Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Art of the Step(Mom)

Every once in a while, McLovin will come home and see the chaos, and Kate in yesterday's clothes and dinner is a dude in the driveway with bad Chinese food that is either too spicy, too cold or too gross. And he'll think about his bachelor days and how he was thisclose to being all George Clooney-ish and perpetually single without being assumed to be gay.

And it's days like this when Kate is pretty sure McLovin is going to say, "wow, are so not worth this..."

So far, he hasn't...

Let's just splat it out there, in all its unglorified messiness: Blended families are hard work. Take all the stress and toil and work and tears and fears of raising children and being married, and then add in another spouse, possibly two, and other kids. And schedules. And "who's weekend is it on the 17th?" And that you can't make a move without consulting someone you're not married to anymore, who has to consult the person they are now married to, so that that person can consult the person they used to be married to.

So, I can take the kids to New York on Tuesday? Yes? Awesome. Note to self: Tell spouse's ex-spouse's new spouse's ex spouse "thank you..." I think his name is Frank...or possibly Doreen.

And, with the help of our awesome friend Abigail, who has absolutely mastered the art of being a step, we give you the Top Ten Worst and Best Things About Being a StepMom...

Top 10 Worst Things About Being a StepMom
  • 10. My husband and I are equals...except on those weekends we have my step kids. Then he’s *gulp* in charge.
  • 9. If we have a not-so-nice weekend, that’s the memory we’re all left with until the next scheduled weekend. Along those same lines, if we try a new policy or behavior modification technique, and it doesn’t work, we have to wait two weeks to try another one. 
  • 8. Every other weekend is a whirlwind of trying to visit everyone on our side of the family who cares about the kids because it will be at least two weeks until the next time they’ll see them. 
  • 7. We had to get a minivan to accommodate the family we have twice a month and three weeks in the summer. A minivan! 
  • 6. When I had my son, I was all basking in the glow of new motherhood while my husband was all *yawn* been there, done that, twice. 
  • 5. I’m quite sure my own kid thinks it’s OK to call me by my first name because, after all, his brother and sister do.
  • 4. We have no control over what they do when they’re with their mom, which includes things like watching TV all day, eating Butterfinger Yo Crunch (really?) for breakfast, and listening to Taylor Swift.
  • 3. We only get snippets of their “other lives” from them because they’re kids and have the memory capacity of goldfish except when it comes to Taylor Swift lyrics.
  • 2. I have to be on my best behavior on step kid weekends so I don’t somehow cause my husband to lose what custody he has.
  • 1. After only a few days with them, we have to send them back to their mom.

Top 10 Best Things About Being a StepMom
  • 10. I have these two wonderful children and I didn’t have to carry them for 9 months, birth them or breastfeed them.
  • 9. My son, who otherwise would’ve been an only child, has a brother and sister.
  • 8. Hey man, I’m just the stepmom so I am in no way responsible for any failures past, present, or future. But, I will totally take credit for any and all the successes.
  • 7. They’ve introduced me to Phineas and Ferb which is the Best. Cartoon. Ever.
  • 6. Getting them into The Grateful Dead is that much better because I know it drives their mom nuts!
  • 5. I don’t have to be all parent-y all the time with them. I can be their friend too. After all, we’re on a first name basis.
  • 4. It’s not a big deal when I miss soccer or basketball or gymnastics (which I do all. the. time.)
  • 3. I don’t have to take them clothes shopping, keep track of their homework and activities, remember their friends’ names, argue with them about why they don’t need cell phones, keep up with their laundry or fight with them about brushing their teeth. But I do anyway. Because I want to.
  • 2. I know that, because of them, I’m a better mom to my son.
  • 1. After only a few days with them, we get to send them back to their mom.
And, sometimes you hit the StepMommy jackpot, and while it may take a little time and a little patience, and maybe a little bit more t-box, you find out that your spouses ex-spouse is actually a pretty cool person. Abigail sent us this:

I was home with the step twins and my own little Monster while Daddy was out at an organized bike ride hours away. We had gone on a picnic with their grandparents and aunt and uncle and cousins when Thing 1 started complaining about not feeling well. I thought maybe it was due to playing in the heat all day so we gave him water and a cold compress. We got home and he fell asleep for a few hours. 

When he woke up he had a headache and felt a little warmer. This whole time I was texting his mom just to keep her updated. When his temp came back at 103.7 I started to panic a little bit. I was on the phone to the mommy network discussing symptoms and everyone decided he should go to the ER. Dad finally got home and I rushed out the door with Thing 1. We all thought it was appendicitis, we were just waiting for the doctor to confirm. After several hours though, I did call his Mom and ask her to take over. 

