One of the most precarious “jobs” I have ever undertaken was being a step mom. Now, before I get the “I love my step children like my own and you should too!” Mom Club screaming profanities at me about what a terrible human being I am, understand that I am only human and clearly not the super human you people are. I should also preface by saying that my step son isn’t a bad kid and I know this, but it was clear to me in the beginning of my relationship with his father that he didn’t receive much, um, parental guidance. I like to think I have actually influenced him positively, in that he uses manners, understands boundaries, doesn’t interrupt adults to carry on his own story, and calls his dad “papa” instead of “dude.”
I should also say that yes, I am a terrible human being.
One thing you may notice in society that is totally shitty for step moms is how when a man marries a woman with a child, or children, and he starts treating the child like his own, he is revered. Often times even the birth dad is glad the new dude is taking such an active role in the kid’s life and not being a total ass hat. Now let’s apply this to a woman who marries a man with a child and starts treating the kid like her own. Suddenly she is stepping on birth mom’s toes and getting too involved in the child’s life and needs to step back and stop trying to replace mom, oh and she will never be as good a wife as the first.
Friends, I’ve been on both sides of this. I was the crazy ex-wife with my first child. Her dad starting dating this chick who decided that yes, she would be there at drop off for my child’s first day of kindergarten (holding her hand the whole way to the door, breaking my heart into a million pieces) and my ex-husband let me know that she would also be attending parent teacher conferences (until I had it court ordered that no, she wouldn’t). Suffice it to say, my ex was and still kind of is, an ass. Luckily at 35, I think that I have found the maturity and grace to deal with it.
But at 24 and 25, nope, not at all. I was either crying over how unfairly I was being treated or calling him and screaming to him about his bitch little girlfriend and how she needed to back up or I was going to knock her out. He thought I was jealous (as a lot of ex-wives are) but I assure you, there is an ick factor associated with my ex and I was glad he had moved on. I was pissed he kept insisting I needed to leave the picture.
Not my best days, I get it. But maybe you can understand why.
And I did level with the girl after a few years and we came together and hugged it out and had a respectful relationship for the net few years. Then she did what any self-respecting girl would do; made my ex her ex, too.
Well, it took until I was about 32 to fall in love with a man with a child. And ladies, if you’re in your thirties and dating, and want to settle down, expect to find yourself square in the shoes of the dreaded position of being the Wicked Step Mom.
One word of caution: Do NOT resort to permissiveness in order to garner love from these children who aren’t yours. I refuse, and I don’t claim that I am perfect or have handled every situation perfectly, but I am glad for those moments when I stood up to my step son (and his mother, though I wish some of those encounters were more, uh, graceful) because it showed him (and her) early on that I wasn’t getting stepped on. (Get it? Stepped on, step mom?!) Luckily, my step son is actually a really good kid and just wants to please. He’s very sweet and silly and just pushes boundaries like most kids do (except my oldest, she was a perfect angel, so there). Sure, he does annoying kid crap that every kid does, and expect yourself to be annoyed X10 more at the step kids than your own because the fact is well, they’re NOT your own.
Which brings me to another annoying thing that’s expected from step moms that we don’t see expected of step dads: were supposed to love these kids like we birthed them when well, we didn’t. Every time I hear a step mom say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I love my step kids like they’re my own.” I secretly want to punch her in the face.
Do not EVEN get me started on this whole Bonus Mom-Bonus Kid garbage. I don’t get it. I love my step dad like my dad but he is not my dad. I call him by his first name. Why is that so bad? And for the record I’m sure he would agree that I was no bonus child for him.
When my husband met my daughter, it was fully expected on when and where, and my ex knew and could have cared less. We stayed out of each other’s way and trusted the other one to bring people around who weren’t peddling drugs and weren’t sex offenders. I think we just sat down and watched Star Wars (gag) and those two talked and my daughter lit up thanking me for bringing him into her life. (Of course now she barely wants to be home because my husband is “too positive”, but that’s a whole other blog!).
No pressure from the birth dad on who my now husband had to be, no guilt, no shaming, no interviewing from my ex. And NO ex in laws to pepper into the experience and add to the awkwardness.
When I met my step son? Totally different experience.
It was the most awkward meeting in the history of meetings, in my opinion. First, his mother refused to allow my husband to have him meet me until she met me first which I guess had to happen on the same day. I’m not even sure how it happened exactly and I felt completely ambushed by all these people. She literally sauntered into my now husbands former living room one morning, me looking all disheveled and her nicely dressed for work, hair done, make up on. (Thanks hunny!) She walks into the apartment and goes right into my husband’s fridge to put something in it like she lives there. And did I mention her mother was living there with him half the time?
I could write a book on all the boundary crossing my dear sweet husband wasn’t seeing in the first months of our relationship that I had to make him aware of, thus adding to my Evil Factor but god forbid the poor guy be able to move on…just sayin’. To make matters worse, she played the part of the victim the entire time, crying about how nervous she was meeting me and wanted to “make sure” my now husband and I were the real deal and would never break up because she didn’t want a slew of women brought around her son.
Mind you, I was like two months into this. WTF?! I don’t know lady, I barely know what I’m having for lunch later and I haven’t even had coffee, I can’t predict the next 80 years of my life for you. Sheesh.
I simply asked her if she had any questions for me and it went straight into job interview mode. I cannot make this up, she literally said, with a forced awkward smile and hair toss, “Um, do you have any felonies?”
Oh. My. Fucking. God. No girl, no you fucking didn’t take it there.
