With the release of my first children’s book, appropriately titled, Wicked Awesome Stepmother, I suppose in the back of my mind I knew there would eventually come some sort of repercussion.
For the most part, Biomom and I stayed out of one another’s way, and when we would be at a function together it was simply tolerating one another’s presence in silence for the sake of the children. For the past 3 1/2 years I felt as if I was much luckier than most to be co-parenting with someone who often made it easy to co-parent with... at least to my knowledge. I had free range to raise the children when they were at our house as Eric and I saw fit, with little to no complaint from Biomom. I thought everything was going pretty swell, all things considered.
Sure, there was one instance early on when I had to pull Biomom aside to request she refrain from speaking ill of me in front of the girls (something I never did), and I thought we had reached an understanding that 'grown up issues' should stay just that: between the grown ups. However, other than that, things seemed to be going along smoothly and without conflict… at least for 42ish months.
When I finally held the hardcover bound book (of my very own story, in my very own words, from my very own heart) in my hands, I felt on top of the world. I never thought it would reach some sort of bestseller status nor did I expect it would come anywhere near to that when I had it published; a measly 5 copies sold or a hefty 5 Million, it was something I had done and accomplished with both pride and love. The sales weren't my initiative, motivation nor my driving factor in writing it.
The story, for anyone who hasn’t read it, is a children’s book spoken from the narrative of a child introduced to her father’s new girlfriend. The child is hesitant to let the woman in regardless of how kind she is, simply because she cannot see her for anything other than an evil witch. As time goes on, as trust builds, the witch becomes more humanized in the eyes of the daughter, and *spoiler alert* the daughter eventually comes to see the new stepmother, not as a threat, but as a welcomed missing piece to the family puzzle.
The thing about my story, though, is that I never once mention the childrens' mother. I never say whether dad and mom got divorced or if daddy was a widower or that maybe there was no mom to begin with, because the story isn’t about that, it isn’t about mom and dad. My story is about the feelings children have toward outsiders (in this case stepmothers) when they come into an already established setting.
As I mentioned, I make it a point to never speak sourly of my step-daughters’ mom, because
a) she will ALWAYS be their mom
b) putting children in the middle of grown up issues isn’t fair to the children
c) ultimately, what good does it serve?
Eric, the girls and I were riding the high of another summer spent at the cabin, and I was paralleling with the ride of finally establishing myself as an actual-real-life-published author.
Summer was good. Life was good.
When I purchased Krista and Kylie’s iPhones several years ago, Biomom, Eric and I all agreed that it would be best not to allow the children to have social media until they were both in high school and had established a sense of maturity and responsibility. It was a healthy family discussion among three adults raising and co-parenting two pre-teenage daughters.
Now, here we were.
Krista was entering her first year of high school, and for a child who can seemingly never remember that I told her to load the dishwasher, she certainly wasn’t going to forget that we told her two years ago that she could have social media when she went into the 9th grade.
“Can I have Instagram now?”
“Well, you aren’t in high school yet,” I told her on the eve of her first day of school, “but let me talk to your father.”
Eric and I did just that, and agreed that we would give it the first 9 weeks of school. If Krista maintained all A’s, kept a positive attitude and helped around the house the idea would be that she could get herself an instagram at that point. The only thing was, he wanted to run it by Biomom first to make sure she was on the same page.
A few days later, as I was scrolling through my ‘people you may know’ feed I stumbled across a photo and handle that instantly twisted knots in my belly.
Did Krista start an Instagram?!
I immediately texted Eric, "Did you know Krista has an Instagram?"
As he was in the middle of a busy workday at a high demanding job, all he responded was, “yes.”
I was fuming.
We had agreed on one thing, but then he went and did the total opposite, and on top of all of that, never filled me in on the details!
For the next several hours I stewed.
When he finally had a free moment, Eric texted me back and explained that Krista had asked him if she could have it, he said he had to talk to Biomom first. Well, Krista, like most creative teenagers will do, beat him to the punch and asked Biomom herself, before he had a chance. Yet, Biomom’s reaction wasn’t the same as mine or Eric’s where we wanted to make sure all parental figures were on the same page, instead she simply said “okay.”
Blood or not, when you live in the same house with someone and you play an active role in their lives, you get to know their quirks- and when it came to Krista, I knew her clever quirks. One of them being, if she didn’t get the answer she wanted from one parent, she would often go to the other to see if she couldn’t get a different response.
This doesn’t make her a bad person, it makes her a teenager.
It occurred to me in that moment that the three of us rearing these children needed to be on the same page with larger issues, and so I reached out to Biomom for a friendly phone call to touch base on how we can best co-parent together. After all, up to this point she had been pretty receptive to those types of conversations.
