With Skipah currently in Washington D.C. trying to give out 100 dollar handshakes to lawmakers for a shared parenting bill and getting to the bottom on this former FBI director James Comey mess, he reached out to one of his long-time supporters for a little help to keep the blogging traffic cop I employ busy until I return from vacation. Introducing Shopgirl Anonymous the number one source for all the behind the scenes in the seedy underworld of retail. Not only does Shopgirl write about her vast knowledge of the retail business, but she has a little side project she dabbles in from time to time explaining the ins and out of stepparenting. With me about to take a leap in the stepparenting business myself, what better time to let the Shopgirl give all of us stepparents some ins and outs of the stepparenting game. Introducing Shopgirl Anonymous-The Super Stepmom!
.So you have found your soul mate. He or she… for the sake of my writing sanity, I will be typing him, and you can read it whichever way you like. ::clears throat:: Where were we? Ah yes, They are perfect, they are what your dreams are made of and you don’t know how you ever came to be so lucky, and all that other romantic mushy crap of early relationship bliss. But the reality comes that they have a kid, and you think, that’s not so bad, kids love me. Or maybe you think, I spend time with my nieces and nephews all the time, I’ve got this. Even better, you may think, I already have my own kids; I’ve got this in the bag! But take a moment before you dive in head first to reflect on the less talked about stressors of being a step-parent. It’s better to step in fully prepared.
This isn’t College, A Three Way Can Be More than Awkward
Ever heard the term three’s a crowd? There is never going to just be you and your spouse ever, and you need to be okay with that. You have a tiny person to consider, and that tiny person has another parent who has a greater ay in everything over you. Every holiday, every big event, every life change, they will be there, a part of your life. And even in the happiest of blended situations, it can still feel a bit claustrophobic.
There are those beautiful situations where step and birth, birth and step all live together in perfect harmony, and they are amazing strong people, but they are not the average scenario. Don’t be the opposing force, be open to the birth parents, accept them as part of your family and that open attitude will be seen by your step-child, and they will love you for it. In some cases this is not easy, many birth moms/dads will come with a sea of resentment towards you, because, hey, three’s a crowd. Be patient, they might come around when things cool off, or they won’t; either way the best you can do is open your heart to everyone.
A Step Child Does Not Equal a Jug of Milk, There is No Expiration Date
I read a tweet the other day from a fellow sister in the step mom world:
Is it bad that at my step-daughters graduation all I can think of is how I never have to see my husband’s ex’s face again?!
False. 18 is not a magic age that makes this devil’s trio just dissipate into thin air. One, I would hope that you went into this with enough love for your step-child that you would not cut them out of your life when they move out of the house, or down to the basement, whatever the case may be. There will be more graduations, more parties, more birthdays, more family holidays, and down the road, grandkids, where we will start our waltz of procuring our share of quality time with the ex all over again. This is a lifetime commitment; make sure you have really accepted that before you say yes.
Be Prepared to Relinquish all Further Control
For me this is a difficult one, because believe it or not, this shop girl is a bit of a control freak. I want my children raised with a bit of class and respect. I want them to pride books over television. I want them to take their time growing up, you have your whole life to be an adult, let’s just take our time and enjoy being a kid. My stepson spends 80% of the time in a household that does not share my values of religion, thought, or philosophy. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d say his mother raises him in spite of me. I have to set separate rules for my house, explain it like I would to my classroom, mom is right but when you are here we are just going to do things a little differently.
Disclaimer: each case will vary, just accept the control you do have, and let go of the rest.
And then there is the control over the stupid tricks your spouse will repeatedly fall for again and again. Perhaps it’s out of guilt, or just that they want to think the best of their ex, whatever the case, you have to just sit back and watch. You did what? You loaned her how much? You let him trade custody dates? You know what the outcome will be, you know your significant other will come out scorned in the end, and sometimes you just have to run off to an ice castle in the wilderness to belt it out, “LET IT GO!”
Start Picking the Jewels For Your Wicked Crown
Put on your raincoats, its about to pour down. From a resentful spouse, a birth parent, and quite often your step-child you can be an easy target to blame in times of frustration. When you mistakenly say the wrong thing, when you mistakenly don’t show the correct amount of love or excitement, when you don’t do things the way other’s believe it should be done, the expectations can be unattainable and the wrath unimaginable. You want to vent to someone, but you can’t without stepping on a very sensitive subject and possible backlash from your spouse, it can feel down right alienating.
Step back and breathe, accept that you won’t always get it right and know that I say that’s okay. In times of great frustration I think back and chant the Villain Anonymous slogan:
“I am bad and that is good, I will never be good and that’s not bad, there’s no one I’d rather be than me.” -Wreck It Ralph
You are the easy scapegoat, and at weak moments of your amazing yet “dysfunctional” family frustrations, don’t take anything too personally.
Take Your Time Before You Meet Your Amazing Bonus Child
Look no matter if they are a child or now an adult, you are the personification of their shaken safety net. Do not push yourself in their life until you can honestly say you would marry your partner tomorrow with no reservations. This relationship is about them second, but you and your significant other first. Get your intimacy and balance where you need it to be happy. Make sure you are 100% ready for the rough seas ahead, and don’t allow your partner to guilt you into meeting the child before you are emotionally and mentally prepared.
Is It Worth It
It never fails, when Cate Blanchett takes the screen as Lady Tremaine I’m left in streaming tears of empathy. She was not prepared, no one warned her how hard it would be to always be the outsider in a story that started long before her. How alienating and awfully wicked those difficult days could be. She gave up before the waters calmed, because they do. They may not be perfect, but once you discover your rhythm as a blended family, even as an estranged one, you will find that the days become simpler, the communication is easier, and that love from your amazing spouse and adorable bonus child makes it all worthwhile.
The Step-Parenting island isn’t easy and can feel quite lonely. If you or someone you know is struggling as a step-parent please reach out. And birth parents, as a birth parent, I can understand your frustration. But please be kind, we aren’t perfect we are learning along with you, and most of us are trying our very best here.