Wednesday, 25 July 2007

In need of support.

The sky is a pale shade of blue today. Not a cloud in sight. It makes a change from the grey skies and persistent rain we have suffered for most part of July. It almost feels like an October morning with heavy dew trading places with early Autumns frost covering the grass. The sun is low in the sky but I can already feel its warmth through the window. It's going to be a beautiful day., I just hope it will last. The branches of my cherry tree sway rhythmically, ruffled by the gentle breeze but I think it is warm enough to go without a jacket. Perhaps I am in need of a walk to clear some cobwebs. I'm sure my two year old will enjoy the trip out. Yesterday we were stuck in the house all day due to the weather. Perhaps a walk along the canal is just what I need.
I have become more involved once again with the on-line step family forums. Even though my step daughter wants no involvement with me, I still feel this should be resolved. I cannot do it alone. Perhaps I need the reassurance I am right, I have done everything possible to resolve the situation and there is nothing more that can be done.

Looking at Divorce Poison, I personally cannot see there is any way the damaged relationship between my step daughter and I can be repaired. If it can, it is going to be a long process with much work and I feel I have little strength to pour into the challenge. I am already consumed with the whole situation and it is an emotion that is wasted. My energy should be directed towards my own children and my husband, but they have constantly taken a back seat. They don't seem to be high on my list of priorities when in actual fact, they should be way on top!
Firstly, we cannot even be sure my husbands ex wife is behind my step daughters behaviour at all. Divorce Poison shows how I can counteract the behaviour of my husbands ex wife and her comments about me by not allowing her negative thoughts to penetrate and remain inside my step daughter allowing them to fester or become believable lies. I read this snippet from Divorce Poison. It makes perfect sense.

We all hate mud slinging in political campaigns, but it always seems to happen. Each candidate is attempting to convince the voters that they are the best person for the job. They usually start out just talking about why they are a good candidate, but before long they give into the temptation to start talking about why they think the other candidate is not good for the job. They work to convince the voters that there is nothing good about their opponent. Even if the opponent has done something good, or has a good idea, they will attempt to discredit or find fault with the other's ideas and actions. They don't even have to tell lies. All they have to do is exaggerate negative points while minimizing positive points.
Regardless of the election's outcome, we are all relieved that the smear campaigns are finally over. Unfortunately there will occasionally be a looser who can't accept his loss, and will continue the mudslinging long after the election is over.

Ideally, when one candidate begins mudslinging, the other candidate should be "the better man", and not let his campaign sink to that level. Unfortunately, not fighting back or responding to the other candidate's attempts to ruin his reputation can backfire. Not responding to an accusation actually gives credit to it. Without any information to counter the false or misleading information given to them, the voters and general public begin to believe the bad remarks. If the smear campaigning goes on long enough, the negative images of the candidate can crowd out any positive images in the voters' minds. The voters will begin to have negative feelings about the candidate.

The problem I have is that my stepdaughter has never actually said, "my mum said this." The only three points I can actually say have happened are the incident where my stepdaughter said "mummy says I don't have to talk to you," the head lice incident, "you don't know what you are talking about," or the birthday party in which my stepdaughter told us "mummy doesn't want my friends to come to your house." My stepdaughters mother appears to have been very clever in her "mud slinging campaign." So how can I counteract this? How can I or my husband plant positive thoughts in my stepdaughters head when I have no idea what is being said to her?
When my husband spends time with his child, he doesn't talk about me or the children. He says there is no point. He doesn't want to rake up the last 4 years, he just wants to talk to her about trivial things like school. So I am at a loss. If I cannot counter attack the mud slinging, and my husband does not either, whatever is inside of my stepdaughter's head regarding her feelings for me, remain there.

I suggested she came to the ball pit with us last Saturday afternoon to which she replied, without any prompting from her mother, "Can we leave Leigh at home?" Oh yes she wanted the fun, but I was not allowed to be part of it. My husbands reply? "That isn't very nice is it?" I think he is finally accepting that everything that comes out of his daughter's mouth regarding his wife, is not always instigated by her mother.

My defences are up concerning my own daughter. My husbands ex had suggested her daughter felt bullied by my own child. The little discussions my husband has while he visits his daughter about myself or my eldest daughter are annoying. My husband hasn't been specific with his information and it infuriates me. Once again I cannot defend myself or my daughter. I wonder if my husband does on our behalf, I doubt it. My daughter does not deserve the comments made by my stepdaughter, and this results in her wanting to spend time with her own father. This creates the feeling that my stepdaughter has caused my child to want to spend time away from us. Some relief from our now dysfunctional family. I really do despise my step daughter, and I don't like that quality in myself.

