Monday, February 8, 2010

What I've learned as a step-mom

Lolli from Better in Bulk details her experiences and lessons learned in Until I Became a Mom

The question Lolli posed, what has being a mother taught you, caused me to pause and take stock of my situation. I love being a mom.  I love the snuggles, I love the joy that my son expresses.  Even the annoyances, I love because I am all too aware of how fast they grow and how swiftly things can change. By the time my son was born, I had already acted as a mom for almost 3 years.  I married a man with kids and, while they lived with their biological mother for much of the time, when they were with us, I acted as the female parent.  Being a step-mom has been a bittersweet experience for me and is not one I would encourage many people to enter into.  In fact, I generally counsel that they run away.  Far, far away

Many women tend to look askance at step-mothers.  There is a primal instinct to protect husband and children from the influence of "another woman" and I have been criticized for acting "too motherly" to children who were not mine.  I did not understand that.  I understood they had a mother, I understood they loved their mother, but why would I not care for them as if they were my own while they were under my care?  SHould I have ignored their bad dreams, splinters, and scraped knees because I was not their mother?  And if I had done that, I would have been criticized for being a heartless, evil step-mother. 

Being a step-mother is truly a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.  And a great deal of difficulty stems from the adults in the situation.  In a blended family, you are expected to do what is in "the best interests of the children" and many courts abide by the idea that the first family comes first in all things, including financial.  When I met my husband, well over 50% of his take home pay went towards child support, preventing him from maintaining any sort of household on his own.  For several years, I was the only thing that enabled him to have a roof over his head that wasn't put there by his parents. 

And that's not even touching on the interpersonal issues.  One of the things you re never prepared for in a new relationship is the presence of another woman, particularly whent hat other woman is someone your boyfriend has had a relationship with.  And, as a step-mom, I learned that sometimes the ex, even if they were the ones to request the divorce, will be furious that their significant other has moved on.  When I met Big Guy, he had been separated from his ex for 2 years and their divorce was almost final.  When we became serious and I was introduced to the kids, his ex was furious and did whatever she could to try and end our relationship.  When we actually got married, she kept the kids from us for four weeks.  It was a horrible situation. 

But we worked hard and, much to his ex's anger, got his child support reduced and more time with his children.  Big Guy was so happy that he had more influence on the kids, hoping to counteract some of the poison that was poured into their ears about him.  We had thought we were succeeding.  We discovered that, not only were we wrong, but the kids had discovered they received more approval from their mother by throwing their father, brother and I to the wolves.  They chose not to see their father any longer. 

There were many lessons I learned as a step-mother, some of them I could have done without. 

 - I like being a mother.  I like interacting with kids and watching them grow into people.
 - No matter how good a parent you are, kids will always think you suck.  This is especially true if you have things like *gasp* chores or attempt to teach responsibility. 
 - You can be a great parent and do everything correctly and there will be people who think you are a horrible parent. 
 - Children will often tell you what they think you want to hear, truth or not. 
 - Never underestimate the power of crazy, especially to a child, especially from a parent.  If the parent is crazy, the child will do whatever it takes to ensure their own safety or to secure the crazy parent's love for them. . 
 - Child abuse is more than physical.  Parental Alienation IS child abuse and needs to be stopped. 

1 comment:

Lolli said...

Thanks for the mention! I have talked to friends about the struggles of being a step mom. I have heard many of your issues. Hopefully the lessons you've learned and the experiences you've had will pay off in the end.