Mean Girls

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Let’s talk about judgments.

Women are known for being judgmental. In fact women are known for being ruthless. It’s sad really, that women attack each other. Not just women, girls do it, too. Middle school was ridiculous, girls would steal boyfriends, back stab, gossip, play tricks, start rumors… you name it. The funny thing is that I was never warned about females. I was warned about boys. In fact, I was protected from boys. I was not allowed to date, and my time with the opposite sex was limited extremely. Meanwhile, I was coming home from elementary school in tears every few days because this little girl was mean to me. By middle school I was on a first name basis with our school councilor. (Not to mention, I was seeing my own therapist weekly.) They called it mediation. Left to our own devices, I imagine “Lord of the Flies” would have become a reality in our middle school.

Someone told me once that when you boil female lobsters you do not need to put a lid on the pot.  But you MUST put a lid on a pot with male lobsters. Why? Male lobsters will make a ladder so that they can escape, they help each other, while female lobsters will down each other. I have never boiled lobsters, but it sounds about right!

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It’s sad to see they way women attack each other. I have been totally guilty of this, and have made a conscious effort to stop. Women should build each other up, we should be able to trust each other, and be a team. We all know we can’t. We all know that once we get to a certain place, the women around us will feel threatened, and suddenly you have an enemy. You may not even know you are enemies. That’s the thing about women, we act like we love each other to pieces, and then  talk shit behind each other’s backs.

How do we stop this when we cannot ever trust each other? That’s what stops me. I would like to say I always give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Generally upon meeting someone I will give them a chance, but if I have heard about you… well… I keep that in the back of my mind. There is a girl code, and if you’re my best friend’s enemy, I am expected to hate you. It’s unfair, and ridiculous, really. One of my closest friend’s is actually someone that another friend had a falling out with, and had nothing nice to say about… It just goes to show, we never know about a person until we give them a chance!

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I saw a lot of this “female rivalry” during my wedding planning, you see I have this general rule, I don’t bring 2 or more groups of friends together. I have seen this backfire over and over again, usually because women just can’t handle it, hell, I can’t always handle it. I have had some pretty mortifying moments by mixing friends (and sometimes adding alcohol). You know those moments you just wish NEVER happened, and it’s much more comfortable to pretend it didn’t? Like the time I got mad at my ex for being mad at me… (Girl Math, if you’re new to my blog, “Girl Math” is a way that women rationalize a decision, like eating a carrot, doing sit ups, or taking a laxative to counteract that piece of chocolate, so, I admit, it tends to be pointless, and sometimes harmful (in the case of the laxative) but women are the queens of rationalizing… I’m sorry we are the kings, men just can’t rationalize the way we do, or maybe they can, but they certainly cannot articulate it fast enough.) after having most of a bottle of Moscato (you know this was ages ago since I was drinking Moscato!) at a party, and I ran off down the street, got lost and ended up in tears, and my tears I mean I was sobbing uncontrollably and my friends had to search for me because I didn’t know where I was. (Yeah that happened, and I try to forget, but for the sake of my story, I am reliving it.) Well this was a result of “friend mixing”, and too much alcohol. I would like to say this was the last time I mixed friends, it wasn’t, but I’m not telling you what happened the next time, however, it’s safe to say that I learned my lesson. And then I got engaged. It was an awkward position for me, knowing that my friends and family, and James’ friends and family now had to in the very least spend one day together, and trust me, I tried for the minimum. I did not know what to expect, but it’s these occasions where you just hope that everyone will behave themselves for… well in this case for me. Last year my ex and I were both invited to a wedding, we both attended, I went with my fiance (at the time) and we were polite, we didn’t sit together, (no need to make things uncomfortable) but we both had a great time. Are we friends, no, but we chose to be bigger people for our friends. So I really was hoping the same thing could happen for my wedding. I have to admit that a lot of things could have gone wrong, but didn’t. There was still a lot of awkwardness, and only one uninvited guest ( a great story for another time, perhaps). But my bridesmaids did not all like each other, they still behaved, banded together, and sucked it p to make my day special. I know it was hard for some of them, and I am well aware that most of them were very thankful that I had a falling out with the one girl that was close to me, but treated them all like crap, maybe it was the fact that she wasn’t there that they all proved themselves. I would never undermine the willpower of a woman who is proving she is better than her best friend’s (ex) best friend. In fact a lot of them don’t like each other, but they still behaved. Why does it have to take a special occasion for everyone to be on their best behavior? I have heard, and been a part of gossiping and shit talking, and it’s not OK, I have made a conscious effort to stop being petty. It does no good… Ok at the time, when you’re pissed, it seems like it’s a great idea, and you might even feel better, not better than you did, better than her. But that just makes us bullies and mean girls. Not to be biblical, but how would YOU feel. Maybe you wouldn’t care, and if you don’t, maybe you are just more mature than the rest of us, maybe you’re Madonna who said, ” It’s none of my business what people say about me.” I have to admit it’s true… Usually hearing what others think of you is painful. Maybe we can work on ourselves, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is easier said than done… I know, but neither is eating clean, but it’s so worth it to have more energy and love your body! I am making an effort to cleanse my soul, no more shit talking, bad mouthing or gossiping. I’m going to do yoga, and meditate, no more festering and dwelling on negativity. I want to be a better person. Life is too short to be a petty bitch.