Perhaps it is time for me to let go but I feel the moment I stop caring about the situation, the moment I can wake up on a morning and not care about how this is affecting our lives, the moment I can stop caring how my step daughter will turn out, or she doesn't want to see me. So the moment I stop caring would make me feel I've given up. Given up on my husband and I love him too much to do that. Once again I feel completely torn. If I give up caring, not showing an interest, watch my husband leave to visit his daughter and not care, I will be accused of not supporting my him. But the truth is I don't care about my step daughter. I care about my husband and the affect the situation is having on my own children. My 11 year old is "used to hearing her mum and step dad's heated discussions about why their life has not turned out how it should have," and a 2 year old who will ask me, "are you ok mummy?" This is why I am so annoyed with my stepdaughter and her mother. The effect they are continually having on my and my children's lives and the fact they are probably oblivious to it!

Saturday, 21 July 2007

All alone am I

It is hard watching my husband leave once a fortnight to visit his daughter, I cannot deny that. After his first meeting with her he told me all she could talk about was me. I find this hard to believe as she doesn't want to see me. Perhaps she is paying lip service to her father, I'll talk about her, so daddy won't dislike me or see me as bad for not wanting to see his wife. I don't know what goes through her mind. It could even be, the truth is, she does dislike me, it isn't anything to do with her mother at all, but had her mother not told me to my face I was nothing to do with her daughter, I feel this is more the reason.

So I watch my husband get ready for another visit. I sit at home and wait for his return, with the aroma of his Armani aftershave still lingering beneath my nose. I wait while he treats his daughter to Pizza Hut, or walks in the park. At this time I cannot bury my feelings that once again she has triumphed in dividing my family. She now has what she wants, daddy to herself and she is rewarded for her behaviour. It is raining today so what will my husband find to do with his daughter? I have suggested wellies and a raincoat. Perhaps it is time to get tough and talk to her about joining our family again.

It has been suggested I read Divorce Poison - Richard Warshak. I will borrow this
from the library.

For goodness sake, it's 2 hours a fortnight and I have him 24/7, but it is the family divide I despair with. My children have never tried to separate me from my husband. I wouldn't allow it. We come as a package. They know my husband is important to me, but they are reassured they are important to me too and the bottom line is they get on well with their step father. They understand the situation and why we are here. They are constantly supported by my husband and myself and when my daughter visits her father, the visits are again supported. I don’t speak badly of her dad or his girlfriend so there is no need for my children to feel guilty about getting along with her, I actually encourage it.

I have made a chocolate cake for my daughter. She left Primary school yesterday to move onto to secondary school. I have written 'Well done end of year 6' on the top.
I have cut a small piece and wrapped it up for my husband to give his daughter. We have had a minor discussion this morning about the situation. He feels guilty for leaving us but feels, his ex wife behaving the way she has, he just wants to keep the conflict away from the house. Any more and we feel our marriage will be over. We have questioned, sought help, argued for too long. He believes, while his ex wife remains in his daughters life, there will never be a resolution and he is tired of trying. It's not because he doesn't love his child, that has never been the issue, but 4 years of conflict? How many more? When can we begin to be husband and wife? When can we begin to be happy parents to our own children? When will the tug of war and heartache stop?

I have tried to be a friend to my step daughter, I have sent her home with positive thoughts, never slandered her mother in her company, always tried to be positive, but to no avail. For her last birthday I sent a card and bought a silver chain with a little ballerina on it just from me. I'm not evil or nasty but I confuse myself. One minute feeling nothing but contempt, the next, feelings of pity and yearnings for my step daughter to be included once again. I honestly do not want my stepdaughter, this young child of 7, to grow up confused or bitter. It's no wonder I confuse my husband too!

Friday, 20 July 2007


After discovering the ex wife's intention of moving with no obvious plan to inform my husband, I called him at work to notify him of my revelation.
He was, quite obviously, annoyed, upset, I'm not really sure. A mixture of feelings I suppose. She was intending to move, and not tell him, so the next time he wrote to his daughter, the letter would never be delivered.

