Step Mom Overstepping Boundaries

Updated on June 25, 2013
J.R. asks from Salt Lake City, UT
25 answers

I am dealing with my ex's wife who pretends to be the mother of my children. I have joint custody, the children live with me, but my ex doesnt deal with the children he lets his new wife do it. She comes to parent teacher conferences, parents meetings, takes them to doctor appointments without letting me know, plans b-day parties for them and the list goes on. The problem is I have spoken with her and let her know how I feel and that I wish she would discuss things with me, but she is very mean and says she'll do what she wants with my kids and that I need to just deal with it. I have tried talking to my ex but he is afraid to say anything to her because she is a control freak and he wont stand up to her. She is very disrepectful to me and there is no way to compromise with her. Any suggestions on how to handle this? Being nice isnt working anymore.

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answers from Austin on

Honestly, I think it's wonderful that they have a step-parent who does care about them and does make such efforts in their feelings, health, education and welfare. To me, it would be worse for them to have someone in their lives who didn't really care about them and was only interested in their father. I know it's hard to share motherhood with someone else, but isn't this the best outcome to a divorce and remarriage situation?

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answers from Toledo on

So let me get this straight...your ex is a pushover who married a control freak. To add to that, you assume that because he chooses to not involve himself in the lives of his children, that you should be the only one to do so...even though you have a joint custody order. She comes to parent teacher conferences and parent meetings...because she cares about how your kids are doing in school and wants to have a proactive relationship with their teachers and a productive relationship with the parents of their peers. She takes them to doctor appointments...because she is concerned about their health, and knows that if they were sick with you, you would no doubt take them in....BTW, do you notify your ex every time you take them to the doctor? Birthday parties?? How dare she?!?! What right does she have to plan a party to celebrate the life of a child that she helps raise and considers one of her own? I'm sorry but non of the reasons you gave indicates to me that she is a control freak, or over stepping her boundries as a step-mother. If anything, it sounds a little like you may be the control freak in this situation. None of this sounds like she is being disrespectful in the least. She is helping to raise YOUR children, and frankly, you should thank your lucky stars that your kids have someone in their lives who cares so much about them. I can only pray that the day my ex husband finds a woman to share his life with, that she be as loving and kind to my daughter, and as involved as her dad SHOULD be but isn't.

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answers from Dallas on

I know you're upset cause you feel like she's tresspassing on your job. But from your question, it sounds like she's being a parent, and your husband isn't. As a child of multiple divorces, the best thing to do is for ALL of you to co-parent the children. She is now a responsible party in their lives, not their bio-mom, but the wife of their dad. She IS responsible for them when they are with her. I'm sure she feels just as threatened by you as you do by her. It's a stinky situation, and a sticky situation. If you can put your feelings towards her on the back burner, and do a team approach for the kids sake, that's the best thing in the world. Your children will thank you for it - believe me, I know.

Good luck!

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answers from Rockford on

I'm a mom and a stepmom so I can understand what you are talking about. For school conferences, my husband makes his own appointments with the teachers and his ex makes her own appointments. It's the same with me and my ex - I go when I go and if he wants to he can set up his own appointment. You can always discuss with the school that you and the father are to receive grade reports, school work and such, but that the stepmom does not have permission. If it is something like a school wide parent meeting, there is not much you can do about her showing up with everyone else. As far as doctors appointments go, are these appointments that the father is supposed to take them to? Do you schedule them or does she call and do it herself? I think you may be able to stop that with the confidentiality rules now. You and your husband can take the kids, but if you do not give consent for her to deal with medical issues, then that may stop her from being able to take them. It's worth a call to the doctor's office anyway. For birthdays, you probably will have to get used to the fact that they will always have 2 birthdays, 2 christmases, etc since there are now two families. On the one hand it is nice that she is involved, especially if your ex is not, but on the other hand it sounds like she does a lot of it just to be mean to you. Since your ex is not going to step up and say anything, there is no reason you can't assert yourself and see what you can do legally since she is not the bio parent.

