If there’s anything I’ve learned from being an Auntie and watching co-workers and friends, it’s that raising kids is HARD. They need constant attention and love, don’t forget dinner, a bath and a bedtime story, oh, and all before 7 pm. Nappy changes and tantrums, the school run, picking up toys – it’s never ending!
Having said all that, I truly envy all you mums and dads out there, because being a parent seems (from my most probably warped perspective) a damn lot simpler than being a step-parent. There are approximately 87,921 difficult things about being a step-parent, but here are my top four:
i never got to do any bonding
Remember those first few weeks after your little one arrived? You probably didn’t get much sleep and were for sure scared as hell, like who let you take this baby home when you have no idea what you’re doing? But you figured it all out, you did the sleepless nights and the colic cryfests because your baby was perfect. You watched them laugh for the first time, take their first steps and you definitely cried when they first said “daddy”.
I did exactly none of those things. Being a step-parent the bonding has to be intentional without being forced - let’s say you get lucky like me and end up with step-children who are more than happy having you around. That’s still not the same thing as being there from birth, being the person they’ve always come to when they’ve made a drawing for you or to check under the bed for monsters. My parenting can’t come from that place of established love. Don’t get me wrong, I love my step-sons, but my parenting comes from the head first then the heart and that’s really hard.
playing the game of catch-up
Think about everything you know about your child. It took you their whole life to know them right? And when you meet their new teacher or babysitter, and you have to describe your child, it feels weird and difficult, because how can you explain your little one in ten days, let alone ten minutes?
I had to try and pick up their entire history – from favourite foods and games to allergies and fears at three and six years in. I always feel like there is some mega important piece of the puzzle I haven’t been given.
step-mum support groups? forget it
It would be really cool to have a group of step-mums to hang out with who can sympathise and empathise or just talk about how hard it is. But I know one step-parent and she’s my own step-mum and has children of her own which changes the equation massively. There are of course lots of step-mums out there – but I’m only 22 and many of my friends who may become step-mums aren’t there yet. Do you know how many step-parent support group meetups there are? 3 and they’re triple-digit miles away and collectively have a total of 8 members.
the wicked step-mum stereotypes sting
There’s not too much to say about this, except that being a step-mum to kids that love fairy tales sucks, it doesn’t make anyone’s life easier that “wicked” and “evil” are the first words people associate with step-mothering (thanks a lot Disney!)
I’m suddenly related to not one but two incredible kids! Not everyone can say this, but I happen to be incredibly lucky that my step-sons are so jaw-droppingly awesome. At age six Toby is a superhero and has an eerily accurate recall of basically everything he’s ever done, seen or heard. He is also the best teacher when it comes to FIFA. Little Ossie is alarmingly cute and the funniest little thing I’ve ever known – don’t get me started on the way he says ‘watermelon’. And to top it off they both come with a dad who is unfailingly sweet and thoughtful, kind and (don’t tell him I told you this) totally hilarious.
I’m no saint – if Toby and Ossie were not as amazing and as lovely as they are I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to sign onto this lifetime of step-mothering. But they’re great, and I’m more in love with their dad than I’ve ever been, and even though it’s hard, those three boys have stolen my whole heart forever and I feel really lucky to have landed with such an amazing little unit.