Thursday, 20 January 2011

Starting as a Step Mum

The thing with becoming a step mum is that, like motherhood, no one tells you what it’s going to be like. What rewards you will reap what sorrows you will suffer.
No one warns you how hard it is living with a partner who will always have his ex in his life, how your life can be ruled by others and influenced by a force, a human, a personality so out of your control, at times you will despair of the lack of influence you have over your own life.

Of course my situation is not the same for all step mums. Some don’t have an ex, some have to cajole kids who are predisposed to hate them, some have an easy ride and step into the role like Mary Poppins, the kids call her mum and everything is peachy. Some step mums have it tougher than I, go through hell, experience anger and challenging behaviour towards them and end up without the partner they so desired in the first place.

Being a step mum is a life changing experience. Ready or not. Here they come.
I knew my new beau had kids before I fell in love with him. Only just mind you, because it did not take me long to fall in love with him. I am one of the lucky ones who has found the most amazing guy, who is from the 22nd century, let alone the 21st century, treats me (and demands to be treated) as an equal, has charm, manners and a softness akin to being a girl, with strength, tact and wonder in bucket loads. I am lucky enough to have turned up trumps.

Straight out of a destructive and messy separation from an ex husband with an issue for every letter of the alphabet, I was recently separated, liberated, back on my bisexual freeway and right off men. I was having fun getting down and dirty with the lovely ladies and spending every other spare hour I had renovating a small property I would soon come to call my bachelorette pad. And then, BOOM! I met Mr Right. He totally caught me by surprised, I believe I was swooned! We reached out to each other and for the first time in my life I knew what it was to feel someone’s soul. A soul mate. And not feel it through what I wanted, but from him. He is the only man (or woman) to actually look into my eyes and see me. ‘I see you’ became our softly whispered motto, long before Avatar was filmed!

Anyway, our romance was sudden and speedy and although very passionate and spontaneous, it also had a strange kind of logic and practicality about it too! Everything just started to fall into place. It was weird. Once or twice we caught ourselves wondering if a disaster was ahead due to the speed at which we moved. But enough of that just now...

We met through work and became friendly to begin with. Then when we were both single and it was ‘safe’ we turned to each other one random day for support and from there we blossomed as bosom buddies. We dated a few times. Long memorable dates, with laughing and talking, kissing and exploring each other. We talked about past relationships, lives, mistakes, heartaches and of course his kids. From the beginning I thought a lot about what this could mean for me. For us.
I mean. Twins. Wow! At that time they were twelve years old. I knew from the beginning it was a big thing for me to consider. But I had no idea exactly what I should be considering.

If I were me now and I went back to those days, when I would day dream out of my newly installed sky light windows, whilst rubbing down the new plastering. If I could go back now and have a conversation with myself what advice would I give?

1.Being a step mum is about supporting the father and not taking on the role as mother
2.However, maintain your role as alpha female in your home, your rules
3.Show respect and set boundaries for everyone, not just the kids
4.Don’t fall into the trap of doing too much, for you will soon feel robbed of your own time
5.Learn how to let a lot of things go, because other peoples mistakes are not yours to fix
6.Don’t feel guilty about not contributing to everything, or splitting the costs of kids
7.Think positive thoughts about ex-partners, for they often have as many problems as the kids
8.Ignore malicious / devious intent by ex partners, it is not worthy of your energy
9.When confronted with the line ‘you are not my parent’ state ‘no but I am your friend...’
10.Communicate with your partner about everything at all cost but moan about your situation with someone else you trust.

Quite a list isn’t it?

I have had the pleasure of my step daughters for nearly four years now. They have been loving, fun, kind, thoughtful, sweet, cuddly, tickly, wiggly, giggly, special, beautiful, amazing girls for the majority of that time together. But they have also been selfish, rude, sticky fingered, thoughtless, ungrateful, self centred and spoilt.

Putting up with other people in your home, breaking and staining your stuff, taking your most prized gadget out the house, running up your bills and not giving a damn about it is hard to take at the best of times. In fact if it was your mate, you would have a quiet word and ask them to leave! But not your kids, and not your step kids.

What step mums have to remember is that we don’t have the luxury of that bond with our babies from birth. We don’t have all those important beautiful moments when you hold your baby, wrapped in layers of blanket, look into their eyes and know you are utterly in love and will do anything to keep them happy and safe. We don’t have years of memories, to set our disposition to unconditional love. We are not blindly attached, forever hopeful, forever tireless of putting them first.

What we do have. Is a life. We have had experiences. We have been the number one priority in our lives up until now (excusing the obvious attachment to a partner, dependant or not). We have been the leader of our own tiny wolf pack and we have ruled over the space in which we occupy.
We have the luxury of detachment. We are free from the attachment of others, which is good enough for Buddha, its good enough for me!

So it’s a long and arduous journey suddenly giving up your space for someone else. Someone who comes first before you a lot of the time. Someone who will not be capable of treating your space with anything like the same level of love, cleanliness, respect that you do. In fact that someone soon changes the way you have to live, to suit their needs.
It’s a very weird world walking into your own home, to discover the child urchin has moved things around, used up your favourite bubble bath, eaten all three tubs of hummus and littered every clean surface with stuff.
It’s a strange and alien world!
And no one warns you about any of it!

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