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Attachment Parenting vs. Traditional Parenting (in my house)

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Blending families… Have I mentioned it’s really difficult? My husband and I have ONE huge disagreement. We rarely argue, but when we do it’s always about this one thing. Attachment Parenting vs. Traditional Parenting.

When Joliene was born, my life changed. Even though I had no idea WHAT attachment parenting was, and had no interest in breastfeeding, co sleeping, or cloth diapering, However, I naturally became a “crunchy” or “granola” mom, and did all of the above! I did not read any books, initially, I followed my instincts. I do not know if it has to do with my personality, my own upbringing, or maybe it was just love? We all show love differently. (There are 5 Love Languages, after all!) I show love by nurturing. If I love you, I want to take care of you, I want to make your life easy, and beautiful and I will bend over backwards doing so, if I feel it’s what you need. I remember Jo being maybe a week or 2 old, and her dad telling me that I could put her down, she was asleep, and I said, “No, I want to hold her.” That’s all I wanted to do.

A lot of people, family included, judged my parenting style, saying “It’s harder. It takes too much time. You’re spoiling her. It’s not necessary. She will never be independent.” I shrugged it off, I didn’t care what anyone thought. I was doing what I felt was right for Jo and for me.

Flash forward to the last year or 2. I moved in with my husband (well, now he is my husband, anyways) and his 2 kids and it was quite the culture shock. His family had all banded together to raise his kids, and it was kind of a clusterfuck. It was amazing that everyone had stepped in to do their part, while James had been working full time. As dysfunctional as the family is, their hearts really are in the right place. However, I felt like I was coming into a… I don’t know, it was like walking into a house that is so thrashed, and you honestly have no clue where to begin. I had 2 new kids who had never had a bond with their mama, and were emotionally band-aid-ed together. 2 amazing little people who had known unimaginable loss, and virtually no consistency. A 4 year old who was playing Black Ops, and running into the street without a thought, and only ate mac n cheese. An 8 year old who spent more time gone at her grandma’s house than home, who was so shy, and at the same time so eager to to be a big girl. The kids already knew what was expected of them, they took a bath, used the restroom, got dressed and brushed their teeth on their own. They really were independent. But, to me this was so concerning, because I saw these little ones doing everything by themselves, not needing any help, any bonding, or support. It was unnerving to me. You may be thinking “How great! they were so self sufficient! It must have made life easier for you!” No… It didn’t, it made me feel useless, and sad. I didn’t know where to begin with them, how to develop a relationship, a parental relationship, at that. Here I am with my 3 year old who only recently stopped co-sleeping, who sat on my lap for every meal… come to think of it, we didn’t even have a schedule, as I had always been a SAHM, we just went with the flow of life, day to day. My baby wanted to be wherever I was, and I wasn’t comfortable with her running across the street to their auntie’s house because I had no idea how she would react without me… I had so many concerns and I had to find a way to fit. I loved that my baby wanted her mama, I loved that she was so connected to me, that we had our own life that virtually revolved around one another. Did I need time and space sometimes? Absolutely. Was it hard sometimes? Fuck yes. But I was comfortable. And I looked at my “new” kids, and I felt sad. It’s funny that I felt so sad ( and in all honesty STILL feel a huge loss, because I wish I could have been with them when they were smaller, I wish I had had the opportunity to bond with them like a mother, to hold them, and feel connected.) they were perfectly happy. They didn’t know that they were missing, and thank goodness for that.

