I am so tired. Emotionally. I do not want to get out of bed because I’m not sure I have the energy to be a step mom today. I feel like every few months I’m at my wits end, sobbing in the bathroom into a glass of wine, resisting the urge to call my own step mother, and best friend to tell her I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t know how she managed, how in the hell she didn’t run away. I think, actually at one point she did run away. I don’t blame her. I can’t say whether it was harder for her to not have her own children, it was definitely a piece that was missing, but maybe it was a blessing for my sister and I? We needed all of her heart.
When I came into this relationship I already had my daughter, and my husband had a daughter and a son. I liked his kids immediately, and they liked me. I was thrilled to become a step mom, having been raised by one, I felt like maybe it was preparation for my future as a step mom. Not everyone is lucky enough to be raised by a step parent that they actually look up to. (It certainly wasn’t always like this, there were times that I think we hated each other, and years that I made her life miserable.) It didn’t occur to me that my life would turn into a fight. A constant fight for the impossible. I had been a stay at home mom, an attachment parenting mom. I was and am deeply connected to my daughter. I had not thought a whole lot about how I would parent her as she grew up, because I was taking it one day at a time. (When she was three I was convinced she was possessed, turns out she was just three… But I spent hours on the phone and the internet trying to figure out what to do.) Suddenly I had a 7 year old and a 5 year old, and my 3 three year old. I figured I would keep doing what I was doing, I tried to fit into their life as best I could, but there really was no place for me. The family was so used to taking care of each other that I was only really needed as a babysitter. Feeling like a fish out of water I began to make small changes in our household, there had to be a way to make us a family. Initially it was health. I threw out all the packaged, boxed and canned food and worked tirelessly on changing their diet. I wasn’t comfortable feeding my child TV dinners, and I thought it was the loving thing to nourish my new family. Well, that backfired. I ended up becoming the enemy of the in-laws and extended family. Instead of backing me up, they decided to lie, and sneak around, teaching my kids that I do not deserve respect.
That was 3 years ago, since then we have had similar struggles, and they seem to be worse and more frequent. Between encouraging my kids to lie to me and my husband, and actually lying to us, it’s impossible. My husband is so used to his family disrespecting each other that he doesn’t see the problem. Because he doesn’t see it, he thinks I overreact. He feels I should just let it go, because they will never change. I would do that if it didn’t directly effect the way his kids treat me.
You can see, my husband is generally more relaxed, he’s not a rule enforcer. The only time he really pushes it is dependent upon his mood, or what is necessary, like if we have to go and the kids are messing around, THEN the dad voice comes out and everyone scrambles. I prefer that the children are obedient and don’t require “dad voice”. I am aware that as parents, it’s our responsibility to raise our children and teach them to be decent human beings. (The jury for me is still out on The Lord of the Flies, but watching my step son, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t hesitate to eat his friend.) It seems I worry endlessly about who these kids will be as adults and I am scared. Honestly scared. I see a child with no conscience. And I believe it’s our job (and I mean EVERY adult) to teach children empathy. We are not all born with the gift of empathy, and if you grow up in a household where it’s every man for himself… and that’s kind of the environment I see. The problem is, I seem to be the only immediate family who sees a problem and I go back and forth between just letting it be, and then being horrified and feeling a deep seeded need fix the problem.
I wonder if I didn’t have my own daughter, and actual horse in the race, maybe I would just let it go, be a babysitter, and let their lives be the way they were. The problem is that I have a little girl that I have high hopes for, I see so much promise in her, and I won’t cut comers on parenting. Not with my little girl. I have seen the products of “non parent parenting”, and I am not going to be responsible for that. The problem is, I have a hand in parenting my step children, so I will have responsibility to take. What am I gonna say? I’m sorry I fought with your dad so much and taught you that it’s OK to undermine your partner? I’m sorry I was so inconsistent? I’m sorry you think I favor my daughter– I wasn’t allowed to be your mom. I’m sorry I gave up on you….
I don’t want to give up. I love these kids. And I love my husband. I want us to be a family, but I don’t see how we are going to get through this with out royally fucking these kids up. At some point something has got to give. I’m tired of fighting. But I feel a moral obligation to these awesome littles. I feel a deeper obligation to MY little.
I am blessed because my daughter has a wonderful step mom who has become my friend and sometimes my therapist. I have 100% support from my daughter’s father and his wife. It’s refreshingly healthy. I can’t see why I don’t have that from my husband’s family.
I know I’m not an expert parent, but my heart is in it, and I work my ass off trying to do right by my little family. Often times it’s the hardest thing to do. And way too many times it turns into a fight. Where is the balance? What battles do I pick? How can I make this work? I have fantasies that I take my daughter and we just live together, and I spend weekends with my husband and the kids… wouldn’t it be easier if I only saw them all occasionally, and didn’t have a responsibility to parent? I would miss them, but I think I would be much more relaxed. It’s a huge responsibility being a parent. I do not take it lightly… I do not want to abandon them. But I do want to run away sometimes. Like today.