My Half Siblings Treat Me Well, But I Still Feel Guilty About Being Raised By Our Dad

As the song by The Temptations goes, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Though I was raised as an only child, I’m pretty open about the fact that I have older half-siblings. My siblings were born before my parents ever met. There is a big age gap between me and my siblings — my oldest brother is old enough to be my father. Our upbringings were very different — my dad has always been in and out of their lives, while I certainly have the most “traditional” relationship with him. As I get older, I’m painfully aware of how lucky I was to have grown up with that kind of relationship. And though they’ve never made me feel bad about it, I have survivor’s guilt.

Even though my half siblings treat me incredibly well, sometimes I worry that secretly they’re resentful. Not because they have any negative feelings about me, but because I have that ideal father/child relationship with our dad. I’m the only child of his that he lived with for the duration of my childhood. By the time I came around, our dad was in his 40s, more willing to settle down. He did all the typical dad things with me: tried to teach me to ride a bike, play catch, even attended the odd tea party. He rarely missed a school play or award ceremony. For the most part, he was and is very present in my life.

This isn’t the case for my half-siblings. His presence in their lives has been inconsistent at best. It’s safe to say none of them are going to buy him a “World’s Best Dad” mug. And they certainly have their reasons to be angry with him; he’s not a bad dad, but he often put himself first. Sometimes that meant that they didn’t see him for long periods of time. But when he was present, he was all in. He tried to do anything he could to make sure they knew he cared. I think they know, but it doesn’t always make up for him not being physically present. Yes, it’s great that he helped my brother get into college. However, that doesn’t necessarily make up for the things he missed.

Sometimes it’s the little things that really matter for us kids. Our dad was good at the grand gestures, but I think my siblings wanted more of the quiet ones. Having a family dinner every night is more important than a few days of rip-roaring fun. Dropping your kids off at school once or twice a week means more than taking them to meet Michael Jordan. And that’s the thing I can’t forget: I got the small gestures like nightly dinners and help with my yearly science fair project, all things I took for granted as a kid. Those are the parts of our relationship I cherish most. And I know my half siblings rarely got those.

I’m aware that while our dad will do whatever he can for any of us, he treats me differently than my half siblings. He’ll go out of his way to make sure I have everything I need. I think he sees me, even now as an adult, as his last chance to be a good dad. I know deep down how much my siblings would have loved to have this same kind of relationship with him.

Even though they have issues with our dad, my half-siblings have never taken them out on me. My oldest brother has bailed me out many times over the years. Whenever I need help, I know he will do whatever he can for me. Both of my sisters have always gone out of their way to be there for me too, whether it was taking me out for a girls’ dinner before I left for college or for annual trips to the apple orchard in the fall. Even now that I live far away, they’re still there for me. I’m feel lucky that they’re all so supportive of me — that’s not always the case for siblings, especially not siblings who didn’t grow up together.

I hear stories of people who actively hate their half-siblings for ruining their lives. It always scares me that my siblings feel that way, even though they’ve never indicated that. None of them have ever sat with me and had an honest conversation about our dad. I think part of me doesn’t want to hear that they do resent me, though I would bet much of their ire is with him. I’m the innocent bystander in this whole thing, but being an innocent party doesn’t erase my feelings of guilt.

In actuality, the love my half-siblings show me makes me even more aware of those feelings. There are so many things they haven’t shared with our dad. Even though I have nothing to do with it, I can’t help but feel bad. We’ve never talked about it, but I know they wouldn’t blame me for having the relationship they always wanted with him. Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m the one who somehow survived. It’s a weird feeling to reconcile with.

I’m glad I got to grow up with our dad all the time, but it’s hard to be the last one. I hope my siblings forgive him. And maybe one day, I’ll be able to make peace with the thing I had no control over.

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As Surprising As It Might Seem, I Actually Love My In-Laws

I fully fell in love with my in-laws when I moved from Utah to Minnesota for graduate school. Mel’s parents traveled with us. Her father Paul, a grey-haired retired gas company mechanic with a sharp, awkward laugh and an adorable shrug, pulled our moving trailer with his blue Dodge Ram. Mel’s mother Joan, a short, warm woman with brown hair and an affinity for sweatshirts and hugs, drove our car as my wife sat in the passenger seat taking care of our two young children. I drove our pickup truck. Every vehicle was packed to the gills.

It was quite the caravan.

They stayed with us in Minnesota long enough to get settled. And while some of you reading this might think this is just how families are, I want to point out that I came from a messy childhood. My father died from drug addiction when I was 19. I ran away when I was 14 and eventually moved in with my grandmother. Growing up, family didn’t mean a whole lot to me. I didn’t ask anything from my family because I didn’t trust them. Simple fact.