Here we are now, and there are like 3 different parenting styles going on in my home! There’s my husband’s: “Tough love, take it or leave it style” ( for the most part, he still has his moments with “his boy” Lj has been blessed by being not only the baby, but THE BOY, in a family that A) is made up of mostly boys, and B) has an obsession with sports. They pride their boys on their physical abilities and skills and they tend to bully the younger, weaker, more sensitive children. ) My parenting, which is based on each child in that moment and can look insanely unfair, if you are out side of the box. And the CRAZY parenting that happens when we cannot agree, so we kind of take over “our own kid(s)” and don’t let the other have anything to do with them. Jenna kinda swaps back and forth between me and James depending on the situation.

Crazy parenting happens after an argument, usually involving one injustice or another that was done to one of the kids by the “other” parent. It can be the simplest thing that one of us blows out of proportion, like, Jo likes purple, but James gave her a blue cup (tough shit), and I was annoyed that he even gave her the blue cup KNOWING she would want the purple one, but I have been REALLY working on supporting my hubby, so I said, “Now your cup matches Jenna’s!” (In my mind helping her to see bright side, no she wasn’t going to get her cup, and no crying about a cup would not work, but, check it out, blue is nice, too!) Enter James, who knows I’m annoyed that he gave her the wrong color, so he gives her a new cup (completely diminishing BOTH of our attempts at parenting, because now, Jo got her way from crying, and James is now upset because he feels like his parenting is undermined, and I am frustrated because I feel like I backed him up and then he dropped the ball.) So then he gets annoyed by anything I do to “help” Jo, in this case, she didn’t like the sauce on her salmon, so I wiped it off (easy fix). Now we are both frustrated and we are both triggered by the other one so our “never-really-ending parenting debate” continues from the LAST time we had a disagreement, and we both have a billion examples of how the other one is not consistent, which sounds an awful lot like an attack on the other parent’s parenting.

Natural consequences... You fight, you hold hands.
Natural consequences… You fight, you hold hands.

