Sunday, February 20, 2011

On being a stepmother

Stepmother, I are one.

Here is a post about that, in which I give a potted history and post cute pics, but also talk about some of the good and bad in my step-ish journey thus far.

Did I set out in life to have a failed marriage at the tender age of 30, and then to hook up with a recently separated fellow who had him a couple of kidlets?  Nope.  Who does!?  But, despite my lack of intention, I nevertheless found myself, 8 years ago, becoming a stepmother to two kids in shared care (half and half, week about) between their father and mother.  Smash was 8 and Snail was 4.
OMG the cute!!  Snail at 4.
More photos of cute, Smash at the start of Grade 4.  He is 15 now!
This photo is from so long ago that Snail didn't have her wheelchair yet, she was still in a special stroller!

Smash and Snail with me at the BMX park, 2004

Sleepy morning our first Christmas together, 2004.
DinnerDad and I got hitched in 2006, and one of the main reasons we both decided to get formally married was the kids.  It meant a lot to both of us that they know we were committed to each other as a family, and while we both firmly believe that is the case whether or not you have a bit of paper that says so, it seems to mean something to society, so we went along with it.  Whatever you think about marriage, it's an ace experience to have a day celebrating your commitment to each other, and to a family.
Our wedding, 2006
 I made vows to the children, to always respect them and love them, and I gave the kids a special necklace each as part of the ceremony.

For our "honeymoon" we took the kids to Sydney and went to the zoo.  This is the best "honeymoon" shot evah!, Snail and I asleep at the hotel.

 I had Lolly in March 2008.

Big brother, March 2008

Snail and Lolly eye each other off at bath time, March 2008
Stepparenting has by turns been the most awesome and the hardest shit I've done in my life.   It is second only to having my "own" child.  So, here are some hard things:

- you are there for an awful lot of firsts, lasts, and emergencies, but aren't high on anyone's list to congratulate, feel for, or generally admire as awesome.

- sometimes, people can be unkind.

- you're in-between all the time, it is a liminal state, both being a "step" and not a "real", and only having the kids half or most of the time.  We are always waiting, for the kids to arrive, to leave, to be told things, to get informed, to get on with it.  And I will forever be waiting to transition from "just" being their stepmother.

- you don't get as much say, or, as we call it round our place, "hand".  The real parents have the hand.  You have maybe a couple of fingers.  Maybe.  This isn't a power struggle thing, or a "real" parents are arseholes thing.  It is what it is.  The longer I'm with the family, the less this is an issue (my theory is that I am gradually growing more hand), but it hurt a few times in the early years.  And your hand will never be as definitive as the real parent's hand.  Or recognised at all, legally speaking.

- no one, and no institution, will EVER ask you to something, have a "day" for you, send you shit in the mail, inform you of things, or, on occasion, be entirely sure you are allowed to pick up the kids from school.  When your stepdaughter's teachers are just wonderful, they will get her to make you a mother's day card, which makes you cry.  Just saying...

- you will probably never be totally and completely comfortable calling your stepchildren "my kids" or "my daughter" or "my son."  No matter how okay they may be with that, or who you are talking to, you may always feel a twinge of dishonesty about it.  This also applies to Facebook.

- but "stepchildren" is insufficient. For example, I had a stepmother for a time, when my biological father married a third time, who I scarcely even knew!  She could call me her "stepdaughter."  Snail, as my "stepdaughter" is several degrees of magnitude my "daughter" than I even was to this woman.  Same name.  I know, this is the case with just regular old "mother" and "father" too, but that added step...some days it chaps my hide.

- you always and forever have to live with your partner's history.  And their ex. This is especially the case when your stepdaughter is high needs disabled and will never be independent.  Just think on that for a moment.  That is a shitload of time to be handling your partner's ex.  Their life "before".  In our case, it affects where we live (schools), what work we can take (no interstate or overseas - custody issues), our travel (see above), our money (don't ask), our time, our plans.  Everything.  Forever.  This is not a dig at ex's.  Your partner's ex can be the most awesome person in the world, it would still suck the big one.  

Here are some awesome things about the stepping:
- you get kids.  For free!

- you generally miss a whole lotta hard years, though of course this isn't the case for some.  But generally, you get to miss the sleep deprived newborn and interesting toddler phases.  Which of course does make me sad sometimes, but also...once has frankly been quite enough, thank you!

- you get kids!!  You get a part in a whole person's life, being there for them, being a part of who they become.  Anytime you get an opportunity to do that for a person, it's a privilege.

- you get love.  Sometimes it's teenaged monosyllabic love, but sometimes it's squeal with delight on seeing you love (thanks Snail). 

- you get a family.  There are no real words for that kind of awesome. 

- your kids get a family, Lolly and her relationship with the kids has been a joy to me, and to her.  It's very, very special.

I have, as you can tell, a lot to say about this stuff.  I know my "hard" list is longer than my "awesome" list.  But the awesome stuff is just qualitatively more excellent, and outweighs the negatives.  It's your family. Full stop.  If not for my step-kids, our last Christmas would not have looked like this, and that would suck:


Emma Someone said...

A lOvely post! Family is hard anyway as everyone comes with some history but kids are a forever reminder.

Anonymous said...

Love trumps tags like parent, step-mother, step-sister, half-brother. It's the love we crave, that we remember, that we grow together everday.
Thank fuck I found you!!!