Being Stepmom - the good, the bad and the ugly
In the last two years since I launched my blog, I’ve probably sat down to write this piece a dozen times, but for whatever reason it hasn’t flowed. But now, it feels like the right time to put my stepmom journey down on paper – it all it’s colourful glory.
Did you know it can take up to seven years for a step-family to really settle in and become a unit, with it taking most at least four years? I didn’t. And if you’d told me that seven years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you, I genuinely thought becoming a stepmom was going to be the easiest thing in the world. Boy, was I wrong!
So, I like to end my blog posts on a positive note, which means, I’m going to start with the worst – the ugly.
In the last seven years, I have cried so many tears, spent I don’t know how many nights awake, wondering if I was cut out for being stepmom, because I could never seem to do anything right. Jonny’s son was 10 when we got together, and suddenly I had a fully formed little person with their own likes, dislikes, and opinions to take care of. And I wasn’t mom. And I wasn’t even A mom, so it’s not like I could draw on my own experience, I just had to somehow know what to do.
Initially, we only ever had him at weekends, Friday afternoon to Monday morning. We tried (especially me) to jam pack every weekend with fun things, days out, film nights, the lot. To start with, I think having me there was a novelty, and doing all these things was great fun, but very quickly things started to unravel.
There was a shift in the way he was with me, doing sneaky things to me when his dad wasn’t there to see, and acting very innocent when he was. There were horrific temper tantrums, most of which were aimed at me, but to my relief sometimes aimed at others, which helped comfort me a little during those sleepless nights. Outbursts became part of everyday life, and it did get to a point where I would dread 5pm on a Friday, knowing the weekend was coming. You might ask me then, why I was ok with him moving in with us full time? Well, honestly, we thought it would help matters. At 10 and 11, kids don’t know how to communicate their emotions, but all we could think is that maybe all this behaviour stemmed from being around his dad for most of the week (Jonny and his ex used to have half a week each before we moved), to suddenly only having weekends with him.
Again, it started off better, maybe the novelty of a new house, new room, new school, new friends, who knows? But it didn’t last. Let me tell you, when things went bad again, it was soul destroying. You think you’ve finally cracked it, that you can all be happy, and it all comes crashing down around you. For about a year, it got really ugly at times, and I look back ashamed at all of us in some of those moments, but we were all just trying to survive in the best way we could. After some of the lowest of lows, things plateaued and although there have been ups and downs in the last four years, we’ve never been back to where we were, and I am so grateful for that.
Onto the bad. Being stepmom straight away meant we never really had time to be a couple. Like it or not, the relationship was never a priority, especially with the troubles we went through early on. Rifts and arguments happened on the daily. I was raised very differently to Jonny, and naturally that influenced my “parenting” style, we had very different priorities, and it led to many crossed wires and disagreements. When you share a child, you’re forced to come to some kind of compromise, but in this situation, it’s very different.
After seven years together, Jonny and I are still to go on holiday just the two of us, date nights are rare, and our needs are still very low on our priority list, but we’re getting there.
The self-doubt and the feeling of never being a good enough stepmom has only just eased after seven years. It can be such an isolating role, I felt like no one could understand what I was going through. I judged myself so harshly, that when I felt judged by others, it crushed me. I tried to adapt, change, camouflage myself into the person I thought I needed to be, and it never seemed to work. In reality, I just needed to stick to being me, and ride the waves until they settled. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
So, is there really any good, I hear you ask? Absolutely. Now 17, my stepson is growing into such a wonderful young man. Yes, he still has his moments, but he has become so caring and considerate, generous and giving, and I’m really proud of the part I’ve played in his life.
Even during the worst times, there were still moments my heart could have burst with love and pride. School plays, parents’ evenings, rugby matches, birthdays, first jobs, you name it, I’ve been there. He may not be biological mine, but I love him like he is, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.
Being a stepmom is the hardest, most challenging job, but I’m so glad I stuck it out, because its also one of the most rewarding – as cliché as that sounds, it really is true. And yes, despite the ugliness, I would do it all over again if I had to.