What Your Mom Couldn't Tell You

Hmmmm ... perhaps not the most accurate of titles ~ there are lots of things my own mom wasn't able to tell me, and lots of things she was able to.
But I'm going to tell you today some of the things most people won't, about being a stepmom. Almost anyone will tell you the "big ticket" items you have to face, but they don't know about, or don't think to tell you about, the little things that you must face every day.
First thing, you are not starting with a fresh new family. You are coming into a family with a history ~ sometimes a lot of history ~ behind it.
Now I know what you're probably thinking: well, duh! of course they have a history! Yeah, I know, I thought I realized what that meant as well. Let me give you some little tidbits that perhaps haven't entered your mind:
You could marry into a family of meat-lovers, while you are (like me) happy with mostly chicken. Compound that with three other people in the family who adore sweets, when you don't have much of a sweet tooth ....
You might marry into a family of videogame nuts, when you personally can't stand the things ....
You might become the wife and stepmother of a group of people who don't like horror movies (which I adore) ....
Starting to get the picture? Now, you are probably saying to yourself right now: well, that's fine. We can make accommodations, to where everyone is happy.
Let me remind you of one small, simple fact: you are the outsider in this new family, the new member. You are the unknown element, the wild card ~ if you will ~ and as such, you will have to make most of the accommodations if you want to keep peace in the family.
It's not always fair. It's definitely not always fun! *rueful grin.* But that's the way it is. When you marry someone who has children, this is something you have to live with. And you will learn one thing if nothing else ~ that most choices are not that important, when it comes to physical versus emotional. In other words, it is much less important for me to have sweeter tea, than for Oak to have to put up with the way I make tea normally. And it is much more important for Silverwing and Willow to have a good breakfast during the week, than it is for me to get an extra half hour's sleep.
Now there are a few tricks I can tell you, to make things a little easier. First of all, know what things you will compromise on, and what things you won't compromise on. For myself, I will not, under any circumstances, buy low-grade coffee, off-brand cigarettes or soft drinks, or use certain household cleaning products (the last is because I am extremely sensitive to certain cleaning agents and have severe reactions to them).
I have learned to tolerate videogames in the living room, though I have no desire to play them. I might break down in the future and play one for Silverwing's sake, since she keeps asking me to, but I've made no promises.
I've learned to cook and eat meat far more than I normally would. It is still not my favorite food by far, but at least I try to round out the meal with enough vegetables. That way, if I don't feel like eating meat, I have plenty of other choices. Not to mention the fact that it makes a healthier meal for Oak and the girls.
Horror movies ... *sigh.* Well, that is a luxury I've pretty much given up on for now.
As far as the kitchen goes, it is still a sensitive subject in some areas between me and Oak. When I first moved in, I asked him if I could rearrange the kitchen. His reply was: of course. (I put this in to remind him *laughing*). Since then, we've both lost our tempers on several occasions: Oak when he was looking for something that is no longer in the place it was, and myself when he has made sarcastic remarks about the kitchen's rearrangement.  [It's not that things aren't where they were so much as Amber has no idea where she moved them to. - Oak]
This is a situation that will eventually resolve itself, I am sure. Either he will learn where everything is, or I will ultimately get so tired of the remarks that I will put everything back the way it was. Either way, it will take care of itself.
The hardest thing to deal with, in my opinion, is the overwhelming sense of anger and frustration at the chaos left behind by the divorce. In our case, it is chaos that is physical, mental and emotional. Oak is the full custodial parent, and thus retained the house and everything in it ... and I do mean everything! Trying to deal with all the crap that is left behind ~ on every level ~ is draining to you and to the rest of the family.  [Working on it:  Three more garbage bags hit the curb this afternoon. - Oak]
And it is here that you find yourself frequently walking on eggshells. What constitutes the difference between a treasured heirloom and trash? Each item becomes a potential dispute: does it get put away, packed up, or put out to the garbage? This is not always an easy, or an obvious, decision. If it was, three-fourths of my own belongings would not still be in boxes, waiting for me to have the time and space to unpack them.
But these are not decisions to make lightly, for in this physical chaos you can often find the trails of the emotional and mental baggage that is waiting to be dealt with. What to you are seemingly simple decisions ~ rearrange the kitchen, start a garden, [After the ex had me ruin the backyard for a "garden" that produced nothing but 27 strawberries, a jar of basil and a million weeds, I swore I'd never do it again, but as the saying goes, "Never name that well from which you will not drink." - Oak]  throw away old clothes ~ can become emotional and mental timebombs if you are not careful. In your eyes, you see yourself making a fresh start, and creating a more pleasant environment for your new family. The decisions seem logical and reasonable. (Seem is the key word here.)
But what about the past, when it rears its ugly head? What about gardens in the past, that became a battleground in the previous marriage? What about kitchen items that to you seem frivolous, yet your spouse swears by them? What old memories are embedded in those torn-up T-shirts and threadbare blankets?
I wish I could tell you all the answers to these, but I am still dealing with all of this myself. The funny thing is, that on one hand you wish you could erase all of the past ~ all of the pain, the anger, the hurt, the frustration ~ every bad thing that happened. Yet, on the other hand, if you did erase the past, that person would no longer be the person you fell in love with.
So in my case, I've learned to take deep breaths and walk out to the porch. This morning I must have spent about an hour out there, willing the wind to blow away my anger, my hurt, and my frustration. When I had calmed down, Oak came out to apologize for getting angry, and I apologized for the same.
Ultimately, I guess it doesn't really matter how you season your food, or make your tea, or load the dishwasher. As long as there is a roof over your head, food on the table, warm beds to sleep and love in ... then the physical essentials are taken care of and you can concentrate on the real business of your marriage and your new family: healing each other, loving each other, and building a new life together.

Amberflame ~ 4/25/99
(Note: *laughing* The "opinions" of the editorial management do not necessarily reflect or constitute the opinions of the original author! ... and I did ask him for input on rearranging the kitchen, before and while I was doing it)  [Sheesh...bitch, bitch, bitch...  *ouch!* - Oak]



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