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answers from Washington DC on

I say a big, fat BOOOOO to the responders that say you should work around her and her wants. That's complete bull-sh!t! YOU are their mother! NOT HER! Would you just work around some random woman that walked up and claimed a right to your children? NO. This isn't any different! Just because she married your ex does NOT make her the parent of your child! It makes her a STEP-parent. HUGE difference.

Look, my ex-husband's wife is the same way and has been for years even though they've only been married for one year. She was also his best-friend's wife before we got divorced (which was already her second marriage) and she use to "jokingly" threaten to keep my son for herself back when we were friends because our hubbies were friends. Now she's actually trying to take my son away from me and tells people that SHE'S his mother. It's sick. No woman should treat another woman this way. It's tough enough to be women is a man's world, we shouldn't be stepping on each-others' toes on top of it.

Bottom line, you have rights here, she doesn't! Tell her to butt out! If your ex doesn't want to come to the PTCs then she doesn't need to come either. etc.. If she shows up, tell the teacher that you have no intention of violating your childrens' privacy by discussing them around someone that isn't their parent. Ask the teacher to ask her to leave. You HAVE to put your foot down. You can't allow this woman to confuse your children and make a laughingstock out of you! If you allow her to continue to treat you like this in front of your children, it is going to undermine your authority with them eventually.

It would be different if she had come to you and said "Hey, I really care about the kids. I know you and (your ex) have your differences, but I'd really like it if you would allow me to sit in and hear what the teacher has to say. I'd like to know if there's any way that I can be of help to them when they're at our house if that's alright with you." That would be completely different because it's respectful of your position and authority as their mother. Her just butting in where she doesn't belong like she has the RIGHT to is highly offensive and needs to be dealt with!

BTW, I'm also a step-mom and I am VERY careful not to step on the toes of my hubby's ex. My step-son is HER child, not mine. I care about him deeply, but I know that I can never care about him as deeply as his own mom does. I know because I have my own children. I get it. I always defer to her preferences unless my husband has his own that differ. Then it's between them. I don't work to actively build a parent-child relationship with him. That's not right. It's not my place. I work only to be his friend and the adult presence in the house when his dad is at work. I make his favorite meals in rotation with the other kids when he's here. I make sure that Christmas gifts are equal between the kids when he's here and that everyone gets treated fairly. I listen to his stories and I help him when he's upset about something, but I make sure to maintain the proper relationship with him because I am NOT his mother. He already has one that loves him very much. I wouldn't DARE interfere in that. It's a sacred bond and I have no place in it since he's not my child.

I wish more step-parents understood this! SIGH!

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answers from Denver on

First I would think that you are protected by HIPA as far as the doctors are concerned. She has no rights unless you let her be the legal guardian and signed her those rights. All you have to do is call the doc's office and tell them she is not the parent and they must have your permission or at least notify you if they see your children. Now this doesn't stop your ex from stepping in, but it sounds like he is pretty weak and won't do anything.

You can also call the school and let them know that these are your children and information is to be forwarded to your ex or yourself only.

You can also go to a lawyer and fight out parental rights again too. You are the mother and have more rights than her. If you feel she is not acting in your best interest or your children's then you have a fight.

Good luck! I can't imagine having to share my children with a stranger and a nasty one at that.

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answers from Denver on

I am coming at this question from a place of having a stepmom who was like this as well. She was kind, loving and did things like bring us cupcakes to school on birthdays, make our Halloween costumes, take over activities, etc. As a child I loved what she did and am now as an adult so thankful for her love. As an adult now I get to hear my mom’s side of things for the first time. She stayed out of it and put her feelings on the back burner, my stepmom was nasty to her (and still is) and my mom “lost” out on so many things that were really for her to do as the mother. I didn’t see what was happening and have to say I think that is best to keep the kids out of it. It is her job to be caring for your kids and loving to them, but not to parent them at your expense. I really think the issue is COMMUNICATION. You MUST get together with you, the stepmom AND your ex to put this all on the table. If the three of you can sit down (maybe the kids can go to a friend’s house for a bit?) and maybe set some rules that’d be great. If you’d like to be at the Dr appointments, let them know. If you can’t make one maybe you can ASK her to help. It is not her place to take those things from you, but man, be thankful that she is kind to your kids and PLEASE keep the kids out of the middle, which if you don’t can create issues they will carry for their entire life. Best of luck and remember keep your head high and know that this will (hopefully) pass!

