Saturday, February 2, 2008

A bit about my life... and a rant about Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

I didn't grow up wanting to be a second wife and stepmom... it just happened. I wanted to be a wife and mom, but when you throw the "step" part in there it changes everything. You could argue that I knew what I was getting into marrying a man with an exwife and kids, but you'd be wrong. No one is ever truely prepared for this life. Every step situation is vastly different, I myself was a stepkid, but I stumbled into a VERY unique step situation. I'm in what I like to call an international step mess.

I'm both a full time custodial stepmom, and a once-a-year visit non-custodial stepmom to a child in another country. I'm "mommy" to one, and to the other I am nothing. I'm not even an afterthought. I'm not "daddy's" wife, I'm not a friend, I'm not really a stepmom to him either. I merely exist occasionally in his world through letters and our annual visit.My custodial stepson is more of a son. To him, I am Mommy. I'm the one that potty trained him, the one that signed him up for kindergarten, the one that takes him to his sports, the one that talks to his teachers, packs his lunch, knows his favorite things, cares for him when he is sick... to him, his biological mother is more like a distant relative by her own choosing. Like I said, it's a very unique situation.

I always thought that a typical step situation was an every other weekend, joint custody type agreement with alternating holidays, but the longer I'm a stepmom the more I see that there really is nothing typical even in that. A lot of the issues that make the situations so vastly different is that every exwife and every exhusband is different. Some exs can be level headed people who really do put the needs of the children first in the situation. Unfortunately, many of us do not have this type of exwife in our lives. If you do, you are very lucky stepmom! I myself and not so lucky. Our custody situation was born out of combination of things... my husband's fear of her taking both of their children together back to her home country, him wanting as little to do with her as possible, and her delusion that he would come back to her eventually... even though she had given birth to a child with her new boyfriend by then. Of course when I came along and had our son and we were married, those hope were dashed.

My hubby's ex's first step was to try to befriend me, which I was eager to do as well, but our motivations were different. I wanted to make friends so that we could all get along for the kids. She on the other hand wanted to turn me against my husband and would spend all of our time talking trying to tell me all of the terrible things she could think up about my husband, true or not. While I didn't see at the time what she was doing, I rejected the idea of bashing my husband to his ex and told her that we must know two different men because the man that she described is not the same man that I married. When she realized that her attempt had not driven a wedge between me and my husband, she backed off and in her next conversation with my husband told him that I made her uncomfortable and she didn't want to have to talk to me anymore. Too bad. She doesn't get dictate who answers our phones. Instead, she decided to not call for months at a time... then her next step was to call and hang up if I answered until I had to get a privacy director so she would HAVE to say who it was before they would let her get through. Ha! It worked... but then she again would not call for months at a time to talk to my stepson. So then her next typical exwife move, she sued for full custody.

In all this time, my stepson had grown to know me as his mother and had seen the exwife about 5 seperate times from age 2 through age 6.5... and in that time she had not once sent him a birthday or Christmas gift, card, or letter... or pictures. Sad. But, she sued for custody none-the-less claiming that her lack of communication with us and my stepson was not her fault, it was ours. She accussed us of what is referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Now, let me stop right here for a minute and say something about Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). This is NOT something to be taken lightly. PAS destroys childhood innocence, it tears apart families, and it creates scars that last a lifetime. Protecting a child against abuse is one thing, but talking bad about the child's other parent or making a child feel guilty for time spent with the other parent is quite another. We all mess up sometimes and say things we shouldn't say where little ears can hear them, but to do so intentionall on a continual basis is dispicable. PAS has become a real problem in families and the US courts are now starting to acknowledge the damage this is doing to our nation's children. Mother, fathers, stepparents, grandparents, even friends of parents and aunts or uncles can be guilty of PAS. PAS is abuse. It's psychological abuse of a child and it steals their innocence. If a child in your life has been subjected to PAS, please get them into counseling and seek legal advice on how to best protect them from this in the future.

Okay, off my soapbox now.

Actually, I think this is a good place to end for today. I'll be back with more tomorrow.

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