Life according to society,
and other’s not in your shoes.
This has been a big point of contention for me since dating a man with kids and I myself bringing along a child from a previous marriage. As much as divorce and remarriage numbers have sky rocketed it still seems to be a bit taboo to people.
I would talk to my friends like girlfriends do. Talk about how my schedule is not just my schedule now when we’d try to find a date to get together and them having a hard time understanding how I could possibly be that busy. Talk about how when money comes in, it goes out for support payments and prior obligations from past lives, another topic lost on my single and only once married friends. How it’s hard to relate sometimes to kids that you didn’t give birth to, that were raised differently for the first 10 years of their life, long before you ever entered the picture.
Alone on an island is how I felt having these one-sided conversations.
That’s the thing with being a Step-Mom, unless you’re a step-parent yourself, you just don’t get it. Being faced with the deer in headlights expressions from your closest friends more than just a handful of times lead me to realize that no one gets what this life is like until you’re in it. I am guilty of that myself. Even with having a kid of my own until I was in the step parenting role, I had no idea…. literally no idea!
Mark and I have been very lucky in the kid department (you can read more about just how great they are in “And Kids Make 6” here). In terms of them meshing well together, in terms of everyone accepting one another and in terms of the overall compromise it takes on everyone’s part when blending two families together. Our kids are kind, respectful, well mannered and fun kids to be around. They’re not perfect, none of us are, but we kind of hit the jackpot with this bunch of ours.
I am trying hard not to let the weight of being a Step-Mom fall heavy on my shoulders. I’ve tried very hard from the start to make it clear that I am just another person to love these kids, I’m not here to replace anyone or step on any one’s toes. As much as having to co-parent can be stressful at times, these kids already have a great Mom and we’re lucky that they do.
My ex-husband on the other hand is a different story all together. He’s made things extremely difficult and the line is clearly drawn that he wants no part in co-parenting. I believe he is good to Addison. Unfortunately, she doesn’t enjoy going to his house as much as I wish she would but her and I have both learned when it comes to this situation we make the best of it and we make the most of the time when she’s with us.
In our house there is no bashing of the ex-spouses when the kids are in ear shot (sometimes it’s difficult to hold your tongue…. trust me, I know!) But, at the end of the day, these are still the other parents to our kids and that counts for a lot.
In the media step mother’s especially, never the step fathers for some reason, are painted as evil, cruel, soul crushing individuals that people get stuck with. We’re never painted as loving parents even though that’s what we’re expected to be. Think Cinderella, think the Queen from Snow White, even Isabel from the movie Stepmom had to suffer a lot before being accepted as the kind and loving bonus mom she set out to be. A quick google search and you can clearly see that society’s idea of a step mom isn’t always a pretty picture.
This is a tough journey to be on. Expectations are high; gratitude and acceptance are often times low. Trying to find where you fit in is very hard and confusing. What to say, how to act, how to be, without interfering but still showing that you care. It’s like living in a minefield! And yet despite all this you should be keeping it all together and making a valiant effort because you’re the adult in this situation and because “You knew what you were signing up for” Ugh!
I hear ya my friends out there, I’m with you on this journey that no one understands, I’m learning the ropes just like you are and I know how hard this life can be. I’d like to share with you what I think are the most important lessons I’ve learned so far.
Self-care is so important. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be any good to anyone else.
Try your best, that’s all you can do. You know what’s best for you and your family and if you trust your instincts you won’t go wrong.
Your happiness matters too! I know there is a lot expected of you but don’t lose sight of yourself and the woman you were before you became a Step Mom.
You can’t control anyone or anything except for yourself. People will judge you and criticize you. People will be mean and people will do and say things that hurt and there’s nothing you can do about that. The only thing you can do is let it roll right off your shoulders. Do not carry other people’s burdens and drama. You can still be happy despite it all simply by choosing to be happy. Sounds ridiculous, I know and sometimes feels literally impossible, but I’m telling you it’s so worth it. Hear people’s comments, feel the sting of whatever unnecessary judgement has been thrown your way and then let it go. Do not give anyone the power to rob you of your happiness. This is something I’ve been trying really hard to continue to do. It’s not just a magical switch that you flip and suddenly you’re really good at it. No, it’s something that is extremely difficult and you need to work at it each day. If it was easy we’d all be walking around like happy little Pleasantville characters each and every day. I wrote a letter to myself at the start of this year to help me to remember to do this each and every day too. You can read that letter here.
You are on this journey because you are strong enough to handle it. You were chosen to be in this position, to love this man, and love these kids because you have the capacity to do it. Even on your worst days, you are enough. You are always enough.