled(arrgh), here I am celebrating Friday again.

 

Like so many Fridays, I participate in Lisa-Jo’s blog carnival Five Minute Fridays!

Since Sunday is Mother’s Day, Lisa-Jo has chosen an appropriate theme. But first, the rules:

 

  1. Write on the topic for 5 minutes only!
  2. No Editing, No Revising, just let it all hang out!
  3. Link up over at The Gypsy Mama and encourage another blogger.

 

So, easy, now here is the writing prompt:

 

Motherhood should come with……

 

Start:

 

Motherhood should come with a puppy.

A soft bundle of fur, over-sized paws, and a cold wet nose. I hear each one of you mother muttering—yeah, another thing to take care of along with a house, new baby or in my case two stepkids, husband, and whatever else happens to be causing tension and stress. A puppy? Why yes, every mom needs a puppy.

 

Because motherhood doesn’t always hold unicorn and rainbow moments.

 

Motherhood should come with a puppy for those times when children say hurtful things. The things that eat away at your heart. Bruise your love and cause those wet pillow nights. A puppy can soothe your aching, feeble heart when it is broken. Hopefully, after those moments, tears will turn to smiles and laughter.

 

 

Motherhood should come with a puppy for those days when kids mutter under their breath and roll their eyes at our lameness. Puppy just wags her tail, eats whatever we provide, and never asks for the designer jeans. In fact, the puppy will want to snuggle and cuddle until the rough patch is smoothed out, apologies accepted, and finally love wins out.

 

Motherhood should come with a puppy for those in between moments of children’s anger and your frustration and the return of hugs and cuddles and laughter.

 

Yes, motherhood should come with a puppy.

 

 

Stop!

 

Just a Stepmom

The Long Hot Summer continues....The weather man says it's raining...photo © 2008 Keven Law | more info (via: Wylio)

 

 

The rain falls in soft cold, droplets. Covered by a navy blue shelter, three little Girl Scouts stand outside the Walgreen’s begging each person to buy cookies. I zip the purple coat of my seven year old daughter whose proclaims she is too cold. She stuffs her tiny hands in the pockets of my coat because my pockets are warmer. I chat with the other Girl Scout mother helping sell cookies. We talk about our girls are growing up too fast, getting prettier every minute, then it happens. The mother talking to my daughter says “your mom” which leads to a hurried explanation “she’s not MY mom, she’s just my stepmom.”

 

Silence, the knowing glance, the cold shoulder. All of the cliched, stereotypical images of stepmother invade that small 10 by 10 shelter. With people all around, I feel the cold pangs of exclusion, judgment. How dare I masquerade as a mother? Do I not know that I’m “just a stepmom,” the second class mother in the world of parenthood? I had forgotten. Maybe, this is why so many feel the need to remind me of my status in the traditional parental hierarchy.

 

I’m used to the reminders of my mothering inadequacies—the disapproving looks when I stand up in church to be recognized as a mother on Mother’s Day, mothers in the church patting me on the should telling me “I will understand when I am a real mom.” That’s when my emotional heart withers a just a little more inside.

 

Some days, I wish I were brave enough to wear a t-shirt proclaiming—I’m not the “other” woman, I chose to be a step-mother, so stop judging me.

 

Some days, I want to lash against the “real mom” clique. What more must I do to prove that I’m more than “just a stepmom” but a real mother? Each school day, I wake up my sleepy, sometimes grumpy step-children, hurry them to school. I sit in the frightfully long car line to pick them up, whisk them to our home and begin the arduous task of homework, snacks, and chores. I failed to mention the laundry, doctor visits, activities—how is this not being a “real mom?”

 

 

Frustration and anger tarnish my soul as I so desperately try to prove I belong in the “real moms” club.

 

 

Quickly, I’m drawn back to present. My step-daughter wraps her arms around my waist, whispers loudly “I love you.” Standing here in the cold rain, warming my step-daughter’s hands, I’m defying the stereotype, speaking against all of the derogatory connotations embedded in the role of stepmom. Rather than lashing out in anger, I choose to speak love through my actions. A quieter, gentler way of dispelling the myths of the evil stepmother begins with grace and loved filled actions. Being fully present with my step-daughter, spending the time to do something meaningful with her, carries a weightier, more powerful message. It is the message of grace. Not for the “real moms,” but for me. I release myself from the images of the evil stepmother with each grace and loved filled action toward my stepchildren. I become more alive when I focus upon the beauty of choosing to love my stepchildren. Through grace, I am no longer just a stepmom, I’m a mother.

 

#AmazonFail

Amazon Kindle 2 Wireless eBook Readerphoto © 2009 goXunuReviews | more info (via: Wylio)

When I first entered the Twitterverse, I learned quickly the value of the hashtag. The hashtag identifies a tweet with all sorts of others just like it—helps the tweeter to see what others have said on the subject. As I read my tweets today, one hashtag kept trending–#amazonfail. I thought nothing of it since I chalking the hashtag up to bad customer service; thus, allowing me to continue my Amazon shopping without much thought. But I was curious. Curious to see what the big “fail” was. Curious to see Amazon’s horrid sin that would cause such an uproar. So, before curiosity killed the proverbial cat, I began following the trend. In the self-published section of Amazon’s Kindle, a book detailing the safe ways to practice pedophilia is available for purchase. Yes, this is why a boycott of Amazon and the hashtag #amazonfail kept streaming through my Twitter feed. As mommy bloggers raise their collective voices against Amazon, I find myself at war between censorship and protecting the potential targets of pedophiles.

