Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Stepmom Diaries: Being a Real Mom

Before you read this there are a few things you should know.  First, I don't take a laid back approach to much in my life except maybe squats and push-ups. No, really.  Have you ever seen me eat chocolate?  I dive right in!    Second, to the best of my knowledge nobody mentioned in this blog actually reads it, except on the rare occasions when my mom or my husband decide to give it a whirl. Third, this is my perspective and experience, obviously based on my observations and interactions with certain individuals.  Finally, if you are new to the blog, know that while I have always wanted to be a "real mom" that isn't the plan God has for me.  I am okay with that.  I just do the best I can being a good wife and step-mom. 

Last week someone hinted at flat out told me that my place as a "step-mom" was unworthy because I am not a real mom.  I was amused by this 3rd parties opinion,  not because I think she is right or care what she thinks of me because I don't on either count. No, I was amused because I couldn't help but question what her idea of a real mom actually is.  To insinuate that only a birth mother can be a real mom is leaving out an entire list of caretakers from step mothers, grandparents and  adoptive mothers to aunts, uncles, and cousins raising someone else's kid.  To question the parenting ability of a person who did not give birth because they did not give birth, is not only insulting it is misdirected and it shows how insecure some people can be.  There is no instruction manual that comes with birth.  There is no magic insight that a birth parent gets that an adoptive parent or step parent doesn't have.  In fact, I would put out there that sometimes, just sometimes, parents who get in the game a little later are able to see little things more clearly without all the "My Baby" syndrome that is attached to actually giving birth to a child.  That is not in any way discounting a mom's role in a child's life, or a dad's role for that matter.  It is just that when I see my step-daughter, I see who she is today not the baby my husband and his ex-wife brought home from the hospital 12 years ago.  I missed all the cute moments of learning to crawl, walk, and talk.  She talks just fine now.  Too well sometimes.  I missed all the dirty diapers and spit up.   I just get the preteen drama and boy is there  a lot of that lately!  That's okay, I am was a preteen handful myself.  Ask my mom! 

So here are the things that do or don't make me a parent depending on your definition of motherhood, I suppose.  We share custody so this is an every other week ritual for me. 

What I do for my step-child:

I make most of her meals during the week.  I cook 90% of the time not "heat up" and we rarely eat out. 
I do our part of the back to school shopping.   
I take her to school functions or I go with her dad to them.
I drive her to school 5 days a week and sometimes, I pick her up.  
I listen to her concerns.  
I give her advice on how to handle friends who are hurting her or the bullies at school. 
I encourage her to talk things out. 
I constantly talk to her about how important grades are and picking a college wisely, yes, at 12.  
I help her make decisions like what electives to take in school.  
I painted her room pink because that is her favorite color.  
I ground her.  
I take away her phone. 
I keep her in line when she speaks to an adult, including me, her father and her mother in a disrespectful way. 
I correct her language. 
I let her know when she is right.
I let her know when she is wrong.
I expect that she will be respectful to me, her father, her mother, and her step-father and I let her know that. 
I talk about faith and God to her. 
I am honest with her and do not keep things from her.  
I encourage her to talk to her mother and her father about things that are bothering her.  
I sometimes play referee.  
I remind her she is loved by a lot of people.   
I color her hair pink when she begs her parents to have pink tips.   
I bought her her first pair of boots and jeans.  (Which is all she wears now.)
I sit in the deer stand with her, by her choice.  
I encourage her to read.  
I talk to her like she is a person with reasoning ability.  
I get upset when I feel like she is being picked on at school and I get upset when I feel like the school is not handling it right.
I talk to her about things that happen in school that worry her.
I encourage her to attempt to have a relationship with not only myself and my family who she has freely adopted as hers, but also with her step-father.    
I communicate openly with my husband and his ex-wife on what is going on with my step-daughter. 
Along with her father, I give her responsibility and expect her to help do things around the house. 

I do all of this with the support of her father and her mother.   They have both been incredibly encouraging of my developing a relationship with their daughter. Why?  Because a child can never have too many people who love and care for her.