And when I first got married and Mel’s parents were all active and trying to help all the time, I didn’t trust them, either. I don’t think I’ve ever told them this, and if they are reading, I hope they don’t take this the wrong way. But whenever someone was as kind as they were, I assumed they wanted something in return. They were trying to manipulate me. Sadly, this is what I’d come to expect from other people. The thought of caring for and loving your family simply because they are family was something I’d never experienced, so I assumed they were much like my father, who was very kind and then very engaged right before he would ask me for drug money. Or when he’d met a new woman and needed to appear to be a good father.

When people talk about emotional baggage, this is what it looks like. I will say, my childhood taught me a lot about being independent. I knew how to take care of myself, and I learned a lot about how not to be a good father and a good family member. But what I’ve gone on to learn from my in-laws is how to unconditionally love your family.

In the almost 16 years I’ve been with my wife, from Paul and Joan’s example, I’ve learned what it means to love someone. I still remember the day they left our small town home in Minnesota after getting us settled. My mother-in-law cried. She cried harder than I’d ever seen her cry, but it wasn’t because things hadn’t worked out the way she wanted, or someone had let her down, or someone had died. I’d seen people cry for those reasons. It was because she loved her daughter, she loved her grandchildren, and she was going to miss us.

I’d never seen someone cry for those reasons. It caused me to feel emotions I’d never experienced. The way she hugged our then two-year-old son was incredible. She just squeezed him, and he was so in love with her, he didn’t move. He hugged her back equally as hard. For a two-year-old, that is remarkable. I remember watching that embrace and realizing that it was an example of the pure love I’d always longed for as a child but never really experienced until adulthood.

I’ve been a father for 13 years now, and I love my children more than I thought I could love anyone. I’ve grown to not only love my wife more, but to also respect her, admire her, and know that I can trust her more than I’ve ever trusted anyone. And I’ve learned that my in-laws are there for us. They are this unwavering, dedicated duo of humans who will always answer the phone, who will always dote over my children, and will do anything, and I mean anything, to maximize their relationship with my family. It really is one of the more beautiful things I’ve experienced as an adult, and frankly it is in contrast with anything I ever experienced as a child. I cannot help but be 100% grateful for it, and I am happy to know that I married into this family that showed me what real, pure love actually looks like.

I know that in-laws can get a bad rap sometimes. I know that some of them can even drive a marriage to failure. But they’re not all bad. Some of us got lucky, and if you’re in that camp, give the wonderful, compassionate in-laws in your life a solid hug, because they deserve it.

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How Social Distancing Changed My Friendships

There is no question, social distancing has changed my friendships. It’s a divisive issue that my relationships were not strong enough to withstand.

I am expecting a little baby boy in July and therefore considered at risk. I have friends and family that are also considered at risk for various reasons. For all these people, the decision to implement social distancing and isolate my family was simple. I stay in for those I love because I couldn’t bear the thought of accidentally hurting someone I care deeply for.

Although the decision was easy to make, the reality of isolation was anything but easy. The days can be overwhelming, filled with stress and uncertainty. But once again, I return to the reason why I’m doing this coupled with the fact I am not the only one, or so I thought, and that gives me strength.

I do not have a large circle of friends, so I assumed the people I am close to would be doing the same. But that has not been the case. Friendships have been divided into those that isolate and those that do not.

The unexpected part of isolation is that I now question the friendships with the people who choose to ignore social distancing. It does not come from a place of judgment; rather I question how that friend can risk hurting others, a sad reality of the pandemic. Perhaps we are much more different than I realized, another sad reality of the pandemic.

They look at me as if I’m a victim of media hype. I look at them, equally perplexed. Some of these friends are simply overconfident. They have an inflated confidence in the ability to avoid the virus. The rest of us may wonder where this attitude stems from — possibly the hand-washing Olympics — but if you continue to go out, there is no magic way to avoid the germs. Inexplicably, these are the ones that insist on socializing with those that isolate. Stay back, daywalkers.

Others have opened their hearts and confided in me that they cannot not sit at home with children. It’s something no one really discussed before now, because how you raise your kids is for the most part a private matter. Except right now, all of our individual choices have the ability to impact many. Mothering is tough on a normal day, but the isolation that comes with staying inside makes it even harder. To these friends, I hope they find their groove and eventually experience the happiness that comes from slowing down with your family.