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answers from Houston on

I think you are very lucky to have a step-mother caring so much for your children. Trust me, it generally doesn't turn out this way. There are step mothers that want nothing to do with the kids or are very mean to them. This lady sounds like she is doing the best she can and cares about your kids. I don't think it is about her trying to take over. I think she really cares for them which is a win-win situation.

I can understand that you may feel jealous that someone else loves your kids and will care for them but really it is in the best interest for everyone. Search on this site alone and see how many posts there are about the step parent not caring or being mean or not treating the child very well. I would hope that if anything ever happened between me and my husband and a step mother were involved that she would be as nice as this lady sounds. It really sounds like she has your children in her best interest. Now if you said she was starving them or constantly yelling at them or making them clean the house while she sat on her butt it would be a different story. You should appreciate her for the caring person she is being. I know it is hard...but it really is in the best interest for the kids involved.

I can't believe the response you got saying to tell your kids to make her miserable. Give me a break! Really you are going to use your kids like that for someone that cares about them.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

It's wrong for your ex's wife to be taking your children to doctor's appointments without your knowledge. You are legally entitled to know about doctor appointments. Still, this is more of your ex's fault than his wife. He is technically supposed to be in charge of his own children while they're in his care, not her, and he's supposed to be actively communicating with you when it comes to the welfare of your children. Even if she takes the initiative and tries to arrange things on her own, it should really be under the authorization and approval of the biological father, and he should be the one held responsible.

As far as school meetings go, I personally believe the presence of your children's stepmother during parent-teacher conferences is more of a good thing than a bad thing, especially if she's the one who helps the children with their school work while they're with their father. She should be in attendance in order to get important information regarding your children's education first-hand, so she can help them while they're in her home. After all, she is a parental figure in their lives as well, even if her role is smaller than yours and your ex. The more support they get from home the better, even if it's coming from your husband's spouse. If this truly does bother you, make sure to make introductions at the beginning of the school year, so the teachers know who you are and who your husband's wife is.

Your husband's wife planning birthday parties during your ex's parent-time is not something you have control over. She should have a right to plan parties while the kids are in her care since she and your ex are partners in their marriage. One thing I tell my stepchildren is that there's one good thing to being children of divorced parents-- they get twice as many birthday parties and twice as many presents at Christmas time than children who live with both parents. Of course, if there are other conflicts, such as inviting the same friends to both birthday parties, then I can see the problem. This means you need to discuss things in advance with your ex-- not his wife. Let your ex know that you plan on having a "friends" party this year, and that perhaps he could plan something else special instead. As hard as it may be, you need to try to communicate with him and avoid planning things with his wife. If that doesn't work, then know that at least your children are having one of the very few advantages of being children in broken homes... they'll have more parties and more presents.

I am assuming the reason why these issues are bothering you so much in the first place is because you feel your role as your children's biological mother is being threatened by this other woman. Be assured that your place is not truly being threatened. She will never be able to replace you. Step-parents are not there to replace biological parents. They're there to fill in gaps when the other parent cannot physically be there with the children. They are supposed to be an addition to the family. Not replacements.

Please keep in mind that your husband's ex probably has her own identity issues, which is why she is so controlling. Being a stepmother myself, I know exactly the kind of emotional stress most stepmothers go through, even the most psychologically sound person. Maybe she feels she should receive more credit than she does, since she devotes so much of her time helping to raise your children. Instead of trying to fight with her, try to understand where she's coming from. She is probably doing her best to make sure your children feel like "normal" children while they're in her care. She probably wants your children to know that they are loved and that she is there to help them if they need her.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'll be it's really frustrating but from what I've heard of other experiences with step mothers, I think you ought to count yourself on the lucky side. At least she loves and cares for your kids and does everything she can to be involved.
I also agree with the fact that if your ex "lets" her do this stuff--your anger is misdirected.