According to the Estate agent, the house was under offer with the proposed completion of sale, happening within a matter of weeks. My husband decided to call his ex wife.
She was clever as always, asking if he had spoken to the school. He asked if she ever intended informing him of her plans or was she simply going to disappear and take his daughter with him? She fobbed him off telling him nothing was final and she would ask their daughter if she wanted daddy to continue writing. My husband's response? I would have hoped as a decent human being you would automatically let me know.
But of course, his daughter was over him wasn't she? And his ex wife has never shown an indication of decency.

This was serious. I encouraged my husband to call the school and ask to see his daughter in person. He needed to hear it from her if he was never to see his child again. The head mistress behaved in a very noble manner when his ex had notified her of the move. She told his ex that as a representative of the school, she was duty bound to inform the father, my husband, of the potential school move of his daughter. His ex wife wasn't too happy about this, but she wouldn't be would she? She thought she could paint my husband out to be a terrible father, but once my husband had contact with the school, and they could see for themselves what a nice guy he is, they came to their own conclusions. His ex wife was/is a clever woman who puts words into her daughter's mouth. Duly pointed out by the headmistress!

This may seem harsh for me to say such things, but even after the way I have been treated I do not want my husband to remain sad without his child. If I didn't care about his feelings, I wouldn't have told my husband of my discovery, I could have withheld the information and never spoke of it, but I'm not like that. My husband is too important to me. I encourage him to speak to his daughters teacher this morning.

My husband was nervous but made the call to be told yes his daughter wanted to see him even though she did have to think about it for a few moments.
I watched him in the shower as he prepared himself for his reconcilliation. He was shaking, nervous to see his own child. I was anxious myself but encouraged him and things would be fine. He was worried about what they would talk about even though they only had 10 minutes or so during her lunch hour.

I told him she would probably whisk him around her classroom excited to show him all her work. I suggested he ask her teacher to stay in the classroom with them, to be on the safe side. He felt ashamed and doubted his parenting skills. He seemed to shower for ages and I wondered if he would end up looking like a prune but understood the water seemed to calm him.

As he left I hugged him but he was still shaking. I could not go with him to support him, he had to do this alone, it was between father and daughter. So once again I feel slightly excluded as I am unable to support the man I love.
He hadn’t told his ex wife of his intentions, he knew what would happen and I waited in anticipation for him to return home.

Hearing his key in the door I waited for him to find me in the kitchen. As I looked at him there was something different. He walked taller as if he were walking on air and the grin was so big it distorted his face. He gabbled and I had trouble catching what he was saying.
‘It was wonderful,’ he exclaimed. ‘Like we’ve never been apart. You were right but I knew all along things would be fine, she’s my daughter and I’m her daddy. Hannah showed me all the things she has been doing at school and I could see it in her face she was pleased to see me too. I knew my bitch of an ex wife was lying when she said Hannah didn’t want to see me again, she was over me; she looked pretty over me today. Look at this photo I have taken. She held on to me the entire time I was with her, she didn’t want me to go when it was time’

He was completely euphoric and I instantly noticed a change in my husband. The man I had fallen in love with five years ago was standing before me. I hadn’t noticed the mental torture that had weighted him down over the last year and he appeared to be standing taller too like a weight had been lifted. But in the same instant, the weight seemed to place itself back on to my own shoulders. I had been blind. Even though I had been aware of his sadness and despair I had overlooked something else. Along with the loss of his daughter something inside of him had died but as I looked at him now I immediately saw an instant re-birth.

He asked his daughter if she would like to come visit us again and she said she would love to show us the Brownie badges she had earned. I felt uneasy and cautious yet positive things would be different. We decided we would not let things affect us. We knew what the problem was and we could deal with it now. His ex wife could not stop him from seeing his daughter. Her insistence that his daughter didn’t want to see him was an obvious lie, her actions proved that so the only card she could play was to say his daughter didn’t want to see me. We were prepared.

My husband called his ex and told her he had been to see his daughter. She was not happy but had to accept father and child wanted to see each other again. The planning began.
Within an hour my husband received a call from his daughter. She was faltering, embarrassed on the telephone. ‘Sorry daddy, I want to see you but not her. I don’t want to see her.’
So there it was, her mother was working her from the back and his daughter was pressured into saying an awful thing. How can someone do that to a child? Once again his ex wife wins!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Divine intervention?

I don’t know what compelled me to check the electoral register a few months ago. A hunch? A feeling? Divine intervention? Yes you can now consider me a total fruitcake but I believe in life after death, Karma, whatever you wish to call it.
But it was there I discovered my husbands ex wife had sold her house and intended moving without notifying my husband at all.
Suddenly everything fell into place. Having to drop Christmas presents and Easter gifts for his daughter in the car park of a local pub was not, as his ex wife suggested, to save his daughter more upset. It was to stop him going to her home and seeing the ‘For sale’ sign erected in her front garden.

