‘Can I call you my Wicked Step Mum? Wicked in a good way though…’ said the GirlChild with a sly smile…
There are two major rules that all the self help books advise you to follow when you become a StepMum.
1) You are not their Mother! so don’t try to be. The resulting relationship can be something equally as special in the end.
2) Don’t get your hands dirty with the disciplining! It is not your job to discipline the little sprogs, always let the natural parent take the lead (once you’ve both agreed on a suitable punishment of course!) it’s important to support one another with this, and not undermine each other. Kids will spot any weakness a mile off!
And if I were to include a third rule, it would be:
3) We don’t negotiate with terrorists! Essentially, stick to the routine and aim not to deviate from it at all. Keep all communication with the Ex to an absolute minimum and via email, unless there is a genuine emergency. Not everything requires an immediate response…breathe, reflect, respond. Take the emotion out of it completely and treat the Ex like a tricky Client, keeping all communication polite and businesslike.
Do not meet crazy with crazy! That is a recipe for disaster.
Having stumbled along in this role for many years now, I’ve found that these three golden rules have served us well – albeit we’ve had some serious learnings along the way!
There is nothing quite so complicated as the blended family dynamic. It can drain you of your time, energy, money and patience. And lets face it, the typical family set up of our parents generation, largely doesn’t exist anymore! If you’re lucky enough to have that – then that’s great, you’re in the very special minority.
The reality is, we are living in amazing modern times, with same sex parents, single parents, blended families, geriatric mothers (erm hello, this is classed as all women over the age of 35! Outrageous) who choose to get their careers straight before having kids.
It is a different world, yet we’re clinging on to this antiquated belief that our parents set the desired standard. We are so far past that though and it’s brilliant – but it also presents its own unique set of challenges within the modern family.
I’ve made some embarrassing mistakes as a StepMum. And likewise, I’ve absolutely nailed it too.
Consequently, I only seek feedback from people whom I admire as parents – well meaning acquaintances, with zero real life experience of what they are talking about, can quite frankly, stick their good natured, unsolicited advice, up their arse!
I read self help books & blogs – I love them, and in the early years of me and Charming I absorbed as much information as I possibly could, so as not to further damage these already fragile little chicks, who were still reeling from a painful divorce.
But I kept seeing the same Mummy Blogs and tame Step Parenting Tips, that frankly, I just couldn’t relate to – and I’m pretty much your average bird. Where was the real life? The mistakes and failures, the learnings and laughs!
My StepKids come out with some brilliant quotes and we have so many funny examples that we started to write them in a book, so we didn’t forget and could torture them with it in the future. I know Charming is already plotting their wedding speeches…
So that is what I am hoping to share with you here – just a very honest, sometimes cringeworthy, real life account of our continuing journey.
And If it helps just one StepMum who is losing her shit on a regular basis, to keep it together and not end up on the Ten o’clock News, then my work here is done!
Rules around how to cope with a seemingly BatShit Crazy ExWife, integrate into the pre existing friendship group, or manage your new Husbands expectations of you, are however, an entirely different matter altogether!
A little bit about me, and how I came to be a ‘Wicked’ StepMum to two cute kids, who are now pretty much, well rounded ‘know it all’ Teenagers.
It was a typical Saturday night, naturally I was drunk, so was my friend and we were in a trendy wine bar. Being the height of British Summer, as you would expect, it was also pissing it down with rain…
We wanted another drink, but had run out of money and the bars bloody PDQ machines were on the blink, and we most certainly couldn’t risk getting humidity hair by running outside to the cash machine. We almost called it a night and headed to the chippy. Until we saw two relatively well dressed, moderately coherent, middle aged men, drinking pretentious looking cocktails at the bar…
A small ‘accidental push’ in their direction and a totally contrived flash of my mates massive cleavage later, and we were rewarded with a couple of drinks and a shot each. Result! The night and our hair were saved.