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answers from Phoenix on

I'm a step mom and my kids have a step mom. She actually is the "mom" in her home, like it or not. It appears that she is taking very good care of your kids so I would not be complaining one bit. You could have someone who could care less (which my 2 kids have) and not even bother with them...or worse, actually be mean to them and treat them very, very badly. So I would let go of the little green monster and be happy about it and MORE importantly, make sure your kids are happy and don't feel stress between the 2 of you. Good luck.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

So do you want her to completely ignore your children? She probably cooks their meals, cleans up after them, and makes sure they have a place in that home as well. I understand it can be hard to have no control over whom your ex is with and how they treat your children but you should thank your lucky stars the kids aren't being neglected or abused. My parents divorced when I was very young and my stepfather was a nightmare!!! He was abusive to everyone and a child molester...I was the only stepchild and I feel like I got it especially bad. So long story short, it could be a lot worse. Pick your battles and be grateful your kids aren't being mistreated. At least she wants to give them a party! If I were you I would keep the peace and not stir up drama...maybe your ex works long hours and thats why he can't go to parent teacher conferences??? At least they are playing an active role in your children's lives.

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answers from Washington DC on

You ex's wife is not at fault; your ex is. You claim that ". . . he is afraid to say anything because she is a control freak and he won't stand up to her." spineless, perhaps, allowing her to interfere in his business?

Now, having said that, perhaps your ex is just a fool who can't seem to get his act together. (You did divorce him after all.) If that's the case, then his wife is almost forced to take the reigns b/c he's incapable. And if the kids are under their care for X amount of time, they need guidance. So without all of the family dynamics history (and a good therapist), it's almost impossible to make suggestions.

Your only recourse is court document. What did the court order regarding custody? If you have shared custody, there's not much you can do. By being nice, you gave over your authority to her.

If, however, he has visitation rights with the kids b/c you're the sole custodial parent, then neither of them (ex and wife) should attend any school meetings or doctors' visits. You can inform the school and pediatrician b/c legally, both will have to abide by court order. (Who's paying health insurance for the children, by the way?)

Now, if it's something silly - like a birthday party for one of the kids held at THEIR home - you'll just have to deal - regardless of custodial rights. No court will back you on that one.

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answers from Allentown on

This probably wont be the best advise to alot of people, but honestly, if these were my kids i would defenitely feel the way you feel, and it does seem like a really hard situation to deal with... Now before i tell u what i think u should do, my question is, do your kids enjoy the fact that she does these things? Do they realize that what their step mother is doing is hurting you? If they do, and they also dont agree with it, simply ask them to ask her not to do it, and that they would prefer their real mother (you) to do it for them. If that doesnt work, i would just tell not to show her any respect. Tell them to make the time that they spend with her as miserable for her as possible, that way she wouldnt want them around, and she wont do the things that she does, whats the worst that could happen, she cant put her hands on them because then she would be in big trouble...Like I said before, its pbobably not the best advice, but its something i would concider doing.

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answers from Lancaster on

I know this is an old post, but... I have first hand experience with this topic. I disagree with so many of these answers about being thankful ...etc. etc. You ARE the mother and it is your right and your job to attend conferences, plan birthday parties, etc. when the child is with you! It's great that she cares for your child, but in my experience, the stepmonster I am referring to did everything in her power to TAKE OVER my job and make HER "family" with my ex - the child's new and ONLY family - the REAL family.
As time went on it got worse and worse. She was in control of everything. My child began to "parrot" adult like phrases that would never come out of the mouth of a child his age, such as "when I am with you I am out of control" ?? And many other odd things. I do not drink, do not smoke, do not do drugs, do not go out and leave my child, I did not date various men, I was not a "party" person, EVER. And my child was not out of control! He was fine and well adjusted with me, shared custody, up until the day she moved into my ex's home and took over as Wife and Mommy. Everything changed with my child then. He did not want to be with me. It got so bad that even the school got confused and thought she was my child's mother. I set the school straight. IT went on and on and got worse and worse. She and my ex even were taking my child to a therapist without my knowledge to have the therapist work up a case against them, to help them win custody. It did not work.