I have my experiences, things that cannot be explained. Seeing ‘things’ that I know are not there. For example. I lost my dog. I don’t mean I couldn’t find her she died. I was devastated; she was my one true friend. At the same time I had a cat, a black and white moggy called Chester. He hated my dog and would corner her, back arched, fur fluffed out, hissing at a pathetic cowering dog twice his size. She was a total wimp but I loved her. Several months after my loss, I thought I was getting over her. While talking on the telephone one afternoon, Chester was going absolutely berserk in the kitchen. He was hissing, fur fluffed up, back arched. And then I saw it, a mid sized black dog standing inside looking out through my patio doors. Of course I questioned how a dog had managed to get into my home. The doors were shut; there was no way it could have come in. So I finished my conversation and as I turned to replace the receiver and head to the door, the dog had vanished. I searched the whole house for the dog but nothing. Had Chester not acted in the strange way, I really thought I had imagined it. I know I didn’t.

I remember the meeting with Maureen like it happened yesterday just before my first marriage ended. On driving to her home images of Romany women with rugged hands laden with gold rings and bangles distracted my concentration. I was surprised to encounter a modest semi-detached house with heavy lace curtains at the windows. Even more of a surprise was to be greeted by the woman herself. The smartly dressed middle-aged woman greeted me with a wide smile. She had a round, friendly face and even friendlier eyes, quite a normal looking woman with a tangled mop of brown hair. I suppose I expected her to have a scarf tied around her head gazing into a crystal ball or something; typical image of a clairvoyant. She offered a cup of tea and a biscuit but I declined. The aroma of orange and lavender filled the room and a small water fountain bubbling on the table, seemed odd but added a tranquil mood to the room. Evidently water is a good spiritual conductor, so if you need to have a good natter with the dearly departed, have a soak in the bath.

I remember the conversation well as I sat to the side of her in her back room.
‘Okay, let’s see what we’ve got shall us?’ she said.
I remember watching Maureen curiously as she placed some bright coloured cards randomly in front of her on the table.
‘There’s been a death dear, not a physical one, an emotional one. Are you divorced?’ I was startled by the question and immediately felt for the gold band still firmly on my left hand.
‘Ah, but the marriage is over yes? It’s dead.’

‘Yes I suppose you could say that.’ I replied.
‘ Well you have a decision to make m’dear,’ continued Maureen, ‘Leave him and be free, or remain caged for the rest of your life.’
I remember feeling an immense sadness and must have looked sad to Maureen as she suddenly grabbed my hand.

‘ This card here,’ and she tapped it lightly with her finger. ‘You see the sword? When this card appears it represents not just physical strength but the ability to cope and win through in the end. The Strength card signifies triumph over most things; challenges you may face, even defending yourself against jealousy, ignorance and domination. It warns of missed opportunities and not to give up. You have the strength, you must use it.’

She told me of a special little girl who I assumed would be my stepdaughter but she told me it was my own child. At that time there was no way I was having any more children but as it is now, I have my young daughter who was 2 in March. She mentioned a church but not a wedding, and the name Mary. I happen to live opposite a church quite bizarrely called St Mary’s.

There were many things she told me the weirdest was she saw something published. Perhaps it is this Blog and my need to share it with everyone.
One last thing, she asked me who Richard was. At the time I could not think, but one day it came to me. I used to call my husband my Richard Gere. Not that he looks anything like him but they share the same grey hair and distinguishing qualities Gere depicted in Pretty Woman. Not the corporate raider but the romantic character that hung out of a sunroof brandishing his umbrella like a sword shouting ‘Princess Vivienne.’ Like Richard Gere rescued Julia Roberts, my husband rescued me too, except my white limousine, was a long based transit van!

Home Sweet Home.

The view of the Dales has always captivated me. I love Yorkshire; it has become home and is a long, long way away from Bristol, the place I grew up, a place that held countless, unpleasant memories for me.
Yorkshire's gentle sloping hills give way to feelings of serenity for me. I love those undulating hills; the tiny stone back-to-back cottages with black slate roofs that nestle among tall oak trees, barely visible, now June is here. The Wild Cherry trees shed their blossom like wedding confetti thrown in celebration caused by each gentle gust of the warm breeze. The tips of the Silver Birch sway rhythmically, their slender branches reach out to finger the airs tender surge.

