Location: Greater Manchester
Expectations of Step-Motherhood: I thought long and hard about becoming a step-mother. I have been delighted to be one and think I have done it well. How can I understand success? Perhaps it is due to adjusting myself to the role, rather than expecting others or the situation to adjust to me.
A child cannot be ignored and their needs are always primary. If you can’t do this for a child, your biological child or otherwise problems will arise.
I expected it to be hard, I predicted potential problems and decided ahead of beginning and throughout how I would address them:
How much would I provide financially? How much would I provide practically? How much would I provide from a discipline perspective? How involved would I be in parenting, education, and house rules decisions?
All this was relatively easy to do and think through – the emotion and joy that comes with it though was less expected or predictable. A deep and special attachment developed. One that is not more or less than a biological bond but certainly different – maintained through choice not blood; a parenting, adult, significant figure with the added advantage of being a ‘third’ parent – half a step removed, more able to reflect, advise, take the middle ground, helicopter parent and set expectations without being dictatorial resulting in mutual respect and love.
An easier and more difficult role!
Reality of Step-Motherhood: The challenges that were not predicted were the emotional ones, the level of attachment developed. The speed at which I developed that compared to my step son and the challenges that our relationship brought to the relationship between the adults were also hard.
The frustration I felt when I saw sub-optimal joint parenting between my husband and my step-son’s mother and the fact that this only served to strengthen the parenting bond I had with my step son.
The bottom line is that the reality of step-motherhood has the same elements of the reality of motherhood with a slightly different spin. Challenges you have to live to believe the unexpected depth of emotion and joy.
And in many many many ways it is the same – washing, tidying, homework, ferrying, worrying, disciplining, explaining, sharing, enjoying, spending time together, spending money….!
Taking your child home for the first time: My step-son and I have an anniversary of our meeting, we mark it each year and it is a good day to be able to do so. I never brought him home for the first time, I did not give birth to him, he does not share my blood. But he does not remember a life without me, exhibits some of my influence (I like to think) and shares the blood of my son.
The best/worst advice: I have never had advice about being a step-parent and I have turned to reading only to help me with parenting my step son when we have come across problems or challenges any parent has, not specifically step parenting.
I observed and listened to others with step-children and planned my own strategies.
The worst and best incidental advice I have been given was a comment from a stranger that ‘it’s not the same as having your own’ – this is true, but not in the way most people mean – it is not the same but it is equally rewarding and challenging, not better not worse, just different.
The hardest parts of being a Step-mother: Undoubtably the hardest part for me of being a step-parent is the other parent(s).
The best parts of being a Step-mother: This has been rising to the challenge of a difficult role and reaping the rewards expected and unexpected.
Has becoming a Step mother changed you? No, being a step-mother has not changed me but has definitely developed me. I am now also a mother and I can say that being a mother has changed me.
Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother? Again, this did not change as a result of becoming a step-mother but did after becoming a mother. I attribute this to feeling the full weight of responsibility rather than a second in command role.
Hopes for your family: That they stay happy and healthy, that they remain part of our family and that my two boys (step and biological) remain close as brothers and we have relationships with any of their children.
What advice would you offer to new and step mums: Think about it!
The best advice I can give is do not enter into step-parenting lightly, do not become a step parent if you believe the children are an extra, or occasional presence, or will not be part of your life, or you don’t really want them, or you will find it hard if you have your own children, or you are not prepared to fully accept them and their needs or you are not prepared to NOT be fully accepted.
However, my experience is one experience, being a step parent, as being a parent, is different for everyone, the interactions between all dynamics involved make it unique for each unit – but just as with parenting, there are often common themes.
If anyone else would like to share their experiences of being a step-parent please do get in touch. Stories can always be kept anonymous, and experiences of motherhood which are not considered ‘the norm’ are very welcome in this project.