“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.”
King Whitney Jr.
I think I’ve felt all of these responses in a circular pattern throughout the many changes in my life recently. Becoming a stepmom can be scary, it can be exciting and it can fill you with purpose and hope. I’ve experienced a few different transitions recently that I thought I’d share. I’m not sure if they’re common milestones along the path, or unique to me and my situation. Regardless, I’m sure there’s plenty to learn or ponder in it all.
It’s not about me anymore.
A few months ago, something in me switched. For months I had been struggling with leading two lives - life with the kids around, and life to myself where I am the center of it all. I tried to keep boundaries and impose limits on my time and, honestly, ML’s time. I would get quite upset with every last minute change of plans because BM decided she needed ML to watch the kids an extra day, or that very night or whatever it may be. I would carefully protect the time I had with ML because it was MY time. I felt like there were things we couldn’t do when the kids were with us, like visit my family or go out for dinner. I needed “us” time and thought a strict division of time was the answer.
While I think it was healthy for me to ease into my new role and keep parts of my life separate for a while, I don’t think it was the best thing for me to try and limit times that the kids were with us or with ML. At the time, I didn’t realize how that may hurt the kids, but instead thought of it as some mathematical formula with clear divisions of time and space - her time with the kids and his time with the kids.
Well, like I said, something switched. I can’t attribute it to a specific experience or event. It just kind of happened. Suddenly I realized, they’re not ML’s kids only some of the time, they are his kids ALL OF THE TIME. And if I am going to be in his life, that means they are part of my life ALL OF THE TIME. And they come first. Period. So, if there is a last minute change of plans that might do away with a date night, but give ML more time with his kids, then that is perfectly okay. I realized I needed to be flexible and accept what may come up as though they were my own kids. I needed to put them first and embrace that my life is no longer just about me.
Along with time, I had also previously seen them staying with us on the weekends as though they were coming into my space and making a mess with my things and eating all my food and demanding all my attention. I would get upset about how much I had to clean up after them, or cook for them or whatever. But then I started to realize and tell myself, no the reality is actually something closer to: I am so lucky that every week I get a few days off to myself, where I don’t have to clean up after 4 monkeys or cook a ton of food or… Woohoo!
I shared all of this with ML over dinner one evening and he was honestly quite relieved to hear it. He cares very much about my feelings and tries very hard to juggle all the pieces without hurting anyone. But, I know it weighed on him to turn down extra time with the kids from time to time. I think also he was relieved to see me let go of some of the stress and frustrations I had been holding onto.
Since that switch in my mind (and my heart), things have been so much smoother when it comes to last minute scheduling with the kids or unexpected events. I am not stressed out by it for the most part, and we are able to spend more time with them. And, we are getting better about making the most of our time together when the kids are here too - making sure we connect throughout the day, play together with the kids, and that sort of thing. I am so thankful I had this realization and change of heart. It has worked wonders for my sanity.
No, for real, it’s seriously not really about me anymore.
Ha! Yeah, I thought I’d finally started to get it. And then, a couple of weeks ago, we officially got engaged! Yay! I am so excited! ML is an amazing man, partner and friend. I can’t imagine my life without him. And, I’m even in love with the little monkeys, as wild and dirty as they may be. :)
So, we’re basically already married. We live together, co-parent the kids when we’re together, and more or less have a functioning, happy step-home. So, putting a ring on it wouldn’t really change much, right? Well, mostly right.
When ML shared the news with the kids, at first they were a bit apprehensive. They all like me, but had concerns that things would change - that I would become bossy (haha, because I’m not already!?), that we would have a baby, that their mom would be mad… But we assured them nothing will really change, except for I will technically be their stepmom now. And after a while they became excited. Actually, very excited. Their behavior was unexpected as they all began to shower me with hugs and cuddles and talk of becoming their stepmom. They wanted to come up with a nickname for me and thought I should do the same for them. They wanted to help plan the party. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but it was great to see how comfortable they felt about it. I think, for the older two in particular, knowing that I will now officially be part of the family puts them at ease a bit and makes them feel like they can be themselves and like me regardless of what their mom thinks.
Breaking the news to their mom was a bit traumatic as she did lose her marbles. Thankfully, we had the kids with us for several days and it helped keep them from hearing a lot (though not all) of the crazy rage. It was quite an emotional roller coaster of a week for me.
And then, I started to think about what I had gotten myself into. Ha! How many times have you thought about that?? :)
And maybe you’ve been here, maybe you haven’t, but I really started to feel the weight of becoming a stepMOM to these four kids. Nothing is really changing, but oh my is it changing. I will become even more officially responsible in one fashion or another for these little lives as they grow and learn and become adults. Their school may notate my information for reference.. or the doctor.. or not. The kids themselves will certainly look to me as more of a mother figure at times. The choices I make in my life will affect them more than ever before - where we live, how we make a living, what we do together, what we teach them (or don’t)… I will be responsible for part of their character and experience. They will be a part of my life and MY LEGACY forever.
These are things I had sort of thought about before, but never really gotten. And I think I’m still only starting to truly understand.
Honestly, it’s quite weighty. It makes me nervous and a bit scared - how will I make good decisions, will I treat them right, will I teach them the important things, will they love me some day? It also makes me a bit excited and hopeful - we will build relationships, we will share experiences, they will remember me and what I did/shared/taught them, I can teach them about the things I care about. Wow. What an amazing, unique, unpredictable journey ahead of me. My legs are a little shaky.
Hello? Anyone? Are you listening!?
My life has changed so much in the last year. And it doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. It can be overwhelming at times, and every new experience leaves me feeling less and less able to connect with my “old” friends. I feel more and more alone sometimes when I’m dealing with or thinking about everything.
I’ve tried talking to even my closest friends about what I’m going through, or even just day to day things, but sometimes it’s just more frustrating because they just don’t get it. A lot of the time I have to try and explain things that are much too complicated to explain and I end up leaving the conversation worse off than when I entered it.
Blogging helps some, but I hardly have time for it. Reading different blogs and books and Stepmom Magazine helps too, but it’s not the same as sitting down with someone and getting to let out a good, “I KNOW!”
And so, I’ve decided it’s time to get over the fears and reach out to my local stepmom support group. To this point I have been nervous about what it would be like and if I may encounter more negativity than I desire. But, fact is, I need to meet people who get it!
Thanks to you all for enduring the length of this post. :) And for following my journey and for your messages. Hopefully you can take some encouragement away from knowing YOU ARE NOT ALONE.