For those who’ve already lost track of my 2021 plans (What the shite? Really? It’s only February and you’ve lost track of my resolutions?), one fairly large chunk is to see if there is a book somewhere inside of me. I have found a lot of joy in getting back to writing regularly. And by joy, I mean this is pretty much the best free therapy money can buy. So, yeah, on occasion, I’m going to slip a test mini-chapter into the old blog. Not a whole chapter – more like a hint of a spoiler. A whisper. When I started this blog, yes, it was really, really, really geared towards stepmomming and that helped me so much. As I got (in my mind) better at stepmomming, I started drifting onto other topics. But, I know that those stepmomming entries were not only helpful for me – they were/are helpful for other folks finding themselves living in the middle of an episode of The Brady Bunch. So far, book-wise, I’ve gotten as far as realizing that putting seven thousand swirling thoughts into some sort of sensible order is overwhelming and I want to go home. But, alas, that wouldn’t really work in the 2021 plans. Or maybe if I just write a lot of blogs about how hard it is to get going on a book, I could use that as an approved form procrastination?
No, that’s not right either. Right. Book.
What’s in the box????
I know, it’s not a box. It’s a book. There’s likely something wrong with me in that my all time movie quote is from Seven… What’s in the booooox??? What else is in that movie is a walk thru of the seven deadly sins. And also Brad Pitt. What’s in the boooooook???? Same. Plus a little more. This is a walk thru of the seven deadly sins of stepmomming. And maybe a few other sins as a bonus. You can bet that I’ve put them in here because I’ve fallen victim to them – but don’t take that to mean that I’ve been the sole source of all stepmomming hiccups in my story. The sins may have been provided by my husband or his ex wife or another family member. The most difficult thing to admit while trudging through the stepmomming mud is that those sins typically are never provided by the children. That’s rough. I am a stubborn person. I just had no idea how stubborn until I found myself trying to plant a rookie parenting mistake on my seven year old.
Through my story, I hope I can make yours more manageable through several points.
Sin 1: It’s rarely your stepchild’s fault. They may drive you bananas, they may really and actually treat you terribly. Blame Disney and its narrative of evil stepmoms. But you’re stepchildren? They’re children. Say it often. They are children whose lives were turned upside down by the two pillars in their lives accidentally blowing their safe spot to pieces. Because of that, they carry with them loads of emotional scars that they will not dig into for years. What they will know is that life is icky. That is not their fault. There are many reasons behind the ‘saids and dids.’ Always blame those reasons and not those childrens.
Sin 2: Don’t be a spy. Your husband will likely have an ongoing relationship with his ex as it is key in successful co-parenting. And while your arrival is awesome, it does not permit any of the originals to tag out. And you don’t want it to – if either original parent tags out, those kids will have yet another reason not to trust the adults in their lives. As you enter that third (or fourth) co-parenting spot, you will feel an addiction to inserting yourself – listening into conversations, reading texts, checking emails. Leave it alone. Trust your husband to fill you in as needed. Sneak peak: as needed will grow as needed.
Sin 3: Forgetting who you are. You came into this life from an entirely different highway. Do not get so wrapped up in your new life that you don’t leave time to honor that before person. Understand that there will be many times for adapting, give and take, and compromise – but think of those things that are not negotiable and present them early, before any documents are signed. Are you a stickler for certain traditions? Do you have a childhood memory you want to keep alive? Mention it, insist on it, don’t give it up! It may not be an instant now we’re doing this because the new lady said so, but your past should no more be erased than your husband’s.
Sin 4: Forgetting who your stepkids are. Your stepkids came into this life from an entirely different highway – one that led them directly to you. Most of their memories are from their short, pre-you life. That will be difficult, at times, to deal with – these stories and spaces where you didn’t exist. Remember that they share these memories as a way to bring you closer, not as a way to push you away. Even if they are screaming at you at the time of delivery about how much you aren’t like their real mom or how that’s not the way they’ve always done it – they are offering you a bridge to their past.
Sin 5: Forgetting who your husband is. And was. Mostly was. The is? You’ve probably got that pretty nailed down – but as you move forward, the was will creep back in a bit, inconveniently. He is bringing a lot of luggage with him that he will likely deny owning. Men are slow to open up, slow to learn, and slow to admit where may have taken a wrong turn. Patience. Don’t shut his past out as belonging to your present. He is with you because that past, again, led him to you and he is trusting you to accept that past. Is it always easy? If it were, we’d all be second wives. But it is worth digging through the muck to find the foundation that you will build your future on.
Sin 6: Believing that these aren’t your kids. They are. Have you married their father? You get a free title with that certificate that actually has the word mother in it. You are now part of the clan. It’s terrifying. It’s exciting. You are in the odd position of choosing to love these children, not collecting a fast pass via all those gushy hormones that come through the umbilical cord. It will not help that those around you will drill into your head that these are not your children (grandparents, bio-moms, nosy cashiers). It will not help that the attachment won’t be instant – that you will have to build your relationship to find it. But, yes, these are your children.
Sin 7: Not having a counselor. I really can’t not stress this one enough. I do not know who from the intelligence gods popped into my head during our courting months (I said what I said), but early, early on – I demanded a counselor. I supposed it had to do with the remnants of the traumatic divorce that I was being absorbed into. I knew most (just kidding, it turned out to be a sliver) of what my husband and kids had been through and was obsessively determined not to put any of them through anything close to it. We started meeting with a couples counselor prior to even getting engaged – someone who could explain to both of us how a blended marriage was going to look and to guide us towards success. There were so many I’m leaving! worthy moments despite that – I can only imagine how quickly our relationship would have ended if we didn’t have those weekly sessions to pick through the difficulties. Get a counselor. This list is not a substitute for a counselor. This is a blog.
Sin 8: Smacking your husband on the head with whatever device you are reading this on. Yes, it has some excellent points – and yes, you should tell him all that you’ve learned. Maybe even mention that there will be more to come as this weird writer’s book gets closer to binding. Just don’t throw your phone/laptop/etc. it at him out of the sheer joy of knowing you are no longer alone. As someone who has been known to throw things, trust me.
Also, throwing things at your husband is not a substitute for a counselor.