Turning ON & OFF the Step-Mom Switch
Dear Step-Mom In Me,
As many mothers can attest to, as soon as you announce that you're pregnant you are inundated with advice – some solicited and some not so much. But the goal remains the same, a new life is coming into this world and everyone wants to do their part by asking the question what can we do to prepare you. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case when there are no tell-tale signs that you are soon to be a mother… not the case when you are going to be a step-mother. It’s one of the most difficult roles that you will have to play in your life because instead of being encouraged to nurture this child or children, you are told to suppress every motherly instinct that you have!
What if you were born with it – the ability to empathize with others, wanting to listen & provide love & guidance to those that you care about… what if you cared what happened to others? As a step-mom you are constantly bombarded with – “You are not the mother.” or “I have a mom.” But for some reason, if she can’t or doesn’t want to, she hasn’t stepped up or is present… you give it a shot. The parent-teacher conferences, getting into the school the kid wants to go to, dealing with the principals, making lunches, taking them to the doctor, helping them find their first job or set up a bank account. All the things that you would do if it was your own biological child… or a child that you have adopted.
And, what’s the difference between adopting a child that isn’t yours biologically and doing all the things that a mother does… especially if they are living with you; and doing all those things or asking these things to be done as a step-mom? When everyone is getting what they want – father, step-kids and there is peace in the house it’s a no-brainer. But as soon as someone goes off in a tizzy and starts getting upset & the teenagers start throwing out “I hate you! You’re not my mom!” all hell breaks loose.
But what have I done to deserve this… except do the best job I can do in a situation that is a lose-lose one… always with the step-mom being perceived as the root cause. Why are kids allowed to run the show? I understand that they have gone through a difficult situation with their parents’ divorce, but do they really not remember the fighting… the tension… the difficulty of two people being together. It’s not as if they haven’t gone through similar situations before (everything is heightened when you are a child)… fights with friends, losing friends and just not being able to relate anymore. I also understand that the parent’s are feeling guilty that they weren’t able to make it work but if the decision was to part for the best interest of the child… shouldn’t the child’s behaviour be called into question if he/she is treating someone with disrespect or just being downright mean? How will the child be taught that you don’t always get what you want and change can sometimes be a good thing… and we are all resilient in the end!
I have a biological child now… a loving, sweet-natured, funny and smart little boy who is almost 3 years old. I have raised him and provided all the things I can for him since he was born, I have always been with him. I love him. I discipline him. I teach him. I listen to him. I talk to him. I am his mother. All parents love their children and think that the world revolves around them, but my philosophy is that if I do my job right and raise a good person… others will love him too! So far, he’s the King of Kensington waving and smiling at people that we pass on the street. He is loved!
He has a connection with people… with all people; especially his step-siblings. However, he’s getting to the stage where he understands everything and repeats things… that’s what kids do as they grow. They take in their surroundings and make it their own. An example of that is when I was walking down the stairs the other day, he told me, “Mommy slow down. You might fall and get hurt.” He was looking out for me. And he’s physically pushed at me to move away from a car that was suddenly turned on, so I wouldn’t get hurt. Kids are parrots and they repeat what they see & hear. I feel loved!
However, in a blended family situation, it’s not so easy. There are disagreements and arguments… and it can get pretty ugly. What do you do as a mom when you are being screamed at by a teenager & being called names and your young impressionable child is sitting there? You may not have been there to call your step-kid on his behaviour when he was a child… but you HAVE to say something for it to not affect your little boy.
Yes, I will be told… you don’t care. You didn’t want me in the first place, you only wanted my dad. You always wanted me to be gone – now you get your wish.
My response is this: have your dad – as much of your dad as you want. Spend time with him. Build that relationship. Cherish that time you spend. Get counseling to help you through everything that is going on in your head. But do not expect to come into my home and disrespect me. You will not be allowed to yell & scream at me. Don’t shatter the peaceful childhood of this little boy because you cannot deal with a step-mom’s love. I can’t do it anymore… I can’t switch my love on and off. I can’t care one moment and then be expected to stand there bombarded with hate. Self-reflection is hard… it’s not easy but sometimes we have to feel some remorse to understand that there is someone out there that means something to us… but sometimes it’s too late!
Lots of love,
P.S. This was written a few months ago with a fresh disagreement as a catalyst. You do the best you can, every day. In our case, my step-son left our family to go live with his mother. When that didn’t work, he ended up on his own at 16 years old. An adult in the eyes of many, a child in the eyes of others. He just couldn’t live with a family. Sometimes all you can do is let go…
P.P.S It is interesting watching the dynamics between my son Tej and my step-son Hunter... when he left, he didn't just leave his dad and step-mom, but also a little boy who adored him, his little brother. He's back but Tej is cautious and Hunter knows he has some making up to do.