Life has handed me some of the best surprises in these unexpected twists and turns. It’s hard to think back to a time that these two little people weren’t a part of my life. I love them in an unconditional and limitless way. The kind of love that makes you want to watch them sleep and stroke their hair just thinking about who they might grow up to be. These last few months have brought the highest of highs, but also some major frustrations and challenges. Today’s blog post is about the 5 biggest challenges I’ve encountered in my first five months of step-parenthood.
The first of which is the suddenness of it all. I went from living on my own, sleeping in, with my only responsibility to myself and my mini-goldendoodle, to early rising, home bound with two kids. There was no honeymoon trip and no honeymoon period. It was as though I turned on a lightswitch with a heap of new responsibilities. It was less of stepping into a new role and much more like cannonballing in. Most of us expect to plan for a child, get pregnant, carry the baby for nine months, and slowly wade through all of the child development seasons, adding more children to the mix as we see fit (with some surprises). Jumping into life with two little people midway through child development has been a shock to the system. I sometimes (actually frequently) catch myself envying moms who get to start from the beginning.
How do I compare as a wife? How do I compare as a mom? As a cook? As a snuggler? As a bedtime story reader? Both in my husband’s eyes and children’s.
Co-momming is an experience I doubt many women anticipate. Like it or not, you are on a team with someone you didn’t pick to be on a team with. It is not just a short-term partnership either, but a lifelong linkage. Never did I think I would need to justify haircut decisions, outfit choices, negotiate extracurriculars, or run anyone else by my puberty talks. I’ve thought it best to have a light friendship of sorts, allowing us to text quick questions, exchange photos, and keep each other in the loop. It has been a process of setting up firm, but polite boundaries, knowing that there is a reason my spouse is no longer with this person and acknowledging that we may have distinct and competing priorities.
Sharing custody is like being attached to an anchor. You can’t plan a month-long vacation, decide to move somewhere else, or take a last-minute ski trip across the border.
I’ve read about other moms having experiences of ‘mom-guilt’. I can only speak to my experience with stepmom-guilt, but it has been a doozy. Guilt has been more pervasive than I would have expected. I frequently feel guilty toward my children, my husband, or both. When the kids leave to go to their other home, I sometimes take a sigh of relief, joyful to have some quiet and restore some order and cleanliness in our home. I also feel guilty when I compare our kids to the hypothetical ones I had planned, or the ones we hope to have in the future. I catch myself thinking that if my blood and DNA had been in the picture or my parenting involved from the beginning maybe things would be different. Maybe they would like to read more and have better listening skills or table manners. When these judgey thoughts come in, I get an overwhelming feeling of guilt. I realize my own arrogance and naivety in the situation. When we are, God-willing, able to have more children, I’m hoping that this expectation vs. reality tension may have some resolve.
One thing I know is that mom life of any shape or size is not easy! In sharing my experience as a stepmom I hope to make others feel less alone and normalize these tough topics and conversations in the mom community. I also want to end off by acknowledging the really incredible, happy-tear filled moments that come with being a stepmom. I encourage you to reach out, check in, and follow along my journey as a mom/wife/woman on my @_aplaceforgrace Instagram page where I share about tricky bits and lessons learned along my journey.