It wound up with her pushing a court custody case to have my child in "their" custody permanent, full time legal and physical custody. Fighting this cost me $30,000 and destroyed me. They dropped the case after I was broke.

To this day, my child thinks of them as his real family, and of course calls her Mom. Of course I hate that. I raised that child practically all by myself the first 7 years of his life. His father barely did anything. When I left him (he treated me horrible), only then did his father have no choice to step up to parenthood, but very very soon found this woman to take over the job for him.

Stepparents CAN overstep their boundaries!!!!! Caring is one thing, taking over is WRONG.



answers from Washington DC on

I can't believe it took me this long to find this blog.....I have been going through this same scenario with my child, ex, and his new wife for 14 years! Can you believe that when my daughter was 4, her stepmom insisted she call her "mom" and my ex NEVER did anything to correct this! He "liked" the idea that his new wife could be close to my daughter, and all it did was confuse my daughter from the onset. In his eyes everything was going nice and smooth....but for me, I was the time his wife was telling everyone SHE WAS her mom....I would show up at events and people wanted to know who I was! I was even told at one point by her to "just get out of our way so we can be a family"! What do you think of that? I tried legal recourse on certain things and to no avail....even had my ex's attorney tell me to "be friends" with this woman. Imagine friends with a complete stranger? I had to settle down and accept that it was what it was, and Mom is a label and I had to just be the good mother I know that I am. But, I wonder how my ex would feel if I let another man have my daughter call him Dad.....I know that if I were a step mom I would NEVER do the things this woman has done. It is just wrong. She is a complete control freak and will do anything to make her little "family" perfect. Also, she has the doctors believing she is her mom and has signed her name to my daughter's medical care. I'm too tired to fight anymore and feel she has won.



answers from Grand Junction on

its nice that she is so involved in your children's lives, that's great. But i'm with you, she should discuss things with you before hand. it sounds like your ex is spineless and worthless, he should be the one that either plans, or helps to plan those events, and it should be his responibility to say something to her. also, taking your children to the doctor without your knowledge is unacceptable. did she adopt the kids? talk to the ex again, let him know things have to change or the custody arrangement will.
ps, it sounds like she's sucking up to the kids and thats just pathetic. you can't always be nice when it comes to the care of your children.


answers from Seattle on

I nanny a family that is divorced,the older two come from divorced mom and dad who have since remarried. The mom, step dad, and dad all attend parent teacher conferences, parent meetings, doctors (had some major surgeries last year)....and birthday parties happen at BOTH houses.
I understand the jeleousy on your part, I would feel it too. But the kids are at her house. Can you let her and the ex throw the kids a party?
Can you all go to parent teacher conferences? Is there a way to include everyone in dr. visits? I
It really is amazing how well adjusted the kids are where I work since they know and feel the love from 4 different adults that are involved in their lives.



answers from La Crosse on

By marriage, she is their stepmom. She's the "mom" in the household, reguardless of what they call her or how you feel about it. That's a tough pill for any mom to swallow and I undnerstand that completely. The only things I'd have the complaint about would be the doctor's visits and the being disrespectful to you. The others are petty things that seem to aggravate you simply because you don't seem to like her. So, in my opinion, I'd suck it up and just be thankful that your ex had sense enough to choose someone who cares so deeply for your children.
The most mature way to deal with this, though, is to come to an understanding with your husband and his wife. Even if it takes messaging him on facebook, text or email. You'll have to do what you can to make him listen to your feelings without dragging the children into the situation. You should also consider that maybe she feels that you are disrespectful to her. Try approaching this with her in a different manner without mentioning so many petty "problems". You should also be acknowledging the good she HAS done and how much love she has obviously given those kids. Praise will get you alot farther than attacking her will.