“Hi, Biomom? It’s Ashley. Can I talk to you for a few?”
I stumbled around for the words; I didn’t know how to express my concern without sounding absolutely ridiculous. I wasn’t mad that she had said it was okay for Krista to have social media, nor was I trying to tell her that I needed to be clued in on every decision she made as a mom to her children. I simply wanted to express that moving forward, with the more important issues, I hoped that we could all be on the same page.
(Especially in instances like this where I purchased the phones and pay the phone bills- though I was going to abstain from mentioning that).
Once I stuttered a few times I decided to start from the beginning, explaining what had happened and why I felt it was important that with topics like this we all communicate effectively.
However, her response caught me so off-guard that had it not been attached my head would have spun around ala’ Linda Blair. “Well, you are not the parent. Eric and I are the parents, and I don’t feel that I need to discuss parenting issues with you. If Eric has an issue he can call me, not you… Also, I don’t like you referring to yourself a stepmother because you are NOT a Stepmother, you are JUST the girlfriend. You are not legally married so you do not have any right to call yourself that.”
I’m an emotional person. While some people think on their feet, I think with my heart, and my heart was pumping!
What the hell did she just say?! She cannot be fucking serious!
Needless to say, I probably should have just hung up the phone right then and there, but instead I questioned her logic, calmly though inquisitively. “I’m sorry. I don’t... I don't understand. From what you just said, you mean to tell me that you don’t consider me a stepparent to the girls because Eric and I aren’t legally married?”
“That is correct.”
“So what you are saying is that if Eric and I went to the courthouse tomorrow to get hitched, all your thoughts and feelings on the matter would change TOMORROW because we now have a piece of paper that authorizes my credentials?”
You know those cartoon characters where the eyes get all spirally and birds fly around their heads when they get hit with a frying pan in the face? Well imagine that, but instead of Bugs Bunny, it’s me.
Still calmly, “Biomom, that is the most asinine thing I have ever heard.”
She then went on and on, and quite frankly I don’t have the energy to recap every ignorant statement that followed, but the gist was Biomom and I actually did not have the awesome co-parenting dynamic I assumed we did.
I should have been a lawyer, because with every reason she gave as to why I’m not a stepparent, I had an even more compelling response as to why I am. However, after several back-and-forths I realized that continuing this conversation was about as useless and draining as her logic. “You know what, I’m sorry you feel that way. I called today to hopefully have a productive conversation to see if we can’t all get along and communicate better for the children’s sake, but I see now that won’t be happening. From this point forward, I will respect your wishes, and all matters pertaining to the children will be discussed between you and Eric alone.”
I hung up the phone. I was shaking... Literally.
Naturally, I called my own mother and stepmother (who are not legally married by the way).
Mama K and Mama C always come through, and this time was no different. In a nutshell they explained to me that Biomom feels threatened, and not to worry about it. They told me to just keep doing what I’m doing, because nothing will change her mind, and after all, the children and I have a pretty stellar relationship. I don’t need Biomom’s approval to refer to myself as a stepmother, because I am one in every sense of the title.
“How does she even know I refer to myself as a stepmother? I rarely talk to the woman!”
Moms had this little gem of insight that I hadn’t even thought of, “The girls probably told her about your book. She’s just jealous. She sees how much the girls love you, and as a mother it probably eats her alive, because she sees you as competition.”
I NEVER ONCE considered Biomom my competition because we fall into two totally different categories. She’s a Mother and I’m a Stepmother; That’s like Nancy Kerrigan competing against Usain Bolt- they aren’t even in the same sport, let alone the same Olympics! Regardless, my mothers' sage words of wisdom seemed to make sense.
Talking to Mommy AND Stepmommy always makes me feel better.
So while you still won’t be hearing me badmouth Biomom, you sure as hell won’t see me singing her praises either.
(Me sharing this little antecdote I don't consider "badmouthing" because as ridiculous as it sounds, it ACTUALLY HAPPENED!)
I WILL continue to encourage the girls to have a good relationship with their mother.
I WILL bite my tongue and play nice at school functions.
I WILL be the bigger person, in spite of how small Biomom wants to make me feel.
I WILL continue to refer to myself as a Stepmother.
AND I WILL continue to be a WICKED AWESOME STEPMOTHER to my WICKED AWESOME STEPDAUGHTERS.
Because I LOVE those girls. It's that simple.
Oh, and also because I did a little digging, and according to the Oxford Dictionary:
CHECKMATE, See You Next Tuesday :)
~names have been changed to protect the innocent~