life, love, and maybe babies

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Parenting over popularity

Today I'm veering off the topic of infertility and instead I'm going to whine for a moment about the other thing in my life that is just as important...

Step parenting.

Right off the bat, let's get something out of the way. I love being a stepmom. For real. It is something that was not in my life plan, but it came to me anyway and I'm forever grateful.

My step kids are everything to me. I love them with the same heart, soul, and mind that I love my own biological son. But full disclosure, it is a different kind of love.

(And by the way, that's how it should be.)

My stepdaughters have two parents who love them with their entire being, their every breath, their every thought. They are loved by their parents in the same way that I love my son. I will never love my stepdaughters that way because they are not mine. The position of Mom and Dad have been filled...I just work here.

So that being said - I still need to bitch, because step parenting (and spoiler alert, even regular parenting) isn't always glitter and hugs and marshmallows.

Here's the deal. My husband and I parent very, very differently than my stepdaughters' mother does (we'll call her Mama Ex). I'll spare you all the gory details, but for over 10 years we have tried the whole "co-parenting" thing, where we offer to get together with Mama Ex and sing kumbaya and come up with a plan for how to be on the same page or at least in the same chapter.

It's a lost cause. We aren't even reading the same parenting book.

In our house, my husband and I believe in rules, chores*, and responsibilities so we can raise his daughters to be productive members of society.

(*Chores equals clean the bathroom, unload the dishwasher, and occasionally help wipe the table after dinner. We're not talking slave labor, here.)

Mama Ex doesn't necessarily believe in those things, which is totally her right. My stepdaughters don't clean their room at her house, or mop a floor, or wash a dish. And that's fine. She can and should raise her children however she sees fit, and it's really none of my business...

Until it is.

I see my husband's relationship with his daughters taking a turn to negative-town before my very eyes because of this glaring difference in parenting styles. Earlier this month, my oldest step daughter texted her dad that she wanted to stay with her mom for the week and not come to our house. Her reasons? We treat her like a child and she should be able to make her own decisions about what she does at home. (Cue an eye roll so hard I literally saw the front of my brain.) Obviously we declined her request to skip a week at our home, but when she turns 18 next August, she will technically be able to stop coming over if she chooses. 

It breaks our hearts to know that might actually happen.

The way I see it, it is because we want to treat her like an adult that we give her and her sister chores and responsibilities in this home. If we wanted to treat them like a child, they wouldn't be expected to do anything and we'd also be wiping their tushies after they go poo poo.

Look, I get it. I was 16 once. I hated my parents for imposing chores on me (especially in the summer. Ugh FML). I wanted all the benefits of being an adult (do whatever, wherever, whenever) but none of the responsibilities (like paying for whatever, wherever, whenever) and I'm sure that's how my stepdaughter feels as well. 

The difference is, I grew up in a home where both of my parents understood the necessity of preparing me for adulthood. They knew that being a teen is supposed to suck. Otherwise I'd have ended up 32 years old, living in their basement, with a stimulating career at "Things Remembered" engraving wedding goblets for all of my friends who got the hell out of their parents' house. The job description for a parent is to make life just uncomfortable enough that one day your kids wake up and think, "Huh, maybe I should get my own place. Then I can leave pizza in my room for 5 weeks and not get in trouble!"

(And then they have to pay for an ant exterminator and you laugh at them and say I told you so.)

My parents didn't enjoy giving me chores per se. Of course they wanted to give me a carefree life, but they knew that doing so would cripple me from becoming the adult I was meant to be.

Unfortunately in our current situation, one parent wants to truly treat his child like an adult, and the other wants to keep her seemingly in a state of toddlerhood. Both styles of parenting are valid and both have their merits and downfalls. But, for this child, choosing between those two "parenting styles"? Girl, please. Obviously one of them totally rocks and the other seems awful and abusive.


Why should the person who loves his kids so much that he's willing to be the parent and not the friend be punished for doing so? 

Many people that I have vented to say something along the lines of, "Don't worry, when she gets older, your stepdaughter will understand." While that's a nice thought, there's no guarantee. Because over there across town, Mama Ex is thinking the exact same thing. She's also thinking that someday her daughter will grow up and understand how mom has been right all along and her dad was indeed a cotton headed ninny muggins.

Someone is going to be the loser in this scenario. And seemingly it will be the household who is a lot less fun...i.e. us.

Part of me wants to say, "Screw it, Mama Ex. You win. We will no longer give the kids any chores or make them accountable for any damn thing they do." I mean, that would be the easiest. The girls would be happiest in the short run. 

(Although that means I would have to start cleaning their bathroom and I mean, hell to the no.)

The biggest problem I have with giving up and giving in is, parenting isn't about the short game. If it was, I would let my son play with knives because in the short run OMG IT MAKES HIM SO HAPPY. But in the long run, he really does need his I take away the cutlery. I feel that I owe my husband's child the best part of my parenting self. To do any less would be a disservice to her. 

And in case you're wondering, I will raise my son exactly the same way. Homeboy will be doing chores as soon as I can trust him to not drink the toilet bowl cleaner.

Parenting is all about the long haul. You can't (in my humble, often unasked for opinion) raise smart, savvy, strong kids by doing everything for them and also letting them do whatever they dream up. They have to learn the most basic of the basics so that someday when they're shacking up with their hot new boyfriend, they don't have to ask him to wash their underwear.

My husband and I believe that learning to be accountable, learning to save and manage your money, learning to load a dishwasher...these are important enough lessons that they must be taught by someone.