Sitting in my pajamas having my morning already ruined by this ambush with this bullshit and having no fucks left to give, my natural snarkiness spit out the words, “no, and that’s a matter of public record if you’d like to Goggle it.”
Fast forward a few hours later and the ex-mother in law enters the apartment using her key (seriously cannot make this shit up!) with my husband’s kid, back from school.
How cool! I get to meet the ex-wife, HER mom (who I met BEFORE my own mother in law) AND the kid on the same day in the same awkward living room. The kid seems clearly traumatized (“who is this petite blonde who is the complete polar opposite of my mom?!” I imagine him thinking… “is SHE now my mom?”) I can’t remember, this was a few years ago and was so traumatic I think I tried to force it from my consciousness, but for whatever reason my step son was leaving with mom and grandma after that weird interaction when grandma literally tells the kid with her thick Puerto Rican accent, “Go give Erica a hug.”
My insides rise to my throat and I almost vomit my stomach from my mouth, which goes dry. My armpits sweat. Umm, he clearly doesn’t want to hug me. Don’t make him hug me, I don’t want to hug him either! It’s weird to hug a kid who doesn’t want to hug you! What is this ambush?! Where is the consent on both sides for this??! Oh god I guess this is happening…I guess we’re hugging.
I’m not sure who was more traumatized, him or me.
Let’s fast forward a few years. My husband and I are now officially married. We have a 20 month old daughter of our own and lots and lots of things have changed but believe me when I tell you, my oldest daughter likes her step dad enough but I am still the evil step mom.
At least my toddler loves me.
I have learned so much from being with a man with a child. I haven’t always behaved the best and let the ex and her kid push my buttons. Sometimes I think that maybe it’s a relationship contract that we all entered into at some point in the after-life from our previous lives in order to grow and learn from shit in this life because let me tell you, it isn’t always easy! I talk to so many step moms who say the same thing. There’s even a step mom magazine and hundreds of Facebook support groups for step moms.
Are there any for step dads? No! Why? Because they don’t need it! Men don’t really talk about their feelings anyway but I honestly believe that they truly just do not need it. They stay the fuck out of shit that isn’t their business and control only what they can. Life’s too dam short to worry. Let the ex be crazy. Let them fly off the handle if that’s what they choose to do. I read so many step moms (you know, from my support group) bitch and moan and complain about HCBM (which I learned means High Conflict Baby Mama) and all the drama they start and shit they pull.
I get it, kind of. I’m lucky in that BM isn’t like HIGH conflict, she’s just a conflict and I get it. I understand how hard it is to leave your family from unhappiness and feel conflicted about another woman coming in and “taking over.” I understand it from the BM point of view, and now from the lovely position of being “the other”, never seen as family in the eyes of BM (yet her husband is because remember, step dads are always AWESOME!)but just the chick her (super hot) ex-husband married. It’s no excuse for poor behavior, but I get it.
We have to love this life right now. It’s too damn short. I have a friend who said fuck it to being a step mom because the kids were rotten and life’s too short. I get that too. If being a step parent is too difficult for you, don’t. In all honesty, if I had to do it over, I probably wouldn’t. Women have it hard enough in this society. Were literally never enough and as a step mom multiply that by 100. You are down the hole in the negatives as a human being. You suck.
Eckhart Tolle talks about living in the present moment and when we complain about things and people we can’t control we step out of present moment and keep reliving the past. We create stories in our brains and relive them over and over and over again, punishing ourselves and not them, because they may not even give two shits what’s killing you. Why do we do this???
We can take responsibility for our own thoughts, actions and deeds and be okay when others don’t. It’s called being the bigger person. This doesn’t mean we need to call up BM and be like, “Hey girl! Super sorry let’s be friends after all!” And schedule coffee dates and shopping trips. Believe me, I’ve tried that and wound up as a secretary and punching bag. So I quit and my life has simplified.
But I can control the thoughts that I have and decide which ones just aren’t serving me, and cease to have them. Change that neural circuitry. Stop letting blame and shame or whatever yours is, be the default. Believe me when I say this is my life’s work:Just to simply be a better fucking person. I don’t even know what job I’ll have in ten years but I see my biggest job as the influence I have over my children, and step child, as the most important. They watch our actions, they don’t listen to our words.
My mom and dad managed to have a great relationship after their divorce (ok, ok it took a few years). So my expectation was that I could do that with my ex (apparently not) and with my husband’s ex (nope nope and double fuck that nope). Expectations cause so much suffering, don’t they? It leads to guilt and shame. I feel guilty I can’t get along with my husband’s ex. Why? Because women are supposed to be the peace keepers. We’re supposed to be it all. Loving mothers, perfectly put together wives who are ready to be our husbands sex kittens at a moment’s notice, and we must love everyone and everything including children who are not our own. But we’re not! And we don’t because we’re human. Deep down often times we’re catty bitches to one another. (there I said it, fuck you).We tear each other down because we tear ourselves down. We bitch and moan and complain because of all these stupid pressures placed upon us but I ask this: who is really placing these pressures on us? Could it be us at the end of the day? Can I let the control freak in me just relax and let things happen organically as they should? Can you?
If we stop giving a shit what others think we should be, maybe all those stupid pressures will go away.
I am an irritable swamp demon who takes care of infants and toddlers all day for a living but damn it I do try my best. I really, really do. It’s all we can do, right?
PS- any step moms wanna offer words of wisdom, feel free to comment. Want to rip me apart? Ok fine, but I reserve the right to delete. It’s time to start empowering each other instead of tearing each other down.