"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

Stepmum confessions


I confess. Being a stepmum is not naturally my "thing". Seriously. I know this because it's been a struggle much of the time. What's worse - and I brace myself here and squirm just a little (okay, a lot), hoping that you won't judge me too harshly - there were times when I wished that my stepchildren didn't live with us.

Oops, did I just say that out loud?

When these thoughts would come unbidden into my head I always felt like such a failure. Honestly, it's NOT that they've been horrible stepchildren. And I'm incredibly thankful for that. I know it could have been much worse. SO. MUCH. WORSE. I've read plenty of stepfamily blogs!! But my stepchildren? They're actually really amazingly great young people.

Strange teenagers in my home
Truth is, when it came to having teenagers coming to live in my home every couple of weeks, I could have done a lot worse. I know that. They're really nice-natured. Polite. Sweet. Caring. Helpful. Good conversationalists. Fun. Good, good young people who are learning what it is to be godly. I'm actually extremely fond of them. And really that just made it so much worse when these thoughts would overtake me. Because my life as a stepmum has never been all that hard in the overall scheme of things.

I used to think about this a lot, and wonder why it was such a challenging thing for me to make progress. And here's what I came up with.

My innate tendencies
Firstly, in my sinful nature, I have a tendency to be selfish. I like my "alone" time. Not so long ago my hands-on parenting days were coming to an end and as much as I adore my sons, I was looking forward to the freedom that came with this new stage of life. Although I'd really thrived as a stay-at-home-mum to my two, I was ready for what came next. That all changed when there were teenagers in the house again.

Also, being an introvert, I like nothing more at the end of a busy day than to go for a walk, alone or with my husband, or sit in a lovely bubble bath, debrief about the day or even talk about something unrelated to work, like the current political situation (ummm...... actually that one is never me......), or a podcast one of us has listened to, or the day's bible reading, or something we've seen on YouTube. Anything. I look forward to our quiet, uninterrupted evenings together. Every second week, this would all go straight out the window as three teens vied for their dad's attention at the end of their busy days.

And then there's this. I gained my three stepchildren when they were teens (and one not-quite-teen). When I married their dad they were 17, 15 and 11. Well and truly formed. I've never known them as babies, or as cute toddlers, or really even as sometimes-cute kids. I don't even have the connection that a fond auntie might have. I missed out on the majority of their growing-up years. Years during which I might well have been learning to love them and their cute ways while they were, quite possibly, easier to love.

A canine analogy
Now, I need to say at this point that what follows is probably not the best analogy, but I'm going to go with it anyway, for want of a better one. So stay with me here if you will.

My eldest son has a dog. He's 7 now (the dog), but when he was a bit younger he could be a naughty boy (again, the dog, not so much my son, although he too has definitely had his moments over the years..........). He was (and still is) boisterous (yes, the dog again), he had few manners, and lots of bad habits. He licked incessantly (still does). He jumped up (not so much now). He struggled to "stay". He still gets overexcited. When we put him outside during dinner he whines and groans pathetically at the door. He rolls in the dirt and gets smelly. He used to have a naughty habit of turning his head and nipping the hand that was patting his ears, just gently, but nevertheless needing a sharp smack on the nose to remind him that this was just not on. But here's the thing.

I love this dog to bits!!

He was just the cutest puppy, and I "puppy-sat" him on numerous occasions when he was little. I nursed him through his "unkindest cut" when he was all groggy and wobbly after the anaesthetic and had to wear a bucket on his head for a week. I looked after him when my son went away, and he was my BEST FRIEND for ten whole days. We walked on the dog beach. I took him to a cafĂ© for the first time and taught him to sit quietly under the table no matter what walked by. We played tug-of-war in the backyard, and he learned to "stay" on the rug in the living room. That was over 6 years ago, and these days he's more like a big, goofy, rowdy, undisciplined teenager. But it's too late for me, because basically I fell in love with him the moment I met him, and now I'm a sucker.


Yes, I reprimand him and stop him from misbehaving when I see it. I don't allow him in the house at dinner time (ummm, mostly........). I speak sternly and smack his little nose when he tries his antisocial nipping. But I still just love him. He loves his people so much and really wants to please. His whole body just shivers with the excitement of seeing everyone and his tail wags nineteen to the dozen. You can just see him trying so hard to sit still when he's told. He knows he's not supposed to move from his spot on the floor, but he can't help himself, and he starts to commando crawl slowly forward towards the people he just wants to be near, hoping we won't notice. Then we struggle not to dissolve into giggles as we growl at him to "stay".

He's really just the cutest naughty boy, and so when he visits and I hear him excitedly whimpering at the front door, waiting for me to open it and let him in, and when I see him in his yellow and blue L.A. Lakers jersey (yes, I'm still talking about the dog), basically I'm a goner. I'm hooked for life! If my son could no longer look after him, I wouldn't hesitate to take him on, undisciplined as he is. I would be his mama in a New York minute.

Because I've known him and loved him all of his life.

If I'd known them as "puppies" too
So I confess that this stepmother role has been (and still can be) a struggle for me. And I wonder if it's possible I may feel differently about my three teenage/young adult stepchildren, and my role as their stepmother, if I'd known them as "puppies" too.

I hope that if you're a stepmother reading this, and it resonates in your soul - not because your stepchildren are horrible or they make your life a misery, but because stepmothering is simply not naturally your thing -  that you will take comfort in knowing you're not alone.

Naming & shaming: He really is a loveable naughty boy,
he wanted to come inside so badly he ate the doggie door........

5 comments

  1. Hi Sue, I know exactly how you feel because I was in the same position, although both of us had children,mine were younger. At one point though, my children were living with their Dad full time and I had a stepson living with us. There were many times I felt resentful. Time passes and now they are adults with children and I think that we all mellow. We have a combined family Christmas a week before each year, with the four children on either side plus their children. It is a lovely day but I gave up trying to compete for Christmas day and always being the last place visited when everyone was tired and didn't feel like eating. So I decided to change the day to one where no one has other plans and there is no excuse as I set the day two months in advance! You aren't alone in your feelings perhaps just honest and putting to paper what many if not most step-parents think and feel.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sue, I definitely think being a stepmum is one of the most challenging (and growing) things I've ever done! And I can totally relate, the whole Christmas thing is fraught, and we are still trying to work that one out!!

      Delete
  2. This is so interesting to read about, as I can only imagine what it would be like living with teenage children who aren't mine. I suspect my fleshly attitude would be fairly similar to yours, as I quite like my own space too! It's an interesting thought as to the reason - there certainly is a lot of cuteness that goes on in those early years of their lives, and if you miss out on witnessing that, perhaps it does make teenage children harder to love! Appreciate your honesty in writing about this. xox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harder yes, and a lot slower for that fondness to grow too!! When I was a stepmum I read heaps of blogs and found it so discouraging that nobody seemed willing to admit that it wasn't all "roses". Maybe I'm a freak, but I don't think I'm that different to anyone else. Loving someone else's children has certainly not been an "instant" thing for me!!

      Delete
    2. Oops, I mean when I was a NEW stepmum........... :)

      Delete

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post. Please feel free to leave a comment!