And so we will do it.

Even if that means we have to be the bad guy.

Even if that means we lose the popular vote.

Monday, June 5, 2017

decisions, decisions, decisions

Look! My blog got a face lift? Do you like? I hope so. I spent a solid 25 minutes on a lunch break trying to figure out if I wanted to pull the trigger or not, and landed on "yes" because my sandwich was getting cold.

That's how all the best decisions are made, don't you agree?

Anywhoo, I do hope you like the new blog outfit. If not, mmmk. Onto today's post...


I have always loved getting mail.

When I was young, my mom would announce that she heard the post man drive by and I would beeline to the front door, stepping on my sister's ponytails, knocking my brother to the floor, all in an attempt to please let it be my turn to retrieve the day's take. And because this was before Fitbits, my mom was all too willing to accept my generous offer because really, who wants to walk out to the mailbox?

(Also, my mom was an adult and knew there was nothing in that mailbox that was going to give her anything but a headache.)

The mailbox deliveries were generally a disappointment to me. Coupons for a free car wash, a bill or two, an envelope from the Publisher's Clearing House with some white haired dude promising me a chance at 30 million. Yadda yadda. But it wasn't necessarily the actual bits of mail that would excite me anyway; it was the anticipation of what might be there. I lived for it.

As I got older, the mailbox offerings became less exciting and sadly, more predictable. Especially in the college years. I got a lot of "final notice" envelopes with big, scary, red block letters warning me that I was mere days away from having no electricity. This loosely translated to "YOU ARE ALMOST GOING TO BE UNABLE TO KEEP YOUR BEER COLD." 

Fast forward through my early career days, where mail didn't alter much from the college years. Bills, student loan reminders, and perhaps a few credit card statements from places I had no business being approved for. (WHY would JC Penney give a 22 year old a $1,000 credit limit?)

Then, marriage! And with it arrival of envelopes with "Mr + Mrs" on them. CUTE! Plus, packages filled with things I actually wanted, like fun accessories for the house that I could finally afford and order online! Sure I still got notices about renewing my car tags, but there were also wedding invitations and birthday party invites and random late-night purchases from Amazon. The mail had finally turned back into the exciting and unexpected joy it had been for me as a child.

But then - infertility. And the joy was gone faster than it had come. Once we started treatments, that cold, hard, shit-box only held instructions for my medications, invoices from the fertility clinic, and explanation of benefits (or lack thereof) from insurance.

Infertility stole many things from me, but one of the most significant was my euphoria in getting the mail. I suddenly despised the entire mail process. I avoided opening envelopes - and subsequently missed important deadlines - and wanted nothing more then for it all to go away.

Eventually, as you know, I did get pregnant and had my son. And shortly after some nasty bills from the hospital for this little gem of a birth story, the dust cleared, and once again, the mail returned to exactly what I wanted it to be: fun. A daily surprise that held possibilities!

I've been settled deep into the love nest of my mailbox for a little over a year, so perhaps that's what made this last week's parcel so unexpected. I went to retrieve the mail, expecting some lovely new shampoo that will give my tresses strength and volume and  


There it was.

My fertility clinic wants to know if I'd like to pay the yearly fee to keep our remaining 13 embryos frozen or, let them go.

Cold hard reality set in and my heart sank. Not because I'm sad I have the embryos. It's amazing I have them! I'm simply sad because of the unavoidable realization that we truly are probably a one and done IVF family. 

In fairness, we always planned it to be that way. Even before infertility, my husband and I accepted that we already had two kids (two daughters from my husband's previous relationship) and therefore one of our own was probably all we could handle, financially and otherwise. We talked about it, we agreed to it, we decided on it.

But after the drama of infertility and working so hard to get our son, it almost feels vulgar to leave those 13 other embryos un-realized. Even though they've only been grown out five days, I still feel a motherly attachment to them. I'm not one of those people who believes that life begins at inception (though if you are, no judgment at all), but I do feel like there are 13 little (potential) lives in those cryogenic freezers just WAITING to make someone's life amazing. So why wouldn't I use them to make my life more amazing?


Of course, nostalgia and the adorableness of a baby is not a valid reason to make a baby. I know in my heart that the right thing (for us) is to only have one child.

And yet...I still wonder.

My husband is on the anti-baby train all the way. In his defense, I think it's a little easier for him to separate out his emotions. Yes, he went through infertility with me, but he didn't take injections and go through hell in his head every waking was just a different experience. He knew from the beginning we were one and done, and he's accepted that and is good with it. 

But for me, the pull of another baby is still there - I feel myself wanting to go again.

Of course, the option for the last year or two has been easy. Pay the fee, keep the embryos on ice and deal with it in a year. But now here we are, one year later. Do I really need to keep paying this fee year over year when I know we won't be making a withdrawal from the baby embryo bank?

Lastly, there's always donation. We could release our 13 little loves into the abyss of the fertility clinic's database. And maybe someday a lovely, deserving couple would select one. But then my crazy brain starts thinking thoughts like what if someone gets one of our daughter embryos and my son ends up meeting her and they fall in love and get married and it's incestuous!??!! 

(I never said my thoughts are rational. Sometimes I go dark, people.)

So here I am here again. Confused, illogical, and really mad at my mailbox for ruining my week. Though, I do count myself lucky that I even have this predicament to begin with, as I know so many would kill to be in my shoes. 

Overall, common sense and my agreement with my husband says no. But that darn heart of mine sometimes says yes.

Maybe a letter will arrive in the mail telling me exactly what to do. Until then...

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