Voices Carry

Voices Carry

 

Shush, keep it down now, voices carry

 

The song “Voices Carry” by Til’ Tuesday always gave me somewhat of a chill. Not in a bad way, but through some haunting lens I didn’t quite understand but felt a magnetic draw to.

 

2 years ago while preparing some yoga classes April’s Sexual Assault month which has a strong hand-in-hand partnership with October’s Domestic Violence month (a topic that I feel very strongly about as a child abuse survivor) – I set out on a search for songs about these topics.

 

Voices Carry came up under Domestic Violence. Yes, I suppose – ‘shush, keep it down now, voices carry’. It wasn’t all too different from some of the other 80’s tunes like Luka and Behind the Wall. It had that same eerie vibe that drew me in, while not really digesting much what the lyrics were so poignantly about.

 

A few months ago on the way home from work my music was playing on shuffle in the car when “Voices Carry” came on. Likely for the first time I really listened to and digested the lyrics. The Internet search from 2 years ago plagued my mind, but I wasn’t so sure anymore that Domestic Violence was completely behind it. Was it a secret lover perhaps? What did the words mean???

 

Hours later after dinner, walking the dog and the nightly routine – Daren was out at hockey with Devin and I picked up my phone before bed to search the lyrics meaning.

 

No doubt it was about the power dynamic in an Intimate Partner relationship. But what I read over and over and over, is that the song was originally written with “She” instead of “He”. I read a lot about the video and how the man tried to control the woman… (never saw this video) and how it could be about sexual assault; but I couldn’t shake what almost seems now after one too many sources said that it was about a lesbian relationship.

 

Wow. That just shifts everything now doesn’t it?

 

I’ve written about this before- that back in May 2017 I was required to take a 50 hour CT state training on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in order to teach yoga at Domestic Violence shelters. I was ambivalent about the training. It was a requirement. I had to shift my schedule a bit to fit it in. It ended up being a life-changer.

 

The topics were so eye opening. It wasn’t just about the topics. It was about the dynamic of relationships. The dynamic of human unfairness. The dynamic which children grow up and how certain segments of society are treated unfairly. How cycles of violence perpetuate through generations. How we treat and work with perpetrators. How the police are trained and not trained to deal with these issues. How the law works and how the laws have changed over the years. How our culture almost encourages boys toward violence and treating women as objects. How the LGBT movement plays into it all. How race is involved in this. I trained at the umbrella agency in Bridgeport CT. I was finally able to piece together that these topics are all so very related and are ultimately human rights issues. Human Justice Issues. All encompassing and under one umbrella.

 

It was there I very sadly realized that I myself have PTSD from childhood abuse. I was very likely unable to handle the awareness until then.  It was probably the most educational 50 hours I’d ever spent – professionally and personally.

 

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and a same sex relationship – how can one song be related to all 3? How can these topics even be related?

 

Strange thing is that they are. It’s all stuff that as a society we’ve kept hush about and swept under the rug. Things that folks were ashamed of and had to hide. The unspeakable, but oh so very real truth.

 

I heard the song again last night on the way home after sharing a few drinks with a friend. It haunted me as always. Something I read a few months back when I search it the last time preoccupied my mind enough for me to try to find it again (of course I could not – go figure). A writer explained how she always believed the song was about a heterosexual couple in an affair situation until she read about the “she” word removal as well.  At that point she wrote a bit about how sad it was that the record company wouldn’t record it, as stations and the public were not ready for the topic; but how that changed the words and entire meaning of the song for her.

 

Voices Carry… Voices Carry… Voices Carry.

 

That was the main meaning. If we don’t keep quiet about a topic, the voice of it will carry to others. The message will get across. Yes, ‘shush’ we’ve been told to keep it down, that voices will carry. But on the other hand – Voices Carry! The more we talk and bring awareness, the more our voices will carry. Would it have been so bad to carry the message the writer intended to send?

 

The love of homosexuals. Any human or sexual orientation that is involved in intimate partner violence. Child Abuse. Sexual assault/abuse/rape. The mental illness of perpetrators. & their own sordid pasts… These are human rights issues. Things that have made people feel ashamed and lesser than. Things they’ve felt the need to hide. People who have felt they have no voice.

 

Not treating everyone the same regardless of the shoes they’ve walked in is ABUSE.

No need to listen to the bully who says “Shush & Keep it down now”. Voices do carry. All of them do. Like drops in a bucket. Each little drop will contribute to the eventual overflow that will change things. Every voice counts.

