4 Things That Shocked Me about Becoming A Stepmom
The term "blended family" conjures up distinct emotions, doesn't it? Some people think of the wicked stepmom and the red-headed stepchild while others see a family of four or more running through a field and smiling and laughing. The one thing that everyone can agree on when it comes to blending families, however, is that it is hard. Really, really hard. Every day I wake up and I am a wife, a mother, and a stepmother. My husband is a husband, a father, and a stepfather. Our kids have step-parents and step-siblings and sometimes things are a bit crazy around here. OK, not just sometimes but almost always. If our family life was a washing machine, the speed would be set to "Super Scrub" and the machine would run all of the time.
While I feel that blending a family is always going to be tough, there are a few things about blending our sweet little family that really surprised me --
1. Being a stepmom is harder than being a mom. It takes more thought, more planning, more watching of my words and biding of my time to be a stepmom to our son than it does just being plain' ole mom to our daughter. Being a mother is so challenging in and of itself, so I'm sometimes in awe of the fact that this whole stepmom position could possibly be harder than that, but it is. It is MUCH harder and not only that, but somehow I feel more vulnerable in this role as well. The kid that I gave birth to somehow loves me easily and in spite of myself, but the kid that inherited me through marriage has to make a conscious choice each and every day to love me. It has really forced me to examine who I am as a parent and a human being.
2. We spend a lot of time in the car. I know that seems like a weird thing to say but at 6 and 7 we are already shuttling back and forth to piano lessons, soccer practice, gymnastics, and doctors' appointments. Add in there not one but TWO other households that our kids share with their other parents and there is a lot of driving and coordinating. On an average day I spend 3 hours in the car. I'm tempted to start charging our kids by the mile.
3. You spend a lot of time with the very people that you divorced. Like, a lot of time. Not only do I spend time with my ex-husband but I spend time with my husband's ex-wife. I fought this for a long time but I finally gave up and gave in. It's better on our kids for us all to be together and get along. This year we invited all of the exes (no, they don't live in Texas) over on Christmas day for appetizers and to open gifts. I looked around and saw my husband's ex-wife laughing and tickling my daughter and my ex-husband chatting with my husband's ex-wife's mom (were you even able to follow that?) and thought to myself - I have a really weird life. Like, really weird. I'm OK with it.
4. Love doesn't happen overnight. While we were pretty darn lucky in this department, there are still things that happen that make me realize that you can't smush 4 people together in a house and have them instantly feel like a family. Even more importantly - you shouldn't expect to. Research shows that on average it takes 7 years for families to blend. So I grin and bear it every time a story or a question that my stepson has doesn't involve me, and my husband smiles graciously every time I have to remind my daughter to acknowledge him by making eye contact when he talks to her. They make up for it with their little spontaneous hugs and sideways smiles that let us know that while we may not be "the mom" or "the dad" we are very loved. And that's really all we can ask for.
Being remarried and creating our own blended family has also had one other unexpected result - it made me appreciate and care for my own stepmom in a way that I didn't know was possible. I often wonder how in the world she dealt with me because I was not easy on her (sorry, B!). You know, like the time I called my mom long-distance on her phone at 1 am and talked for an hour. When my stepmom got the bill she very calmly asked me to let her know when I wanted to call my mom and she would let me use her calling card. Not a trace of anger, even though I'm sure the bill was significant. She probably doesn't realize it, but I go back to that situation frequently in my head when I'm trying to figure out how to behave in any given situation in my own journey as a stepmom. Turns out there really are no rules - we're all just doing the best that we can with as much love as we can muster.
Which just happens to be more love than I ever thought possible.
Don't miss how one famous blended family kept it together in the World Premiere of "Ring of Fire", Monday, May 27 at 9.8c. Four-time Grammy® Award-nominee Jewel stars as legendary country artist June Carter Cash in this Lifetime Original Movie.