Yet others claim they go out because it is their fundamental right. They dismiss the risk because they are “exercising freedom” to carry on with business as usual. This isn’t exactly what our forefathers intended in our bill of rights (hello, have you heard of the draft?). Beside how reckless this is, and the fact that it won’t stop until this group is mandated by law to do so or the virus touches someone they love (creating an immediate consequence), if the zombies come, I do not want to be around these individuals who I once considered friends.

And yet I have friends who appear to be enamored by their exceptionalism, something I thought was a characteristic of a younger generation. Hopefully, in hindsight, one of the pandemic’s lessons will be to teach the future generations to think of themselves more as global citizens and act accordingly to solve future world problems.

I don’t think that my friends who are ignoring social distancing are evil or bad people. Perhaps they cannot be motivated by the delayed consequences of their behavior. Similar to delayed satisfaction, except it is a negative consequence for a behavior that comes later. Have your fun now, pay later. To the friends that are ignoring social distance practices, can you imagine being responsible for causing an infection that ended in a death for someone’s grandmother or immunocompromised child?

We are in this together, and we can only get through this together. Consider someone else’s livelihood when you make your choices; don’t be a reason that someone else dies. Because deaths are coming.

Despite our current divide, I deeply hope that when we make it through to the other side, we can all come together again. We can rejoice and forever pay tribute to the brave soldiers at the front lines, the nurses, doctors, first responders, grocery store workers, and many others who battled against our common enemy. Our job isn’t glorious; it’s to sit home and simply be. But one day we can look back on this as a time we came together as a community, flattened the curve, and saved lives.

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An Open Letter To My Friends With Children

Whenever our group text pings with “___ sent an image,” I wait with anticipation for the rectangular box to fill with a black and white fuzzy image of a future person. A soon-to-be member of our ever-increasing friend family. I am flooded with emotions.

First, love. My chosen sisters, extensions of myself, friends that have grown with me for over half of my life, are expanding to love in new ways. Before the little ones are named or even have fingers and toes, I know that I will love them like members of my own family, protect them fiercely, fill with pride as they grow and learn, and spoil them as best I can.

I remember the first time I pressed a hand to a friend’s pregnant belly, tight with new life, amazed at its firmness and the promise it held. I remember thinking “I already love you, little one,” because how could I not? Their mother is a part of my heart. We were forged together wearing plaid skirts and knee socks, telling tales of first kisses and heartbreaks, painting our nails on bedroom floors, sharing illicit first sips of vodka and stale cigarettes behind small-town malls, standing at kitchen counters laughing our heads off until 3 am, and stuffing our faces with all manner of cheeses.

But I’m afraid, too. Every time a friend gets pregnant, I can feel her stepping back from me. The circle of friends with kids gets tighter. You ask each other for advice and bond over the milestones you’ve experienced together, things only moms can understand. I understand why this happens, and of course it should! I’m not in the mom club yet, and I may never be, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a part of your new experience.

Friends posing for photo
Courtesy of Katlyn Bennett

I’ll admit it — I started following mommy blogs when my friends started having kids. It’s something that I feel like I have to research to stay relevant, to have some kind of conversational “in” when the topics turn to baby-wearing, breastfeeding, and screen time. I feel like a fraud or a spy, peeking in on a world in which I don’t belong.

Living this childless life offers me some privileges that I know must be annoying to you. I don’t need a sitter to go out, I can wear regular bras, and don’t have to count the number of drinks I’ve had for any reason other than my own sobriety or lack thereof. Sometimes I feel ashamed about how easy my life must seem to you now. When you ask me how I’m doing, anything except “Fine!” must sound like I’m either bragging or ungrateful. I know that your lives are more complex and stressful than mine now that you have mini versions of you to care for in addition to your own worries and problems, and I can’t understand all of the emotional weight you carry. I know it’s impossible to understand until you have children of your own, but tell me about it anyway. I’ll always listen to your frustrations and joys, even if I don’t understand them.

True, I might get a little overwhelmed when the topic turns to effacement, vaginal tearing, or labor… but that’s only because these things terrify me. I don’t know if I’ll ever experience them, but if I do, I’d almost rather not know until they’re actually happening to me. But I know that your body is a mystery that you’re trying to solve, and I understand the need to puzzle through all the things happening inside you. Please never feel like you can’t talk to me about your pregnancy or your kids. I’ll never open a Snapchat or Instagram of one of your children and not squeal with delight. I look forward to scrolling through social media and seeing their adorable wisps of blonde, their chubby thighs, and hearing their exuberant giggles… it makes my heart explode every time.

