Today I’m linking up with They Call Me Mummy and her momfessionals. Here’s a story about a not so great step parent, Me.- Before I had any idea what I was doing, I was in charge of someone else’s child. It was tough and I messed it up, pretty badly at times. Do you think I damaged her much? You’ll have to read to find out 🙂 Hope you enjoy.
At a young age I became a step mother. I was a step mother before I had children. It’s different. Inheriting someone else’s child comes with a different set of rules. It’s not clearly defined. It’s not all you. Whether we realise it or not, before we have children, we have preconceived and often unrealistic ideas, on how they should be raised. I was very guilty of that. When you have your own children you grow into the roll from birth. It’s a totally different thing to start at aged 8. I felt I needed to prove something to The King, that I was a good mother, that I knew how to do things properly. I knew nothing! I was also trying to settle in a new relationship, in a new place. All of a sudden being a “mother” to an 8 year old was hard to navigate, even if it was only for short periods of time. To be honest, loving someone else’s child doesn’t come naturally. It’s much harder to find that unconditional love. It has to grow and evolve.
I did my best with the very limited knowledge I had, the only real experience I could draw on was my own upbringing. Totally irrelevant 20 years later. It was tough when the Princess would come for vacations. The King was busy trying to get us going in the business, things were uncertain and there wasn’t the opportunity to take time off. So it was really left to me to do things with her. I approached things all wrong, I was so insecure and trying so hard to prove myself in my relationship and my roll as partner and “mother” that I didn’t take the time to just hang out and be fun. I didn’t think about how all the changes were affecting her either. It must have been awful coming to visit, with dad too busy and being stuck with the step-monster all the time. It wasn’t an enjoyable time looking back, we did our best but we could have handled it so differently. Luckily kids are resilient.
It went on this way, a couple of vacations a year for 4-5 years. The relationship grew but it wasn’t natural for me. I was still trying so hard to prove myself. Looking back now, I was so wrong. I was the poster child for how NOT to step-parent.
Despite all this, at 14 the Princess decided she wanted to come and live with Dad for a year. To get to know him a bit better. By then, Grand Master D was 3 and Miss Gremlin was on her way. Again I was thrown in the deep end but this time it was permanent. I had to navigate high school for the first time when I hadn’t done anything beyond play-group and daycare. We had an instant teenager, who by that time was a little more free range than either of us liked and we set about reining that in. We were so naive. It was a huge adjustment all around. I can only imagine how hard it was for the Princess. I was only looking at it from my side. 7 months pregnant, a 3 year old and a new teenager. We made it work, we adjusted because we had to. There were problems at first but she managed to fit in at school and youth group at church. I’m not sure she got to know her dad the way she’d hoped as he was just as busy as ever, now travelling to the US every 3 months but she did get to go on a trip. I suppose that’s something most 14 year olds don’t get to do. He actually left for a 3 week trip, 2 weeks after she first arrived to live with us.
In spite of the difficulties, I think we managed to live through the year well enough and actually grew close. The Princess got to spend time with her brother and sister and in the process achieved some great things, including singing on the beach in Surfers Paradise at an International Surf Carnival and losing 52 pounds. She also became very good at looking after little people. After the Princess moved back with her mother, we moved countries and she came to live with us again when she finished high school in December 2007. It was very different second time around.
A couple of years ago I had an opportunity to talk to the Princess about those times and I asked for her forgiveness for not being as loving and fun as I could have been. She was gracious enough to say there was nothing to forgive but we talked a lot about all the years past. We got to a great place, she said she never hated me and didn’t even think it was all so bad. I was relieved to find I hadn’t totally scarred her for life.
I still feel bad and although I can’t change it, I’ve righted it the best I can by talking about it with her. We have a great relationship now as it’s on an adult level and I no longer have the same insecurities but deep down I wish I had handled it differently.
I did learn some valuable things along this journey though. The best way to be a step mother, in my opinion, is to just love the child the best way you can. Don’t try to change everything they are just because you might have issues with their other parent. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. The reason you’re even in their lives could be painful enough for them, a divorce or death of a parent. Be kind to them and be kind to yourself. It will work out. Life has a way of doing that.
I wish someone could have told me not to try so hard and just to go with the flow. It could have been a much more pleasant time. As adults it’s really up to us to set the tone of the relationship with our stepchildren. If we love their parent then we owe it to all involved to just do our best to live and love together as a family.
Do you have a secret, some dirty laundry, a skeleton or two in your closet?
We do and it’s time to speak out.
Welcome to the MOMfessional – a space where other parenting bloggers can let it all hang out.
bloggers post a piece on their blogs under the title of MOMfessional, it might be dark and heavy, it may be uproariously funny. It just needs to be something that people don’t talk about or easily ‘fess up to. We’ll link up to it , so you’ll be able to find each month’s piece right here. Easy peasy.
Are you a blogger who wants to take part? Email Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org with your post. All you need to do when you post your own MOMfessional is grab the banner above and link it to http://theycallmemummy.com/
I LOVE your willingness to go back and make it right. And share your wisdom. AWESOME.
Your transparency in this post is heartwarming, and I’m grateful for it. I act as a parent figure to my boyfriend’s five year old, and it is not easy! The important thing is that we do the best we can for the children in our lives, and it sounds to me like you did that. We all have regrets as caretakers, but we live as we learn and we can’t beat ourselves up for not being perfect. Thanks so much for sharing!