I often loose myself in the view. The hills, trees and stone cottages being a stark but welcome contrast to the industrial buildings so commonly depicted in Lowry’s finest art work. Keighley, my local Town, disperses itself at the foot of the valley.

The home I share with my husband and family sits comfortably on the opposite side of the dale in a peaceful, sleepy village among a mixture of old and new built dwellings. Cottages without garages cause the local inhabitants to park their vehicles along the winding country roads that lazily follow the contours of the hills. Impatient drivers honk their horns at slow moving tractors laden with hay that move their load from one field to the other.

I love the Yorkshire people, not the image I once conjured of men in string vests wearing knotted hankies or flat capped individuals brandishing giant black puddings shouting, ‘eh by gum.' They are a gentle, straight-talking breed with a lazy endearing dialect; pure folk with 'nout taken out. When I collect my eldest daughter from school, I observe the Yorkshire mothers who collect their own offspring. Women of all shapes and sizes, some large who bellow like market traders on Grimsby dock, some small who refrain from drawing attention to themselves whilst trying to retain some decorum grappling with their spawn by the scruff of their necks.
Both types of women preserve deep family values, making sure a plate is empty before moving on to pudding and if they are still hungry, fill up on bread!

Honesty, integrity and understanding the value of money, a lesson I too have learned. Southerners like myself, tend to be a little more reserved less welcoming and a little suspicious of strangers. They prefer to stand back and observe often-giving rise to the feeling of scrutiny to a newcomer. They tend to judge their book by its cover rather than taking their time and gently warming to its pages and reading a while. Me? I am an immigrant, a southern lass having now acquired a little Yorksher grit, or in English terms, a no-nonsense and never say die spirit whether in business, sport or facing a crisis!
Unlike my love for Yorkshire, my body has grown to dislike it and having no self-control has decided to head south. Yes the once slender size ten has given way to a voluptuous squeeze-in-my-jeans size twelve with post childbirth humps and bumps popping out exactly where I don't want them too. My husband loves my curves and so does my daughter.
‘I love you mummy, you’re not fat you’re beautiful.’
I wish I could share my daughter’s biased opinion.

Monday, 9 July 2007

The Aftermath.

I woke this morning agitated and a little out of sorts. My husband had cocooned himself amongst the duvet, a position he often takes at some point during the night because he hates being cold, so I gave him a prod and the covers another yank. ‘Selfish sod.’ Annoyed I rolled over and touched my lower back wincing from the immediate pain. My bed feels uncomfortable now, much like my marriage; at one time it felt safe but not anymore. Now it feels strange and awkward. Don't get me wrong I love my husband I completely adore the man and I am very happily married. He is the most attentive, devoted human being I could wish to be with, an impatient so and so all the same like many of the male species, but the present situation has caused a shift of emotions that once again, remain unfamiliar. So unable to get comfortable I decide to get up.

It was a dream that woke me, normally my 2 year old beats the birds dawn chorus, but not this morning.The image was so clear it seems it happened only yesterday. I am driving in my car towards the home of my husband’s ex wife. It is a beautiful summer afternoon and the sun has been hot for days. Folk don their sunglasses and lower shades in their cars; bare-armed overweight women fan themselves with newspapers or magazines, irritable with the heat. Children holding the ice creams they eagerly lick, drop most of it onto their newly washed t-shirts, they gaze up at their mothers and their mothers glare back at them disapprovingly.

My palms are sweaty as I grip the steering wheel, my young daughter gurgles happily fastened into her seat behind me. I am fizzing with excitement yet apprehensive with nerves, excited hoping I may bring about a change concerning my husband not seeing his child, nervous because I will stand face to face with his ex wife and try to have a calm and civil conversation regarding her daughter and I just don’t do confrontation. I perform the scenario over and over. Was there anything that could be salvaged from the situation; was there anything I could have done differently? The same answer repeats itself once again, no; there was nothing I could have done to change what has happened.

My husband never stood a chance as once his ex wife decided she wanted him out of their daughter's life there was absolutely nothing he could have done to change her mind.
My get up and go got up and went and I simply do not have the strength to chase headlong after it. If my mind isn’t racing with one thing it’s thinking about something else.

Coming back to my senses my feet feel for the soft rug that is lying on the floor, so stretching the pain away from my aching back I venture downstairs leaving my husband to sleep. On entering the kitchen, the tiles are cold under my feet so I dance, hopping from one foot to the other while trying to pour myself a cup of coffee, then with cup in hand I walk to the window to see what the day's weather is going to offer. It is a beautiful warm morning, unusual for this time of year so opening the tall patio doors I invite a light waft of air into the room, seat myself at the dining room table and gently cradle my now cooling cup of coffee.

