Thursday, May 6, 2010

Step-Parenting is Hard and Rewarding

As most of you know, I’m a step-mother to my husband’s little boy. He spends 50% of his time with us. I have known him since shortly after he turned 4 years old. He’s almost 9 now. He is a good boy and I love him dearly. He’s easy to love. Everyone loves him. He’s not perfect and as he is getting older and being influenced by friends and TV and just figuring out who he is, it’s becoming more evident that he might be a handful as a teenager.

Being a step-mother is tough in many ways. I was raised by my step-mother and I am encountering many of the things she did as I was growing up. I have come to understand so much about our relationship since becoming a part of BJ’s and the Little Guy’s life. It’s especially hard (for me at least) while TTC my own child.

I love the Little Guy as though he were my own. At least I think I do, since I’ve never had my own. The hard part is that he doesn’t love me as much as he loves his mother. And I know that because I’m a step-child and although I love my step-mom very much, it’s not the same. I try my hardest to be a part of his life and try to guide him and help him become a well rounded, kind-hearted, loving, understanding, forgiving, patient and considerate person. This is not easy when half the time I don’t feel like I’m allowed to steer him in those directions. Of course, BJ wants all of that for his son too, we just have different ways of going about it. I’m often overruled. That leads to issues with me and the Little Guy. He has become accustomed to the fact that if I say no to something, his dad will say yes. I know this is a normal “kid” thing to do, but it still causes friction because there is no punishment for him when he is “caught” playing both sides. He’s not my child so I have less of a say and even less when it comes to consequences for actions deemed unacceptable. I’m waiting for the day when he blurts out to me that I don’t have the right to tell him what to do because I’m not his mother. I know it will happen but I hope I have at least a few more years before it does.

Step-parenting has given me the opportunity to parent. It might be in a very limited capacity, but I still get hugs and kisses and we have our inside jokes and we both root for the same football and hockey teams. I get to take pictures and do scrapbook pages and go to sporting events and carnivals and all the other family things that fertiles get to do. But I still feel like it’s all a sham. When it comes down to it and people ask me about him, I have to say he’s my step-son. And then I get asked if we (BJ and me) have any kids of our own. Of course the answer is always no. And I wonder what they think about that. I wonder if they think I’m way too involved as a step-mother or if they wonder why we haven’t had our own child. I wonder if the Little Guy’s mother resents me in any way for being so involved. I don’t think I could handle another woman being so close to my child if it were me. She doesn’t have a choice, thank goodness, but I still wonder.

When he’s sick his mother will sometimes keep him at her a mother should. Those are the times I feel bitter. I want him with me so that I can take care of him. But he’s not mine and it’s not really my place to try and take over. The mothering gene has always been huge in me and it’s even bigger now that I have a child in my life. It’s so hard to turn it off. I sometimes have to pull myself back and remind myself that I need to ease up and that he’s not mine and I really should not get so attached. But it’s so hard to live like that. I want him to be mine. And I want to give him a sibling because I know he’d be a dynamite older brother.

If something were to happen to BJ (God forbid!) I don’t think the Little Guy would be a part of my life anymore. I don’t think his mother would see the need to shuffle him back and forth between the 2 of us, right? I mean, I’m only his step-mother and he would still have his mother. And if BJ and I were to split (again, God forbid!) I know I’d never see him again. Either of those scenarios scare me to death. I would feel like someone stole my child. But remember...he’s not mine.

I know that many of these issues I have are because I can’t have a child of my own so I over compensate with the Little Guy. His mother knows this and I’m sure she recognizes it. I also hate the fact that she gave BJ this wonderful gift and I can’t give him anything close to that, no matter how hard I try. People have said to me that I’m the best thing to happen to BJ. I have to disagree. Unfortunately, SHE is the best thing that happened to him because she gave him his son. And he loves his son more than life itself. I can’t compete with that.

The Little Guy will not call me on Sunday. He didn’t call me last year. I know he’s only a child, but it still hurts. I know he loves me, he tells me all the time. But it’s not the same. I do not feel hurt by him as he has no idea what emotional turmoil I’m in most of the time. Nor do I ever want him to know that it hurts to NOT be his mother. He’s a sensitive boy and the last thing I want is for him to feel guilty about my inner demons. And he is not to blame for loving his mother the way he does and I never want him to feel bad for that.

I get to have the illusion of being a mother and I get some of the great feelings and happiness that come with it. And then I get a slap in the face when I’m reminded that he’s not mine and I’m not a mother and I’m only a part of this child’s life because his father is married to me.

I don’t know if I have conveyed the mixture of emotions involved in step-parenting while TTC but that was the point of this post. Step-parenting is hard, but great. It fulfills a void but at the same time creates a larger one. It can be a tug-of-war of emotions and trying to find a balance is one of the hardest things I’ve done...and I have to do it every day. It can be exhausting trying to parent and discipline without becoming the evil step-mother. It’s so easy to love this child and hold him near and want to provide the best for him knowing that he might not recognize my love for what it really is...pure and unconditional.

This post has gotten way too long and again, I’m not even sure I accomplished what I set out to do. I will post more about step-parenting in the future in the hopes of connecting with more readers and learning something about this very important job we have and maybe helping someone else out there.


Alex said...

You absolutely accomplished it. You have very clearly explained what it means to be a step-parent while TTC - it sounds very tough. You are an amazing woman for embracing your position in this boy's life so completely. The part that broke my heart is when you discussed what would happen if something happened to BJ - oh that's terrible! And unfortunately true. My mom has always mourned the loss of my half-brother after my parent's divorce. She always asks about him, but he doesn't really keep in contact with her. Hopefully nothing happens, or if it does, your step-son will be at the age when he wants to maintain that relationship.

Thanks for sharing this. It was very enlightening, and just to let you know, I've already sent a gift and will be calling my step-mother on Sunday!!! Even though I never even lived with her, she has been a very good mother to me in my adult life, and she deserves some celebration too!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I never thought about the whole idea of you never being able to see him again if something happened to BJ! That's horrible!
Tell me - would BJ overrule you on things if it were your "own" kid? Or would he support your disciplining the child? I don't think it should matter if it's a stepchild - if it's a child in your house, it's better to both be on the same page discipline-wise. Unless his mom doesn't agree with certain things...then it would be extra tough.
I know this is no way the same, but when our friends and their 3 kids lived with us for 3 months, when I would correct one of the kids for something, sometimes the parent would back me up and sometimes they would totally blow it off. It was really frustrating, but there was nothing I could do b/c it was not my child. (Even though the kids were just begging for some structure and discipline).
I'm glad you have your stepson in your life to love on, and I know when he gets a little older he'll appreciate all of the love and support he gets from you.

Anonymous said...

Well I'll wish you a happy mother's day then. Even though you 'only' have him 50% of the time you are clearly a huge part of his life. That is very special. He's a lucky kid. It sounds like he is a smart, kind kid too and I'll bet, as he gets older, that you do get mother's day greetings.

There is no doubt that this is a tough day. I'm glad you and BJ are spending some time together.