(I've been writing this post for over a week to make sure that my intent in posting was pure and to avoid people getting all up in their feelings. (lol) I NEVER post without pictures but somehow a picture of me wearing my silver flat lace ups (so true and so cute...I digress) didn't seem right. The next post will be prettier!)
You know what's not easy...being a step-parent. Here I am looking at Will and Jada's perfectly blended family and I'm thinking that my story was going to be like theirs. #chileplease
Let's get the basics out of the way.
A. I was asked to write about my perspective on being a step-parent by Drollgirl (read her post here) and these are my experiences. I've avoided discussing step-parenting on this platforming because...well hell....just because.
B. My goal is not to bash anyone but to share. That's what blogging is about.
C. I KNOW that I have certain people who like to keep an eye on me (baby mama's friends), so just for the record, feel free to snapshot this post and send per usual... I don't even care. *hi five*
I guess I will approach what I've learned (still learning) as a list:
1. It's not easy. Even if you have been in the little one's life for 8 years or more (in my case), there is no automatic button that says that we are gonna get it right on the first try. Circumstances are different for different families. Baby mamas, overzealous grandmothers, outside influences....all of that plays a HUGE part in how your blended family turns out. In my case, it was the case of a not so awesome biological mother (again...my opinion), an over protective (and downright disrespectful) maternal grandmother and a child who had her own agenda. Great recipe for foolywang pie.
2. Everyone will give you their opinion even when you don't ask for it. NOTHING boiled my blood more than having other people's opinion on how I should handle my household. In my case, my husband and I were constantly explaining our parenting decisions to other people who don't live in our home 24 hours a day. They weren't there when the little one decided to steal and wear your panties (a moment to gasp). True story, I seriously thought I was losing underwear like socks for about a month until we figured out what was going on. I can't wait to laugh about this with her when she is an adult. Or when you found full sandwiches hidden in closets for months. You hear a whole lot of "you should" or "I woulda" or "what you need to do".
3. Step-parents automatically become the bad guy. It's written in the bible somewhere I bet. (Just kidding). But that's the deal. No matter how well you treat your new child. No matter how many "just me and you hanging out dates" you have with her. It doesn't matter if you spent an entire day on Pinterest pinning hairstyles to do for her. YOU WILL be the bad person. Anytime something went down, I got the stank eye. The whole "oh you just don't seem to like her" very much eye. Or the "You don't have kids so you must not know how to handle a child" eye. So annoying. I got a bad rap/rep from everybody. People I know. People I don't know. People who don't know me. People who think they know everything. Everybody. It took me years to stand in my truth and just decide that I know I was a positive parental authority. I knew that I was providing a home with love and nurturing but what shocked everyone's (the kid, the baby mama, the controlling grandma) was that we believed in discipline. More specifically, consequences. If you had a bad grade in class, you had consequences. That's when all hell broke loose. Nobody was used to that and it pissed everybody off.
4. DON'T LET OTHER PEOPLE RUN YOUR HOUSEHOLD. Because they will try. In my case, it was the (maternal) grandmother who was trying to dictate what happiness looked like in our home and also the old "let me call my mom and tell her every single thing that happens in my new home that I don't like and let's try to make it sound like a dungeon while I'm at it" trick. I've got stories for days. Everybody's hand in the pot caused a major breakdown in my first year of marriage. There were times when I cried because I didn't want to come home to real life. But not because it was so terrible but because I was so busy trying to be the "nice step-mom" and please the child, the step-mama, the grandparents. I was so scared that I was getting judged (I was by the way) that I would be quiet or let things slide out of fear. I had to let that ish go! Because Little Bit was running a number on us all. The minute I decided to stand firm to what my husband and I deemed acceptable in OUR house hold...the better things got for us as a couple. People like to see a house divided. Whether it be a disgruntled child, or a shady baby mama or a know it all grandmother who wouldn't let my husband be a father or me be the woman in my own household.
6. There is no guide to step-parenting (parenting in general). Would I love a fairy tale ending where we all take a blended family picture with both sides of the family and all the kids/step kids in it...sure. But it's okay if that never happens. My goal these days is to treat everyone with respect and provide a healthy household for my family.
8. A child feeds off division in a family. If a child sees that their parents are fighting each other or other people about parenting, they will use that. I grew up in a "traditional family" (meaning no step brothers/step moms...etc.) so imagine my surprise when I learned that there is a whole new dynamic to being a step child. You have a whole extra set of adults to pit against each other. It doesn't help if the child is being told/instructed/encouraged to misbehave by their mothers, etc. I also was in the middle of the "she better not discipline my child" debate. My husband always supported me but the "other side" did not. My step-daughter could have set the house on fire but I better not be the one to say something to her. That weighed heavily on me for a long time and created a lot of internal conflicts. (My husband was not about that life, he wholeheartedly believed that I should not adopt a "seen and not heard" approach)
10. EXPECT TO BE JUDGED. I am sure I covered this somewhere above but it deserves it's own individual moment. I suffered so much because I was worried about what other people thought about me. My husband's eyes were on me. The in law's eyes were on me. My sister's eyes were on me. My friends eyes were on me. Eyes were always on me. Anytime my stepdaughter and I were in the same room, I felt like people were expecting us to break out in song and dance or to start mud wrestling. Neither ever happened. I was accused of not being "maternal" before. That SUPER pissed me off and quite honestly hurt my feelings. The truth is that every kid is not going to want to lay in my bosom and lick my tears when I weep about not having a Dr. Pepper in the house. (That made me laugh)
That doesn't make me a bad person. I wanted to have fun but I felt like I wanted to be a stable and consistent parent in her life. So if we didn't walk in the room holding hands wearing matching outfits people assumed that something was wrong. Again, I had to decide to not care about what other people thought. I knew that I was a positive influence in her life. I knew that I was there to support my husband in parenting. But I also know that I have nor will I ever be one for B.S. I am not one for foolishness, tomfoolery, antics and chaos. When we (hubby and I) decided that we weren't going to fall victim to judgement and unrealistic expectations, the easier we were both able to sleep at night.
It's kind of hard to write this post without including specific examples but I didn't want this to be a "let me tell you what happened kind of post." There are indeed some not so pretty bits/factors I am leaving out purposely to avoid ranting/over-sharing (Because, trust me I can) but my feelings are still the same.
Please believe that I have stories for days. Do/did we make mistakes. Of course! There is not a parent alive who would not admit to the same! I remember having a discussion years ago with my mom where she shared that she made some mistakes as a parent. So, I know that it's just part of the territory.
Step parenting is a whole different beast and it is different for everyone. It took years for me to accept that. I thought it looked a certain way. You know, with the Christmas card including all step parents/step kids and dogs. But that's not always the case but that doesn't mean that it has to be a bad experience. I believe wholeheartedly that my stepdaughter will appreciate me the older she gets.
Until then...I rock on...
What's your experience as a step-parent or even as a step-child?