 

https://spinditty.com/playlists/Songs-About-Domestic-Violence-and-Child-Abuse

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Voices Carry

'Til Tuesday

 

I'm in the dark, I'd like to read his mind
But I'm frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he's thinking of
to tear him away-a-ay
When I tell him that I'm falling in love
why does he say-a-ay

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry



Uh-ah

I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I'll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
and something to fear-eh-eh
And I try so hard to keep it inside
so no one can hear

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Uh-ah

 

Oh!
He wants me, but only part of the time
He wants me, if he can keep me in line

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, shut up now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, darling, she might overhear
Hush, hush - voices carry



He said shut up - he said shut up
Oh God can't you keep it down
Voices carry
Hush hush, voices carry

 

Songwriters: MANN AIMEE / HAUSMAN MICHAEL / HOLMES ROBERT / PESCE JOSEPH

Voices Carry lyrics © Til Tunes Assoc., MECHANICAL COPYRIGHT PROTECTION SOCIETY LTD, 'TIL TUNES ASSOCIATES

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On “Her Story”

Last Thursday I was at our second home in Branford turning it over for our Friday renters, and doing some well needed yard work on the one non-rainy day in the forecast. I craved a short lunch break from the hot sun, so I decided to head down to the local watering hole for a hearty sandwich. While I was waiting, the news was on every TV. Something about a case and the name Kavanaugh. 

I am one of those people that does not watch or listen to the news. When something important happens I always seem to find out in some other form as I did last Thursday. Not knowing what everyone was glued to, I whipped out my phone to google the latest news. In about 2 minutes I was caught up to the current moment after Ford testified. 

Today I am in Hollywood, FL where my mom lived before she passed 12 years ago. I’m visiting with my aunt, her friend Patty, and my cousin Camille. Four absolutely beautiful women with different life stories. I hadn’t seen my cousin in over 26 years following a tragic event that rocked our family. This is a reunion I cherish. 

When I picked up my phone this morning, I saw that on old high school Facebook friend commented on a picture that I posted from the latest U2 tour this past summer. The picture “HerStory”.

Women over the centuries have their own beautiful, good, bad, heroic and tragic stories. Women have been oppressed and in many parts of the world still are. They still don’t have the same rights men have. Not but a century ago voting was in question, even in the developed world. Much has changed, but not enough yet. There is plenty of history and little ‘herstory’. None of us are equal until all of us are equal. This not only includes women, but all skin colors, gender preferences, sexual preferences, handicaps, spiritual practices… everything and anything that imaginarily divides us and seems to lead some to believe that they have rights and power over another human being.  

As for Ford… I believe her. I don’t believe this has political motivation. Anyone who has been abused in someway should really understand this. She moved on with her life and kept quiet as most victims do. She was successful at ‘moving on’. But the trauma of an attack usually stays with you. It comes back at random times when the body is triggered by something that the conscious awareness didn’t pick up, and pieces of the memory come back. We are now learning that it is how the brain works. The brain is wired to protect you by blocking out pieces of the event(s). She shouldn’t be written off if she can’t remember how she got home after an attack. Allowing that to happen takes away the believability of so many victims and only gives perpetrators more power. Aren’t we civilized and sophisticated enough to understand science and the brain? 

I believe her. I don’t believe she would have ever said anything if Kavanaugh wasn’t nominated for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. I think this was her own trigger. Whether or not he was 17 or 70; he hurt her, took away her power, and a part of her innocence. Most victims would have a hard time watching someone who hurt them be promoted, praised and raised to any position of power. I don’t believe it matters if he was a Republican, Democrat, Communist or member of the Rastafarian tribe. 

I believe her story. As a victim of abuse myself, I can almost sense when someone else has been traumatized in similar ways. It doesn’t matter how it started out or if anyone was drinking, or what age anyone was. For me, it’s about how it ended up, how someone’s life was affected by it, and the example we might set for other young men and women. 

It’s her story. The one that she experienced. I feel she did the right thing. Dragging up a 30+ year old traumatic event would be a difficult decision for anyone to make, not to mention making it into a nationally televised revelation. Knowing every moment you lived, skirt (or bikini) you wore, every tipsy laughter or wink… everything you ever did would be dragged up, scrutinized and questioned like a criminal when you know you are the victim. That takes guts and I feel Ford should be praised as an example for other women and victims to start talking.

In my humble opinion, the more women and victims talk and share their stories, and the more the perpetrators are called out publicly; the less likely current and potential perpetrators will be to take advantage of others. It has been overlooked and gone on for too long. Stand up, fight for human rights and let’s put an end to any type of human abuse. 

I believe her. I believe he is shocked and tearful and truthfully… even that he wouldn’t do or condone such a thing now. I’m on the fence about whether it should or should not allow him to serve in such a position. It’s not political for me. It’s human. We need to set some kind of example for the younger generation. I don’t have an answer about what the right thing is to do from here. All I know is that I believe her and that HerStory is the story of so many. Like the beautiful women in my own family, we all have stories and I think it’s time in general to hear “HERS”. 