I can hear the birds singing their early morning chorus; the bells of the local church ring out inviting its congregation to share their celebration of life. Closing my eyes for a moment I take in a deep breath, the morning air brings the pungent scent of early flowering stocks and it prickles my nostrils. The gentle but cool breeze brushes my cheeks and embraces my shoulders so I pull the collar of my dressing gown tight around my neck.

I reflect over the past few years of anguish and despair and the last twenty-four months of alienation from my stepdaughter that has eventually led to her ceased visitation. I cannot rid my mind of the meeting with my husband’s ex wife; it haunts my waking moments and disturbs my sleep but those feelings are slowly but surely beginning to diminish, gradually finding their way into my heart is acceptance and in some peculiar sort of way forgiveness.

Unfortunately embroiled in these mixed emotions lays a deeper sadness that bites to the bone, an emotion that will certainly never go away and a tear finds its way onto my cheek. It descends over the contours of my face where it reaches my lips and when biting my lower lip I can taste its saltiness, so drawing a deep breath I lick it away. I have cried far too much, it is time for a new start; time to salvage something from my shattered dreams, my fairytale and the happy ending that should have been inevitable.

Lifting the cup, the brim finds my lips and I take a sip. The tepid, slightly bitter tasting coffee makes me scowl so I place it back onto the table heaving a sigh. Yes I am happy here there is no doubt about that, but it is taking a long time to accept what has happened and how desperately unhappy I have been. My stepdaughter’s ability to alienate me from my family has caused tiresome conflict with my husband and although I no longer have to endure her behaviour, it has left its mark on my husband. He misses her desperately, so much so it’s as if his spark has been extinguished and his inner soul has been snuffed out.

Admiring the comfortable surroundings of my home I catch sight of a photograph hanging on the wall among the other current family snapshots. It is a recent picture of my stepdaughter and immediately guilty feelings of rejection and resentment began to take hold. Sadly she has somehow lost the sparkle in her eyes and her skin is more of a paler, pasty complexion than it’s once radiant pink. Her long, mousy-brown hair framing her delicate features hangs limp and lifeless causing the delicate wispy curls to straighten with the weight. Her confident grin is now replaced with a strained half- hearted smile, it is a completely different image to the child I once knew.

But it is a lot less painful to look at her picture now as not so long ago, one particular portrait at the top of the stairs had to be re-positioned. It was the first picture I caught sight of when descending the stairs after putting my youngest daughter to bed. I just could not look at it without feeling bitterness and dejection, but I knew it had nothing to do with my stepdaughter as an individual; the antipathy was everything she represented. It makes me ashamed for feeling this way but as I see it, all the emotional crap my husbands ex wife has shovelled in our direction via her child has left such a void, the bond I had forged with her daughter that has now been brought down, has left our relationship irretrievably reversible.

It’s funny, in the beginning my stepdaughter could have been visiting her daddy alongside a woman who hated everything she represented. Instead she came into a home where she was loved by her daddy and adored by a woman who cared very deeply for her. It’s funny how a change in circumstances can alter ones perception.

I rise from the table and head upstairs to dress. My husband is still cocooned by the duvet but his snoring has now turned to heavy breathing with more of an odd jaw chomping sound. In the dimness of the bedroom I catch sight of my full-length reflection in the mirror. I think I’m doing ok for my forty-two years of age, the slivers of grey that dominate my once brown hair are a bit of a give away though. Mental note, must buy a hair dye. My eyes are looking a little tired and as for my mental state, well, I don't recall where I left my humour head, I think I misplaced that a few years ago.

Certainly seems a while since I threw my head back and guffawed with laughter, too many tears, disputes, arguments and disagreements concerning my stepdaughter or her mother. All said and done I feel I am actually beginning to re kindle the rapport I once had with my sense of humour and laugh again. Looking in the mirror I squeeze the left over skin at my middriff that doesn’t appear to actually belong to any particular part of my body, I am able to laugh at myself, a good place to start, especially when I pore despondently over my reflection. If I refrain from falling about in hysterics I question myself, 'why am I still here?'

The initial happiness I had shared with my husband has been short lived. In the beginning we were madly in love, we still are, but we both have become preoccupied with our own grief and hopelessness, finding it impossible to put our own needs and anxieties to one side and assist each other in repairing our fragile relationship.