So here I am for almost 24 hours now trying to find a balance. Attachment parenting is based on the theory that we are shaped by our first attachments… “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” I have spent my entire life looking for someone worthy of a true attachment, I have felt alone and abandoned and my first true bond was my little girl. Jo put me together, and gave me my first true attachment besides my sister. I literally cannot help loving her, and wanting to show her in the most selfless ways. I see how that can be weird to a traditional parent, a traditional parent’s habits for teaching their babies to be more self sufficient may be more natural to them. However, having attachment parented for almost 4 years now, I have seen Jo grow up in her own time. Maybe I didn’t force her to use the big toilet when she was potty training, but one day, she made the decision to take off the booster seat and “balance” on the toilet like a big girl. I feel that growing up naturally happens, and it’s not a big deal if she chooses to use a booster seat, because one day, she will decide she’s over it. One day she won’t want to be in my lap all day… Oh wait, that was today. I don’t know why, but today she has been perfectly content to play on her own, and do her own thing. Some days all she wants is to be in my lap or under my feet. It’s organic, and it’s silly to me, to force her to feel something she doesn’t feel, or put her in a situation that make her feel uncomfortable. James feels totally different, like he should be able to tell his kids what to do, or say or how to act, and in that moment they should obey. I give Jo time to process, I don’t spring things on her, I warn her, that we are going to the dentist next week, and I repeat it daily, so by the time we are going to the dentist, she knows, and she may not be thrilled, but she is a big girl about it. However, if I were to tell her the morning of, the world would end, and the dentist, likely would not get anywhere near her mouth. I believe that in time, she won’t require so much warning, and it’s not even an inconvenience for me to let her know ahead of time. I would be pretty frustrated if suddenly I had to be at the dentist in 10 minutes, wouldn’t you? I almost feel like the way I parent is respectful to the child. Yes, I lay down the law when it’s necessary, and I try to be as consistent as possible, but I feel like its fair and better for the child’s sense of self to have some control over their little lives. Whether its a purple cup, warning about a trip to the dentist, or a choice of strawberries or an apple.

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I don’t feel that this means Jo rules my life, I know that when you love someone you make changes and sacrifices to make their life easier, yes, but also, to better them, to encourage growth, learning and decision making.

Jo getting her own fruit! #MissIndependent
Jo getting her own fruit! #MissIndependent

You may pride yourself in your ability to say jump and have your child leap into the air, and I do have that experience with my (step) kids (depending on the situation…. ) and yes, it makes life easier, but I don’t know how “easy” parenting is supposed to be? Isn’t parenting about growing ourselves as we nurture a new life? Being a mother has taught me so much about myself, and I have had to make so many changes, and take serious responsibility. Knowing this, I feel our kids deserve some slack. Why must we be dictators? When we really are meant to be teachers. And I don’t know about you, but my favorite teachers were the ones who personally invested in me, pushed me to be better, and gave me some slack when I needed it.

They have their moments...
They have their moments…

No One’s The Bitch

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My daughter was playing with a friend a few weeks ago in our garage/converted play room and she says, “My other mom’s favorite color is green.” I almost dropped the broom that was in my hand. I heard that wrong… I had to have heard that wrong!

“Baby? Why did you call her your other mom? She is your step-mom.” (By the way, she has only carried this title for a few days at this point.)

Jo answered, “Because I have two moms now.”

My heart raced, inside I screamed “NO!!! You do not have two moms! I am your mama, you grew inside MY belly, I felt your first kicks, I kissed you first! I am your mama, I got up every night with you and sacrificed my body for 9 months to bring you to this world, and for another almost two years breast feeding. I am your mama, I slept on the floor next to your bed every night, every shower I took for 3 years was a shower slash bath so you could play and stay close to me because all you ever wanted was your mama. I am your mama, I fell in love with you, you were my first love, and I was yours.”

I didn’t say that. I walked away and cried. This new woman has been in my daughters life for about 5 months, and as far as I am concerned the title, “Mom” is earned. Not to say you have to birth children to become a mother, I have a step mom and she is one of my closest friends. I also had a somewhat absent mother. While I saw my mom on occasional weekends, she never really exhibited the “mom” role in my life. Nevertheless, she is still my mama. I refer to my step mom by her name, although I do consider her a parent. And coincidentally I am even closer to her than either of my biological mother.

I myself am a step mother, as well. My step children call me “Mom”… So you might think that I have a double standard? It took my stepchildren (my kids) about a year to start referring to me as their mom. It wasn’t something I asked or told them to do, it was organic. My husband and I are their primary care givers. Their biological mom passed away a few years before I came into the picture. For all intents and purposes, I am mom. I stay home, I help with homework, I clean, prepare dinner, read books, wipe away tears, ice boo-boos, bandage scrapes… you name it. they asked me if it was OK for them to call me mom. My biological daughter, Jo was excited to share her mama. Granted it took her about the same amount of time to become comfortable with me performing all of the maternal duties for children other than her. I know it was a hard thing for the grandparents to hear, and to get used to, but we all decided that we wanted the kids to know that we are a family, and and even though their biological mother can’t be here, I will be here. (We also do not refer to my husband as Jo’s dad, he is her step dad and she has nicknames for him.)