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My aunt Fran (left) and mom (right) as little girls
My cousin Anthony who left us all way too soon

Me, aunt Fran and Camille last night

On #2 Leaving the Nest

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…THE DAYS ARE LONG, BUT THE YEARS ARE SHORT

 

August 29, 2017

Gabby leaves for college in a few days. Similar to when she was born and had a blank slate to life; she is now beginning a brand new chapter of her life with a blank slate. This time she is beginning with a host of 18 years worth of experiences created through childhood behind her. Anything is possible. Some of the potential possibilities are controllable, and others are circumstantial.

Two years ago I wrote my first blog about the experience of Thomas leaving for college (A Cold August Morning). It’s hard to imagine that half of his college years have elapsed and Gabby is now leaving the nest too.

It’s not any easier. It’s just as beautiful, yet heartbreaking. It is actually like a piece of me leaves with them. I feel emotionally like I’m giving birth again, and a piece of me is being taken away from me. There is an emptiness in my body. I know from the experience with Thomas that they pain goes away after a few days, very similar to the way a body heals itself after the birthing process.

I’ve spent much of this summer off the grid and taking care of a very intimate, private matter. Perhaps one day I will consider blogging about it, but for now it’s very personal and may always stay as such. It also happens to be a transformational time of my life with my youngest biological child morphing into an adult and going out into the world solo before my very eyes. I have spent some time journaling, contemplating, and thinking about the passage of time. Certain experiences will string together to create a future you cannot yet see or imagine. At the time you have no idea how important certain things are.

Gabby is beginning the journey cut off from the age and necessary schooling restrictions that kept her close to me and under my care for the past 18 years. I’m so excited, scared, and happy for her. I wish I could keep being there in the day-to-day, knowing when she gets home from work, what she is wearing, etc. But that is unhealthy. It’s time for me to let her use the wings I helped her to grow.

How did my experiences get me to this point in time?

 

October 1994 – One fine morning around 3am

I am 18 years old. I am freshly out of Coast Guard boot camp and on watch of my first duty station on the USCGC Boutwell. I am standing my first “mids” watch in port. It’s dark, I smell diesel, and I can barely make out the visuals of my new surroundings. I hear water lapping up against the hull and my feet hurt in these dress shoes I’m wearing in the middle of the night. I am on Coast Guard Island in Alameda, CA. It’s a little chilly and I’m wearing an issued jacket over my uniform that isn’t very warm. 

I’m standing watch with a BPOW (brow petty officer of the watch) on the brow of the ship. My role is that of the messenger. Sometime around 3am I am instructed to wake up the folks who are on the 4-8am watch shift. My thoughts become slightly fearful… wake people up? I thought about how I was woken up around 11pm, by a male voice. It is still a bit strange and new to me to be in close quarters with strangers; and even more so, to be exchanging such intimacies with males such as waking someone up. Until now it didn’t dawn on me that I would have to do that too. Earlier the BPOW walked me through who I was to wake up and where their berthing area was on the ship. I took notes. I have 4 people to wake up. One is a female and the other three are male. Of the three guys, two are in the same birthing area and one is in another. I plan to start with the female to get my feet wet, then the single male, and then the doubles. I glance at their names on the list. Everyone addresses one another by their last name. I don’t know many people yet and I don’t know any of these folks. One of the names is Messeder. He will be my direct replacement as Messenger of the watch. Messeder the Messenger I smile quietly to myself.

 

October 1994 – That same fine day around 1pm or so…

As the daily work is drawing to a close, I am assigned to sweep the port side of the ship with a handful of other Seamen. I am sweeping not far from someone I am pretty sure I hadn’t seen before. His hat covers most of his face since he is looking down as he sweeps. When I’m not paying attention I hear him say said “Hello DeGrazia”. I look up. He has a semi-confident/semi-nervous smile. I think to myself I haven’t seen this one before, I would remember him because he is cute. He has a nice crooked smile and eyes that seemed familiar, almost like I should know them. I look down at the nametag on his working blue shirt. Messeder.

 

August 1995

Messeder and I are out on a Sunday afternoon. At some point in the past 10 months, I started calling Messeder by his first name, John. We have been dating a few months. However, since dating is prohibited amongst shipmates; we need to stay clear of any places we may be spotted.

This particular cool, sunny August afternoon we drive south from my apartment in San Leandro toward San Jose. We have no plans other than explore the area and hang together. Somehow we hap chance upon a Zucchini festival in Hayward, CA. We walk around, eat fried zucchini and play some games. We walk toward the end of the festival and onto the side walked street. We continue to walk a few blocks until we find ourselves in front of a movie theater playing a movie called Nine Months. Since the movie is a few weeks old, it only costs a dollar. We decide to watch it.

