I’ve written before that, ever since my marriage to a man with two kids, some people think of me as a fellow mom who of course receives all the blessings and authority and privileges that come with being a parent. These people mean well, but it is patronizing at best when they breezily say, “Welcome to motherhood!” in response to my exhaustion after spending hours helping Nina with homework. Um, no, if I was her mother she would not blow off school 40% of the time and would have been treated for ADD years ago. This is the town of step-motherhood I have driven into (motto: Responsibility Without Authority!) and the rules are different and when you look at us steps with concern for our lack of common sense and say, “If you can’t control a situation, just don’t let it affect you,” that sound you hear is all the other stepmoms you know over in a corner elbowing each other and laughing so hard that one of them fell out of a chair.
We know what moms sacrifice and endure, but the longer I’m a stepmom the more I realize many folks don’t know what we deal with. And that’s okay, because, as we’ve all been told so many times that we want to stuff bobby pins up your nose, we “knew what we were getting into.” (More laughter from the peanut gallery.) So here’s just a moment for all the women out there digging with me in the stepmom trenches.
…..always have ready five tactful responses to “Your kids look so much like you.”
…..view Mother’s Day as a great opportunity to get some yard work done.
…..check the custody calendar as part of every decision.
…..play board games, watch TV, and cook dinner when they’d rather do something else.
…..attend back to school nights, band concerts, awards ceremonies, soccer games, choir concerts, art shows, track meets, and school plays.
…..stand to the side during the pictures afterwards.
…..pick up extra copies of handouts at back to school night for the parent who doesn’t show.
…..get texts at 3 am during trips to Indonesia asking where the markers are.
…..memorize scripture, sometimes even beyond imprecatory psalms.
…..keep their mouths shut when the kids say stuff about their mom that’s not true.
…..get up and leave the room when they can’t.
…..deal with the consequences and pay much of the costs of the kids’ schedule, education, friends, media consumption, eating habits, clothing choices, medical treatment, and activities.
…..have little say about any of it.
…..understand their spouse and kids were a family before they entered the picture and have a shared history that doesn’t include the stepmom. Choose to enjoy the process of sharing stories and combining histories.
…..don’t ever say, “I love the kids as if they were my own,” because they’re smart enough to know that’s not biologically or psychologically possible.
…..love them a lot.
…..get used to sharing holidays.
…..may be stepmoms but won’t be stepgrandmas. You better believe I’ll be squeezing those babies.
…..learn their stepkid’s love language, and how to speak it.
…..question a society that makes it harder to get a fishing license than to become a parent.
…..quietly support their husband’s good parenting.
…..accept that nature trumps nurture.
…..invest in their spouse, friends, career, education, and interests that will be part of life long after the kids are gone.
…..accept that the kids will probably end up with long-term issues. Realize they didn’t cause it and can’t fix it.
…..accept that it will still affect them for decades to come.
…..are okay with being hated occasionally if it means the damn living room gets vacuumed already.
…..say way less than they think.
…..feel resentment, affection, guilt, anger, joy, anxiety, frustration, contentment, and gratitude. And that’s just on Thursday.
…..tattoo “This too shall pass” on their brains if not their skin.
…..accept that it isn’t fair.
…..leave some blog posts unpublished………..for now.