When your babies grow older, I’ll be way cooler. I know how to talk to bigger kids; I’ll read them books, go with you to the zoo, hold their hands on long walks, and sing all the Disney songs that you’re probably tired of by now. I don’t want to wait until then to know them, though. At our get-togethers, be patient with me. If I’m hesitant to hold your baby, it’s because I don’t feel like I’m good at it. I see the ease with which you sling your little love up on your hip or over your shoulder, and I feel like a football player walking a tightrope. I want to be better, so coach me. I won’t be offended if you tell me to shift positions, or not to hold them in one way or another… because even if I look a little awkward holding your infant, I still want to be there for you and for them. I might not be a new mom myself, but I’m learning too, how to be helpful and not distancing, how to show you (and them) in new ways how important you are to me.

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To My Mom Friends: Tell Me How It Really Is

Give me the truth, the authenticity. I don’t care if the blood of it stains me. Tell me how it really is.

I want to hear it. I want to hear that you cry fresh tears after your three-year-old child throws a block at your head, leaving behind a small bruise that you hide with ancient gobs of makeup. You try not to take it personal, but you do. I want to hear it was beyond difficult setting up a birthday party for your one-year-old amidst the pressures of this Instagram perfect society in which the sun shines brightly, the guests laugh lightly, and your child eats the layered smash cake in ideal stickiness stuck to perfectly pudgy fingers. I want to hear that the hour-long tantrums send you to eat the stale Halloween candy from eight months ago that still hides inside your cupboards. I want to hear that you struggle with America’s view of a mother’s worth: only six weeks of paid maternity leave. I want to hear that the despair you feel signals something beyond the baby blues, that these feelings of utter sadness have reared again inside your heart now that the same child is a teenager.

It doesn’t have to be all sorrow. Tell me your joys, too. I just ask for the real ones, please. The time you cried when your son’s first tooth came out so tiny and white and you cradled it in the palm of your hand. The moment you first held your child after hours and hours of labor and how you wondered if you were honestly going to make it. The secret hugs you get from a growing tween, bony shoulders through thinning shirts. The moment your daughter leaves for college and doesn’t look back. Life isn’t all black and white. Give me your grays. The confusing moments, the times when you’re uncertain, the points of your life when you feel every single emotion all at once.

At one time in our history, long before the father, mothers united humanity. They were connected to the earth through natural cycles that brought both birth and death. They were celebrated and held important roles in society, even in older age. They created, they healed, they imparted wisdom, they cemented the community together. They rose rooted like trees from the earth.

There are many names for these mother goddesses. But we have forgotten their names, just as we have forgotten our own desolate selves. We lay trash on our shores, we expect the impossible, we continue to industrialize, we are lost. We have forgotten to honor the mother.

We have forgotten their stories.

Now, we oftentimes hide the fact that we are mothers. It doesn’t matter if we stay at home or if we work. Motherhood interferes. We are weak if we need help from a village. We are looked at differently if we take a day off work to care for a sick child. We toil ourselves to the bone in order to fulfill a tacit agreement that American society wrote for us and that says we must do everything perfectly. We do most of this alone. It just adds to the maternal mental health crisis that mothers face. Eight check-up appointments for our newborn and countless others while pregnant and only one postpartum check-up for the mother. With this, we assume our worth.

In reality, our worth transcends beyond what is expected of us. We do it all, this screaming list of unspoken duties that continues to add titles behind our name, titles that reach beyond just “mother.” We become housekeepers, chefs, professional organizers, chauffeurs, gardeners, wardrobe shoppers, seamstresses, and so much more. Yet we tell everyone we are okay.

To say we are burned out is an understatement.

It isn’t the floppy hats, the perfectly layered lipstick, the false eyelashes pressed tightly to thinning lids that shows strength. It isn’t the put-together look. Show me the nakedness, the rawness, the C-section scars, the mascara that runs down your cheeks, the bags under your eyes. Realness is the strength I seek. Vulnerability. Unleashing what’s on your heart, pink layer by pink layer, until all that’s left is the core.

Tell me how utterly complicated it really is to be a mother. I want to be connected. So that when my own postpartum depression comes, when the loneliness settles in my veins, when the four walls of a house close in, I’ll know that it isn’t just me. I’ll know that I’m not alone.

Tell me your true stories. Because it’s the stories that make you human.

It’s the stories that make us mothers.

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To The Friends Who Save Us

Twice this week I was saved by friends who were strong enough to guide me through terrains that I simply could not navigate alone. Once by a friend who literally helped me navigate a ski trail (with my kids in tow) that I had no businesses being on, and again by a friend who helped me navigate my way out of a relationship that had become so toxic, I could no longer see myself.