In the movie, the unexpected pregnant main female lead reads the book “What to Expect when you’re Expecting” and wanted the baby’s father to read it as well. He wasn’t interested, they fought and broke up… and in the fairy tell end; he read the book and was there for her when she had their baby.

 

Nearly 4 years later

May 1999

It’s late in the afternoon on a weekday. It’s warm, bright and sunny. All the windows are open in our Cape Cod unit on Otis Air force base. John and I are now married for 3 ½ years. I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner and reading. We have a two year old named Tommy and I’m 8 months pregnant with number two.

I’m rereading the same book I read with Tommy “What to Expect when you’re Expecting”. Apparently this book is quite popular amongst parents to be. With both pregnancies each month I read the chapter that corresponded with my gestational timeline to learn more about what was happening inside my body and the baby.

Since I’m 8 months pregnant I decide to read the 9th month and the closing chapter as well. I don’t remember reading this with Tommy, but the book writes something to the effect of how crazy and messy the house and life will be once the bundle of joy comes home, and it will be like that for years to come. However, once that little baby grows up and goes off to college; and the house is in pristine condition and quiet once again – you will miss the sound of chaos and children running around. I tear up and get chills. That is so long from now, but it will be so sad.

 

18+ years later

August 26, 2017

It’s a bright, sunny cool day. The summer is drawing to a close. The sun is rising later each morning and setting sooner each evening. The air in the morning is far cooler than the past few weeks, and last night it was downright cold while I was sitting outside on the porch with Thomas (we call him Tom or Thomas now).

John, Thomas, Gabby and I are having an early lunch at Outback Steakhouse in Southington, CT. It’s only 11:30 in the morning and the restaurant is quite empty. It’s dark inside, but the sun’s light floods the windows. We haven’t sat together for a meal just the four of us since Gabby’s 12th birthday in 2011; soon after John and I divorced following 15 years of marriage.

Thomas spent this past summer between his sophomore and junior year in college working and living in Rhode Island with this current girlfriend. He came home last night and is leaving tomorrow morning to go back up to school in Portland, ME. John drove down from Pittsfield, MA this morning where he lives. He just accepted a new job in Tennessee and will be training in Germany for two months. He is leaving in just over a week. Gabby lives with me, but has been working at Panera nearly every night this summer. She is asleep when I leave in the morning and gone by the time I come home each afternoon. She will be starting her freshman year at the University of Rhode Island next Sunday.

John and I are on one side of the table. Thomas and Gabby are on the other. Thomas is across from John and looks like a younger version of his dad. Gabby sits across from me. For years people have commented that she is my little twin. We now have two grown children who are 20 and 18 years old. This is the nuclear family John and I started when we were not much older than these two in front of us. They very much look like we did back then.

What to say? There has been a combination of 23 years of laughter, fun, tears, pain, and growing together. Beginning tomorrow, the four of us are going our separate ways; farther apart than we’d ever been before. Sitting here during this meal, we have a lot of conversation about the mistakes we made in the past as individuals and with one another. There is a lot of apologizing, explaining and understanding. Gabby is the most cut off from the group – texting her colleagues about the evening’s coverage at Panera. John and Thomas are at the brink of potentially arguing a few times. I’m the one who probably feels the most surreal. I happen to look over at Thomas while he is talking to John. He has his father’s eyes. The same eyes I somehow recognized on the Boutwell that day.

While it’s incredibly likely we will be together again in the future, this is the last of the raising children part as childhood is officially over for these two wonderful grown ups sitting in front of me today. I didn’t know that first mid-watch on the Boutwell when I read the name Messeder that it would be my name for 18 whole years (as old as I was at that time), or that it would be the name of my future children. I couldn’t have possibly predicted what was in store.

 

Today

August 31, 2017

Tonight I’m sad and having a little difficultly coming to the realization that my time as a mom in the way I’ve known it is over. I still have an important role though I don’t know what it is yet. The uncertainty of the future stirs up a bit of anxiety. Life is uncertain. I want to use these experiences as reminders in my life that every moment counts. Some will shape the future and others will just be a blip in the passage of life. But every single moment has potential. I want to be present more and just enjoy what is.

The years with Gabby were nothing but a blessing. She has gone from a helpless little baby to a fully-grown woman. I can’t help but think back to some of the younger days when she needed me. Times when she was afraid of having bad dreams and I would dust her arms with “sweet dreams powder” before bed. She used to snuggle up next to me on the couch and often put her arms around me and tell me that she loves having a compact, portable mommy (for whatever that meant!). I coached her soccer team and while braiding her hair one day one home she said she imagined the other girls on her team would be jealous because she is getting her hair braided by the coach. She used to want to work at the VA with me and said she was going to buy a house next door and always live near me. Recently I came across an old mother’s day card from her where she said to do nothing but relax, if I need anything just look to my right and she will be there to do it for me. She always loved cats and McDonalds. Those little trinkets the kids buy at school Holiday fairs that say #1 mom and similar sentiments mean more now than they did then. When Gabby found out her dad and I were divorcing she was so sweet. We went to Hubbard park that day and sat on a picnic blanket. Once settled down she said she understood and even kind of predicted it. She was 11. She’s taken after me with planning, organizing and baking. She works hard but has a healthy balance of taking it easy when she feels stressed (I wished I learned that a bit earlier on). She’s also pretty stinking intuitive. I’m so proud of her.