Returning downstairs I rinse the leftover crockery from last night’s meal along with my cup under the tap. 'I love you ya know.' I hear the tender voice of my husband. He is standing behind me and places his hands caressingly around my waist giving me a gentle squeeze. Without turning to face him I smile, 'I know,' I reply, but his sincere words just don't seem to matter at that moment in time. He pats me affectionately on my bottom and totters out into the garden. We seem to have lost our way as husband and wife and disconnected from each other, well maybe I have from him a little. The resentment and regret that has consumed each of us for so long has resulted in the inability to understand, provide sympathy or support to each other but most of all love. It has left no room to plan our future, a future that seemed so bright and a future that should have included my stepdaughter.

Turning away from the sink I saunter to the open doors and study him in his dressing gown. He is tending the blossoms of the small lilac tree and suddenly becomes aware of my gaze and chuckles, ‘takes me back years these do. When I was a lad my mum had one of these in her garden. I used to hide beneath the bushes and poke the passers by with a little stick. Laugh my head off cos they didn’t know where it had come from.’
He cups the blossom affectionately, his cheerful mood changing to despondency as he remembers the true but more powerful significance of the tree, the birth of his beloved daughter.

I think about a friend who has a new love interest in her life.
'He has two wonderful girls aged eight and six, they really are sweethearts.' She eagerly told me.
'Yes, they would be wouldn't they?’ I reply.
'His ex wife is a bit of a pain though, I made a surprise visit to his work and she was sitting on his desk, cross legged wearing stockings and a short skirt. They were laughing together but I can handle that, she doesn’t pose any threat to me.'
I want to be excited for her really I do, but those hidden signals foretell an agenda that cause my scepticism and concern for her. A woman who has not accepted her ex husband has moved on with his life, a woman who doesn’t want him for herself but doesn’t want anyone else to have him either.

It may have been a perfectly innocent visit, but with my past history, it leaves me extremely cautious and suspicious. Never take too lightly a woman who is not completely over her ex husband or hasn’t accepted the dissolution of her marriage. She has a bargaining tool she will use to her advantage, and that tool is her child. This was my mistake; underestimating a woman who should have been of no consequence to me whatsoever apart from sharing a daughter with the man I had fallen head over heels in love with.

She had her own agenda and that was to bring down a relationship, whether it was between my husband and I, my husband and his daughter or her daughter and myself. I will never know whom she targeted as her intended victim, but there were without doubt casualties. The elected victim was my husband but drawn into the crossfire was his own daughter. It was their relationship that was so tragically brought down, consequently my husband lost his child but more importantly his daughter lost her daddy.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Cinderella Syndrome.

I now question if I have become the evil stepmother the myth perceives? I suspect the attitude of my husband's ex wife's is yes, I most certainly have. On reflection of my experiences, I wonder if I have in fact, over compensated in my role and in an effort to gain acceptance from my stepdaughter, the actual achievement was aggravating her mother.

Did I try too hard to be the perfect stepmother in the beginning and did I have over ambitious expectations? I realise what I should have done is to have not become obsessed with how her mother was affecting our lives, but at that time, was far to involved emotionally so it would have been impossible to have detached from the situation. When you are able to observe from a distance, you can interpret and perceive it with an entirely different perspective.
One thing I can be entirely sure of is I have never tried or intended to replace my stepdaughters mother as I am fulfilled with my own mothering duties, but if I am honest, I did want to be better than she is and that was unfair. I know this happened because I needed my stepdaughter to like me and it was important for the success of my family unit. Perhaps subconsciously, it became a competition between us and unknowingly, we were drawn into a game that perhaps began with the ex wife's need to control our weekends, and my absolute non tolerance of it because I expected this blended family to work normally.

I suspect I appeared as a puppeteer for my husband and the influence I was having where decision making and arrangements were concerned, but his ex wife forgot, this was no longer an arrangement between she and her ex husband, suddenly he has a new family that needs to be considered too. It was her choice not to consider us. What she needed to remember is, it was her that caused her family to split not me, but it is me and my family who have suffered. I filled her role as her ex husbands new wife and now understand that it is not necessarily me as a person who she has targeted, but anyone my husband chose to be with. The relationship with my stepdaughter has been devised on a loss of her family and I am here because my stepdaughters life dramatically changed.

