Do you think you have no say in child rearing in your household? When you want, or don’t want, to parent your stepchildren- do you think you are communication or violating? Who are you under this roof?
It took me at least a year to figure out what the fuck was going on in my household. I always found kids to be energy sucking, annoying, loud things. Naturally, I would get turned off quickly when they would act out or were just simply being kids. I came into a house where two parents hadn’t been divorced, though legally separated, had serious tension, disrespect and communication issues, and two tiny humans that were loud and needy. Though I was in love with my new boyfriend, this seemed like a project to take on rather than relationship bliss. As I worked through navigating how to keep the peace in my own body and mind despite the ridiculous chaos and drama between my new boyfriend and his ex, I was VERY unsure and really uncomfortable in terms of what a relationship would look like with his kids. I think he had a fantasy of what it could or should look like- probably because he was not a fan of their mother at the time. He thought I could swoop in and play the role that a mother would when their biological mother was not here with us. That was a hard pill to swallow. The thought of being responsible to keep other humans alive- discipline, love, sacrifice my precious time, for these kids that I didn’t even have say in putting here!?! LOL. For real though- that was the truth at that time.
I remember when I decided I was fully committed to this relationship. I had feelings that I had never had before about this man. I truly felt that he was the one I would be with and marry. I really had to figure out what the hell that would entail, having two kids come along for the ride- oh and we can’t forget about his ex!
I did a lot of research and asked for many opinions regarding the matter. Of course, there were so many opinions- some said, “stay, but…” and others said, “run for the hills!” Evidently, I chose to stay. For a long time, I held things inside that would irritate or piss me off. I went out of the way to please everyone and put on my “good stepmom” image, even if my actions didn’t align with my desires. I would often get upset with something that the kids did that I found disrespectful or outright obnoxious. I would then get more upset because I didn’t agree with how my now fiancé, handled it at the time. It caused a shitload of anxiety and tension between my fiancé and I. Fast forward three years- I often watch the kids on my own, sometimes for a period of days, I discipline, I communicate with, I am confided in by the kids. And the best part is that though I am not their mother and never will be, we have mutual respect, love, and trust, AND little to no tension or confusion when it comes to raising the kids when they’re at our house. So, what did I do to get to where I am now?
I STOPPED LISTENING TO OTHER PEOPLE AND GOT CLEAR ABOUT WHAT I WANTED IN THIS RELATIONSHIP AND FAMILY. Then I had numerous conversations, some incredibly challenging, with my fiancé, some with the kids regarding respect and expectations, as well as keeping their mom in the loop.
Every stepparent has the right to choose how they want to be incorporated into their blended family, however, based on my experience, and observing other stepfamilies, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the “I married a man with kids; however, I want nothing to do with his kids.” In fact, I think that thinking is foundation for failure, not only family failure, but failure to create your own peace of mind. It is contradictory. To some degree, and there may be many reasons to do so, if you need to disengage, that’s ok. But if you are disengaged so far out, then you really only have a relationship with your partner for the percentage of the time you do not have his kids, and is that really the relationship you want? I would think not. No one likes a half assed anything. Communicate your feelings and needs once you are clear about what it is you really want. If you want a relationship with a partner that has kids, but without the kids, I hate to break it to you but this doesn’t exist and it will never happen. Period. So, if that is truly your thinking, I would suggest rethinking being in a blended family.
I was unsure of my role when I first came into this because not only did I have no experience with kids and what to do with them, I really didn’t like kids, so this was a project. I wanted to like them. I committed to liking them. Turns out, they are really great humans, and I naturally liked them. The sacrificing and the discipline were another story. I realized that I was afraid to do these things because it goes back to my people pleasing and I feared what others, including their mom, would think or say. The more I communicated my fears, illusions, feelings, and needs to my fiancé, the more opportunity we had to work together. It was like learning a new language or skill for me. It was scary at first, but I was clear in my motivation. I loved my partner, I was open and wanting to create relationships with his kids, and I wanted to create a life that was mostly happy, peaceful, and very importantly, sustainable. Here’s how I see it. Both people have a choice. You have a choice to couple up with a partner that has kids and create exactly what you want. Your partner also has a choice to bring you into this circumstance and allow you to be a parent. It is a two-way street.
If you have no fuckin clue what you really want, what your needs are, or what your partner’s needs and wants are, you will continue to be in a cycle of not knowing what to do, how to parent, and likely have growing tension with your partner. It is so crucial to know what common values you share, what each person’s boundaries are, what you are comfortable with and what you are not willing to do. I would suggest keeping an open mind if you truly believe you are committed to your partner with kids. I have found that your biggest enemy as a stepmom are false self-fulfilling prophecies like, “I don’t know if I belong here,” and negative feelings or emotions that create into existence exactly what you say you do not want.
First and foremost, decide what you want. Talk to your partner about what they want. What does happiness and peace look like under your roof with the kids included?
And please, stepmom, for the love of God, stop thinking your partner is a mind reader. If you don’t vocalize these things or try to control or get pissed if something doesn’t go your way, you need to look within and start taking responsibility for your life and your choices.
You matter. Your voice matters. And you matter in your blended family. Start stepping up. It turned out that my stepkids want the same thing I do- to be loved, accepted, heard, seen, and acknowledged. If you live under the same roof, your opinions and decisions matter. Talk to your partner about what this life looks like, and take action to make it happen. Even if you thought you didn't matter, or didn't want to matter in your blended family- you do. Live your example.