I put a lot of heart into honoring Gabby on her 18th birthday (On This Day) just over 2 months ago. I knew the coming weeks were going to fly by and I’d be here, in this very place where the excerpt from What to Expect When you’re Expecting said it would be. Where the noise, chaos, laughter & tears will be missed once the house is back to normal and the car packed for college.

Though we aren’t back to normal quite yet. I am still a step-mother of two more that haven’t left the nest yet. It’s a more complicated, undefined role. Daren & I’s story is equally as complicated and full of what initially seemed like uneventful life experiences that shaped the circumstances that led us to where we are today. It’s just about time to shift gears and move onto the next stage.

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The reputation of Stepmothers

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I post a lot of happy photos and experiences on social media. I have a pretty good life. One thing I almost never write or post about is Daren & my biggest struggle. The largest hurdle we haven’t gotten over and continue to learn about and navigate is having a blended family.

 

I’ve written countless journal entries over the years. We’ve written hundreds of heartfelt emails to one another, our kids and our extended family trying to explain where we are coming from. I don’t really know anyone in real life with a current blended family to turn to for advice or to vent. There are little to no resources.

 

Over the years in complete frustration I’ve turned to the Internet. It’s been helpful in learning how we are not alone, but as with many things in life the ‘tips’ (if you can call them that) are much easier said than done. In the past week I’ve been a bit selfish and have only been looking up information about stepmothers. In the past I ran across information and angry forums where biological moms and step-moms posted and complained about one another. It was all a bit too Jerry Springer for me, yet I kept reading the same kind of stories and threads over and over. This week I tried to stick with peer-reviewed information only. There is little to none. The closest thing I can find that has a lot of information are Psychology periodicals. The New York Times and Huffington Post had some articles too, but on average 1-2 a year– and they are more informational for the public to be aware of the struggles that blended families experience rather than a help to the blended family itself.

 

What shocks me is how ‘textbook’ we are. We fell hook, line & sinker into exactly what normally happens.

 

Stepmothers generally have such a bad reputation. It’s often long into adulthood, usually after grandchildren/step-grandchildren are born; that the relationship between a step-mother and her step-children starts to flourish. Until then it’s often contentious and it doesn’t have to be. These are 3 things in order that a family could do to speed up that process.

  • The parents should work together to establish the boundaries, rules and consequences in their home (father and step-mother).
  • Both biological parents should work together to maintain as many commonalities as possible between both homes and back one another up or at least check-in when the children complain about one home or the other.
  • The biological mother should give her children permission to accept the step-mother in their lives.

 

This is the bare minimum to ensure success. Taking it further might look like all 3 (or 4 if mom is remarried) parents working together, especially if either stepparent has children living in their home. Mature adults realize this is in the best interest of all kids involved. Without the above 3 factors in place the situation is practically a perfect set up for failure. However we are so quick to blame the step-mother when anything goes wrong. Why? The world believes the fairy tale evil stepmother fantasy. She is the easy target because she is the outsider and no one feels any loyalty to her.

 

This is a very lonely feeling. As a stepmother you wonder what is wrong with you. You lose part of yourself. You question every word you say. I felt really alone for so long. It’s comforting to now know that research shows that there is a high incidence of anxiety and depression among stepmothers. They’re often the lowest member on the stepfamily rung, the P.S., the annoyance, the person that everyone in the family “puts up” with and often wishes would just go away.

 

 

Taken from the article (The Evil Stepmother: Myth or Truth?) “Simple… as a stepmother, I’ve been called names, blamed for things I had nothing to do with, talked behind my back, badmouthed, lied to and about, used and abused, mistreated, misunderstood, and all because I actually tried to be exactly the opposite of the common perception of ‘The Evil Stepmom’. I never demanded or asked for anything. I never made anyone choose. I never lied about their mother. I never treated her unkind. I never forgot their birthdays or a holiday. I never whined about how much money we spent on travel, child support, court costs, lawyers, or on the children.”

 

Wow how that sits with me. So it’s not just me? It’s not something I did or our special situation?

 

I’ve been accused of thriving on drama, needing my husband’s ex as a common enemy to save my relationship with him, being verbally abusive, making capricious rules, being childish, having an eating disorder, trying to make the children into something they aren’t, the list goes on. To anyone who knows me in real life this sounds so ridiculous. But if you didn’t know me and heard I’m a stepmother you really might believe it – because you know step mothers are evil & all that.

