I read an article that said “there’s no ONE way to be a stepmother” and it implied the many truths of how many roles a woman has when marrying a man with children. My take on it was a little different however. Yes, there are many situations in step and blended families, it is very dependent upon family situations….how the relationships started….if there were bad experiences in the past…all that…but they left out one major point.
It’s all about the children’s needs….not the adult’s needs….too often we think money, power, control, necessity, are excuses to do or say things with children that have absolutely NOTHING to do with something a child needs to hear, know, or be a part of…. We cannot allow our own hurts, frustrations, or upsetness to steer the experience our children have with their other parent…no matter how much its tempting to do. After all, your child is 50% that person, so running them down, separating them from them is removing half of who they are…Your marriage may not have worked, but their relationship with their father/mother/stepmother/stepfather doesn’t have to reflect that. Some things simply are not childhood conversations….even if they ask. A lady lately said but he asked me if his dad had had an affair…the child was 8. Her reasoning was if he asked, she should answer, my thought is this:
An eight year old isn’t prepared to deal or understand why parents act out…a better response might be “Your dad and I had problems getting along,… it has nothing to do with you..and the truth is… Dad loves you, I love you, but we have to know we can’t always control with things other folks do, despite our best effort…”
Today’s culture gives women and men permission NOT to parent. NOT to be responsible for the childhood’s of the children in their presence. Whether its allowing someone else to rear your child, or sending them to some building to be taught values and religion, we’re outsourcing our childrens lives. My step children have a mother…however she was 400 hundred miles from their daily life for many years…if I didn’t mother them, no one was there to….so they became my own in every way in our home….always with respect and inclusion as much as we could of their natural mom….
I won’t debate the work or not work theme….the truth is I’ve done both. I am not naturally bent to order, schedules, and routines of home keeping, nor have I the funds that for many years meant that I came home. when I did come home from working full time, it meant we would take 60% less and do more with it even with me doing a home business for “mad money’ or “mad socialization” or “mad at being broke when I wanted something for our family.”
the one thing that continues to keep me working odd h ours, rising before dawn to work and working late some nights so I can be present when the children are home or around is this:
1) My father, a doctor, whose mother went to work in the 1940′s when he was 7 and who has pushed me my entire life to be all I can be said this of me coming home after advanced degrees to figure out a different way to do it…
“My quality of life went down the day my mother went to work….we had less money, but when she was home I had more childhood”
2) My own children, who went from a middle class life in Dallas to a rural life with 1/4 the income and “stuffings” at the end of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years all agreed unanimously , both natural and step children, that they preferred me home. Unity in those days was impressive….unless it was against their step dad and I….but their voices were clear.
3) I taught in public schools for over a decade…the number one thing my youth whether in children’s programs at church, or youth programs at church, or in my grades Pk-12 where ever I taught…..all said specifically they wished their parent’s ‘got” them, wished their parents spent more time engaged with them, not just survived life together…..this was a continuing theme consistently even when parents worked, they recognized that family time was needed,
We do what we have to do….my own feelings are of little consequence….however I urge you to truly identify what and why you work and make sure that the time of your life you’re devoting to it is supportive of your core values for your life on your own or with your spouse and the lives of your children.
The roles of step mom and mom are important. We do not have to be the same in any defining way….except one…
we are charged with creating the space for our children to love us both, without laying on guilt, shame, anger, or resentment for being children with two households….and its not our right to do anything that adds more stress to their already fractured life….
so I encourage you to put on your big girl pants and work on doing what creates peace for your children…even if that means learning to make peace with their other parents.