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I can’t wait to be a stepmom, said no one.

I’m a stepmom and it’s really fucking hard. It sucks, to be honest.

I say that the same way I’d say something like:

Running that marathon was really fucking hard. It sucked, to be honest.

Which is to say that I guess there’s a reward involved despite all the punishment? I don’t know. I’ve never run a marathon and I’ve only been a stepmom for two years.

I was a stepkid but it never occurred to me that I may some day become a stepmom (because see above. It never occurs to anyone). And when I did become a stepmom, I realized that no amount of blended family experience could have prepared me for what this is like. It’s given me an incredible appreciation for my stepfather (hello, hi, I don’t know how you put up with me and my dad) because it’s just about the most thankless role in the familial cast of characters. You get double the abuse and a fraction of the appreciation. You get shut out most of the time and then are expected to pull full parental weight. Whatever is convenient. You’re damned either way – you’re either too involved (who do you think you are, the kid’s actual mom?) or not involved enough (you didn’t attend his ______? what kind of parent are you?). And on.

And then there’s the mom, who even in the best of circumstances will still say things that make you wonder whether this is real life. And you keep quiet and you keep going. And you protect the poor stepkid who has it worse.

 

Art credit: Aya Kakeda

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6 thoughts on “things no one says

  1. I, like a few others, just found your blog from apracticalwedding and promptly read every post. I’m almost embarrassed to say how comforting it feels to read little words on a screen that I could have written! I have a seven year old soon-to-be-actual stepson, as his dad and I are getting married (after 3 years) in November. And we have been having a hard time, of late, which feels excruciating and impossible to talk about honestly. Your blog has felt like a sliver of light. Thank you.

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    • Thank you for reading and commenting – reading your words has had the same effect on me. It’s so hard to talk about this with someone who isn’t in the same position, and it feels like so few people are. Just hearing that someone else out there is having similar feelings helps so much. I’d love to hear more about your experience if you feel like talking about it.

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    • hey Rachel, I’m with you too – we’ve lived together for 3 years – except he has 3 kids. We too have gone through Hard Times and so much about it is still effing hard. I have written and deleted this so many times… I’ll just repeat: it’s hard. You’re not alone in that.

      Anyway, I’ll mention something that helps for me to try and make a good environment for disagreeing about something related to kids is to keep the good comments coming about kids. John Gottman in his great book 7 Principles for a Successful Marriage says you need a ratio of 5 good interactions to every 1 negative interaction, so I try and make sure I mention all the good things the kids did, the positive feelings I had about them, however slight, the way I was charmed by something they said or felt bad for them when they were sad. That steady flow of “she cares about my kids” messages I think helps when I want to say bring up challenges I’m having with how something is being done.

      But it’s hard. I feel resentment for the kids sometimes. I hate the ex with a passion of a thousand fiery suns. Written and deleted again… let’s just summarize by saying, my hate is part justified, and part jealousy. It’s super hard to come in to how someone has been parenting for years and some of it is not at all how you’d do it, and try and come together on that.

      Oh the other thing that helps? Wine. Every night the kids are here, at least one glass. Two if they’re tired. We all like each other better when I’ve had the magical relaxing elixir that is wine!

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  2. it has been so good to read your responses! i so appreciate the validation!

    up until a few months ago, i would have gasped at posts like these, or anything that would suggest a step-relationship is challenging or unrewarding or sometimes just horrible. my stepson was an absolute delight for the first 2.5 years i knew him! our personalities are so similar (probably part of the problem), and he seemed to feel that I was around to be his new friend. even when i moved in, and became much more comfortable in my role as “parent” and participated freely in discipline and limit-setting, he didn’t seem to lose any of the joy he found in our relationship!

    a month or two ago, the slight rudeness and disrespect exploded. i’m not sure what the changing factor was, but our relationship is no longer easy and light. i feel like we tip-toe around each other, and every interaction is sure to turn negative at some point. he’s argumentative to the point of not being able to talk without starting a fight, and i’ve lost all the confidence i once had in our relationship.

    my partner, of course, like many divorced dads, struggles with discipline. he hates conflict and fears rejection from his son .. and exwife … and coworkers … and anyone he may conflict with. which, naturally, makes everything harder. we started couples counseling when we got engaged (because i’m a social worker and love all sorts of therapy), and that has been helpful in exploring some of our ideas about parenting and discipline.

    but underneath everything, i’m afraid this is how it will be forever. and i feel so lonely in my feelings, and am usually 80% sure i’m going completely crazy. because my feelings get so hurt! by a 7 year old! and i’m also resentful and sad when my stepson is affectionate or kind with his dad … which makes me feel kind of evil. i read a passage from the stepmonster book that resonated so much with my experience. it said something about how difficult stepparenting can be, because the same child that is loving and nourishing to your partner is dismissive and ignoring you. which feels like the exact problem, sometimes.

    phew. thank you for hearing my little rant. lillian, i agree with your last piece of advice! i think wine helps more than anything else i’ve tried. : )

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    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I think it helps everyone involved when these feelings are recognized and normalized. That feelings are feelings, feelings are normal, and a mature and thoughtful person can compartmentalize enough to recognize this, work through it, and not let it affect his/her relationship with a stepchild.

      Interesting insight about divorced dads. It is very hard for them, it’s true. They are in such a difficult position, too.

      I wonder what happened a couple of months ago. I can imagine that being very troubling and confusing for you. Have you discussed it in therapy? Does your partner have any theories? No need to answer these questions here if they’re too personal or you don’t feel like it.

      I won’t go too far into my story here, but we had an almost identical shift at the same time (by age and by time into the relationship – it’s really uncanny), but the shift occurred, like a turn on a dime, the *day* we told him that I was pregnant and he would have a younger sibling. So I always attributed it to that, which made it easier for us to understand and handle.

      I don’t have a whole lot of long-term insight here because I’ve only been at this for a couple of years, but I strongly believe that this is not forever and you are not crazy. I’m about 99% certain of that.

      It will change. Continue to be a positive presence, try not to take it personally, and hold on. I realize this is easier said than done, but I think it’s all we can do. It will change.

      And I’m on board with Lillian’s suggestion to self-medicate, too. ;) It helps so, so much.

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