There is no harder job than being a parent. You've heard that adage before, right? Well there is. Want to know what it is? It's the job of stepparent. Remember the Step Mom in Cinderella? Or the Step Monster in St. Elmo's Fire? Yep, when I married my husband, I also married his four children from his previous marriages (yes, that is plural: marriages). We have some friends who joke that it just took him a few rides around the block on the short bus to finally get it right (& nope, you don't need to get all offended because I joked about the 'short bus'; he is the first to admit that often times it takes him awhile to get things right). Anyway, I proudly tell people that when I married my husband, I also married his four children. I was thrilled. I finally had the family I had always wanted, & I was thrilled when we were able to add the Boy, the Girl, & Little Boy to the family.
It hasn't always been a walk in the park. You are not their 'real' parent, & there are moments when they make sure that you haven't forgotten this fact. There are times when they will show you so much disrespect, it puts your spouse in the predicament of my kid vs. my spouse. They will test their boundaries & they will test your patience. They will do what kids do. And you will love them. You know that if you & their Dad were to divorce, they are still your children's siblings. You know that if their Dad were to remarry (not my husband; remember, he finally got it right), you would want THEIR step mom to love them & treat them with respect.
I've had one of my step children call me while in an elevated state of mind, & tell me that when I married his Dad & gave birth to "those brats", that we took everything that was rightfully his. He said that money that should be for him was being spent on "brats who shouldn't be here."
While running a 'clean up' on the computer one day a few years ago, I opened a file that contained a conversation one of my step children had had with a friend. It appeared to be a chat room type conversation; it took me a bit to figure out exactly what it was that I was reading. It was all about what a bad Mom I was. My step child didn't like how I was parenting my young children, & that a monkey could do a better job than I was doing. It talked about what a "stupid fool" that I am.
Then there was the note. One of the kids had gotten in trouble while at our house. As usual, I had to be the bad guy. I'm no different with my step children than I am with the children I gave birth to: if you do wrong, you suffer the consequences. This child "accidentally on purpose" left a note that in part said this: "Sheila is so far on my shit list that even saying sorry AND MEANING IT won't change a thing. You really dug a grave for yourself this time; you need to die, because being nice at this point won't change a thing."
I am only sharing these examples to let you know that things aren't always perfect when you are a step parent, but that they aren't all that bad, either. I am human, they are human, and I love them like my own. I wouldn't trade it for anything. My husband & his ex-wives have given me some of the most wonderful (& ornery) gifts that I could ever ask for. They ground me & show me that I need to have a sense of humor. Their three youngest siblings love them like there is no tomorrow.
So why do my older daughter's friends keep breaking MY heart?? Don't understand? Allow me to explain as best I can.
I have three step sons and a step daughter. ( I HATE saying 'step' children, but I don't really have another word for it, since I am not their Mom). The boys live here in town, but my daughter lives in Washington with her husband & her three young children (yes, my daughter & I were pregnant at the same time for part of 2 of our pregnancies). I will tell you this: it is awful not being able to be close to them. I'd just about give my right arm to have them live here, but they don't like the Midwest summers & we're not fond of the rainy season that they seem to always have.
About 6 months ago, my daughter started having some serious health issues. She had a diagnosis of Lupus, then there have been autoimmune issues associated with all of that as well. She has been unable to work, & has been in the hospital at times. It has been very difficult being so far away from her while this is going on. She & her husband are hard working proud people. They are the most loving parents you could ever meet. I just want them closer to us. Since she's been "under the weather", many people have said, "don't hesitate to let me know if you need anything." I've seen it on her Facebook wall. I've said it to my own friends as well.
Lately, when phone calls have proved ineffective, my daughter has taken to Facebook to ask friends for help. Maybe for a ride into town, or for some help with the children. or simply for company. The response to her request 99% of the time is something like this: "I wish I could, but..."
If you offer help and don't/won't can't follow through, then DO. NOT. OFFER. TO. HELP. Period. End of story. Do not say it just to make yourself feel better for saying that you offered. Sometimes when people need our help, we have to rearrange our schedules a bit. Just a little bit. That little bit means the world to someone who needs us at the time. I am just livid that she has the same small group of people to help her, even though an entire group has offered. She doesn't want to burden anyone, & feels like the ones who are helping are going to burn out from helping so darn much.
It has me in knots. I want to be in Washington. I am in Nebraska. I want to help my family. When her own Mother was alive, I promised her that I would love her two children (my oldest step children) as if they were my own. I promised to respect them & do anything I could do to help them. Her Mom hugged me & said shewas thankful that I made her ex-husband & her children happy.
It doesn't matter if you give birth to them, adopt them, foster them, or marry them, they need our love, support, & respect. This parenting job is not for the weak at heart, you've got to be a ninja (or something like that).