First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone that messaged me or commented on my first stepping post, I was totally overwhelmed by the response. You all seriously boosted a girls confidence in writing about some of the harder things life throws at you! 🧡🧡
It got me thinking, why do I find it so hard to speak about my stepson…because I do. When I’m talking to friends about their children’s latest milestones I feel somewhat fraudulent giving any account of how we have been tackling fussy eating, Peppa Pig obsession or iPad use. I feel like I have to look over my shoulder if I describe myself as a stepmum or describe my stepson as my stepson as if I might offend someone.
At last count (2014) there were half a million stepfamilies in the UK. One in 10 children has a stepparent, that should make it all pretty normal. So why do I still feel like having a good relationship with my stepson is a guilty secret? On looking around, I’ve realised it’s very hard to find people celebrating and opening up about their #stepparenting and #blendedfamilies so I’m thinking it might be a shared feeling. And for want of a better word – it’s shit.
So why is it the case?
I’ve been pondering hard over the last week and although I have a sneaky feeling I don’t have all the answers, I think I’ve worked out a few.
We seem to be forever tarred with the Wicked Stepmother brush
Since we were children we’ve been groomed to hate stepmothers. I challenge you to find one positive step role model in any children’s story! They either want to kill children, eat the hearts of children, use them as slaves or leave them destitute…sometimes all four. Great start – thanks children’s books.
It’s a bit easier to find a punt at the positive in films, ie: ‘Stepmom‘. But this, however, well-meaning still portrays the step mum as an annoying younger girlfriend that knows nothing and needs to be taught by the ‘true’ mother. Only when she gains the mother’s acceptance and approval can she be trusted. This point in particular, makes it hard to contain your excitement at joining the stepmum club.
Strangely enough, there are positive stepdad movies and characters out there – just take ‘Daddy’s Home’ as an example. In fact, step Dads are widely more accepted – probably something to do with maternal instinct which brings me on to point 2.
I find it’s most prevalent in you young mum friends and acquaintances, those that have recently had children and are in full on lioness mode. They often can’t help but view you with distaste as you talk about your stepchild, their subconscious whispering ‘I wouldn’t let another woman play Mummy with my child’. I was once advised by a friend, a good half year into my stepmum-dom, not to share any pictures that included my stepson. She wouldn’t like if it was her child.
Somehow it seemed right that I should make sure the wider world never saw this child as part of my life. She didn’t mean it badly but as flippant comments often do, it added to the uncomfortable feeling that my life had parts of it that I shouldn’t consider my own.
As any stepparent will tell you – the stepchildren are a huge part of your life. One you have to account for in almost every life decision you make and one you have very little control over and didn’t exactly ask for. So soz, but that child is very much a real part of my life and should be viewed as such. Not as a part of someone else’s life you regularly steal.
This, of course, is a no-brainer. Although in our camp we all get along fine (I know for some it can be a very difficult relationship) no mother is going to find it easy to be 100% about their child having another family. Just as no step parent is going to find it easy living alongside their partner’s former life and child. I totally get that, and I feel this is the easiest one on the list to accept and move past.
There is a very strong feeling (if you’ve not got kids of your own), that being a stepparent doesn’t qualify to have an opinion on children. You know nothing about what it’s like to be responsible for them, how to raise them, dress them, entertain them, discipline them. As your child is a stepchild, even though you spend 50% of your time off with them, have a room in your house for them, do their washing and cook their meals, sit and learn with them, go to school plays and more you still don’t qualify as any form of parent.
I’ll settle one thing now, we may not have them every day, or be quite as tired, or do the school run. But it’s a damn sight harder to do a lof of things if you’re the stepparent – believe me. Give us a bit of credit…
Rejection is a horrible thing. No matter how beefy your self-esteem, when a child tells you you’re not their Mummy (even though you totally know that) it hurts. Considering it’s a truth that you are fully on board with it’s strange that it does – but it does. It’s hard to put yourself out there even with the best intentions for fear of all the above coming down on you like a ton of bricks – criticism, judgement, dislike, disregard.
Will I upset someone? Will I not be wanted? Is it my place to… Am I part of.. the list goes on.
And there you have it, my musings on why stepparents have this funny little cloud of self-doubt, worry and secrecy hanging about their heads.
Frankly, I feel it takes a tribe to raise a child. I think it’s a wonderful thing for a child to have as many people love them, teach them and care for them as possible. Surely then we can view step parenting as a positive thing that can come from a family split?
And just to lay a few rumours to rest… We are not trying to steal anyone’s Mum-thunder. We do not want to steal your children. We have no hidden agenda. We only try our best to do right towards these little people that we had no part in making but make up our family. We are not trying to prove anything to anyone, we are just trying to make our little life a nice place to be for everyone that’s part of it.
Please, stepparents of the world, don’t be shy in coming forward. Celebrate yourselves and the part you play in a little one’s life.