I love to hear perspectives on parenting that are different from my own. I've never been a stepmom, and I realized that I've never shared an essay about step-parenting here. The following is a guest post.
By Tania Richard:
I am a proud stepmother, wife, and mother in a family of six. My stepkids are teenage twins named Thomas and Nora. My husband Bill and I also have two younger daughters: Audra, who is seven and Drea, who is four.
I never expected to be a stepmother. In fact, I didn't think I wanted to have kids at all. In between my so-called plans, life happened. I met my husband, he already had kids, we fell in love, had more kids, and the rest is history.
Being a stepmother was not an easy transition for me. It had nothing to do with Thomas and Nora. They were adorable, and quite remarkable because they embraced me right away. Thanks to them, Bill, and their mom Lisa, I was fortunate to skip most of the issues that tend to arise in a blended familiy. For example:
- Intense loyalty conflicts
- stepchild rejections
- acting out
Nope, I was the one with the issues. For example:
- Stepparent jealousy issues
I wanted Bill all to myself. The schedule for date nights and alone time had to be shared with Little League, Girl Scouts, family movie night, school activities, and more. I felt pretty lame when I was jealous of Thomas because Bill spent time with him as the coach of his Little League team. What was I supposed to say to Bill, "Stop being a good father and spend time with me?" I had to quickly learn to appreciate quality of time, not quantity.
- Conflicts over stepparent responsibilities.
The conflicts I experienced were internal. I never imagined I'd be responsible for my own children, let alone someone else's. It was not my job to take over his responsibilities (which he never asked me to do) but as his partner, I needed to help him just like I would help him with anything else. Easier said than done.
- Feelings of being used, ignored, unappreciated, and unsupported.
News Alert: Kids rarely say thank you. Yes, being a stepparent can feel thankless. Of course, parents could argue the same thing but the bond a parent and child has is priceless and makes up for what seems like ingratitude. It's not the same for a stepparent. I had to learn that being of service to other human beings-my stepkids-would need to be my reward. And I learned to value the times they did show their thanks. I have received some great homemade Mother's Day gifts over the years.
Experts say it takes 4-7 years for a blended family to blend. I agree. I use to feel stress when I knew Thomas and Nora would be at our house. I resisted the fact that I was essentially a parent. I had to learn that when the kids were in the house it didn't have to impede my relationship with Bill, it was a part of my relationship with Bill.
Now that the kids are busy with their friends and extracurricular activities, I crave more time with them. Here's a conversation I had recently.
Husband: Thomas and Nora have plans tonight.
Me: Well, that means they aren't going to spend time with us!
Husband: They are teenagers, Tania. They want to spend time with their friends.
Me: But, but, this is movie night! We were going to watch a movie, maybe play some games! (I hate board games, but I was desperate.)
I heard myself and earmarked it for later to marvel at how I'd turn into a woman who was fighting for time with her stepchildren, when I used to be a woman who resisted it.
Thomas and Nora are sixteen now. The transition took a mere 9 years. Fortunately, I didn't have anyone pressuring me to evolve at any other pace. It's a process. When you get there in your own time, it's real. In the interim, I tried every day to do my best, forgave often, and prayed (a lot).
I miss my teenagers when they are off with their friends. I don't know what the heck I'll do when they go off to college. Oh wait, that’s right, I have two more to keep me distracted at home.
Tania Richard is the author of My So-Called Unexpected Life: 10 Things I Did to Meet and Marry My Man, Be A Stepmom, Have Babies & Embrace the Life I Never Knew I Wanted. Available at Kindle Direct Publishing. She blogs at Writing My Mind for ChicagoNow.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of the award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you would like to submit a guest post, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.