 

Why do so many women have the same experience?

 

From what I read recently, the stepmother is the first to notice something isn’t jelling and starts to do research about how to make her family work. She becomes the authoritative figure at home trying to educate herself, her children, her husband and his children about the topic. This often breeds resentment and alienates her as a starting point.

 

I’ve also learned that stepfathers don’t have the same experience as their counter-parts (step-moms) because usually ex-husbands deal with a divorce in a more healthy way. According to The Real Reason Children (and Adults) Hate their Stepmothers it’s the ex-wife who is likely to hold onto anger, feel it for longer and have the kids act it out on her behalf. Additionally the mom usually will have stronger agenda about what happens in her ex-husband’s house “The stronger the ex’s agenda, researchers found, the more involvement across households–and opportunities for conflict. And high conflict situations between two linked households lead to greater resentment of the stepparent, who feels more expendable

 

The above is a real problem when the step-mom has her own children and is trying to treat everyone fairly. It’s so important that the kids feel at home – all of them. Due to ex-wives trying to exert control, the step-mother loses control of her own home, and if she has children of her own that live in the house; she can’t seem to make things fair for everyone – leading to a great divide between step-sibling.

 

Geez, if we could only all just co-parent that wouldn’t happen right? That takes maturity though. Sadly the one target everyone points to as immature, jealous, power hungry, etc is the stepmother.

 

These are some common myths that I find so absurd.

 

She is jealous of the children

That just such a weird accusation yet widely held belief. I’ve heard it long before I ever became a step-mother, I’ve heard it about myself, and see/read/hear about other step-mothers that are jealous of their step-children. They are so jealous in fact, that they do all kinds of crazy, secret, manipulative things to make the children look bad in the father’s eyes. Has anyone ever questioned this hypocrisy? Why would she be jealous of the children?

 

She tries to exert power over the blended family and make the children’s lives miserable

What kind of person wants to see children miserable? I really ask that with pure interest of what someone’s answer might be. Do you know many people like this? I can’t think of a single person in real life that ever exhibited signed of feeling such intentions (at least that I know of… I’ll give you that).

 

I think a lot of people know just a single story and are more apt to listen to angry ex-wives and the kids who have a distorted image of “what goes on in that house”. She isn’t super strict and making capricious rules when she asks the kids sit up at the table, not climb the furniture, use utensils properly and say please & thank you. These are common complaints (wow… again I’m not alone) 5 Good Reasons to be an Evil Stepmother.

 

In step-families where the husband is the biological parent, research shows that fathers are more likely to be permissive parents if their ex-wife is not remarried and works outside the home (The Real Reason Children (and Adults) Hate their Stepmothers). The biological mother will often start to let little things go at first, then big things. When the children get to their father’s house they are used to not having rules and the father fears that if he is too strict the children will not want to come back. The stepmother inadvertently becomes the menacing authoritative figure for wanting to instill a few simple boundaries that others would normally not question. In turn people look at her like she is on a power trip and wants to make the children miserable and unwelcome into their dad’s house. After this happens a few times the stepmother will often feel like she has no control of her household and has to walk on eggshells when the children are around. It only makes the situation worse which is why most blended families on the surface seem happier early on. It’s not because the stepmother’s true colors have emerged that she has been holding in all this time until she got her claws deep enough into the family. Life isn’t that simple or sinister.

 

She shouldn’t have any say when it comes to the children

This is a partial myth. She has a lot to say about a lot of things and nothing to say about many others. Does she have a right to be part of a negotiation about what time something should take place when it affects her and/or her own biological children, or her household? Yes. Should she have a say in how holidays are celebrated within the confines of her own blended family, especially when she has children of her own? Absolutely. Should she be part of schedule planning for breaks, summers, and vacations if they in any way shape or form will be part of her schedule, her own vacation or anything related to her children? Without a doubt!

 

Does she have a say about where a child goes to the doctor or to college? Absolutely not. Nothing at all. Is it ok for her to be there to look at school options on the table? Why not? If I weren’t married and my brother or a good friend came with me and my child to look at schools, no one would blink or question their motives. They may even be able to say something like – hey remember that great cafeteria at that place, I had a fantastic burrito! But the stepmother accompanies her husband to the physician or a college visit and she must want to manipulate an outcome for her own benefit right? She must think she is their parent and has a right to be involved in this decision. Ya… ok then.

 

What about discipline? This is a tricky one. It depends. Did the child do something at school or get a bad grade? Then she should have little to no say. That is up to the biological parents if they are communicating well enough. Did the child break one of the house rules that she and her husband had in place? Then she does have a say. Many might disagree with me, but I think she has more of a say and should work with the husband closer when there are more than 1 set of biological children in the house. If there are stepsiblings or half siblings and something happens under your roof or in your care; the adults should work as diligently as possible to keep the same consequences for all the children in the house. Toxicity is created when the rules are different for one set of children than another. The stepmother has a say about what happens in her house, especially when it affects her or any children she birthed.