What I do not do for my step-child:

I do not take her parents place when it comes to confronting the school about the things they have done wrong, and in my opinion there are many.  Just an aside here, I really want to tell them how wrong they are and this has been hard for me. 
I do not interfere in her mother and father's role as legal guardians and parents.
I do not bad talk either of her parents or her step father.  (I have no reason to.)
I do not ever try to take her mother's place.  She has one mother.  I am simply a bonus to her.  
I do not expect her to call me mom.  
Because she refers to me as her step-mom, I don't introduce her as my daughter.  (This hurt for about 2 weeks until I realized it doesn't matter.) 
I do not keep secrets from her parents for her.   Her father and mother are informed of anything that is a danger to her and her security irregardless of if she told me in confidence or not.  I have told her they have a right to know these things and while I know I run the risk she will stop telling them to me, I also have an obligation of protecting her, even from herself. 
I do not lie to her.
I do not lie for her. 

Now, there are some people out there who feel that my role in my step-child's life is not important. I can tell you three people who do not feel that way: Her mother, Her father, and my step-child.  Does she drive me crazy sometimes?  Of course she does, she is 12.  

My personal opinion is that a lot of parents feel threatened by the step parent and the truth is, they just need to get over it.   Most step-parents are not there to try and take the place of the mom or dad. (Unless they are forced to because the mom or dad is missing or pretty much worthless). Most are there to support their spouse and the child they gladly agreed to help raise.  That is what they are doing, by the way, helping to raise this child.   The relationship should be encouraged by the parents because it is what is in the best interest of the child.    Moreover, if you are so insecure with your relationship with your child, you should really work on having a better relationship with your child and not point fingers at the step-parent who is just trying to give your child a little bit of extra love.   Can any child have too much love?

I can tell you this, in the 2 years that I have known my step-daughter and in the 1 year I have had the honor of being her bonus parent, I have worked hard at gaining her trust.  I have worked hard at finding out who she is today, not who she was at 6 months old.  I have spent countless hours learning her likes and dislikes from food (she hates sausage) to boys (she likes funny boys like her daddy), to colors (she hates purple).  I have seen this child develop from a girl that wears yoga pants and tennis shoes to school to one who worries about what she looks like and hogs my long mirror in the closet. I have had to fight her borrowing my make-up that she was never going to wear and now won't return (Oh, how my mom laughed at that one!) and had to reminding her that she can't wear my shoes because her foot is bigger than mine!  I have loaned her cloths to wear to school and I have tossed her out of my closet.   I have asked her 200 times not to get in my personal space only to have her do it over and over because she knows doing it drives me crazy.   I have had knock down, drag out arguments with her about her 'attitude' and eye rolling (GOD how irritating is that?) only to have her come apologize an hour later.  I have sent her to her room before I lost my mind at least 15 times.   I have laughed with her about her goofy dad.  We have shared the raising of chickens and dogs and talked about goats, ducks, and cows.  She has cried over the loss of her grandmother and tells me funny stuff that happened with her mom. 

We have worked on our relationship because I made her a priority in MY life.  Does this make me step-mom of the year?  Not even close.  I am flawed. I made a ton of mistakes with her.  I am overly passionate and sometimes I defend her when I shouldn't and sometimes I see way too much of myself in her, however that is possible.  I am too hard on her sometimes and way to easy on her others. 

So why did I laugh at the real mom who said my role isn't important?  She is one of those Facebook moms.  She is mother of the year on Facebook but has no clue what her daughter is doing in Sunday-Saturday or maybe she does but doesn't choose to confront the problems.   She is the last person I would accept parenting advice from or care what she thinks of my role.   I am not saying she doesn't love her child, I am sure she does.   I just don't think she has any clue what is going on in her kids lives and she tries so hard to be their buddy she has no time to parent.  Sadly, she ignores the warning signs with her daughter even when her child's father and step-mom try to address them.   That's my take on the situation.  I don't really know her and she doesn't know me. We have met twice. I do know that I was aware of things happening in her daughters life for 2 weeks before she knew about them.  I also find it funny that I have known her child almost as long as I have known my step-daughter and that I have no problem getting her to behave for me when she apparently doesn't behave for her mom.  I am totally amused that she is now questioning my capabilities when she thought nothing of letting her child come to stay at my house 30 miles away for a week, having never set eyes on me.  I find it sad that the first time I met this woman and told her how much I liked her daughter, who was polite and well behaved with me, that her response was "It is good to know she is that way with someone."  Maybe I doubt her parenting skills when she is more concerned with teaching her child how to walk in heals and put on makeup then how to do laundry and dishes.  Maybe my own mother was wrong in setting real life expectations for me as a child and that is how I approach parenting today.  Maybe that is my problem. I mean, what do I know?  I am not a real mom....

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