Poof! You’re a mom now!
Welcome to one of the January 16th stops on the blog tour for Mamacadabra by Carrie Monroe O’Keefe with Bewitching Book Tours (schedule linked.) Follow the rest of the tour for more spotlights, guest posts, reviews, and other exclusive content!
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Author Guest Post
What drives your main character?
When I started writing about my experiences as a stepmom I was writing to process the experience. I was a new wife (my husband’s second) and an instant mom to two little girls. At the time, I looked for books that might help me navigate this new world, and I didn’t find any that resonated. I needed to do something to better understand why I was struggling so mightily and then how to move forward in a way that made sense.
I felt lost. One minute I was a single, successful, woman who lived in a condo that I owned and was living life on my own terms. The next I was moving into someone else’s house, with someone else’s former husband, with someone else’s children, and I felt like an imposter. I didn’t know how to raise someone else’s children. I didn’t know how to properly drop them at daycare in the mornings, or what to do when they threw-up in my car, or how to bring them to the doctor (was I even allowed to bring them to the doctor???), or what to call myself in the company of others. I didn’t know where I fit into this new picture.
I started writing a blog and, in each post, I tried to reframe what I was dealing with to try to understand a better way to do things or a better way to look at things. I wrote nearly every day and looked at different aspects of our life. Whether it was how to parent, or how to be a wife, or how to live in a family that existed before me, and, then, how to juggle it with working full-time. My writing started to attract readers and it became clear that the things with which I was struggling weren’t limited to those of a stepparent. People related to my stories and I started making connections.
What really drove me was trying to be a good mom, a good partner, but also not losing site of who I really am after being dropped into an already existing family. I examined how I was living my life in an effort to better understand my role and myself. When I started I felt like I was failing across the board. I don’t think this is an uncommon feeling amongst new parents. We’re suddenly unable to give our all to our jobs, our partners, our friends, our communities, or our families – and then, often, we feel like we’re doing a terrible job in all of those areas. I was just trying to figure out how to be better. In the end, due to the many connections I made through the writing, I realized we’re all just doing the best we can. I realized I needed to trust myself a lot more than I was and I needed to be confident in my abilities. I felt like a novice but, really, I knew more than I thought I did. I needed to find my voice and learn to use it (and trust it). When I started I was looking for answers, by the end I realized most of those answers were already within me and I felt more confident in myself.
About the Book
by Carrie Monroe O’Keefe
Published 28 November 2023
Cover Artist: Leah Kent
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Page Count: 200
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Starting her third year of marriage, Carrie Monroe O’Keefe had already been on the roller coaster of extreme highs and lows of a newly blended family. Thinking she could do a better job of navigating marriage, step-motherhood, working full time, and all of the things, she embarked on a year of “what if.”
Settling into her role as wife and mom, she tried to find ways to do things better, see things differently, and reframe her thinking to create a better home for her family and to feel more at home herself. With humor, unwavering honesty, vulnerability, and sarcasm, Carrie finds her way through the year and to her true self.
It’s a bright Saturday morning and I’m looking around my kitchen wondering when, exactly, I let it get THIS bad. The dishwasher has been run, but nobody has bothered to unload it, resulting in piles of dirty dishes in and around the sink. There are empty cereal boxes lined up, I assume, so I can cut out the Box Tops for Education labels…because I’m the only one who can what…use scissors? Break down the boxes for recycling? Throw away the empty bag inside the boxes that once held cereal?
Speaking of recycling, there’s a bag of recycling on a stool waiting to be taken out on our “next trip” out of the house. It’s been there for three days and we have, in fact, left the house several times in those three days.
The clincher, though, is the kitchen table. Our puppy has a best friend that lives next door. He comes over to our back deck door and barks for Sullivan to come out to play. They wrestle, run around, investigate, bark at each other, bark at passersby, lay down to rest, and then start over. When they’re out and I’m working or writing, I bring my laptop up to the kitchen table so I can check on the dogs from time to time. At this very moment, I’m sitting at my kitchen table and surrounding my laptop are:
One little girl’s black shoe.
One little girl’s gold shoe.
One little girl’s pink slipper.
The Nancy Drew book we’re currently reading.
Large bag of colored pencils.
Pair of my husband’s dirty socks.
Empty napkin holder on its side.
The art project brought home by my littlest little girl.
Pad of paper with my work notes scribbled on it.
Three place mats (one was a casualty of yesterday’s juice fiasco).
One black marker.
Work documents of my husband’s.
A partially completed drawing.
My kitchen table isn’t even big! How, or perhaps a better question is WHY, is there so much sh*t sitting on it?!! And does anybody else find it a teensy bit disconcerting that there are two shoes, a slipper, and dirty socks on the table at which we EAT OUR MEALS? Anyone???
If I told you about the kitchen counter, you’d have a nervous breakdown, which I’m on the verge of, but I’m trying to hold it together. Here’s the deal. We do not have the little girls this weekend, so we should be able to get everything organized, cleaned, and put away, but there’s more…
My husband is in school. He was in school last night and again this morning. Also, have I mentioned he has a small business on the side that he’s owned since he was 18 years old? After he bolts from school today, we’ll be frantically preparing for his trade show tomorrow. Any ‘free’ time otherwise used for sanity-saving-house-organization will instead be spent on trade-show-preparation-in-hopes-of-finding-new-clients. Ugh.
Our dog is even looking at me with disgust. Yeah… YOU’RE one to talk, Sullivan… I believe that pile of firewood on our back deck is YOUR doing. It looks like the frigging Blair Witch Project out there.
I take issue with a disastrous house for many reasons.
A – When it’s disastrous as it is now, I feel totally out of sorts and stressed.
B – It wouldn’t be like this if some people didn’t refuse to put dishes in the dishwasher, unload the dishwasher, hang-up their coats, put away their shoes, and so on, and so on, and so on.
C – We don’t have the square footage to allow for unusable space…and as far as I’m concerned, this kitchen is NOT USABLE.
D – It’s FREEZING outside which keeps us INSIDE this war zone of a house.
E – I believe our home is supposed to feel safe, and cozy, and comfortable, and lovely, you know, as opposed to chaotic, dirty, cluttered, and filled to the brim with crap people haven’t put away.
Therefore, on a day I technically could have slept in, I’ve been up since 6:30 trying to get this house back in order. I’d rather be sleepy from a late night and an early morning than be CRAZY because the house is so awful. For me, sleepy is less dangerous than crazy.
Which brings me to the real question: is this my gig from now on? Husband in school, swamped at work, busy with small business, little girls here half the time, so while they’re willing and eager to do chores, it only happens every other weekend, leaving me to take this on and be sure this house is in fact a home and I AM in fact sane? No, seriously…REALLY?
Chalk this up to a question for which I did NOT want the answer.
About the Author
Carrie Monroe O’Keefe started blogging about her life by sharing stories of marriage, stepmotherhood, and how to navigate it all on mamacadabra.com in 2012. People said they loved reading the posts, so she kept writing. In addition to blogging, she released her middle-grade fiction book, The Whole Truth, in 2019.
Carrie lives outside of Minneapolis with her husband, two daughters, and dog Finlay.
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