Stepmemo

A note to stepmoms everywhere

The Work it Takes to Make a Family

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We had a little sit down with the kids yesterday, and talked about life together. The outcome was that it was felt that I run the house (which, as a wife, it should be – within the husbands wishes – don’t go painting the house pink or demanding crazy things, but take care of daily business). They see that I do a lot, the youngest said she felt I was mean sometimes because I don’t let her have enough candy. There’s not much to be done about that, she doesn’t agree with sugar, and then we all suffer. So no, there’s not much candy in the house. But they all said I was intimidating, so I thought about that. I really took that to heart, not offensively, but trying to see why they would think that. 90% of the time, I’m just yelling, it’s not at anyone (maybe the dog), so I let them know that. Then this morning, I remembered something.

When I first moved in, everything was a mess. There wasn’t much structure, my husband was “emotionally digesting” a lot, the kids were adjusting, and I was being told on all sides that I needed to be a “mommy” now. I wanted to be nice to the kids and be like an older sister. I didn’t want to tell them to do much, and I didn’t want to rock the boat. So I just did everything. I went to work and came home and made dinner and did all the laundry and cleaned. And you know what? I didn’t sit down for about 6 months. I don’t suggest it, this was not the way to start. And I found that out the hard way.

After we all started getting used to each other, the kids would blatantly tell me they didn’t have to listen to me. I wasn’t their mom and I couldn’t do anything to them. So times when I had to watch them without my husband was pretty intense. They would wrestle in the living room, not want to go to bed, argue with me, make a mess and not pick it up. The middle child told me I was ugly, and the youngest told me it was her birthday week and I had to do whatever she told me. They were testing the boundaries, because they are little people and they want to know how much power they have. This is normal.

My husband didn’t really know what to do here. He was scared to support me because he didn’t want the kids to think he loved me more. This is also normal.

But everyone told me I had to be the person in charge and be the authority in a situation where I clearly had no authority. And that was when I started yelling.

It was the only thing I could do. I had spent months pleading, asking, reminding, urging, writing on a board, nagging my husband… to no avail. I was a joke. The house would be a mess, I would be working my butt off, exhausted and stressed, and they would be laughing that I was upset about it. They didn’t take me seriously. I felt like the live in housekeeper. That was my only role.

I know this kind of power struggle is something all stepmother go through. I hear this from others, it’s stressful and hard. It feels like no one knows what you’re trying to do, and you are going through this alone. It seems endless.

But even though the kids think I’m intimidating now (which means I almost never really have to yell anymore, I ask them nicely and I think they hear a yell, and they do what I’ve asked and get on with their lives) and they talk to me like a friend. They are excited to tell me things they’ve accomplished, they will ask me for help with things and we have long discussions about important things, like history and the bible and anything that may be bothering them. They are doing well in school and are happy, and don’t mind being themselves. They are great kids, and I have to work hard and carefully make ALL of my decisions (how I act, what I say, what I do, how I talk to my husband, everything) to keep it that way. It takes time, but it’s possible to get to harmony with a mixed family. Keep talking, keep trying, and just love them for who they are.

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Author: Jessie Henry

Reinventing my life and enjoying my adventure. Living life as full as I like with no apologies, loving all of it.

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