With two ski lessons in two years and a decent sense of balance under my belt, I decided I could take my two children (who had a fair amount of ski school experience) up on a real ski lift, on a real mountain, to ski down a real trail. It took about three minutes of sliding down the icy slope to realize I’d made a huge mistake—I was not experienced enough to ski that trail with two kids—and I could not get us down alone.

Then a friend swooped down the slope, in the nick of time. She reached out a hand to help us stand (ski?) tall and guided us down the parts of the trail that were the least perilous, waited patiently for us to figure out how to make our own turns and stops. And just her presence, her positivity and confidence, gave all three of us the confidence to get down the mountain.

We made it down, relief and accomplishment, adrenaline and euphoria flooding our senses. The kids said they’d had the best time ever, that the run down the mountain was the most fun ever. That friend saved us—saved me. Because maybe we would have gotten down the mountain safely, without any broken bones, but maybe the kids would have lost the confidence they’d worked so hard to build in ski school, maybe they would have stopped seeing the joy in the sport they were learning and at which they were excelling, or, in a worst case scenario, maybe our happy ending wouldn’t have been as happy.

All I know is that I could not have done it alone, and I didn’t have to. My friend saved us—led us down the mountain, helped us through the snowdrifts and down the steep terrain—when I needed that help the most. When I simply couldn’t do it myself.

Just a few days later, I was saved again, this time while with another friend and discussing how best to move forward in a relationship that was plagued by arguments that left me emotionally drained and conversations that left me questioning my reality. She pushed away the weight of her own day to put a hand on my wrist and guide me through a frighteningly dense fog of uncertainty. She said if you really believe what you are saying, if this is really how you feel about yourself and if you’re this confused about your truth, you need to listen to my truth, and trust my reality, trust that I know you and want what’s best for you and you need to walk away before you lose yourself anymore, before you lose yourself completely. I told her I could not do it alone; I just wasn’t strong enough to pull myself out. She lent me her strength, and waited patiently for me to figure out how to make my own turns and stops.

She stood by my side as I said the words that needed to be said, that I had been afraid to say to the person I was afraid to say them to. And just her presence, her positivity and confidence kept me grounded as I fought the self-doubt that had kept me in a situation that was becoming increasingly troubling. She gave me truth and saw me, when I could no longer see myself; she saved me, in that moment, when I desperately needed saving, when I absolutely could not save myself.

Friendships are give and take, and this week I have taken more than I’ve given. I have been saved in all the ways that matter: physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I have been saved because those friends that saved me reminded me that I am worth saving. So to those friends from whom I’ve taken, I want to give these words:

To those friends—I hope I never have to return the favor. I hope you never find yourself in a position where you cannot figure out how to navigate your trail, a place in which your truth and feelings are so turned around you no longer recognize the thoughts churning in your mind. I hope I never have to return the favor, but if ever the situation arises when you need that kind of help, I will be there with a hand and a smile and a truth that will bring you back to safety.

To those friends—I want you to know that the courage it takes to lead the way is remarkable and isn’t going unnoticed. The strength that it takes to reach out a hand, when doing so might throw you off-balance, isn’t unappreciated. And the love that is being shared will be endlessly repaid.

And to those friends who have given so much this week—those and the many others who have so often stepped in and stepped up without being asked—who have saved me in ways they may never know, without asking for anything in return, I want to say thank you, even though a simple thank you is not enough, and will never be enough.

Twice this week I needed saving. Twice this week I was saved. And for that, I will always be grateful.

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My Ex-Husband Is Jealous Of My New Relationship — Even Though He Has A Partner

My ex-husband initiated our divorce. While we both knew we’d fallen out of love with each other, he was the one who got the ball rolling. He knew we weren’t happy and was strong enough to do something for us that I just couldn’t do.

I was holding on with both hands for our kids — the thought of not seeing them every day was too painful for me to make a move. But when he suggested we separate, I let go as if I’d been hanging on the monkey bars over a swamp of alligators who had just swam away.

The weekend he moved out, I sat across from him, a large pizza separating us. When our kids had gotten up to pick out a dessert, I told him to move on and start dating if he felt ready.

He was a wonderful father, but not a great husband. I knew what I wanted in a partner and he wasn’t it. I longed to have a man in my life who was faithful. I wanted someone who was proud of my career and the fact I could make a mean chocolate cake. I wanted to be seen and heard for my strengths and not dismissed. Giving him this go-ahead was a way to help me move on.

Our last few years together, it was apparent my ex didn’t even like me. I wanted more for myself and I wanted more for him. He is my children’s father and I wanted him to be happy because it would only add to their happiness.

He added a dating site to his phone that evening. In a few weeks, he had a girlfriend. Within a few months, he told me he was in love and wanted the kids to meet her.

