If you had asked me 5 years ago where I saw myself in 5 years, my life as it is now would not have been the answer. After all, who wants stepkids? What person dreams of being with a man ( or woman) who has an ex-spouse with whom they have to have constant contact, because there are children involved? If this is you, please let me know! Stepping into the role of a parent, to children you did not give birth to, and to whom you have no blood relation, is one of the hardest jobs I have ever taken on. It has left me crying myself to sleep and almost literally screaming in anger. Don’t get me wrong, it has its good moments. My heart has melted from snuggles and from the unexpected I love yous. I have enjoyed running around with tiny humans, and embraced their smiles as catch a giant fish.
As with just about anything in the world, there is good, and there is bad. As a stepmom, I have to learn to roll with the punches, and refrain from showing much emotion around my stepkids.
Not Quite Expecting the Unexpected
No matter how you spin it, life is a challenge. When things are going smooth, it has a way of throwing a curveball that knocks you off your feet. Before I actually “entered” into the “stepmom” roll, I did as much reading and podcast listening as I could to prepare myself for what was to come. I had already been with my BF for a while, but had not yet met the kids, but I was aware of some of the challenges I would be facing with the ex-wife and the kids. Did reading up on stepmomming help? Absolutely! Has it made the transition perfect and seamless? It helped, for sure, but there were, and still are, many bumps and challenges.
If I have learned anything these past few months of entering into the stepmomming world, it’s that you can do your best to expect the unexpected, but often times you are still caught by surprise.
The Unexpected: I'm Not the Mom
I know, that sounds obvious. I am not the mom. I didn’t birth these children, I haven’t been in their lives since they were born. Ok, yes, it was expected that I’m not actually “mom”. It even states in the child custody paperwork that the children are not to refer to significant others as “mom” or “dad”.
Where this becomes a challenge, not really being a mom, is when you do your best to do all a mom is supposed to do, to be a mother figure to these kids when you have them, and knowing that you will never actually be mom.
I love my stepkids. Yes, they drive me batshit crazy. There are times when it’s time for them to go back to their mom, and I am overly grateful. But, I did not expect to love them as much as I do. We’re all still trying to figure out our new life and our new roles as a “blended” family. However, these tiny humans have weaseled their way into my heart, and there is not much more heartwarming than my 2 year old stepdaughter saying, “Daddy, I love mine Shannon.”
Unfortunately, no matter how much I love them, nor how much I take on the “mom responsibilities” I will never be mom (or dad). When they get hurt, it will be mom or dad whom they want to comfort them. They won’t be rushing to tell me exciting news, or rushing to me to brag about an accomplishment. Yes, this does sting, but it’s a truth I have to accept in my role in this family.
The Struggle: Hearing About Mom
A topic I don’t feel is addressed enough in the stepmom world is the struggle of always hearing about mom. Now, it obviously differs from family to family as to how this specific dynamic takes place. I am fortunate, I haven’t had to hear, “You’re not my real mom!” If I enforce any type of discipline, it’s usually abided by (yes, I’ve had those instances where I say “no” and the response is, “Mom lets me,” or stepson goes to dad and asks the same question).
A few weeks ago, I was keeping an eye on the kids while Honey was out doing some chores, and SS asked me if he could have a popsicle. It was 10:30 in the morning. I told him no, it was too early and his response was, “Mom lets me have one at 11.” To which I told him that it wasn’t yet 11, and he would have to wait. This was met with a disgruntled sigh, but we went about our day. It may have been in the same weekend, or maybe before or after this incident, Honey was again doing chores and I was keeping an eye on the kids. SS likes to play “war” where we’ll get fake guns and, well, fight the enemy. Honey has these walkie talkies that he got for hunting, so we can separate but still communicate with each other. Of course, SS wanted to use the walkie talkies for playing war, which was fine. However, these walkie talkies also have ear pieces, which he wanted to use. I kept telling SS no, we’re not going to use them, I don’t want them to break. After I told him this, he went to his bedroom window and yelled out the window to dad asking if he could use them. I was quite upset by this, as my “power” was being overruled and he was trying to play us against each other. Even though Honey told SS he could use them, I texted Honey saying I told him no because they might break. When Honey came back inside, he told SS that he needed to put them away, as they might break.
Anyway, my whole point with this is, I was not fully prepared mentally for hearing stories about mom, or really hearing mom brought up at all. I’m still not fully mentally sound with these situations. It’s something I have to take day-by-day. Some days are easier than others when she is brought up, other days it hits like a fiery arrow to the heart.
As time goes on, these moments are easier to handle, and are fewer and farther between. When they do happen, I have to remind myself that these kids need to love their mom, that it’s important to have their mom in their lives. There was a time in life before I came into the picture, but that doesn’t mean I am not important now, or that I am less loved.
The Struggle: So Many Clothes and Dishes!
Guys, I’m not a great “housewife”. I hate doing dishes and laundry and, well, cleaning in general. If I had the option, I’d have a housekeeper to do all this for me. But, I have made it my responsibility to keep dishes and clothes clean. Yeah, I have clean clothes that have been sitting in a basket, waiting to be folded, for over two weeks. They are clean clothes, though.
Another thing I did not quite expect was the bittersweetness of folding tiny human clothes that do not belong to your biological kids. I never anticipated my first child to me a stepchild, and there is something about pulling a tiny pair of pants out of the dryer to fold that stings a little bit, but also is okay because this tiny human is in my life.
I never expected to be looking at tiny human clothes and think, “I want to get that for SD.” It, of course, has always been, “I can’t wait until I have a child of my own to dress in these cute clothes.” But here we are, buying clothes for tiny humans who are not mine, and enjoying it. Washing tiny human clothes for tiny humans who aren’t mine and, well, not enjoying it, but fully accepting it as part of my life.
This is my Life, I am Choosing This
I will not lie, stepparenting is HARD. Loving a man with an ex-wife and two kids with that ex-wife is HARD. And if I were to say I wouldn’t have it any other way would be a lie. Of course I would want to be with a man who hasn’t been married before, who doesn’t have kids. Yes, I would love to be the first wife, the first person to bear his children. However, that is not the case, and this is my life, and I am choosing it. I am choosing to take care of these tiny humans whom I do not share blood. I am choosing to hear about mom, to every so often hear something come out of the child’s mouth about a memory he has with both mom and dad. But I have chosen it, and I choose it every day. I love these tiny humans, and I love my man.
Again, as time goes on, some things get easier. I’ve only been doing this for a few months, and there are things that are becoming much more natural. I am learning, Honey is learning, the kids are learning. It is stressful, it is difficult, but it is also beautiful, and fun. It is my life, and I will be living it to the best of my abilities.