I realized recently what is so difficult about becoming a stepmom for me. It is the feel of being powerless. I have basically given up control of mothering. And the people who controls it is my husband, the father of my stepson and his ex-wife, the mother.
As a stepmom, I help raise my stepson. I clothe him, feed him, study with him, read with him, send him to summer camp, play at the part with him, do his laundry, clean his room (yikes), provide a safe and loving enviornment. I also provide a comforting shoulder when he is sad, bear the brunt of his anger when he is frustrated, help when he is confused, stand in the middle of a tornado when he is excited.
Along with the standard parenting, I also hold his hand when he is pleading to his mother or grandmother. I convince him that his mother loves and misses him dearly when she doesn’t call. I smile and reasure him that his mother is wonderful when he goes on and on about how she does so many thing better than me. I deal with the confusion of emotion for at least a week before and a couple weeks after he has visited his mom. I listen to the anger when he explains to me that his mother didn’t call him back. And I help him work through his frustration when she just won’t ship back things he has left at her house.
The enormity of what I have taken on will probably haunt me forever. And at the same time I love my stepson as if he were my own. When and if my husband and I do have children together, I will make sure he knows he is and always will be part of our family. Even go so far as to make sure he understands he was here first.
It is hard for me as a woman to watch my stepson go through the fluster of emotions when he realizes that his mother is getting married and his happiness turns to confusion when she has less affection for him. I watch as his amazement that he is an older brother turn to disgust as his mother shows less patience and gives less attention. I listen as he argues with his grandmother that she can come pick him up on her day off and why won’t she.
My heart bleeds for this boy. This boy who kind of fell in my lap after I fell in love with a man.
This boy is stuck between a mother who just recently got married and had a baby boy and his father who recently got married to a woman as well. His life is turned upside down, as mine has been. His mother has less time for him every year. His father is just plain busy. And there we are, him and me, kind of in the sidelines watching and waiting to see what will happen with the two parent figures. And yet, I am even more in the background. He is at least a middle ground between the two. I am not.
That is what I am as a stepmother, a visitor. A person on the sidelines watching, cheering, playing water mom, sponsoring, and doing all else, except coaching the team or playing in the game. And at the end of the game, win or lose I am left in the stands waving to the team as they congratulate the coach on a game well played. I don’t get the victory carry off the field. I don’t get the congratulatory pats on the back. I don’t even really get to participate in the after celebration. I go home in my own car, riding high on the victory of my team winning or struggling with the saddens of a loss. Either way, I never really got to get in the game. I didn’t get to experience the first hand comrodare. And I never will. I will have a sensation or even if I am lucky have a moment or two in the limelight, but that is all.
This is a hard reality for me. I am very much a team player. I never wanted to be a cheerleader. I was always the player or if not, the coach. And to be doing everything, but having a say in the matter is very frustrating and disheartening for me. I like being a part of the blood and guts of life. I am very hands on. Which is why it can be so shocking when I realize what I have chosen.
I try to talk to my husband, but I come across angry and demanding. Or I cry and scare him away. Either way, communicating the way I feel is very, very hard for me. And even harder for my husband to understand. On a rare occasion, my stepson gets it. Hears my voice, sees my pain and hugs me. I am learning to take it and be thankful someone notices, but it is very hard to quiet my heart when it is longing for my husband to rescue me and comfort me himself.
But a girl can always dream. Maybe one day, my husband will look at me and say, You are a great mom. I know it is hard, but you are doing so well! I love the way you handled that situation. It must be tough living in a house with two guys.
Until then (if then), I will continue to pat myself on the back and tell myself I am doing a good job. I am doing the best job I know I can.
I was inspired to write this after reading the newsletter from Jacquelyn Fletcher, Becoming a Stepmom February 2008. I have also taken her advice and forwarded it to my husband. I felt her take on what a biological parent can do to ease some of the stepparent’s stress was right on. thanks Jackie!