Today I am angry. I just got to work, but I can already tell that I will likely be in a bad mood all day, so I’m going to do my best to just stay in my little office. I’m sure upper management will even appreciate my being in a bad mood, because I am certain production will be at its highest.
A little back story before I get into the reason for my grouchiness.
My husband has two children. His son, Mason, just turned 21 years old. He is not biologically Jackie’s; however, Jackie raised him from the time he was a baby (when Jackie and Mason’s mother, who I’ll call Amanda) got together. And Mason’s real dad was never around. So Jackie sort of stepped up and took over the father role. And even since Jack and Amanda have divorced, Jack and Mason have stayed in touch. Jack helps Mason when he can and sees Mason whenever possible. In fact, we just had dinner with Mason and his fiancée last weekend, and we are currently helping Mason look for a job.
Jackie’s daughter is 17, almost 18, and will be starting her senior year in a week or so. Cassie is an intelligent, talented girl, even if socially anxious, who tugged at my heartstrings the first time I met her.
And I had a lot of fears when I decided to get involved with Jackie. Not only did I not have a good motherly role model, but I also didn’t know how to be a stepmother either. My mother was and still is HORRIBLE to her stepkids (and her kids, but just go with it). So again, I had no example to follow. Or at least not a good one.
So I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of becoming a stepmother, but I decided I’d try. Mason was grown by the time Jack and I started dating, but Cassie was only 15, and she and Jack were close. So I met her not long before her 16th birthday and made an effort to befriend her. I never intended to be a “mother” figure, for mainly two reasons – one, she was not young enough for me to have any real maternal impact; and two, she had a mother and a grandmother.
But very quickly we became friends. She spent some time at our house, and we saw her a lot when she spent last summer with Jack’s mom, our Tut-Tut. We went shopping together, we went out to eat together, we even went on vacation together a couple of years ago (where everyone thought we were twin sisters, by the way – see why I wouldn’t be a good mother figure?).
Fast forward to September of last year. Cassie came down with a case of mono and she was out of school for a couple of days, and she spent that time with Tut. A couple of days turned into 9 days total, and when we would go see Cassie, she didn’t seem sick at all.
So Jackie confronted Cassie and asked what was going on. She was a junior at the time, and had already missed 9 of the 10 days she was allowed to miss for the entire semester. She told Jackie she didn’t feel good about three times, before Jackie demanded specification, and then this little girl crumbled into a little ball in our living room. She told us she hated living with her mom. She told us she wanted to come live with us, and that she didn’t want to go back to her high school because she was being bullied.
And I thought I might be of some help, because again, Cass and I were friends. I knew her. She suffered from social anxiety. She hated big crowds, she was shy and passive and she used to cry over literally anything. Her mother had forced her to walk on eggshells her whole life, such that this little girl had no identity or voice. She hated herself, and knowing what that’s like, I decided that we would move my kids into a room together, and give her a space of her own. We decided we would immediately get her set up with a therapist. And once she got to feeling better, we were going to put her in online school so that she could get her degree without having to face any crowds or bullies. And then we called my stepfather to see if we could get her a little job where she could earn some spending money. We had a car and a phone lined her for her. Everything was decided upon and set up within about 15 minutes.
She laid in my lap crying while we tried to figure out how to tell her mother that she didn’t want to live with her anymore. And all hell broke loose. We had to call the police because we knew how Amanda lived (and still lives) her life, and we wanted to try to help Cassie while keeping things as low key as possible, for her sake.
Anyway, Amanda wasn’t having it, so she went to the Sheriff’s office, where Cassie was returned to Amanda, like property. She texted Jackie saying we were not allowed to contact her, and that if we did, she would file a restraining order against us. And then Amanda said whatever she needed to say to make Cassie ignore us. She cut us off from Cassie, and Cassie let her do it.
That was literally 11 months ago. Amanda told Jackie in a text yesterday (again, he only hears from her when she needs money for “Cassie”) that Cassie is traumatized and angry at us and she’s holding a grudge because of what “we” did to her. Excuse me? I believe we were doing what Cassie asked us to do, and Amanda in typical Amanda fashion, made things impossible for every party, such that the only happy person in the situation is Amanda.
Listen, I know there’s an unwritten rule somewhere that mothers and stepmothers don’t get along, and another unwritten rule that doesn’t give nearly enough credit to stepmothers who choose to love like a mother, yet don’t get credit for being a mother. And I also know that there are plenty of mothers out there who hate the stepmother, or stepmothers out there who hate the mother. I understand that my story may not be all that unique, and I’m okay with that. What I’m here to talk about are MY feelings – not Amanda’s, Cassie’s or even Jackie’s. It’s MY blog, and this is the only voice I have sometimes.
1. Cassie’s mother is a psycho, and I say that with no remorse. She is a narcissistic, money hungry, lazy, entitled menace to society, who plays mind games with her kids (or any others who will fall for her lies) in order to get what she wants. She’s told both her of children (and the government, since she draws disability for a half-truth illness while she works under-the-table at a motel) that she is dying in order to manipulate them into sticking around for her. She screams, personally attacks, and deceives to get her way. She is no good, low life trash and I wish nothing but awful things for her, since she has done nothing but awful things to everyone in her life, including my children, Jackie, and me.
2. There is a reason why Mason’s real father didn’t stick around, just like there is a reason why Jackie wasn’t allowed to speak to Cassie for 11 months. That reason is named Amanda. While ignoring Mason is inexcusable, I can see how a “baby daddy” would get sick of dealing with a piece of shit like that, and just wash his hands and walk away.
