Wow....I was browsing a friend's blog today and I found a link on her site to one of the stepmum blogs I used to check out. And there, on that blog, was a link to mine.
I've just spent the past half hour re-reading everything I posted on there. Remembering what my life was like back then, and thinking how different everything is now.
First of all, Wicked Steppie is no longer a steppie. Not long after I posted my last blog post, my ex and I split up. I honestly realised I couldn't do it any more, and I needed to quit, for my own sanity and wellbeing. I felt like my life was an endless round of self-analysis and navel-gazing, just trying to figure out the best way to bloody cope with it all. But I wanted to enjoy life, not just cope with it.
My ex is OK, now. He didn't cope with the split well, he quit his job in an attempt to get me back (you might remember he worked an 80 mile drive away and the commute was a real damper on our relationship) and then spent 6 months unemployed and ran up debts, including on our joint account. That has now only just been sorted out, and partly because the bank agreed to write a good portion of it off, because they had been completely incompetent in dealing with it and failed to respond to a complaint through the FSA within the designated timeframe. He is now working again, and finally contributing to payments on the personal loan that I took out in January 2010 to sort out his mortgage arrears, among other things. I had to play dirty and threaten to claim on his house, which I didn't want to do, because I'm not a money grubber like his ex, but I simply couldn't afford to be left with those debts alone. So this week, I finally get to close our joint account, and that will be the last tie gone. Things aren't acrimonious by any stretch, and my ex hasn't been malicious in any of this, I just think that in some ways, he is irresponsible, especially with money, and doesn't always think of the consequences. Looking back, I can see that he was irresponsible about a lot of things, despite being a person who was saddled with a lot of responsibility early on - caring for a disabled mother in his teens, becoming a father young. I don't know if he's learned from it, but hopefully he might have.
As for me, I did go back to university, and have just completed my Postgraduate Diploma. I'm now qualified in youth work, and next week, I start a new job as the manager of a project that works with unemployed young people, to try and get them back into work. It's been a big year of change for me, but for the most part, I've absolutely loved it. I spent 6 months last year living alone, which I had never done before, just me and my beloved Rottweiler, but I'm now living in a friend's house, because I needed to cut my costs while I studied. I did two placements during my course, both of which I loved, and went on a learning curve that was steep as hell, but I can honestly say that professionally I've never been happier and it's better than working in IT. I'm looking forward to transitioning to a managerial role and having more choice and control over my work. It's slightly scary at the same time though, because I'll also have the responsibility!
And the other thing that's happened to me since the split is that I have met someone else. He's the same age as me, and get this....DOESN'T HAVE ANY KIDS!!!
I guess I've spent the past year recapturing some lost youth really....we've been to festivals, which is something my ex would never have done, been out on epic nights out, been to lots of gigs, took a trip to Berlin for my birthday, and sometimes we just get up on the weekends and decide to go somewhere random for the day. I even put my piercings back in and got a tattoo! I'd forgotten what spontaneity was like, because most weekends with my ex were oriented round his daughter, and even if she wasn't there, the trauma of the Sunday night phone call that rarely happened (phone off, not answering) used to ruin the end of the kid-free weekend. I also have someone now who puts me first - I'm his number one girl, and it means that throughout this year I have been supported, emotionally and at times financially as well, if I've been skint and needed petrol, he's quietly taken the car off to the garage and put a tenner in. If there was a night out and I couldn't afford it, the drinks were on him. At every stage he's encouraged me to believe in myself and what I was doing. I feel loved, valued, and like this man cares about my happiness and wants to do things that will make me happy. Likewise, I want him to be happy, but I won't compromise myself in the same way that I did with my ex, and completely subdue my own needs in order to serve someone else's. We don't live together yet, but are planning to next year. The relationship feels like it's been allowed to develop organically, without any undue haste or pressure. I'm actually his first serious girlfriend, so I have wanted to make sure he isn't rushing into things, and that I'm not either, after having the experience with my ex where everything happened too quickly, and then I realised I'd let things happen to me instead of making them happen.
And what of my former SD?
I have only seen her once since the split. My ex told me she missed me, and in some ways, I missed her for a bit, but I did not miss the conflicts, the reminders of the ex, and the unpredictability of the weekends we had her - the capriciousness of children is somewhat amplified in a young girl who has those kinds of pressure placed on her. I also realise that I had a huge problem with the way she was being raised, both by BM and also by my ex. I think my ex was far too permissive, and also inconsistent - discipline happened when he could be bothered, not when it needed to happen for the child's own learning. A few months ago, I saw that SD had tagged me in some photos on Facebook, and there were nasty comments attached to the pictures, which were aimed at me. I told my ex about it, and asked them to get them removed from his daughter's profile, and it took him a month to get around to tackling it with her. In the meantime, I had blocked her of course, but holy hell, if that had been my child doing that, they would have been banned from Facebook altogether! I would never have dared call an adult names, let alone in a public arena like social media!
In photos I have seen of my former SD since the split, I see her wearing tight, short clothes far too old for her 12 years, with a face full of makeup, and I breathe sighs of relief that I don't have to tear my hair out over it. I don't know whether I managed to have any positive influence on my former SD, but for once, I'm not beating myself up over it. Her primary influences in life were a mother who made very dubious life choices and had questionable morals, and a father who didn't have enough confidence to question them and provide a consistent alternative. It was never my job to fix all that. I still hope to have a positive influence on young people in my professional life, but it's a different thing, you don't have to take it home with you, and you're not invested necessarily in these young people liking you or developing lasting bonds - you work with them for a set amount of time, usually with set goals, and then hopefully, they leave your project ready for the next phase of their lives, and even better, take something positive with them.
So...if anyone's still reading, I'm still out there, and happily in a much better place than 18 months ago. I'm aiming to start a new blogging project when I start my new professional venture, about working with young people in a difficult climate - we're in a recession with record high youth unemployment, so it's going to be a tough gig. Watch this space!
Hope everyone is doing well, and happy xx