One of these men I went on to marry, he was The Charming One, who wasn’t quite as interested in my mates boobs…
And that’s the story of how we met. No internet Apps, no swiping left or right if you don’t like the look of their face, no sordid affair, just two single piss heads who bumped (quite literally) into each other in the local pub. All very boring and old fashioned in this day and age really!
My Husband is amazing. He is quite simply the most charming, kind, considerate and funny individual I have ever met – and after dating some absolute nob heads during the proceeding years, he was a much needed breath of fresh air.
He is also an awesome Dad. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? I thought so too, but try as I might, I couldn’t find a thing on him. And as most women will profess, we can research (stalk!) the life out of anyone when we really want to. I eventually had to concede, that he was in fact, the one for me!
Remember all of the qualities you admire so much in your other half when you decide to become a StepParent, because when things get tough, the kids are driving you insane, and the bonkers Ex has got you Googling ‘is it really murder if they never find a body…?’
You are going to need to remind yourself again and again, why you took yourself out of your comfortable, fun, single bubble and slapped yourself, into what feels at times, like the set of a Jeremy Kyle ‘special’ addition.
You can’t help who you fall for can you? So if that person has children from a previous relationship or ‘baggage’ as some of my well meaning friends refer to it, you’ve just got to get on with it really.
You’re all in. You’ve got to be with kids, they deserve your full commitment, particularly after a painful divorce. If you’re not, move on – leave it alone.
I was all in, and as a result of that, I’ve been rewarded with two brilliant and beautiful StepKids – who I can honestly say make my life complete and that I have a great relationship with.
But my word, it’s a hard journey to get there!
You’ll also get no thanks or appreciation from the little shits at all, zero in fact, until they are old enough to start understanding the work that’s being put into building a relationship with them!
They will be difficult, argumentative, play everyone off against each other and quite often lie to get their own way!
“Kids are by their very nature inherently selfish creatures”
I heard Philip Scofield say this on This Morning once and it made me laugh out loud. Honest & accurate! They don’t mean to be, they just are. It’s all part and parcel of growing up and being coached on what are acceptable behaviours – I know some adults that still haven’t acquired these skills, so who are we to berate our own kids until we’ve taught them!
A bit about Charming, I met him after he was divorced and while he was having a wonderful time being a single bloke, so foolishly I thought that enough time had probably passed between him and his ExWife, that they would be civil (if not exactly friends) and she would be perfectly accommodating of a new Girlfriend! Particularly when she was already in a pretty well established relationship herself.
Oh how naive I was…along came years of bonkers abuse, aimed directly at me. It honestly left me scratching my head, wondering if I was losing my marbles!
I knew I was being completely civil and polite, so why then was she screaming at me like a batshit crazy Banshee at literally every opportunity?
Now don’t get me wrong, Charming has his faults, as we all do – no one is perfect. So when your partner is also testing your very last nerve, you’re going to need to develop some techniques for dealing with that too.
I’ve found that packing an overnight bag, telling everyone to fuck off, booking myself into a Spa and drinking a gallon of Prosecco, to be very effective coping strategies…
But seriously, just grabbing a drink with a friend, taking some unselfish time for yourself outside of that stressful (sometimes toxic!) dynamic, can do wonders for everyone involved.
As a StepParent we also need to invoke our RED CARD and exert what small rights we have too on occasion, to take time out. On the flip side the kids need quality time with just their biological parent, it’s so important to acknowledge and support that.
I won’t lie, sometimes I’ve felt left out, as if I’m watching from the side lines – but that’s ok, I encouraged it and got my hair done instead, did some shopping or checked in with a friend as compensation.
Your own mental state has to be in a good place, to be the very best version of yourself that you can be. That way everyone in the family benefits, so remind them of that the next time you really want to dodge the funfair and get your nails done!
Being a StepMum can be so rewarding, but it is also the most undervalued and challenging role in the entire ‘blended family’ dynamic – I’ve read somewhere that this is indeed a fact, perhaps in another blog or self help book, so it must be true!