Being part of a stepfamily needs an understanding so in order to make the family work, there needs to be communication from everyone involved. This becomes increasingly difficult to navigate especially when one member seems to be constantly working against the other. Should being a great stepparent, allow a stepchild's mother to constantly be in control? Does being a great stepmother require you to become a conformist in order to make the stepfamily unit work, to have absolutely no input in your new family but instead happily succumb to the demands of a stepchild's mother? Why, when taking this role should we instantly but silently labelled as wicked, even before a relationship with our stepchildren has been created?

The whole time my stepdaughter spent her weekend with us, it was never brought to our attention by her mother that there was a major problem concerning my stepdaughter's attitude towards me apart from the visible evidence in her behaviour while at our home.

Both myself and my husband live with the torment each day of living without our respective children. But because it was us alone who made those choices, does this mean we are not allowed to suffer, be sad, and grieve the loss of our children?
If I am totally honest I do feel ashamed that I didn't do more, but what more could I have done? My stepdaughter and I had a great relationship at first and although I cannot prove anything, her mother's actions caused our relationship breakdown.

My stepdaughter quite rightly is loyal to her mum, and I wouldn't expect any different, but she was never encouraged to have a relationship with me, something I have done with my own children. My husbands ex wife told me to my face that I would never have anything to do with her child. How can that not happen when I am married to her dad? The school nurses has told me that there is nothing we can do until she deals with what ever issues she carries. I believe that even though she had an affair and my husband took her back 3 times, she just wasn't ready for him to move on. She wasn't sure if being apart from him was what she really wanted then when I came on the scene, decision taken away from her.

I don't blame her for that my husband is a fantastic husband and an equally fantastic dad. I am a lucky lady.
My problem is that when I started posting and asking for help, I couldn't act on the advise that was being given to me. What I was hoping for was for someone to say " what a horrid child, yes what you are doing is right." But responses were from people who weren't "living" my situation. I was so wrapped up in my own emotions, trying to understand why I was failing, what I was doing wrong, that I simply didn't have time to take into account how my stepdaughter must be feeling or what she was carrying around in her head.

I just couldn't act on any advice. I could understand it the days she wasn't here and my home was calm and normal, but by the time the weekend came and I was thrown back into the chaos, the good advice went out the window and I was consumed with my own feelings again. No room for reasoning.

I have been judged for leaving my son. How could I leave him especially with a violent father. He was never violent towards my children, just towards me. And His actions were through loosing control over me. He lashed out through not knowing what to do, desperation. All i will say is that my reasons for giving my son the choice to stay and leaving him were much greater than being able to stay. They were pretty bad. My son was at an age where he could make his own choice anyway. I miss him every day, and when you don't have a child share your life, that whole left behind is endless. You can say i would never leave a child how could you, but when you are faced with a situation that doesn't really give you a choice.... well. I have to live with that every day.

So I should have been more compassionate with my stepdaughter, more understanding, but to not be able to parent my son and then for her mother to take away my ability to involve my stepdaughter in our everyday life as best we could, left me with another loss. The loss of my son and that of my stepdaughter. So I failed twice. Once as a mother for leaving my son, and once as a Stepmother for not being able to handle a situation.

I have been told I was a mans woman. Well I suppose I am because I am desperate for my situation not to happen to someone else, but who am I to throw my opinions into the works? I have the experience of an ex wife who was set out to exclude my husband from his daughters life so I know for a fact that there is one woman out there who doesn't have the interests of her child at heart, even if she thinks she does.

I am a Mother myself and I can say hand on heart that I have learned a great deal from my stepdaughters mother and how to allow my daughter to have a relationship with her dad. regardless of how I feel about him. That includes me constantly having to defend and make excuses for him when he lets her down. That's my job because I love her and don't want to see her hurt. I don't want her growing up thinking daddy couldn't be bothered,even if this is the case.

As a step mum I'm not a bad person, my only failing was coming into a relationship with my own problems and emotions and then having to deal with another load I didn't know how too. I remember a time when a step mum in a group forum had an issue (if i remember rightly) where her own daughter was being abused by her stepdaughter. Why should she have had to accept this to happen. What choices were left to her? Pity for the stepchild or protection of her own child?

Being a step mum is a hard job and not always appreciated by ex wives Sometimes its just nice to be given a break. So conclusions will be drawn, opinions will be voiced, but the one final comment I will holler when part of a stepfamily is... welcome to the madhouse!


Online support for stepfamilies

Disengaging essay.

The top 5 reasons why second marriages fail.
Larry Bilotta.

The Divorce grieving process An overview.