I was truly blown away by the response to my previous blog post. To everyone who read it and to those who commented – thank you from the bottom of my heart. I did not expect to be touched by so many people and I am so glad my post touched many people in return.
I am still kind of writing in the Mothers’ Day theme, because, well it is Mothers’ Day this weekend. Mothers’ Day has been a difficult day for me in the past, however it has also been a glorious day on occasions. Mostly due to the fact that I am a mum and I have two gorgeous boys who make the day so special for me.
One thing you don’t know is, I also have 2 gorgeous step daughters who I am very proud to be a step mum to. The circumstances surrounding how my step daughters’ father and I came to be together really should have resulted in two teenage girls resenting me. Nothing could have been further from the truth. These two special girls have never made me feel unwelcome in their lives and for this I will always be grateful. At the centre of everything all they ever want is their dad to be happy, no more … no less.
So many of us are “step” parents. Again, the whole Mothers’ and Fathers’ day scenarios can be difficult for many in this situation. There are so many levels of step parents. There are those who are very active parents due to the absence of the birth parent, there are those who play no part other than living in the same house and there are those in the middle that move in and out of both extremes, but mostly sit somewhere in the middle.
Where do I sit? I’m not quite sure. Somewhere in the middle is my guess.
Being a mum myself, I know as a step mum I can never be my step daughters’ mum. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to be, I’m just not. They have a good mum who they love and who they should love. Just the same as my boys step mum will never be their mum. A mum is a mum and that is that. It really is that simple.
I do believe however as a step parent there is so much you can add to a child’s life and a child with a good step parent is very lucky. Unfortunately it can be difficult to be a “good” step parent because of all the adult emotions that surround the relationships between the dad and the real mum, the kids and the real mum, the dad and the kids, you and the real mum and you and the kids. Sheez, how do you get it right with all that emotion involved?
I don’t have the answer to that, all I know is it is very hard. I live it each day with my boys having a step dad. Where do the boundaries of his authority lie? What rights does he have? What rights do my children have? Who do I support – my partner or my kids? What if my kids are wrong, but I don’t like the way he is talking to them – do I stand by him and let my kids feel I don’t care, or do I betray him and stand by my kids? Thankfully we have been through the worst of it and have come out the other end with he and my boys having a wonderful relationship. It was hard work though, but we all worked together at it.
The best piece of advice I have ever received, and I’ll share it here, was this.
Kids have the strongest emotional ties to their parents. If a parent withdraws love and affection and shows hurt and disappointment for a child’s actions – this has a strong emotional affect on the child. At the core of everything a child wants to make his/her parents proud – the drive to do this is much stronger than we think. If the step parent tries to be the one to show hurt and disappointment and withdraw love and affection – the result is significantly different – the emotional tie is much weaker and rather than the child feeling hurt and sad, they will just be angry and mad. A fight will usually ensue, and the real parent will end up trying to protect their children, which then results in a fight between the adults. All in all not pretty!
The “real” parent should be the person who tells the children they are upset and disappointed and quietly withdraw from them for a while. The step parent can quietly talk to them afterwards and let them know how much they have hurt their mum or dad and they can pass on some wisdom on how to make things right again. The child is open to hear what the step parent has to say because they feel that they are being supported. This piece of advice saved my relationship and also gave my partner a very strong relationship with my boys. To the lovely woman who gave me this advice – I am truly indebted to you.
The relationship between my step daughters and I was different to that between my partner and my boys, who were young and lived with me when he came into our lives. His daughters were teenagers, 16 and 17, and have never lived with us. I have always been very careful not to step over that line and act like their mum. I have purposely held back and let them dictate how much of me they want in their lives. I love them both dearly and care about them, but I also know that I am not their mum. If they need me for anything they know I am here and that I will always support them. I will always support their dad putting them first – because he should. Our children are a part of us and noone has the right to try and change that.
I love the relationships I have with my step daughters and know that as years pass it will get stronger and I will always treasure the friendship I have with them both. Do I need them to acknowledge me on Mothers’ Day? No. Do I love it if they do? Absolutely. But whether they do or they don’t doesn’t change the relationship I have with them.
I am extremely blessed to have gone from being a single island floating alone in a very large sea to a place where I am now a part of a cluster of beautiful pacific islands. This feels very good indeed.
Are you a step parent? How do you handle Mothers’ Day? I’d love to know.