NOTHING can prepare you for life as a new stepmother. Step-parenting is hard as HAYY-ELLL.
I had all of the responsibility and none of the rights. I could buy clothes and cars, but had no say in what they did, wore, or said. It’s such an overlooked and under-appreciated role. Take six seconds to think about just how important the role is?
Approximately one-third of all weddings in America today form stepfamilies
An estimated 113.6 million Americans have a step relationship
40% of the married couples with children in the US are forming blended families
Second hardest thing to being a stepmom, was having to deal with five baby mommas/biological moms/exes. FIVE. Every stepmom on God’s green earth will tell you that one is plenty. FIVE. Five different personalities. Five different sets of intentions. Five different familial structures i.e. grand parents, aunts, cousins, etc.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in blending is that you don’t force it. Like ice caps that kind of melt away into each other, it progressively comes together. BUT ONLY WHEN SPEARHEADED BY THE COMMON DENOMINATOR!
My husband came from a family where no one was left behind. His family never severs ties with folk. This meant very new concepts and dynamics that I wasn’t used to. For example, ex-spouses and current spouses living under the same roof, all the exes coming to all of the family events...just a cluster of old and new.
I always told my husband, “Nope. None of them baby mommas staying here. I got 5 on a hotel.” I had to nip that in the bud before it could become a thought.
At this point, I’ve been in my stepkids lives for 15 years. I’ve never spent one holiday with any of them. It took ten years to get a mother’s day card. That makes my heart sad. I remember my husband being chastised because his children spent more time with me than with him.
I wanted a big house for my big family. I wanted everyone to have their own space. I wanted and welcomed taking care of them financially. I wouldn’t date a man that wouldn’t. I wanted more than 48 out of 365 days. I wanted a chance to bond over something other than money and buying gifts. I wanted to help!
My help was perceived as interference and annoyance. The lack of appreciation kept me constantly on the fence. Quite like a game of double dutch. One second I’m all the way in, one foot on the ground, I’m about to bounce off my other foot and then, my head hits the rope. Just when I almost have both feet into the step-parenting game, the rug is pulled from under me.
I tell myself...okay...they don’t appreciate me, withdraw. And I completely disengaged. It wasn’t until then that anyone took notice.
I couldn’t do any right even when I spent my entire weekend driving hundreds of miles to pick up kids living in different cities...simply to ensure they spent time with their father. I asked for report cards. I asked for school supply list. I wrote child support checks. I couldn’t do right no matter how hard I tried.
So I stopped trying. I then focused on having my own baby.
I shifted my focus completely. I can’t lie. It finally felt good to have my own. My own to tell when to go to bed. My own to tell them they can’t get a new pair of sneakers. My own. My husband had shared this experience with so many others, I needed to round out the numbers. *shrugs*
I didn’t even want any of his kids at my baby shower. I couldn’t risk drama or any stress. I went through hell to conceive and carrying life was very important to me. We went with two of the six kids in attendance. That was the path of least resistance.
How do you look at your husband and tell him his kids can’t attend the celebration of their sibling?
Straight. Look ‘em straight in the eye. That’s how.
Sometimes you have to make divisive decisions in blended families. One of the major issues I faced was having to make many of those types of decisions. If I had to do the invite list all over again, I would change nothing. I let nothing come before the protection of my child; notwithstanding, my behavior was divisive.
Disengaging was divisive.
If I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t, I’d rather don’t and save my money. So my kindness and generosity turned into anger toward my husband...it turned into, “pick your own damn kids up,” “you buy it,” “I’m leaving when your kids get here,” “no, I ain’t going.”
My world is very black and white. I practice trying to find the gray area daily.
Disengaging is like cutting someone out of my heart. It is the toughest thing for me to do, but sometimes I find it necessary to do to protect myself from getting hurt. The constant rejection from the kids and their families weighed heavily on my spirit.
I really gave it some effort to blend. Shit kept coming out like lumpy mashed potatoes at best. I just wanted them to love me. I really wanted their acceptance. It became too painful wondering day-to-day how much significance I would play in their life. And I would want them to call or text me on Mother’s Day. I told myself it didn’t matter. I told myself I didn’t care if they called or not.
But it did.
I just wanted love and acceptance.
The love and acceptance comes much more naturally and organically when the biological parent leads the efforts. Everything from proper introductions to elevating your spouse to your children.
Step-parenting 101= create your own rules. You will NEVER operate like a nuclear family. Stop trying! Make an executive decision to do what works for your family and your family only. Follow those guidelines and live in the present!
I've had friends lecture me about saying things like 'stepkids' or 'his kids' or other terms they felt created alienation. These friends didn't understand that I allowed my stepkids to direct the labels. I didn't force anything, especially not titles. There have been many occasions while we were in public, people would refer to my stepdaughters as my girls and each time, they would correct the person and say, "No, that's my stepmom." I grew okay with whatever they were comfortable with while shutting out the noise of what others thought I should be doing.
People can be spiteful, especially bitter baby mommas. Thank God all of them aren’t like that. I was lucky. A few of them actually became more like my family. We hug when we see each other. We talk more about the kid than they talk to my husband. I know everyone on the maternal side of the family and they love me too. I was lucky enough where two of the five were really welcoming and accepting of me. I love them. And now, maybe that was the lesson. Maybe my husband's family had it right all along. Maybe we shouldn’t leave anyone behind.
Maybe, just maybe, we’re meant to hold space for people and allow the dynamics of our relationship to change. Great friendships sometimes grow out of intimate relationships.
So while it feels good to arrive at that epiphany, I’m still probably going to put them up in a hotel.
One of Six children attended our wedding.
Two of Six have met my entire family (my father, aunts, cousins, grandmother, etc).
I’ve seen one of six off to prom. I’ve attended zero of six graduations.
I disengaged to avoid being rejected and ended up getting exactly what I was trying to avoid. Rejection.
I had many friends who grew up in a blended family or were currently participating in one. But they couldn’t relate. My dynamics were extreme: 5 baby mommas, 6 kids, and I had zero kids. There were so many different variables. There wasn’t a book that suited my needs. And I had no outlet. I hadn’t even really admitted to my family and friends how many kids my husband had. I was embarrassed. I wondered what people would think of a woman with no kids marrying a man with all this baggage (as some would refer to it)...who just happens to be eleven years older. Had I told my friends and family all of the truth, they would’ve judged me. And him.
Perhaps that’s another dynamic. You can’t blend with a family you claim to love, but yet you’re ashamed of.
Blending takes much consistency and commitment for even when it’s good, it’s complicated.