While it was hard for me at time, I was supportive and encouraged his relationship. I never made it hard for him. Like I said, it was, in many ways, a ticket for me to do the same. Plus, she clearly loved my kids very much and I thought (and still think) she is caring and patient.

He and his girlfriend have been together for years. During the first few of those years, I dated here and there, but never anything serious — I wasn’t ready, and I’ve wanted to focus on my kids and career.

But that changed last year when I met the man I had been waiting for. After a few months of dating, I felt a change in my ex’s tone when we discussed our children. His curtness surprised me since he’d been encouraging me to invest in a new relationship. He’s always wanted to spend more time with the kids and take them on trips. While I never stood in the way of this, he knew it made me sad to be without them for extended periods of time. “You need to get out there and meet someone so you don’t struggle so much when they’re gone,” he’d say.

I wasn’t sad about being single; I just missed my kids. Plus, I was waiting for the right one.

When I found him, I didn’t go running to my ex to tell him I’d met the man I’d been waiting for. I did, however, give him the details he asked for, which wasn’t much. He met him and gave me the okay to introduce him to our children, something we had agreed to before separating.

He didn’t ask him any questions when they met, but mere minutes before he knew the kids were meeting him one Saturday evening, I got abrasive text messages from him: Who is this guy? Where does he live? Where does he work?

I answered his questions in a matter-of-fact-sort of way but was really irritated.

I’ve never told him that my new lover offered me a lot of things he didn’t. I certainly didn’t tell him about the mind-blowing sex or the fact he loved my fashion sense — something that always annoyed my ex. In fact, he once told me I stuck out like a sore thumb at a family gathering because I was over dressed. I’ve never gushed or tried to make my ex feel jealous.

But it’s as if he knows, and he’s pissed about it.

I told him he seems different around me. Where we used to be able to have friendly conversations about the kids, now he’s short with me. Where he used to be understanding, now he’s critical of my parenting decisions. He texts me unnecessarily when he knows I’m with my boyfriend.

Instead of handling certain situations when he’s with the kids like he used to, he acts as though he needs my input. Like the time I was away for a long weekend with my boyfriend and our youngest had a cold. He wasn’t sure if he should let him stay home from school and called me at 6:30 am instead of making the call himself.

Watching your partner move on is hard; I’ve been there. But I so badly want to scream at my ex-husband and remind him that he should put the energy into his relationship and not make the same mistakes he made with me. Because if he hadn’t made those mistakes, neither of us would be in this place. I won’t though. I’ve moved on, and I need to focus on my new life.

If he continues to put so much emphasis on my new relationship instead of his own, he may just find himself in the same situation yet again.

I’m not perfect, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my relationship with my kids’ father. I’m sure I will continue to do so.

But being too jealous or too concerned about what he’s doing with his life will not be one of them. And I can only hope that he will come to the same conclusion sooner than later because I’m freaking over his behavior, and whether he likes it or not, I’m going to be with this man regardless of what my ex thinks about it.

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I Snoop Through My Partner’s Phone — And So Do Lots Of Other People

There’s something about me that not everybody can get on board with, and if I’m to be honest, I can’t say that I really blame them. I mean, it’s not my strongest of characteristics, and it involves me always wanting to be “in the know” out of fear of missing out.

No matter how shameful it may be to admit it, I am a super-duper nosy person.

When I’m at the doctor’s office, I peep through the hospital-like drawers just because I’m itching to know what’s inside. Not to steal anything, of course—it’s just pure curiosity. Curiosity that kills the cat if someone were to walk in and I had to pretend I wasn’t doing anything, I might add.

I’ve always been this way. I used to go through my friends’ stuff at their houses when I was younger, my mom’s belongings, and even my teacher’s desk on rare occasions, and I’m not even sure why. I’m not proud of those things, that’s for damn sure. And now that I’ve grown up, it’s something I have somewhat carried with me into adulthood. (Some might suggest that this is something I could or should work on in therapy… and they would be right.)

It may go against a lot of couples’ better judgment, but I snoop through my partner’s phone.

It’s not because I don’t trust him, because I totally do. We don’t have joint Facebook accounts like “SallyAndSam Wilson” where I monitor his every move or anything like that. It’s just that, from time to time, as I already stated, I can be incredibly nosy.

You see, you’re able to find out a lot about a person from the contents of their cell phone. I’ve been with my husband for seven years, and though he can talk my ear off from time to time (or all the time), there are details about his life that I can only piece together after reading them off of his iPhone.

