I am a step-mom. I have two more sons & one daughter in addition to my two children. Simple math tells us three plus two equals five. The math is simple, however the journey to becoming and being a step-mom isn’t always as simple as the math but there are pro’s and con’s. I recall being divorced and trying to identify what type of man I wanted to date and I immediately said I would not date someone with children. Well, that ship sailed after Several years ago when my now husband and I started dating we enjoyed bringing our families together for play-dates. I am somewhat of a fanatic when it comes to the best ways for children to do _________(insert whatever comes to mind) so of course I read several books, and searched google for all the answers on blending families. The main points I took from all of this research was the kids need to drive the car! They need to tell you when they are ready to move to the next step, take the slow boat to China while dating and look for physical signs of affirmation that they are ready to take on this relationship. So, we did it and all be darned if the formula didn’t work itself out! After awhile, the kids were expressing disappointment and sadness when it came time to return to our respective homes. They missed each other, became excited when they knew we would be seeing each other and we knew it was time to take our relationship to the next level. Clearly, we did (married now).
At any rate, the blending was the blissful part as it was the fun of getting to know each other so essentially I have been dating an entire family for a few years (ha!). Now that the dust has settled and we have both earned our respective titles as step-mom and step-dad the real challenges of a blended family have emerged. What I didn’t know about step-parenting and the parts of it that have come to be the harshest realities of blending are all things I cannot control. I cannot control them but I do my best to manage them personally as well as in my marriage.
(1) I am a Step-Mom: Step-Family Doesn’t Always Come with the Territory!
I am thankful to say that my husband’s family (who also grew up as a blended family) has been very open and inclusive of my two children which I am deeply grateful and appreciative for. My children have established a great relationship with new grand-parents they know and love. My family who has no experience with blending is much more standoffish and separate when it comes to this “new arrangement” in my life. They certainly do not mistreat them but there’s definately not that effort to transition from two grand-children to five. I cannot force this, it’s no different from the kids making rooms in their lives for me and my husband. I would be lying however if I didn’t be truthful and say it’s difficult to handle when the resistance comes from your family. I realize and have accepted it has to happen naturally, in its own time and I have also had the thought it may never happen at all. What I didn’t know was the amount of time that would be lost with my family as a result, the amount of shame I carry with me, and the anxiety that stems from the seemingly always awkward conversation of “who’s coming over”.
(2) I am a Step-Mom: I Am Mom until Mom Shows Up!
This seems obvious, right? Wrong. Sure, you can prepare yourself for how you think it will go in your mind but when there are those few and far between occasions when it happens the actual moment is far different from anything you could have pictured in your mind. I recall a recent event of my oldest step-son having an emergency surgery. It was unplanned, and he basically went from the pediatrician to the hospital and I rushed there to meet my husband and support them. Mom was unable to make it that night so we stayed in the hospital and we discussed his fears, helped him get mentally prepared and then came the big day (mom is still not there). After his surgery, we waited and waited and finally we got the news it was successful and we could see him in recovery. I’m not sure we were in the recovery room for two minutes when the nurse came in and said, “Ummm, there is a woman outside who says she’s his mother. I’m sorry but we can only have two people in the recovery room at a time.” Well, I am a respectful as well as logical person so there was no doubt in my mind about who was leaving. As I passed her in the hallway for a split second my feelings were hurt and the immediate reaction was, “How dare you! You couldn’t wait?” I think I mentioned I am logical & respectful so I immediately got a grip on myself and realized I would hope if my children come to have a step-mom she would do the same for me. I waited for my husband in the lobby and he came out shortly after I left. He thanked me. He realized that was hard having been there all night and just as anxious as everyone else to make sure he is okay. What I didn’t know is how loved I would feel by him in that moment, that simple recognition that it wasn’t an easy position to be in and more importantly that I too care deeply for all of our children and had to walk away when I wanted to be there.
(3) I am a Step-Mom: A Love Like This
I remember having my first child and finding out I was pregnant with a second and the fear rushing into my body that I would never be able to love anyone the way I loved him. I could not have been more wrong. Each love is unique, new, exciting, fresh and customized just for the two of us. I love them both, and I love them differently because that is what is required of me because my children are not the same. I have found being a step-mom is the exact same way! My most triumphant moment to date is the first time my youngest step-son asked me to go on his field trip with him. It truly brought me to tears. I was so honored and amazed that he would want me there, to show me off to his friends, introduce me and spend time with him just the two of us. What I didn’t know was how incredibly capable of love the human spirit can truly be if you let love be your guide.
(4) I am a Step-Mom: Sacrifice For All is the Only Way
Let’s face it, kids want it all these days. Cell phones, tablets, the latest kicks, the freshest cuts, allowance and more! When I expanded my family from three to seven I anticipated that there would be sacrifice involved and there certainly was but perhaps not in the way I imagined initially. The greatest sacrifice came in what I could do for my children and to some degree a “loss of power” I was feeling. The reality is when you’re a team of three and you’re a single parent you have no else to think about or consult, you just do. I now have to consider the effects of my choices on a deeper level meaning if I want to buy the hottest kicks for one than I must do for all. Oh wow, we’re back to our simple math problem. Ha! The truth of the matter is maybe I haven’t been able to buy my son or daughter the same pair of shoes I use to buy him but I have found solace in the fact that he has shoes, he has a pair of shoes he likes and meanwhile I am exercising a much more practical and responsible level of parenting. Our finances have improved tremendously since we’ve become conscious of our spending. The struggle in accepting this was hard, and hard only because we as people can be so selfish. The kids realize the time we spend together came with a cost and we hear very little complaining about the price tag! What I didn’t know was expanding my family made both my husband and I much more responsible and practical parents which has made for much more humble, grateful and thankful children.
(5) I am a Step-Mom: Wow, My Husband is Amazing!
There is something to be said about having children together. It establishes a bond that will forever be in place as you parent and raise your children together. Then there are the unicorns of the world and these are the people who had children with someone, it didn’t work out, they found new love and are raising children from a past relationship together but do not have any biological children of their own. We are unicorns and I say that with pride! What I didn’t know was how much watching my husband care for my children as if they were his own would inspire me, secure me, amaze me and turn me on! p.s. I know he feels the same way!
All in all what I didn’t know comes with the good and the bad like everything else but I found step-parenting to be an adventure that has challenged me, rewarded me, encouraged me, tired me and redefined a piece of me as a woman. It sounds a lot like your everyday motherhood, right? There’s not much to be scared of unless you yourself are unwilling to open your heart and explore what your capable of. I am thankful for everything my step-children have taught me and I am honored to be a part of what they are learning as they watch me. God is good friends, that’s all I can say!