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I started writing this post over a month ago when my stepsons left after being with us all summer. I struggled with whether or not to post something so personal, and emotional, but I decided that there are probably a lot of other step moms out there who are in the same shoes.
I hope this gives you some insight, and if you are in a blended family situation, helps you show a little grace to the step parents.
I have been a step-mom for almost 3 years. My step-sons are now 6 years old (yep, twins). I went from having an only child, who was coincidentally a girly girl diva, to having 3 kids and a non-stop flurry of activity, sticky hands, and scraped knees.
My step-sons live over 14 hours away, so that means we have them for almost the entire summer, and a week over every other holiday. I don’t know if it would suck more to have them every other weekend, for a short burst, but regularly, or to have them for an entire summer, establish a normal family life, and then have to send them home and resume life without them.
The first summer that my husband and I were married was a trial in patience. The boys were acclimating to this new family they had been thrust into, and I was acclimating to having two toddlers in the house. Due to my husband’s work schedule, I was their primary caretaker, and they tested me at every turn. The boys weren’t even two years old when my husband’s first marriage dissolved, so he had very little experience with parenting.
I received phone calls all day long from the babysitter about incident after incident. The final straw was when one of them peed on the carpet because he was mad that he was put in a time out.
I was ready to send them home and admit defeat. Obviously this wasn’t working.
But then there were the mornings they woke me up with kisses. The I love you mom’s. “I’m having so much fun here!”
The ups and downs are constant.
As the years have passed the boys pretty seamlessly fall into the routine of being here. I am honestly amazed at how easily they adapt to being in a completely different home, with a completely different way of doing things.
Every summer we enjoy each other’s company more. And every summer it is harder to send them home. I struggle with putting their happiness and well-being before my selfish need for acceptance. It feels like a blow when they are excited to go back to their mom’s house, even though I KNOW that they love being here. I struggle with being positive when they talk about their mom. Its not a contest, but sometimes it sure feels like one.
There is no co-parenting. When they are at their mother’s house my husband gets to call them twice a week for a few minutes. We don’t see school pictures, we don’t get updates on how they are doing. Its utterly heartbreaking.
In a lot of situations step-mothers are treated as second-class citizens. I am responsible for most of the children’s care, I spent the most time with them, if someone is hurt it is me they ask for. But I am not their parent as far as the world is concerned, I have no rights to them. If my husband dropped dead I would likely never see them again.
I love them like my own child. And, they love me, but they already have a mom. No matter how much of a mom I am to them, that’s not a void in their life that they need filled.
My own husband complicates the situation further. I am their primary caretaker, I make sure they are fed, taken care of, and entertained. He comes home and plays with them for an hour at night. I bandage the owies, I get up in the middle of the night to take them potty, I rearrange my entire schedule to accommodate them. But he is their parent. They love him no matter what he does. I had to earn that love.
I would not love those boys more fiercely had I birthed them myself. But it’s hard. I have to guard my heart against the hurt and emptiness when they go home. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t allow myself to get so close because they will just be gone again in a matter of weeks.
The step parent plays one of the most important roles in this whole blended family saga. They bridge the gap in a very emotional, potentially traumatic situation.
Being a step parent is incredibly rewarding. This boys don’t love me because they have to, they just do. But it’s equal parts rewarding and heartbreaking. Hats off to the other step parents out there who walk this tight rope with me.