Like the mundane fact that he had to make a Wal-Mart run for work supplies during the day. Or that he and his mom had a small tiff earlier that week which they already resolved that very same day. I can figure out who he has been talking to, what he has been looking at, and where he has been just by simply taking a gander at his phone… and I make no apologies for it.

I’m not exactly sure why I care about these subtle, and what some might call boring, things in his life, but I do. As much as you might think this is me being a wife who doesn’t trust my husband, it’s really just me being curious. If you can believe it, it’s my way of caring about what’s going on in his life. Maybe I go about it in a backwards sort of a way to some, but as it would turn out, I’m not the only one.

According to one survey with Whistle Out, 50% of respondents said they were guilty of looking at their partner’s phone, with 78% of those participants admitting to checking text messages first thing.

I think for so many couples, checking their partner’s phone breaks a layer of trust. In my opinion, though, when you’ve been with someone for such a long time, that means you don’t hide a single thing from one another. We aren’t joined at the hip, and we do allow details about our lives to fall beneath the cracks of everything that’s much more important, but our curiosity doesn’t hinder our relationship.

My husband doesn’t care if I look through his phone, just like I don’t care if he has the random urge to look through mine. He’s caught me browsing through his history more times than I can count, and when he does, he always gives me that, “AHA! I caught ya!” type of look.

He’ll usually say something along the lines of, “Enjoying that phone, are ya?”

To which I reply, “Sure am.”

We all have different boundaries and differing expectations of privacy from relationship to relationship, but this is something we are both okay with happening in our lives.

We may not be the perfect couple by any stretch of the imagination, but there is one thing we do have, and that is total trust. We are honest with each other to a fault. Which means, there’s little to nothing we don’t know about one other.

We know each other’s passcodes by heart, and we use them when needed. If my phone dies while my husband is home, I pick up his phone and use it for whatever I may need.

It may go against what some call “socially acceptable,” but this is something that works for us. We are entitled to our privacy, and if one of us felt like it had been breached, we would figure out a way to put up more boundaries. For now, I’ll continue snooping through my husband’s phone, and he’s free to snoop through mine.

The post I Snoop Through My Partner’s Phone — And So Do Lots Of Other People appeared first on Scary Mommy.

To Our Friends In The Facebook Memories

It has happened several times. I’m mindlessly scrolling through Facebook (with a full sink and inbox) when I come across a girl that looks vaguely familiar. Like an actor I once saw in a movie but cannot place. Occasionally I even look at her name before I realize what I’m seeing: the Facebook memory of a mom friend – a friend I’ve only known during her momhood. And she apparently looked quite different eight years ago.

Stumbling upon these gems is the best. As mothers of young children, we are constantly meeting other mothers – all of us with bags over our shoulders and under our eyes. We swap stories of sleepless months, diaper rash, meltdowns in Target and our kids’ meltdowns in Target. Our lives are dull to anyone not with us in the trenches. And we recognize that as we text each other sleep training articles that never work. We know and accept each other as exhausted, disheveled, over-extended moms.

To The Girls In The Facebook Memories: woman and man posing for photo
Courtesy of Alicia MacNorth

And then we see her – our mom friend 10 years ago. At a college party. Red solo cup in hand. Hair freshly washed, flat ironed to oblivion with the flash from someone’s Canon Powershot reflecting off the shine. She is fun and beautiful and her only care is whether or not she’ll bother waking up for her 9am lecture the next morning. Or maybe she’s backpacking through Thailand with amazing friends. Or presenting her thesis on T cell regulation in her PhD program we didn’t even know she completed, looking polished and brilliant. Whatever she’s doing, she looks nothing like the woman with dried yogurt smeared across her fleece that we sit next to every Tuesday in story time.

To The Girls In The Facebook Memories: women posing for photo
Courtesy of Alicia MacNorth

These relics of the past are delightful and significant. Telling glimpses into the person our friend once was – and more importantly still is.  And just because that point in our lives is hard to remember and now seems inconsequential (why were we all wearing tiny vests?) – the girls in those photos are important. They are reminders that our friends are interesting humans with a lot to offer the world and so are we.

And as for the physical changes since bringing life into the world? Bring them on. It is not a tragedy that she is no longer a size 4 (or let’s be real, in my case a size 10). Women are supposed to look different. We have given ourselves over to small creatures who demand our body, brain and soul all day every day. Does that mean that occasionally our eyes, which were once vibrant and inquisitive, now look like dead shark eyes before our second cup of coffee? Maybe! Are our jaw lines a little less Ariel and a little more Ursula these days? Might be! We look different because we are different. And we owe zero apologies.

