I get a lot of un-asked for advice when it comes to my role as a stepmom. It's amazing what experts people think they are from watching a few episodes of Oprah, or because they have a friend going through the "EXACT same thing."
Except that they don't.
As stepmothers, we are all going through very similar things, but no one's story is the same. Nobody has the exact same set of circumstances that you do. I feel like when people try and relate to me as a stepmom, they go about it all wrong. Say all the wrong things. So, as an update to my previous list, let me add a few more phrases to never say when talking with a stepmom. Feel free to pass along to all of your friends that need a quick reminder...
1. Well, you signed up for this, didn't you?
This. Drives. Me. Banana bread.
No, dear friend, I did not sign up for this. There was no document that meticulously laid out all of the trials and tribulations I would encounter when I became a stepmom. That's like me finding out your daughter is smoking crack and saying, "Well, you became a mom. You signed up for this."
What I did sign up for was to unconditionally love a husband and two stepkids, and to try and maturely handle a very interesting relationship with the mother of his children. That's all I knew. I didn't have a crystal ball that forewarned me about anything. To imply that I can't ever be upset, or shocked or taken aback by something relative to being a stepmom simply because I got married is a whole load of BS. I am a human being and I have feelings...and those feelings will sometimes be nonsensical and ridiculous. Telling me that I should have known this was coming is not only insensitive, it's mean. So don't say it.
2. But you only have XYZ years left before this over, right?
Um, no. Becoming a stepmother is a lifeline commitment. My stepkids, much like biological children, don't fall off the face of the earth when they turn 18. In fact, just like biological children, my stepkids might become even more of a challenge when they become adults. I mean, all those that never called their parents for help after 18, raise your hand.
That's what I thought.
By stating the number of years until the kids are 18 to me only says one thing: you think my stepparent role is about money. Because child support (in some cases) ends when the child turns 18.
My role as a stepparent is not shaped around the amount of money my husband and I spend toward child support. In fact, that's at the very bottom of the list. Stepparents give their heart, love, and soul to their stepkids. Money's just math.
Understand that when a friend says this phrase, what they are truly saying is, "only XYZ years until I don't have to hear about your damn stepkids and Mama Ex anymore." And maybe it's time to get a new friend...cuz your stepkids aren't going anywhere.
3.You want me to drive by Mama Ex's house and see if there's a blue Jeep in the driveway and get a picture of the owner? SURE!!!!
Put down your keys and step away from my maniacal plans. I need you, my friend, to stop me. I have gone off the rails.
Sometimes this happens. I go a little coo coo. I hear stories from the kids about Mama Ex, and I get curious. I want to know if they're true. More importantly, I want to know if they're things I can use against her in court. It's so, so bad of me. It's naughty and it's wrong. Mama Ex has a right to live her life and as long as it isn't putting the kids in danger, I have ZERO right to meddle.
So when I come to you with a theory on how to figure out the password to her email, or a plan on how to catch her cheating on her boyfriend, you've got to talk me down. Don't encourage me. Remind me that this is NONE OF YO BUSINESS, RUBY! Remind me to live my life and stop focusing on hers. Period.
4. Look at the bright side, if your step kids turn out messed up, it isn't your fault, right?
This doesn't come up a lot, but every now and again, as I'm relaying a story to a friend about something nutso that the kids have done, it does surface. And it's hurtful. As a friend to a stepmom, you have to remember that as much as we whine about the kids, or share stories about how much they're driving us nuts, we view them as our kids. Just like you see your biological children as your kids. You don't get carte blanche to say negative things about my stepkiddo's just because they're "steps."
I take my role as a stepparent very seriously. I influence these kids. I am a part of their lives. So, if one of them ends up as a drug dealer, yes, it is partly my fault. I did sign up to nurture them and love them unconditionally, regardless of who they become. Sometimes it may seem like you have some leeway to speak candidly about how you feel about them because they aren't biologically mine, but really, that's not the case.
As I've said before, just think of my stepkids as though they are biologically mine. Because when they are with me (and even when they're not), I think of them that way. The best thing you can do is listen to me and support me. Don't try and pull stories from me. DO tell me I'm doing a great job and that you understand how difficult it can be. Relate to me with stories of your children. We're in the same boat, you and me. Let's ride it out together.