 

If she is kind the children will warm up to her

Not necessarily. The odds are stacked against her. She is putting up with a lot more than you know. People don’t look at her and smile warmly. When the family is out in public and strangers start asking questions where she has to explain they are a blended family, there is subtle shift in the conversation where she is looked at like she is just a bit ‘lesser than’. She can feel this hostility from strangers, the kid’s friend’s parents, teachers, etc. The extended family often quietly or openly resents or blames her because things aren’t just exactly the same as before. The kids sense all of this. How can they like her?

 

Throw in “loyalty”. Many stepkids–and adult stepkids–suspect that liking stepmom would be a betrayal of mom. So they keep her at arm’s length–or worse. And there’s nothing she can do about that. Only mom can release them from the torturous loyalty bind and pave the way to a healthy stepmom/stepchild relationship, by saying, “I wish you’d give Jenny a chance. I won’t be upset.” Too often, no such permission is given” (The Real Reason Children (and Adults) Hate their Stepmothers).

It’s been found that the more warm & appealing a step mom is, the more conflict a child feels about liking her.

Culturally there is a double standard “Stepchildren are allowed to dislike and resent their stepmoms, while a stepmom must always show unconditional love for her stepchildren.

 

She isn’t immature and childish; she is human with little understanding on her part.

 

Are you a stepmother or know of any? Try looking at things from her perspective. Most little girls don’t grow up with dreams of marrying a man with children. Almost no woman on earth goes out seeking a man with children. Marrying a man with children means you really love him and accept all facets of his life, including his children. The day the couple says “I do” with smiles on their faces, she isn’t secretly plotting about how to systematically get the kids out of his life. I don’t disagree that there may be a few incredibly unstable females out there where this might be the case, but trust me in that they are the exception, not the norm.

 

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On International Women’s Day

If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.

I have to admit – I never heard of International Women’s Day either. My initial reaction was slightly unpleasant, but I took to googling the “holiday”. This holiday has been around since 1909. Really? It was first celebrated on 2/28 in New York City; the date moved to March 8th in 1917 when Russia declared it a national holiday. It’s 100 years old this year and has never caught on. Maybe it’s about time.

When I thought about it past first blush I started to get outraged. To everyone out there who made fun of the day & just had to post something a little snarky on a social media page– have you considered the following? In our country – the United States:

  1. Is Dead Last in developed countries when it comes to paid maternity leave,
  2. Ranks last in every measure when it comes to family policy, in 10 charts.
  3. Of 41 developed nations, the U.S. is the only country that does not have a paid paternal leave policy.
  4. Women still make only $0.80 to every dollar a man makes for the same job.
  5. The U.S. ranks an unimpressive 33rd when it comes to women in the national legislature, among 49 “high-income” countries (defined as those with per-capita incomes above $12,615). Among a larger group of 137 countries with data available, the U.S. ranks 83rd.
  6. The U.S. media still provides a disproportionate number of images of women as young, white, heterosexual, and underweight.
  7. Women respond to advertisers’ messages of never being good enough: American women spend more money on the pursuit of beauty than on their own education
  8. Women and girls are the subject of less than 20% of news stories. “When a group is not featured in the media… it is called symbolic annhilation.

Internationally:

  1. Women make up 51% of the population and only 22% of national parliamentarians are female. That’s double the number in 1995, but still a marker of slow change.
  2. Women currently hold 24, or 4.8 percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.
  3. 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
  4. In most countries, women only earn between 60 and 75% of men’s wages – for the same work.
  5. 2/3 of the adult world population who are illiterate are female.
  6. The list goes on people – human trafficking, female genital mutilation, honor killings, denied the right to drive, wear clothes you can breath in, literally show your face…

How is this equality? So one might say that women get paid less because they stayed home with the kids or aren’t willing to move and take risks. Why is that OK? How is it better to put a new human who will one day be a contributing member of society in a heartless daycare center or in a care of strangers a better option? Of the families who place their children in day care, they like myself mostly needed to in order to pay bills – to live and eat. If one opts to stay home you don’t earn anything, don’t put money toward retirement and don’t contribute to taxes. This isn’t good for the society in general and will only cause more problems down the road. The U.S. is the only developed country that hasn’t caught on.

For those women who do return to the workforce in the six weeks that we are allowed off (before losing their job and not getting paid during this time); they end up with so many stressors, extra bills – and both parents who need to take unexpected time off constantly for a child who is sick or their daycare/school is closed due to the weather.