3. Cassie is 17, almost 18. Yes, her mother did manipulate her, and I’m not blind to that. However, Cassie is old enough to make some choices on her own, too. Jack and I did what Cassie asked us to do and it blew up in our face when Cassie decided she would be better off just staying with Amanda. Cassie betrayed Jackie, my children and me. Do I forgive her? Absolutely. Will I let my guard down again? Never. Am I over it? Not in the least. And that sucks, because I WANT to be over it. I want to bury the drama and move on. But I refuse to take the blame for traumatizing a child, when all I did was open up my life, my home and my wallet for her. And only to end up being ignored for 11 months? No thanks, I’m out.
4. I cannot hear Amanda’s name or talk about her without getting upset. It causes problems between Jackie and I because he often doesn’t say what I think he should say in response to her little jabs. He’s decided to take the blame for everything that happened last September, and while I know he’s just trying to keep the peace so that he can see his daughter again, I also think it’s a copout to take those jabs without defending your actions, especially when he knows those actions were out of love for his child. I understand why he isn’t speaking up, but he should also understand that I’m not going to keep my mouth shut when it comes to Amanda or Cassie.
5. In Jackie’s defense, though, I find myself often wondering what I’ll do when my children disappoint me. They will eventually – it is inevitable. I disappointed my daddy, and he has never and will never forgive me fully for all I’ve done to hurt him. When my kids turn 17 and they don’t want anything to do with me, what will I do? How will I react? Will I do what my daddy did and wash my hands of it all? Or will I do what Jack is doing and forgive my kids, wholeheartedly and completely, for those disappointments and betrayals? I’m not sure at this point. I hope I don’t ever have to find out.
6. No matter what I do or how good I am to Jackie’s kids, I’ll never be good enough. It’s the signature curse that has been placed on stepmothers, or maybe even just a curse placed on Meg Butler. Amanda will always be their mom, and Mason and Cassie trust her by default. She will always play her games and pull those kids away from me. She’ll tell lies to keep them from desiring any kind of relationship with me. I know from experiences with my own family that some people will only love you as long as they can use you. I am disposable to my parents and my siblings already. Do I set myself up to be disposable to Mason and Cassie, too, and set myself up for inevitable heartache? Or do I give Jackie the room he needs to develop a relationship with his kids, and gracefully bow out and stay away from the situation altogether? Again, I’m not sure.
7. Let’s not forget about my daughter and son. They were also really hurt by what Amanda and Cassie did to us, and they’re too little to understand betrayal. And I’ve always said I would never allow anyone to just “drift” in and out of their lives, because I don’t want to expose them to unhealthy relationships and the behaviors therein. So do I let this slide because they’re Jack’s kids, or do I stick to my guns and keep my kids as far away from them as possible?
8. Cassie will be 18 in a couple of months, and I’m concerned about a couple of things. Either she will continue to fall for her mother’s manipulation or she will get tired of the shit and come knocking on our door wanting a place to stay. But will letting her stay with us also be manipulation or will it be a genuine apology? Will I fall for it again?
9. Will this whole thing drive a giant wedge between Jackie and me? He is such a good dad to my kids – so much, in fact, that Lexi gets somewhat jealous when Mason or Cassie are mentioned. Does Jackie have enough time in his life and love in his heart to love my kids, too? If my children become secondary in comparison to Mason and Cassie, I know I will resent Jackie for it. Additionally, when I make a decision as to whether or not I will allow Cassie back into my life, will he agree or disagree with that decision? How will he react? Jackie and I don’t usually agree on how we raise our kids in the first place. But he concedes defeat when it comes to Lexi and Jameson, because they are not his blood. Will I be as gracious when dealing with Mason and Cassie?
10. I am generally a sad person. I internalize every bad thing that happens in my life, and in doing so, I drive myself crazy thinking about “what I should’ve done.” I am trying my damnedest not to internalize this, but it is so difficult, because it’s all I know. It’s who I am. I’m left feeling confused, betrayed, hurt and most of all, played for a fool. And in my mind, it’s my fault because trying to be the stepparent I wished I’d had, I opened up myself. And sometimes – most times – I feel like that was a huge mistake.
We’re supposed to take Mason and his fiancée out for his birthday fairly soon and Cassie told Jack that she would come, too. At first, I’d suggested taking out the whole family to celebrate both of the boys’ birthdays, since Jameson turns 8 on the 20th. But thinking about it has made me super anxious, and I haven’t even told Jackie that I’ve driven myself to ugly crying in a fetal position in bed at night, thinking about how I’m supposed to act around these young adults who don’t give a damn about me, for one reason or the other. I’m only me. I shouldn’t have to change to make others accept me or love me. I’m 30 and I refuse to be anything other than genuine. But that means I risk being talked about and dogged when Mason and Cassie return to their mom’s. I’m sure I’m they’ll all get a few laughs out of my fat rolls, my country twang, my hairstyle, clothing or make-up, and possibly even the age difference between Jack and me. I’m grown and it shouldn’t bother me. But it does. And just the anticipation of our dinner out has had me in hysterics these last couple of days. I feel like I have to go, but I don’t really WANT to go, if that makes any sense.
It’s been an interesting couple of days and I’m completely exhausted. I’ll keep you all updated, but in the meantime, if you have any advice, please send me an e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org – or comment below. I need all the help I can get.
Meg / cC