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My girls told me a story earlier this week that broke my heart. I’m not going to get into details, but they have a close friend whose evil stepmother treats her like dirt.
This stepmother (and I use the term loosely) flat out told the daughter that she married her dad, not her and that she only has to put up with her, not love her.
Based on what I’m hearing from my girls, putting up with her is stretching things significantly. She may not hate the girl, but she certainly doesn’t treat her with anything even remotely resembling respect or care.
I’m the Stepmother in our home
I bring this up because my girls aren’t really “my daughters.” Fortunately, my girls assure me (most of the time) that I’m not the evil stepmother.
When I married Aaron I knew that I was inheriting a crazy situation. He had an older daughter from a high school girlfriend who lives out of state. His two younger daughters lived in the area and he was very involved in their lives.
While we were dating he made it very clear that his daughters were his world and he showed it by act and by deed. There was no doubt in my mind that he loved them and would continue to be involved in their lives.
We were blessed to come home from our honeymoon to find out that they had moved in with us.
I’m tearing up writing this post, I love my girls so much. They bring my life so much happiness and joy. I really can’t imagine life without them. Yes, they drive me nuts at times and no it isn’t always easy – they are teenagers through and through.
We don’t always get along perfectly, and I know that I drive them nuts at times, but I love them and am so proud of the woman they are becoming.
We were raised with very different lifestyles and have had to essentially mesh three different homes (Aaron, Me & the girls) in a 2 ½ year time period. I have a lot of insecurities about being a good mom when I’ve never been a parent before.
I’m constantly second guessing myself and wondering if I’m doing the right thing. The one thing I can always say though is that I love them and the decision I make are based on their needs, not my own needs.
I understand how hard being a step-parent can be.
I’ve cried a lot of tears and stressed about decisions and questioned myself and all the fun stuff that comes with being a parent.
What I can’t understand is abdicating that type of responsibility just because they aren’t “your kids”. If you marry someone, you marry not just them, but their kids. When I married Aaron I committed to myself that I wouldn’t be the evil stepmother.
I think too often when we get married we have this glorious image of how it is going to be. It is going to be all flowers and kisses and everything is going to be so romantic and perfect.
Well, guess what?
Marriage is hard work. Marriage with kids is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard work.
I should probably add a few more really’s in there to get the point across.
I don’t have my own kids, so I’m not totally qualified to make this statement, but I think most people would agree that marriage with step-kids is even harder. Blending a mix of personalities, beliefs, values and ideals into one family can be very challenging. Blending a family takes a lot of time and effort.
When you make a decision to marry someone you are marrying not just them, but their family and if there are kids involved, then you have responsibility for those kids too.
To shirk that responsibility or worse to totally repudiate it is wrong.
Buck up and take responsibility for your decisions.
So without further ado below is the random things I’ve learned from being a step-parent.
1. There is no right answer.
Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and then follow through with whatever decision you made. Aaron explained it best the first time I had a conflict with the girls. “Even if you answer isn’t the “best” answer, it is the right answer because you made it as the parent.” In other words, stop second guessing yourself and understand that there isn’t always a right answer.
The trick is to parent with love. When kids know they are loved everything else will work itself out.
2. Don’t be afraid.
I’ve as I’ve heard it called by an LDS church leader – “Be A Courageous Parent.”
As a step-parent, it is easy to believe that since they already have a mother or father that you can just be “the friend”.
You can’t, don’t even try.
You may not be the birth parent, but you still have a responsibility to be the best parent you can be. Sometimes this means saying no and making tough decisions.
It is so hard to say no because you always feel a bit more insecure in the relationship then a regular parent does. However, kids respect parents who set limits and stick with them.
3. You are going to make mistakes and do dumb stuff.
Every parent makes mistakes. Sometimes this means admitting you were wrong and saying sorry. And yes, it is okay to apologize to your kids for messing up.
I had to do that earlier this afternoon to one of my daughters when she called me on a double standard I was propagating. I’m proud of the fact that I have a strong enough relationship with them that they can question my decisions in a productive manner.
4. Listen, Listen, Listen.
My girls are both talkers and sometimes it drives me up the wall. They will come in while I’m working and want to talk.
I have to remind myself that they are more important than my work.
If I don’t listen when they want to talk, then they aren’t going to be interested in talking to me when they really need someone.
This is doubly important for step-parents because we don’t have the long-term history and trust. I want them to be in the habit of coming to me when they have questions or issues.
Which brings me to the most important thing.
5. Talk to them frequently and often about everything.
And when I say everything I really do mean everything – Drugs, alcohol, grades, pornography, sex, STD’s, modesty, honesty, college, peer pressure, work, money, gossip, humility . . . . . the list could go on and on.
When one of our girls was 13 Aaron got a call asking him what an orgasm was. Needless to say, that isn’t a discussion he wanted to have, but she had already asked two other adults and none of them would explain it to her, but she knew that her dad would be open and honest.
Does this mean they always come to us with questions, no, but at least we have tried.
I’m far from being a perfect parent, but I have told my girls repeatedly that I love them unconditionally.
I’ve asked them to give me the benefit of the doubt when I make a decision that they don’t agree with or understand and come to me with questions rather than just assume I’m out to make their life difficult.
I promised them when I married their dad that I would do my best to treat them the same why I would treat my own children. So far, I can honestly say, I feel that I’ve been able to keep that promise.
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