Here is another AMAZING POST from my good friend over Jen on The Velvet Hive.
To be honest, I hate the word amazing, because I feel like it is WAY over-used... but in this scenario, I couldn't think of a better way to describe the post!
Actually, bang on may be another good way to describe it!
Either way, I'm sure it will resonate with all you stepmama's who have kids of your own!
I recently had a very dear friend message me, because she needed a sounding board due to a bump in the life of a step-mom. We haven’t had a chance yet to really talk, but I assured her this gig is hard and complicated. It ebbs and flows. It’s never going to be summarized in one Brady Bunch episode where everything is resolved in 30 minutes (despite what great parents Mike & Carol were).
Our brief exchange made me think about how tough this role really can be – and how I want to make sure that anyone who thinks my step-mom/co-parenting experience is nothing but a giant kumbaya moment is sorely mistaken. Though we are very fortunate to have an exceptionally good relationship as co-parents, it is not perfect.
The thing is, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me to write about the hard moments as a step-parent, I think it’s incredibly important. My Instagram feed may be a highlight reel, but my role as a parent and step-parent is full of mistakes and tears and happy moments and sad moments and anger and frustration and everything in between. And I owe it to myself – and other step-parents – to be real and honest and share the ugly moments as well as the beautiful ones.
(Side note: As much as I know it makes me uncomfortable to write honestly about the bad parts of step-parenting, I know it can also make others (family and friends) feel uncomfortable reading it as well. I won’t be offended if you check out now. Hell, I won’t even know. So, go for it!)
Here’s the truth of it: as a step-parent or a parent co-parenting with a step-parent (and I think it’s very important to remember the latter, because it’s just as complicated for them to co-parent with you), you need a whole lot of “extra”.
Extra hard work.
And, especially: an extra tough skin.
Just when you think you’ve got a good handle on co-parenting, something will come up out of nowhere to knock you off your stool of temporary zen. And you’ll get angry and frustrated and feel under-appreciated or misunderstood. And you will be pissed off.
Sometimes super pissed off.
There are no cliff notes to this book. There are events and circumstances that will come up and bring on a whole new chapter of challenges – and this is a novel that never ends. You will think you have a handle on how things are going to go and then a wrench will land square in your lap. There are so many wrenches that have landed in my lap, I could open a hardware store with full inventory.
Issues come up that I never thought about – or would never even have to think about if we were just parenting Ivy. And sometimes, I think of how much more complicated it is being a step-parent while also raising a child of ‘my own.’ (Again, hate that wording – but can’t think of a better way to describe it here.)
And this is where I get brutally honest:
Trying to raise both of these kids equally is impossible.
There. I said it.
It is impossible.
Oh my gosh. I feel such relief typing that out loud.
And I don’t mean that in the sense of loving them. They are both loved fully. I mean that in the sense of experiences and opportunities and Brian’s and my philosophy of family and parenting, in general.
You know how non-parents love to say or think: “My child will never do that,” or “I’ll never [fill in self-righteous verbiage here] with my child.” Well, I remember, before having Ivy, witnessing other step-mom’s choices and thinking, “I’ll never do that. Everything will be equal between Hannah and our child.”
Ah, to be young, naive and have a brain erupting with butterflies and rainbows again…
I have tried. Oh my Lord, I have tried. I have gone over-the-top, obsessively insane trying to make things equal.
And I’m done.
Don’t get me wrong, I still try to make everything as even as possible: individual attention, experiences, material items, Christmas presents, etc.. But, logistically, it is impossible to make everything equal and I have finally accepted that and am no longer beating myself up for things out of my control. I only have so much input as a step-parent in raising my step-daughter, but I have full control – with Brian – over how Ivy is raised. And I am no longer willing to sacrifice opportunities and strong convictions I have in parenting in order to even out the playing field.
An example of inner-conflict of trying to keep things equal is schooling. Hannah has always gone to a public school, which is completely great and wonderful. At the start of Hannah’s schooling, Brian had wanted to put her in a private school, however, it wasn’t feasible financially at the time for him. She has done wonderfully and she attends a great school. Ivy is going to begin pre-school next year, and I want to put her in the local Montessori school (just for pre-school), because I have always loved the educational philosophy of this school, and I think she would excel in a more independent atmosphere. This decision has nearly given me an ulcer, because it is not “equal” to what Hannah experienced. Nevermind that I wasn’t married to Brian at the time – nor financially responsible for Hannah. But it nags at me that people may think, “Oh, look at what they are doing for Ivy.” And I know it nags at my husband as well.
But, here is what I need to remind myself: my family with Brian is not what was Brian’s family with Hannah’s mom.
I think it is extremely important to remind myself of the above statement and to also remind others – in particular, other step-parents. You can still do it your way – without feeling guilty or terrible. That doesn’t make you selfish or unfair. That makes you a good parent, because you are honoring your parental compass and not sacrificing you or your child’s experiences so that everyone gets an equally gold-plated participation trophy.
In our particular co-parenting dynamic, we are so incredibly lucky to co-parent in a copacetic way, for the most part. But keep in mind, though we do have many shared philosophies on parenting, we are still not all on the same page all of the time – which is fine and normal and ok. So, we do us in our household – and they do them in theirs. And that may mean Hannah and Ivy won’t always be equally parented or have identical experiences or opportunities as children, be it spiritually, financially or pre-schooly…
…but they were both brought up equally loved and I hope so badly they grow up knowing that.
Because we are trying, so hard.