What is it like being a step-parent . . .
I have been an official ‘stepmum’ to Curly now for nearly four and a half years but I have been in his life as his Daddy’s girlfriend for nearly seven and a half years. Regulars readers of my site will probably notice that I don’t talk too much about my life as a stepmum. This isn’t because I’m ashamed of it or don’t like it, its because it’s probably going to open up on a whole minefield but I have decided that it is something which I need to approach. This is my blog where I write about my life and being a stepmum to Curly is a huge part of my life and sometimes I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong. Pretty much like being a normal parent then!
Without wishing to alienate people I think its fair to say that unless you have been a stepmum or stepdad yourself you haven’t really got a clue what it’s like but this is my story, in my own words . . .
The first time I saw Curly he was a tiny little tot (just turned 2) with a mass of bright blond curly hair (I wonder where I got his blog name from?), he had the biggest smile and the cutest cherubic face and to be honest apart from getting a lot taller and his hair getting darker, nothing much has changed. He still has a lovely smile (when he’s not forcing it) and he is still as cheeky as ever. I began dating his Daddy 3-4 months after he had split from Curly’s Mummy and it wasn’t a decision that we took lightly. We had been friends for 18 months and so already knew each other well but knowing that a child would be heavily involved in our relationship we weren’t prepared to just dive in on the off-chance that something good might come out of it. We discussed our thoughts on marriage, further children, where we saw our lives going etc etc etc. Normally this sort of conversation would have frightened the life out of me before a first date but neither of us wanted to take the risk of Curly going through a further relationship breakdown so it was all or nothing. No pressure then!
The first year was especially hard with regards to outside pressures which do not need airing here but in our little bubble of Curly, Daddy and me things were going well. We took things really slowly, initially we would go out for odd days here and there and we wouldn’t even hold hands in front of him. Then after a month or so we would hold hands in front of Curly and give each other a quick kiss to say goodbye. The funniest was when on a day out Curly turned to his Daddy and said “can we take her home now Daddy?” and then as I went to get out of the car he said “don’t forget to kiss her Daddy”. Another six months down the line we discussed me staying over the night whilst Curly was there, I remember it like it was yesterday. We went out for a walk to the park and as we walked home, Daddy said to Curly, “what would you think to Beanie (me) staying over tonight at our house?”. Curly replied with “yeah she can share my room if she wants to!”.
Jump forward another couple of years to an evening where we handed Curly an envelope with an Invitation to our Wedding. As he opened it he said “are you guys getting married?” we tentatively replied with “yes, what do you think?” and his reply “wicked!” followed by a big hug for us both. During our wedding ceremony we added an extra vow to include Curly so that he knew that the wedding was not just about me and Daddy, we were a team.
When Little Bean came along he was very excited to meet his little sister and was as helpful as a big brother could be, although I couldn’t convince him to help with changing the nappies!! And now that Beanie Boy is here, he has again been of great help (when he wants to be) and yes, he has even changed a couple of nappies now!!
But has our journey been an easy one? The very honest answer is NO! Our journey has been a very bumpy rollercoaster ride, sometimes because of outside sources. The relationship between his Mother and stepdad and his Daddy and me has not always been easy. For the most part we are amicable, we have even been known to share the odd Christmas drink together but there have also been a lot of downs. We do not always see eye-to-eye on parenting methods or on how Curly’s time should be divided between his two homes but we do always try to remember that at the centre of it all is a little boy.
The hardest part for me was when Curly started at school, I always said that I would treat him as I would my own child so that if we had more children he would not feel any different. When he started school, I wanted to do what any (step)Mum would want to do, I wanted to see him in his uniform all dressed up like a big boy but his Mum wouldn’t allow it. I wanted to attend parent’s evenings as I was having just as much input into his schoolwork at home, I wanted to hear first-hand what the teachers had to say (because Hubby is useless at passing on messages!) but again his Mum wouldn’t allow it. I was allowed to drop at and collect Curly from School and it was ok for me to collect him from school when he was ill. I am allowed to attend events such as Sports Day or assemblies but that is the limit to my school involvement. This has never sat well with me but I have come to accept it and have taken the back seat.
When Little Bean came into our lives we were unsure how this would affect Curly because at the time we were having him one evening per week and a day and evening over the weekend but it felt like he was never really settling with us. We had discussions with his Mum and changed his weekends so that he would be with us from a Friday evening to a Monday morning every other weekend and this has worked wonders. Friday night and Saturday morning are usually when he adjusts to being back into larger family life (he has no siblings at his Mum’s) and on Saturday afternoon/Sunday he is fully settled and alls feels quite normal. We still have him one evening in the week and then we have him extra days during the school holidays or if his Mum is away and he joins us on family holidays.
The difficulty that I now find myself in is when we fall out (mainly Curly and me) I battle with my conscience as to whether we are falling out as a Mother and Son would being the age that he is (nearly 10yrs) or whether it is because he is my stepson. I try very hard to discipline all the children the same but with their differences in age this isn’t always easy. Little Bean gets a fair amount of discipline from me at the moment as she is at that very tricky stage where she is testing her boundaries, Beanie Boy is obviously just a baby though he is starting to hear the word ‘no’ quite frequently too. But Curly frustrates me, on Tuesday we had a lovely day out and I felt the happiest I had been in while with my family unit as everyone was on top form for a change. No-one was stressed out, the children played nicely together and all was well with the world. Then yesterday it was as though someone tipped the world on its head and shook it up. Curly and Little Bean were winding each other up all day, Little Bean kept screaming and waking Beanie Boy from his naps, Curly continuously snapped at Little Bean and spoke to her like she was something on the bottom of his shoe. He speaks to me and Daddy like this regularly and it drives us mad. I’m sure it would be the same if he were my own flesh and blood but I always find myself asking that question.
Being a step-parent is very rewarding when its going well, knowing that a child not of your own flesh and blood loves you unconditionally as if you were their Mother is a wonderful feeling but on the flipside, either by the child or external sources it is heart-breaking when you are cruelly reminded that you are NOT their true parent. At the end of the day, each new day is a learning curve, we are faced with new situations to test us. I have never been a stepmum before and likewise Curly has not been a stepson, we are growing and learning together but that is what we are – TOGETHER – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
So there, I’ve finally broken my silence on being a step-parent. I will always love Curly as my own but I can’t say that it will always be easy!