Please note: every step-parent’s story is different. I write this not to hurt anyone, but to bring awareness to what happens on the other side. I hate the title “step-children;” I call both my step-daughters “my children,” but for the purposes of this article, I am using the term “step-children.” In everyday life, they are my children.
Put your right hand over your heart and hold your left hand up. Repeat after me, “You are in a no-win situation and nothing you will ever do will be good enough.” This should be the step-parent’s motto.
I am in my second marriage. My ex-husband had three children from previous relationships and my current husband has two children from a previous marriage. During my first marriage I would often hear from my ex-husband, “You don’t have children, so you don’t know.” I now have a precious little two-year-old boy and I can say with utmost certainty that step-parenting is WAY harder than parenting.
(Remember, this is my perspective. Everyone has a different story and I am jealous of the families/exes who are able to blend their families for their children’s sake. I wish I were in that situation.)
No matter what, my son is mine. I am his mother and regardless of what I say or do, he will have me as his mother. He is stuck with me until the day I die and I have every right to put in my two-cents. My step-children have a choice, however. I am not their mother, nor do I try to be, although I am on their team. I am another person who loves them and has their back; a person who wants to be there for them as much as they will let me. But, they don’t have to let me in, nor do they have to have a relationship with me if they don’t want to. If I say something they may not like, they know I don’t have “rank.” I am not their mother, father, grandfather, etc.; I am just the “step-mom.” They have a choice, while my son doesn’t.
They can take me or leave me, and they will still have a mom and a dad.
This idea usually translates into the notion that I, as the step-mom, can buy them stuff, take them here and there, etc., but when it comes to discipline, I don’t hold rank. I am just the step-mom. I can ask for respect and for them to do things like keeping their room clean, helping with laundry, etc., but I am setting myself up for behind-the-back talk if the step-children don’t like it. I was once told that asking my step-child (who is older than 13 years of age) to put folded, clean clothes in her bedroom makes me hateful, and that I should be doing it because I am the mom, so it is *my* job to put the clothes away. This request also led to me being talked badly about to the “real” family — how hateful a person I am to ask such things. I ask my son to put his toys away and although it might take a few tries to get him to focus, he does. But again, that’s okay to outside parties because my son is mine and my step-children are not.
I don’t ask my step-children anything different from what I ask and will ask my son.
Because my son and step-children are very different ages, they are asked to do very different things. But I am pretty sure I will be telling my son to throw away garbage, put dishes in the sink, empty the dishwasher, help take out the trash, make the bed, keep room clean, put clothes away, etc., when he is older, too.
That is the crazy thing about step-parenting. You ask the same of your step-children that you do your own children, but it’s ok for your own children and not okay for your step-children (let me say that this is *not* my husband’s point of view). As a step-parent, you can do for your step-children, but you cannot ask of them (this was my ex-husband’s opinion).
It is extremely frustrating because it puts a wedge in the relationship you, as a step-parent, are trying to build with your step-children. Again, I do not nor will ever replace their mom. I don’t want to. But when you marry your spouse, you marry his/her children, and you can’t help but want to love them as if they were your own. They are your family however, and these “eggshells” get in the way because anything you say or do will be held against you. It doesn’t matter what the real family says. It is in one ear and out the other, but as a step-parent, you make one wrong move or say one wrong thing, and you are done for.
Although I am a step-parent, I am still me — I have to be true to me.
Therefore, as right or wrong as it may be in the step-parenting handbook, I will ask for simple tasks to be done. If I am hated for it, I am hated for it. If it makes me evil, it makes me evil. Again, I don’t ask for anything different from what I ask (or will ask) of my son.
I wish I could say I am in a great place with both of my step-children, but I am not. I have a great relationship with one and not the other. Do I hope this changes? Absolutely. But for now, I will keep walking on eggshells while questioning every move I make, praying that I’ll be able to foster a strong relationship with both of them.