Being a step mom, or how I learned to stop worrying and loved the kid

by Despoina

Let me tell you right off the bat that the whole stepmom situation is usually a topic that I do not like to talk about. Every time I had to talk about it I did not like it and it made me feel really uncomfortable.

People who usually ask me how it feels to be a stepmom like to give me instructions on how I should behave around my husband’s son or about how important it is to have a relationship with my husband’s ex – no, thanks

Sometimes I get questions from a non divorced parent such as if I feel like I am a mother or if I heard the infamous phrase ‘You are not my mother’ from my husband’s son and if so, how I reacted to it. Parents looooooove to ask that question! The conversation is then usually followed by the suggestion that I should have kids of my own so as to bring some sort of balance in my life and see for myself what a miracle parenthood is. 

So yeah, why write about being a step mother if talking about it annoys me right? While I write things down and while I structure my thoughts around this I am helping myself understand how I actually feel about being in this situation and in this situation feelings constantly change like a rollercoaster.

It all started when….

Tanguy told me that he is a single parent on our first date. I did not know how to react to that. I was so far from being in this sort of situation in my life. I was still a master student living in a city that I was not planning to settle in, with no job, no real income. I had no idea what it is to be in a serious committed relationship let alone what it means to have kids.

It was during our relationship that I started to reflect on how we see composed families in our days. Cultural differences between Greece and Belgium also played an important role to that. Divorce is not that common in Greece nor well received, if you get divorced it basically means you royally fucked up. In Belgium however, it is more less a common thing.

Then I started reflecting on our generation’s cultural point of reference; movies & TV,  what can you see as the image of a step parent?  You will come to find that

There is a huge difference in the way we portray step fathers and step mothers!

I know shocker, right? When do we treat men and women differently?

So let’s see a bit closer…… In the case of the guy, what is it that we see in our beloved films? Films we grew up with such as “Look who’s talking” for example ….. kids may not like the step dad at first but then somehow almost magically they get in a sort of adventure and their bond becomes strong  OR ,my personal favourite,  the step father comes in the picture from the beginning like some sort of a saviour as if the real father never existed.

But when it comes to the step mother ….. Oh boy, be prepared.

She is always evil, always wants to get rid of the innocent precious angel of a step child. Wether by sending it to boarding school, plotting to even kill it or treat it really badly like a slave….. Would it have killed cinderella to bitch less about cleaning the house ?

In all seriousness the step mother is usually portrayed as being so mean or worse useless in looking after a child that she almost endangers its life! That later is usually when the actual mother in the story is still alive. There is no connection storyline with the stepmother, no bonding, no big adventure. Not in films, not in fairytales, not in books….. The step mother is always a bimbo that gets outsmarted by her stepchild.

You will come to find that there is no woman who is professionally successful that can be also portrayed as a great stepmother

No. The step mom is always evil, self centred, careless and mind you the dad is always the poor innocent victim along with his offspring.The step mother is always messing up, never living up to the role of a responsible care giver.

Unless of course we talk about the stepmother that came into the picture in a different way….. if she started off as some sort of a servant. Usually that is the nanny and look at where it got us today ;D

I did it disturbing that if you served the family, like in the TV series “The nanny” or like in the “Sound of music”,  then just maybe you can be promoted from a servant to an angelic step mom, marry the rich daddy who finally realised he loves you after you took care of the kids he could not manage on his own. It is either that or ….. well you are an alien. Remember that movie –  My stepmother is an alien? Beautiful Kim Basinger could be accepted as a step mother because she was literally out of this world!

So, I want to get real for a second. It is obvious that things in reality are quite different.

Being a stepmom is not a choice you make,

in a way it is accepting a choice that your partner made while you were not even in the picture. Accepting a part of his past into your present and future. And it sucks, big time.

I mean ok, everyone carries baggage from previous relationships and all of us have pleasant memories from past relationships as well. Only difference is that these memories usually live in your mind or to your facebook history somewhere. They are not physically there. Imagine carrying along your ex every other weekend or every other week to hang out with your current relationship…. not cool and a bit awkward and uncomfortable.

You also know as well as I do that kids are not meant to mix with adults because they are an adorable pain in the ass and sometimes  they are just plain assholes let’s dare to call it as it is.

If you are not someone’s parent you do not have the same patience nor the same admiration for a child.  Only our parents will love us unconditionally for the assholes we are and no one else. On top of that as you may have noticed yourself, kids have no filter whatsoever. They will just say what is on their heads and if they are badly raised, spoiled or angry because of a messy divorce then be prepared to hear a lot of weird shit and eat it up.

So how do I deal with all of this…. the expectations of other people, of my partner, of family, the stereotypic image that people might have of me, managing my own feelings when all I wanted was just to hang out with that hot guy I met on a bar?

My initial approach to this was to be like the mother of the “house” probably because I wanted to impress my new boyfriend about how cool and skilled I am at dealing with this.

I am very glad that I got rid of that feeling soon enough. It is not healthy. I am also lucky that Tanguy is not an asshole who saw my interest as a vacation from being a father and I did not end up babysitting every night.

For sometime after I snapped out of the previous attitude, I retracted completely. I wanted to be less and less involved – in fact my goal was to not be involved at all but that is not a good strategy either.

I realised that what I had to do in reality was very simple. I had to face facts. I am in love with someone who has a child and it is a good thing that he wants to be involved as much as he can to his child’s life. So, I decided to treat the kid exactly for what it is: a kid.

After all this is a difficult situation for all and mostly for the kid… honestly I am not even sure how he is doing this at all. Changing home every other week, putting up with different sorts of adults hearing black on one side and white on the other….are you kidding me? I would have packed my bags and moved to Hawaii 

I also decided to not force myself to do things I do not like. I must admit I felt guilty the first time I said no to babysitting or helping out when I did not want to or when I had something else planned. However, it felt good to be honest and it set clear boundaries. My time is my time, I have no kids ,and this is not my responsibility when it does not have to be….

I make sure he eats, that he is warm that he is happy and most importantly that he stays alive. That is a role I am comfortable with. Life perceiving happiness manager.

In conclusion

I am in no way saying that I found the ideal balance.  It is still uncomfortable at times and it will continue being difficult. But I think it is important as a new adult in a kid’s life to just do you because I learned from this experience that children appreciate honesty. I do not do things just to be liked, I do not buy expensive toys, I do not pretend I am amazed by everything he says and if I think he is full of shit I just say it and believe me he does the same thing with me which shakes me back to reality!

Oh, and if you are still wondering, yes I hear all the typical phrases all the little lies kids think that work. I do hear them and they piss me off – big time. But if you are a real adult you know how to deal with those things. In the end it is about learning to love.

Currently listening to: Abba – Mama Mia

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