I dislike the thought of censorship because I am an advocate for free speech. But I have children and have friends with children. Somewhere, a child has suffered because someone followed the instructions in this ebook. This is where the tension lives for me—between the ability speak on subjects freely or protecting children. But free speech is a fickle creature that we have invented. Initially, freedom of speech protected us from our government’s silencing of its citizens—creating a discursive space in which we can openly discuss and disagree with government.

Now, a private company couches behind the freedom of speech amendment. Under free speech, Amazon defends its right to have published this book on pedophilia. Each customer should determine what he or she buys which negates the culpability of Amazon. Yet, the onslaught of negative reviews for this book were deemed inappropriate and removed. Amazon is not promoting free speech but free speech that protects the profits of Amazon. This interpretation of free speech blurs the lines between public sphere and private spheres. We hide behind the freedom of speech amendment when it suits our needs to make profit.

Even though I have spoken out against censorship, I believe more strongly in speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. For the children suffering in silence, for the potential victims. I know this is hypocritical, but I would rather err on the side of protecting innocents than always presenting a cohesive whole ideology. I choose to support other booksellers until Amazon takes this book off its website. Yes, this is a major #amazonfail.

Greener Isn’t Always Better

America cultivates grass. This unique collection of people lives by the old adage that “the grass is greener on the other side.” For many this mantra permeates their lives and daily routines for their grass to have preeminence. In other nations, the people would dig up this green weed to make places to plant necessary items like potatoes or carrots or other ethnic vegetables. Not Americans. A walk in any residential neighbor of classic suburbia acquaints the visitor with the awe-inspiring American dream—to produce the greenest, softest, sturdiest grass. Television advertisements bombard the average working class citizen with his or her 2.4 children and .5 dog to embark on a journey through the local hardware store sifting endlessly through the plethora of fertilizers and automated sprinkler systems. The American people have sacrificed their hard-earned dollars to the lawn god who demands utmost reverence from its unsuspecting worshippers.

The lawn becomes the passion of the average citizen demanding substantial wages like time and money. Soon the small innocent hobby becomes a monster slave driver who commands total allegiance and reverence. The citizen entangled in this cult frantically installs alarms systems that warn people to “Get off the grass” in harsh tones and may be in several foreign languages. The television commercials never show the consequences of worshipping the lawn god nor do they communicate the effects that this worship has on the family. Does the time spent in the care and sacrifice in the lawn affect one’s family? Yes. Many Americans have forgotten that the lawn was designed to be a place of social activity and fun. Now the lawn has morphed into a place that consumes the monetary resources and is to be revered by the average passerby.

While people worship their lawns with great care for its delicate constitution, the forgotten idea of a yard recedes to the dark recess– forgotten by this generation. Many people question the difference between a yard and a lawn because they don’t understand the significance of a yard. For many years, they have understood the deep value of preserving a lawn, but a yard does not require the same careful attention that a lawn demands. A yard does not necessarily have a healthy carpet of green grass. The grass may be sparse or nonexistent in a yard. While the lawn boasts of sterile activity free environment, the yard humbly displays its little worn paths by children scampering and playing. The yard becomes the place for children to run and use their energy in constructive ways, and it contains the occasional ruts underneath the swing set where the children scraped the grass away with their feet while swinging on the swings. (The lawn would command a revolt from its worshipper if the person thought about placing a swing set upon the hallowed grass.) Toys lay scattered amidst the grass and weeds in the yard and must be moved for the yard to receive some benefit of care such as the occasional mowing and weeding. While the lawn glares at the casual nature of the yard, the yard welcomes the children squeals of delight and laughter filter through the atmosphere of the yard. The owners of a yard embrace pets such as dogs and cats to live there and provide companionship for the youngsters. The dogs and cats run about chasing the child that comes out to play tearing up the grass and vegetation in their romping about the yard.

For many Americans, the lawn represents the epitome of achievement, but it shows the decline in the values and morals of this nation. The yard emphasizes the togetherness of families, but the lawn forces the children indoors to play mindless video games for the parents are obsessed with the neighbors’ compliments. The yard was a place for entertaining and conversing with other people, but the greed of the lawn has overwhelmed the traditional yard. The yard will pass has a nostalgic element of the past while a sinister imitation dominates the American dream.
Question: What everyday tool, obsession, or past-time that is wreaking havoc on the family structure? How would define the difference between lawn/yard?

Where I Have Been and What I Learned

This past week, I have been ignoring the blogging world, focusing on relaxing, playing with kids and dogs, and enjoying life. This is called LIVING(in case you forgot). I swam, read, and generally relaxed the week away. I did learn some very important things:

1. Pine cones at 30mph HURT(got the scars to prove it)

2. Scheduled activities at the campground are PRICELESS(craft time was my favorite since the kids were happy making crafts and the camper was QUIET).

3. I get highly annoyed when stupid people act stupidly.

I will be back to blogging full force, but for now, I would like to know how your week has been?

Unplug it!


Awesome idea for the summer, unplug from the time waster’s of TV, computer(yes, no Facebook, Twitter, or blogging).

Love this post: http://pamperingbeki.blogspot.com/2010/05/unplug-it.html