The federal government should be setting a standard. Laws should be on the table for discussion, but they are not. Perhaps it’s because there are so few women in political positions. That is why points 5 and 9 are so critical above. And nearly every other point blocks women, or doesn’t provide proper role models for women to be interested in political positions.

Imagine if the federal government actually set the stage for their employees? They do. On paper. I have been working for the federal government since 1994. When I got pregnant in 2006 while in the military, I applied for the “generous” 2 year unpaid maternity leave program where you can come back into your previous level after two years after delivery. My ex-husband was also in the military at the time, and we didn’t have childcare with anyone locally. I had to be at work at 5am as a cook, and my husband had to leave at 5am each day to get to start his 1 hour commute. Daycare centers don’t open until 7am at the very earliest – even in 2017.

My station signed off on the paperwork, this should have been a shoe in case. But it was denied. With no good real reason other than I was needed. As a E-4 cook? Those jobs are a dime a dozen. But I sucked it up and went back to work after just six weeks. No where to pump – such a thing was unheard of at the time so I didn’t breast feed. One of my male co-workers wife’s, volunteered to watch my son. She lived on the base just right up the road from where I cooked. Everyone was completely appalled at my denied request. It worked out, but it easily could have not.

Fast forward to 1998 when it was time for me to re-enlist. I was now an E-5. I had advanced pretty quickly and had nothing but outstanding reviews for 4 straight years. I wanted to stay in the military. My then husband was working as an aircraft mechanic and had to be stationed at an Airbase. We tried to work with our two detailers in D.C. to let them know that we were a married couple with a child and only one of us could really be deployed or have an overnight regular rotation at a time. As a cook on land I never had to stay overnight, but the Coast Guard had an unofficial policy that enlisted personnel who have non-airbase jobs rotate between ship duty and a land station. When my ex and I filled out our “dream sheet”, I wrote any land position at or near an air station anywhere in the world. We were totally flexible about where we go, even to a remote location that no one wanted as long as I could be stationed on land so we knew we had someone home with our 1-year old child every evening. His job could never get him out of an overnight rotation. I remember sitting in my kitchen at our shared little apartment one weekday afternoon when the detailer called me on the phone. He was kind of a jerk and the conversation ended with it was my turn to go back to ship duty. There was nothing he could do. End of story.

What??? At the station I was working at there were guys who were on their 3rd or 4th tour at a land station. I had an unusual case, but they were not willing to allow me at least two back-to-back shore duties. I felt completely frustrated. Why did the military have these “generous” family policies but I have never met a single person able to use them? I stayed home with my son, went into the active reserves and back to school. Another motivated female left the job force.

Fast forward 18 years to last year. I am still in the federal government. In 2002 when I took my first civilian federal job I was so excited to read about all the “benefits” of working for the federal government – specifically a flexible schedule, flex jobs, job-sharing, compressed tours, work-at-home, part-time work etc. In the now 15 years I’ve been employed in the federal civilian workforce, I’ve only known 1 position that job shares. To be fair there are more telework jobs and some people have been able to beg, borrow, and plea for compressed tours in the last few years. But they are RARE. To be fair I do work in a hospital and staff need to be around to see patients. But there are hundreds of administrative jobs (like every role I’ve served) where there is no patient contact and no reason on earth to be at work everyday or at a desk taking up precious real estate where patients can actually be seen.

After 22 years in the federal government and a most outstanding record, I asked to exercise my right to request an alternative work schedule for a better work life balance as the latest of many presidential policy states. I was burning out after working non-stop for 22 years; and just needed to do my job in a different way. Surprise, surprise – the answer was no. I never did get an answer about “why” as the policy states that I should, only I just needed to be there full time 5 days a week. I knew I was able to do my job in an alternative way. I had an outstanding record, but I was denied from even trialing it. When I insisted on learning why it was denied, I pointed out that I have a right to grieve if I don’t have a real answer. Instead of an answer (which I still haven’t gotten until this day), I received passive aggressive can’t ever really prove it quiet retaliation. Again – policies that are nothing more than words on paper. I’m not in the job any more. Another motivated employee gone.

Where is the justice? Why aren’t we marching the streets fighting for rights that most other developed nations already have as standard practice. Why aren’t we fighting for our sisters in non-developed countries? And aside from the lower pay, discrimination, not being taken seriously, being looked at as a sex object, not being represented in board rooms or lawmaking policy…. It’s women who suffer the most from not being able to use the policies that likely another woman put in place.

So we’ve never heard of International Womans Day. We should. Instead of laughing about it, why not consider actually Being Bold for a Change? Our world leaders declared a national holiday 100 Years ago and in doing so asked the citizens of the world to consider inequality once every merely 365 days. And we are poking fun at it as if it’s some ridiculous silly womans bra burning movement. That is how normal we think inequality is. And that is no ok.

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