answers from San Francisco on

I am so happy to see I'm not alone with this. I have almost the exact same situation. My ex is a lazy push over who doesn't like responsibility. Needless to say he found the perfect controlling woman. Fortunately, I took him to court over multiple issues surrounding this situation. The ex and step mom refused to let my daughter(age 4) use the phone to call me during the time she was in their care. We have 50/50 custody so she missed me frequently. They asked my daughter to call her step mother "mom" a month after they got married. Of course my daughter came home to me confused and asked why she should have to call her mom. The step mom also falsely represented herself at my daughters school as her mother rather than referring to herself as the step mother. She tried the doctor and dentist thing too. And the list goes on. Anyhow, the judge ordered me the right to handle the healthcare even though her father supplies the heallthcare insurance. I was also given a once a week phone call with my daughter while she is at her father's house. There were many other things in the court order as well.
It's exhausting but don't give up. Stay strong and fight for your right to raise your kids. They need to know you care and that you're there when they need you.



answers from Reno on

I don't know if this would work, but maybe you could get a calendar of school events and a big scheduling calender( take your visitation schedule with you too) and sit down with her and say ok lets plan this out. Which parent teacher conferences would you like to go to and I'll go to the rest. What day do you plan to have a birthday party for my child so I can plan mine for a different day.,,,, etc. Then plan out the whole thing and make copies for each of you so that you have a firm agreement as to who is doing what when. Since she's the kids step mom it's not really possible for her not to be a part of their lives so I thought maybe this would help. That way she gets to have her control freak moment and make all the decisions and you get what you want which is a limit on the where and when of what she does with your kids:)



answers from Rochester on

To all the respondents that side with the Bio-Mom... SHAME ON YOU!

Any Bio-Mom that does not welcome and appreciate a Step-Mom that is happy to take an interest in the children's lives, in my opinion, is a classical narcissist!

Pull up your big girl pants ladies, put your SELFISH emotions aside and GROW UP! Your children come first –not your baggage and lifelong issues that probably contributed to your divorce in the first place.

Children trying to raise children…



answers from Lafayette on

Does ex also attend dr visits? parent teacher meeting? Or is your problem just that she also attends those things? I also have joint custody for my son and I go to all dr visits, parent teacher meetings for my son, so does my husband; my son sees his bio mom about a 1/3 of the time. I also volunteer in his class once or twice a week. You should feel lucky that your kids have some one that cares so much about them, and how does new mom being involved stop you from being involved; make your own parent teacher meetings, your own bday parties, volunteer at their school, etc... I have never had to deal with bio mom since everything is done separately which is something you can do as well (except for dr visits in which we handle since we make the appts). And how is ex being afraid or weak?? It sounds to me like he is giving his wife the respect she deserves by not taking your side- they are the parents at their house so only a weak man will tell his wife how to raise their children just because his ex has an issue with it.



answers from Denver on

If you can afford it talk to an attorney, visitation rights are for your husband not her, she has no legal right to see your kids. Get boundries legally in place such as no doctor with out me, birthday parties are for mommy and daddy to plan. It is hard to be a step parent I know my brother struggles with it everyday, but it sounds like you have tried to be nice and it's time to take the gloves off and get serious with her and your husband.



answers from Denver on

I am a stepmom and had to double-check the name to make sure you weren't my husband's ex!! I do more than "pretend that I'm the mother of my children"...I truly believe that I am. I WISH that my husband's ex would do all those things, but she doesn't and I have taken on every single one of the examples you mentioned only because they wouldn't happen otherwise. Some I would do no matter what...anything with the school, for example. But there are so many things a "normal mom" would do that she hasn't done since my husband and I married 2 1/2 years ago(she was already remarried and they have joint custody).

My husband and I try very hard to keep in mind what's best for the children but I must admit it is as hard as anything to act that way when co-parenting with someone who has 180-degree values and seems to pick the opposite side of anything we think.

My husband can't communicate with her because it turns into an ugly screaming match so that's usually avoided and we just have 2 very different households. Fortunately, my kids are AMAZING and, though it must be insanely hard on them too, they seem to be okay.

I wish I had some advice...I'm looking for some myself! : ))))

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