Wed 2 May 2012
Whether you’ve been a stepmom for a week or one for twenty years, this piece by Margaret Barney will touch your heart and inspire you on your journey. Margaret articulates with wisdom and humor the complexities of being a stepmom. Her journey proves that the “one day” every stepmom dreams of can happen. Margaret stayed the course and her stepson saw her heart despite how his mom felt about her. Her journey as a stepmom is real. Her heart is genuine. Her relationship with her stepson will move you. Enjoy this second story in The Gift of StepMom Series:
It never occurred to me when I was younger that I could ever possibly marry a man who already had children. It wasn’t that I had an opinion one way or another; I just never gave any thought to it. My parents didn’t divorce until I was in my twenties, so I didn’t have personal experience with step-parenting. Obsessive watching of the Brady Bunch reruns as a child notwithstanding, I really didn’t know jack about so-called “blended families”.
I tried to educate myself. I looked back in my child psych books, on-line, anywhere I could think of to gather as much information as I could find—if I was going to be a stepmom, I was going to do it right. So before I ever met the kids, I had immersed myself in information about children living with divorce. I was sure that armed with knowledge, I could successfully navigate this terrifying path. It might be rocky to start, but in a few years, things would settle down. Of that I was sure.
Little did I know how little I knew.
I did all that research into being a stepmom, but I didn’t do enough research about what being a second wife might mean: I didn’t expect to have every little step I made in developing a relationship with my husband’s kids be questioned, belittled, admonished, and at times deliberately un-done by another adult. You don’t have to listen to Margaret…she’s not your mom. I bit my tongue. I wouldn’t return tit-for-tat when it came to negativity. I would rise above it. She’s a bad lady. She’s a mean lady. She’s why daddy will never come home ever again. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true—it didn’t matter that I came along afterwards. My stepkids were only three and five when their parents split up.
Now, they are 17 and 19. These days, when I see my stepson, he always seems to have gotten even bigger. Older. More mature. Recently up for a visit, he strode into the kitchen smiling, taller now than I am, and gave me a strong hug. I used to believe such hugs would never be meant for me. There were too many complications that came along with spending time with me.
It meant conflict– it meant upsetting his mom. I saw you hug Margaret when you went into Dad’s apartment. That really hurt Mommy’s feelings. You don’t love her, do you? You still love me best, right? Two years after we first dated, my husband and I got married. We scheduled the wedding for a weekend the kids would be with us, so there would be no visitation changes. Well, you can go to Daddy and Margaret’s wedding…but I’ll be down in Florida that week with your grandparents. Which would you rather do? Go to a boring old wedding or go on vacation to Disney World? So much for including the kids in our wedding…no six or eight year old in their right mind could turn down Disney.
I kept reminding myself that given time, this stuff was sure to settle down. Once Margaret has her baby, your Dad isn’t going to have any more time for you. My daughter was born in 2001, and two years later, along came my son. The conflict continued. To protect myself, to protect my heart…I stepped back. Way back.
We moved about 60 miles from where we had been living when my stepkids entered 5th and 7th grades. Daddy lied to the Judge…and now I have to make you go to his and Margaret’s house. There wasn’t going to be any kind of happy little Brady Bunch. I was lucky if my stepkids said hello to me on the telephone.
One thing got me through some of the darkest days of being a Stepmom—something I truly clung to in the lowest of times—was having faith that one day, my husband’s kids would grow up. Literally—one day, they would become adults and see the situation for what it was—and how much their father and I love all of our children.
They would see how we worked to have a communicative and honest relationship that would model for them what a strong, healthy, adult relationship looked like. And though I don’t yet know how much of that my stepdaughter sees, I do know what my stepson sees. After never having spent more than a week at a time with us, the summer before last he lived with us for the bulk of his break.
He was 16, and every bit of it…I couldn’t have been more nervous. The fact was, the boy needed to spend time with his dad, and I was thrilled to have my younger ones be able to spend time with their big brother. We didn’t have much of a relationship, he and I, but we got along fairly well as a general rule. I wondered what this would mean for my summer. My husband would be working and I would be home with the kids. One more than I was used to.
Turns out, I needn’t have worried. That summer, he and I really got to know each other. And amazingly, we connected in a way that external negativity won’t ever again diminish. I got to know an incredible young man who was struggling to come to terms with who was…working to define his own sense of self. I marveled at the fact that this teenager was wise beyond his years in so many ways, and yet, still very much a boy. I wished fervently that he would begin to see his own inner strength—a strength that was so apparent to me.
I wept after he left to return to his mom’s that Autumn. I missed him more than I could imagine I ever could have. I had spent so many years walling my heart off—protecting myself from the hurt that came with being such a polarizing figure in two children’s lives— that I was unprepared for the depth of my emotions..and how glad I was that I tore that wall down and was able to build a relationship with my stepson.
I have a feeling I’ll be a wreck when he leaves for boot camp in a few months…
Margaret Barney is a non-custodial stepmom living in New Hampshire with her husband and their two children. She has been on the step-scene for over fourteen years and wants new stepmoms to know that no matter how crazy things may seem at first, they do get better. She blogs at Just Margaret, and you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Can you relate to Margaret? What touched your heart? Leave her some comment love below. Thanks