To The Girls In The Facebook Memories: women posing for photo
Courtesy of Alicia MacNorth

Back to the girl in the Facebook memories. Should she be overlooked because she’s carefree and looks good in ridiculously low cut jeans? No. The journey she’s on in those photos led her to the place she is today. Maybe back then she’d already found her future partner. Or maybe she’s having a wild time playing the field. (Tinder wasn’t on the scene yet, but we still managed.) Either way, she’s figuring out how to be loved and how to love. She is young, but she is making decisions that will shape the marriage and/or relationships her kids now depend on.

And the professional goals she was striving for all those years ago still can exist amid a sea of goldfish crackers and crayons. Maybe she actually has to leave the office at five or put her career on hold completely – either way, her ambition and knowledge are still there. Even if some days she herself can’t access it.

So do not disregard these beautiful young versions of our friends and ourselves who pop up on social media. They are amazing. Those girls rocking velour track suits and sticky lip gloss became the women we lean on and look to today. However, don’t look at them too longingly. Simply let them remind us who we were and who we still are.

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To The Grandparents Raising Their Grandkids: You Are So Appreciated

When I was 14, I packed my things and left. I was fighting a lot with my mother, and my father was in and out of my life and addicted to painkillers. I just couldn’t do it anymore, so walked out. I lived with my dad for a bit, but it wasn’t good. I stayed with friends, but eventually I moved in with my grandmother.

And let me just say, it saved my life.

She was in her 70s. She wore sweatpants and white shoes and in the winter she wore a faded yellow coat. When she hugged me, her arms trembled, and so did her lips when she kissed my cheek. Her home had the same flower print carpet and brown and white tile it did in ’82, the year I was born. I cannot say I understood her, or that we had really anything in common outside of our family relationship. But one thing I knew for sure, she loved me, and her home was the most stable, unchanging place I had access to. At 14, it was exactly what I needed.

I was scared to ask her if I could live with her, but at the time, I felt out of options. I was at her house for dinner. She’d just made me bacon and eggs, and as I sat at her counter eating, I slowly prepared for the question, my right hand rubbing the counter top, my left heel bouncing. I gave it a couple false starts, “What do you think about…” and “How would you feel if …” before I actually asked if I could live with her.

Grandma was standing across from me, her left hand leaning against the kitchen sink. She looked in my eyes, and then down at the counter. Her glasses were smudged with moisturizer. Perhaps she wondered if she could still care for a teenager. Maybe she wondered if it was her place to raise me. I don’t know all that going though her mind, but what I do know is that she leaned her elbows on the table, her face level with mine, and agreed under two conditions: I would attend church, and I would keep my hair short. Naturally I agreed to her conditions, and she gave me the bedroom my father shared with my Uncle Jack.

I stayed there until I finished high school, and it’s only now, as I’m learning about my 20-year high school reunion, after having three children of my own, that I realize why my grandmother was so reluctant to say “yes,“ and how much she must have sacrificed by taking in her troubled, slightly drug addicted, disgruntled, often absent from class, foul mouthed, rebellious, grandson, who went on to grow his hair long and refuse to attend church.

Author and Grandmother
Courtesy of Clint Edwards

She fought with me over homework, girls, drugs, clothing, hygiene, religion, bad movies and music. It was just the two of us in that home. My grandfather had died a few years earlier. To be honest, I lost track of how many times I attempted to drop out of high school, and she looked me in the eyes and called me “a dammed fool” when I did.

She never took her eyes off me. I can still remember her sitting in the white vinyl rocker next to the refrigerator, a wrinkled moisturizer-soaked hand on her forehead, shoulders slumped, trying to figure out how to raise a teenager long after she’d intended to raise a teenager.

I can say with 100% confidence that I’d never have straightened out, finished high school, and eventually gone to college without my grandmother. I’d have never gotten married to a wonderful, charming and supportive woman, and gone on to have three wonderful children without my grandmother’s support and guidance and unwavering dedication. Right now, as I write this, I’m 37 years old, and I think I’m a pretty good dude, with a stable marriage, and awesome kids.

All of it started with the foundation my grandmother set when she said, “Yes, you can live here.”

My grandma died when I was 21, long before she had a chance to see me turn into something she could be proud of. But I must say, I cannot think about my grandmother’s face as I graduated from high school and not remember both the pride and relief I saw in her eyes.

So grandparents raising your child’s child, I know it’s a burden. But I also want you to know that you are probably saving that child’s life in ways you may never see. You are giving them the stable foundation that they so desperately need to become something more than they could be otherwise. Yes, it’s frustration. Yes, it can feel like a burden. But you are making a difference. So hold ’em tight no matter what, because they might not appreciate it now, but they will. Trust me. I know.

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