When I became a stepmother, I had been warned that parenting was the hardest job I would ever have, but also the most rewarding. That didn’t even begin to cover my experience being a stepparent. For me, the absolute hardest job I’ve ever had is being a stepmother.
I met my husband several years ago when his kids were 9 and 12 years old. He and his ex had no set schedule for visitation and he had the kids every weekend plus a random assortment of other days throughout the week. I was in my mid-twenties but was ready to have a family so I didn’t hesitate when I thought about entering an already established family unit. My husband waited to introduce me to his kids and I vividly remember bringing a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips when I met his daughter for the first time because that was her favorite snack. We clicked right away. His son took a little longer to warm up to me, but I wasn’t worried about it and by the end of the first summer together, he was wearing my hiking boots and talking to me about sports and his friends.
Being a new stepmother was hard, incredibly hard.
Although there was no doubt in my mind that my husband loved his kids, he didn’t instill in them some of the values that I thought were very important. He didn’t set limits, didn’t enforce homework, didn’t have family dinners, and generally just seemed to be surviving and not really living. I wanted our house to be a home, not just a place that the kids came about half the time. I told him that there needed to be a set schedule, both for the kids’ sake and ours. We needed to know when we would have time for ourselves, and the kids deserved to not be bouncing back and forth so arbitrarily. Collectively, we decided that we’d have the kids for one week then they would go back to their mom’s for a week. A whole week seemed like a long enough time to get some routines in place like homework, bedtimes, and family dinners.
But it was a battle. I waged a constant war to get homework completed, get the kids to bed at a reasonable hour, make them shower, to have dinner at the table as a family. I would go to bed at night frustrated because no matter how much love I was giving, how much energy and time I was spending parenting these kids, they didn’t want it. They would throw their resentment and anger in my face every time- sometimes verbally and sometimes literally when a pencil or wadded up paper would be launched in my direction. I gave 110% every day, no matter what. I attended parent meetings at the school, communicated with teachers, and was a constant cheering squad for the kids both on the soccer field and in life. But nothing seemed to matter to them and nothing really changed.
Being a stepmom was not all bad. There were moments over the years that I enjoyed immensely and I certainly do love my stepchildren.
There was the time the Christmas tree fell on my stepdaughter and our whole family laughed and laughed… and then it happened again the following two Christmases in a row. Once, my stepson called me for help when he was first driving by himself and someone on a bicycle ran into him at a stop sign. It felt good in those moments to feel like we were a family, and like I had made a positive impact, however small, on their lives.
I never wanted to replace anyone or be better than the mother they already had. I only wanted to love them and try to shape them into successful, kind, and, most of all, happy young adults.
After several years of stepparenting, we now have two teenagers who rarely spend time at our house. At their other house, there are fewer rules and lower expectations. I don’t really blame the kids for not wanting to be at our house where we hold them accountable and demand respect and responsibility. My husband and I need to know where the kids are at all times, and ask them about their plans and require that they finish their schoolwork. I hope that one day sometime in the future, they can look back at how I tried to parent and love them and realize that all I wanted was for them to feel loved and cared for. So for now, I’ll love them from afar, hope that they don’t make any choices that will permanently damage them, and cross my fingers that those exhausting years I spent stepparenting them the only way I know how will have an impact.
Guest Blogger: Ashley Creighton
Ashley is a Mama to a rambunctious three-year-old son, a feisty ten-month-old daughter, and stepmom to two adventurous teenagers. You can usually find her playing outside with her dogs and kids or going for walks on her quiet, dirt road. When she’s not working or spending time with her family she likes to sneak away with a hot cup of tea and a Diana Gabaldon book.
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