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Sometimes you have to do very uncomfortable things for the greater good. Hearing my daughter call her step mom her “other mom” put a few things into perspective for me. I had a lot of bitterness, and a part of me didn’t want to let go of it. Because if I let go of my bitterness, I couldn’t be angry anymore. Sometimes we hold onto our bitterness because it justifies the real feelings, the ones we don’t want to talk about. It took a long time for me to get to a healing place within myself in regards to my ex. (For an example check out my truce with daddies http://healthymama.net/?p=22) And most dads for that matter. Granted my ex and I are not BFFs, but at least I have worked through and owned MY shit. I honestly didn’t realize how threatened I would be by “The Other Woman”. My insecurities came flooding out, and I knew I had a BIG problem. My husband said, “It’s OK if you’re jealous…” Aaaannnddd I verbally ripped his head off. “Me? Jealous? I don’t get jealous! I’m not one of THOSE girls. I don’t want HER life, in fact she’s living my old life, the life I fled, wrote off, the life that scarred me.” (OK maybe it wasn’t THAT bad… in reality it just wasn’t right for me. And let’s face it… I have been through MUCH worse than an unhappy relationship. (See  http://healthymama.net/?p=38 for my cult back round and http://healthymama.net/?p=306 for physical and emotional physical trauma) I can think of a million reasons I am pissed not “jealous”.

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Luckily for me, a friend offered me a book called “No One’s The Bitch” (http://www.noonesthebitch.com/) and at this point I am desperate. I couldn’t live with these insecurities any more. I had to find some peace. It was really hard for me because I didn’t dislike Jo’s step mom… I honestly didn’t know her, I was just… Ok I’ll say it: I was jealous. Jealous that my daughter referred to her as a mom, and she seemed comfortable with it, jealous that she is living my old life, has my old friends, and probably has heard about all of my dirty laundry (and then some, knowing the vicious rumors I have heard about myself). Jealous that my baby is spending so much time with a stranger, and that my ex still wouldn’t communicate with me the way I needed. My insecurities were festering. Everyone told me not to bother with the book, that I should just “hate” the step mom because she will inevitably hate me. That she shouldn’t step on MY toes, and I have every right to be angry. I am the mom.

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But I was looking at this from a different point of view. I went to a place where I was happy and relieved that my ex found someone, that he seemed happy. My daughter obviously liked her, too. Jo has been through enough, and the last thing we need is for me to make everyone’s life miserable because I can’t handle my insecurities. I have always been very… judgmental of parents who do not put their kids first. Not to be mean, and I know judging is not OK, but I cannot respect a parent who puts their children in a dangerous situation out of selfishness or convenience. So how can I put my daughter in the middle of a territorial fight? How is that fair? It’s not like we can cut her in half! (Yes, that was a biblical reference) I had to find a way to share, a way that wasn’t going to break my heart.

So over the last few weeks I have been working through my shit, and it’s not an easy thing to admit where I need to change. I feel vulnerable. But I also feel lucky. Lucky that I found help so quickly, that the other woman is very respectful towards me, and we have found we have more in common than either of us expected. That we both have Joliene’s best interest at heart. We found that we communicate better with each other than I do with my ex!

I still don’t want to hear her referred to as Jo’s “other mom”, I am still protective of my title, and my relationship with my daughter. I am, however, working through these feelings, and learning to deal with them in a healthy way. No one has to be the villain. No One’s The Bitch. Except me, I was kind of being a bitch.