stepmotherhood for beginners
If only blended families came with some kind of handy manual that is presented to you in a red-carpet ceremony the day you become a stepmother. Actually I’m not sure really how useful it would be because every family dynamic is different and what works for one family might be the kiss of death for another. But, one thing is common to all new blended families and that is that it is just so much harder than your run-of-the-mill biological family. Roles aren’t clearly defined, things are less spontaneous and it just takes way more work to form a connection with these new little people in your life.
I sure as heck could have used some advice as I began my life as a stepmother. So, here we are fresh off the boat from Tassie back in WA and ready to start sharing custody. At first we just had the kids with us every second weekend – we would pick them up from school on the Friday and then take them back to school and their Mum on Monday. Then during the school holidays they stayed with us every second week (Friday to Friday) and even though this was a big adjustment for them, it seemed to work really well so we’ve just kept on doing it.
Its safe to say that in the beginning I pretty much felt like the invisible slave whose presence was only just barely tolerated by everyone. It was so hard. In what felt like the blink of an eye I had gone from only just managing to keep house for the two of us (thanks cancer) to suddenly spending every waking moment doing laundry, picking stuff up and putting it away, wiping sticky fingerprints off the benches like a madwoman, slaving over the stove to cook meals that turned out to definitely not be what they wanted to eat and forever sweeping up the food that somehow managed to fall out of their mouths every single time they eat – and for not even a word of thanks.
I even felt like my brand new husband had forgotten my very existence – as soon as the kids were in the room it was like I just kind of faded into the background. I recognised that he was wildly overcompensating in an effort to make up for not being there for them for a couple of years, so in my head I completely understood – but in my heart I have to admit that it hurt my feelings a bit and that old devil, resentment started to rear it’s ugly head. Which is when I knew that I had to do something about it – and fast. Because the very last thing I wanted was to mess things up with the kids in the beginning – whether they liked it or not, we were all one family now and as the alleged grown ups in this scenario it was up to me and their dad to make sure that they felt safe and secure in this new family they’d been thrust into. There was no way that I could let how I felt colour the way that I treated them.
And here, dear reader, I learnt my first lesson. The number one rule in surviving as a stepmother is to have honest, open communication with your partner. This sounds like a no-brainer, but its way harder than you think, even if up until now you’ve shared everything with your main squeeze it suddenly becomes so much harder to talk honestly about how you feel about his kids. Because you don’t love them yet. And you’re worried that every word that comes out of your mouth sounds like jealous complaining and how can you possibly compete with his own flesh and blood who can apparently do no wrong. And there was my second forehead-slapping moment. It’s just not a competition. So, I put on my big girl panties and told him exactly how I felt. Of course, being a man he had absolutely no idea. But from that moment we began to work as an actual team.
There was one more person we needed on our parenting team to make it a super tight unit. But more on that later.