She and I had a cordial relationship but when she got to the hospital, she actually gave me a giant hug and I’ll never forget what she said to me: " When I walked in and saw you lying in the bed with him, it was exactly as I hoped. It was exactly what I would’ve done."
The whole situation has been better since then. It’s been really nice. Oh, and it wasn’t appendicitis. Bonus.

Cha-ching...see? Lottery.

Rock on (Step)Moms -- we love you lots!

xoxo, Kate and Lydia

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010


  1. Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I am a step-mom. I have two wonderful, amazing, hilarious step-sons who I absolutely adore, love, and care for as if they were my own the very best I know how (which, having been a step-child, I know what not to do from my less than fantastic step-parents). We got full custody of them just over two years ago right before their mother went into rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. It has been a bumpy road. There has been trauma and drama and lots of counseling, ala-teen, lawyer and court visits. But there has also been laughter, healing, learning and love. It's been six years since they entered my life. I wouldn't trade a minute of it for anything in this world.

  2. Wow, Kate! I have no experience in this to share, as my husband and I are our only marriages and going on 17 yrs, but we do have six kids. Including triplets. And another son who died and waits for us in heaven. We've been through a lot. That being said, I'm not snitchy. I don't think we know what we're doing and I screw up my kids everyday and have to apologize to my husband as often(and then tell friends and strangers about it all-in the wonderful world of blogging, lol). I joke that I wish he'd have another wife so I can get some help around here! But I have people close to me and see their struggles and joys with blended families. Making a decision to love everyone through their nonsense and through their goodness is a selfless act. It fosters a loving childhood for the kids and brings you to the person you know you can be proud of. Kids don't get it when they're young but they figure out what all went on once they get grown. I know this is mushy, but that last bit about the hospital got me and I'm all ugly faced. You don't start off being awesome parents, you become them. That's why God gives us babies to begin with, and not teenagers!

  3. Great post, and I love the reference to Big Bang Theory!

  4. I have joked that I would very much like to sue Disney for their constant negative portrayal of step moms. I am in the club and while I have moments I do mostly think I am the luckiest person around toget to have known this young person. I am his mom too.

    In fact when his dad and I split up and his dad decided to leave the state I opted to keep my step child with me so that they could finish their senior year. When I am asked Why as I have been (um hell-o are you a parent...cuz really if you are then you shouldn't have to ask why....) I smile and say "Really why not."

    One day my step child MIGHT understand what I did for them - maybe not - either way I am his parent and this was the only right thing to do.

  5. OK girls, I have to know where you got the large family photo, since that's my mom's family. I love that you used it, because (though no adult in that whole picture is divorced) they were all a bit nuts. My mom is the twin on the left in the front row. My grandparents are "Leslie and Jane." Can you tell me which stock site you found that on so I can get an "unimproved" copy? I can send you an even better photo for future use of my grandmother and her four sisters doing a conga line. Thanks for using the Weintraub/Seigel/Wolf/Milt/Alhadeff clan!

  6. Amen, amen, amen!! Being a stepmother is the most stressful thing I have ever undertaken. Being mommy is a piece a cake after negotiating that minefield. Throw in some behavioral problems and there are days when I actually dread going home from work to my own house. But just when I am ready to tear my hair out, my stepson shows me how great he is with my daughter...or goes back to his mother's house.

    Thanks for taking a look into this part of Mommyland.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am a 30 year old dating a guy 11 years older than me and his 8 yo son (because really you are dating both every other weekend). I love every moment of it and can't wait to officially be his step-mom. None of my friends know the joy and struggle as they are all blissfully on child 1 or 2 of their picture perfect (ie: "normal") family. Love to see validation that I am doing the absolutely right thing. Love your blog even though I'm in no way an officially mommy yet!

  8. This was such a good way to start my morning; thanks ladies! This post rang true on so many levels....I love being a buddy to my fiance's daughter and I'm really excited to be a step.

  9. What a great story. It made me cry.

  10. Amen. I'm no step parent, but I can assure you that the 2 I grew up with were the best.

  11. What a cute story, I only wish that every step situation could be that uncomplicated. Fortunately, we only have 3.5 years left of this left until the last one turns 18!

  12. My wonderful wonderful boyfriend and I are considering marriage, and he actually asked me, at some point, if he would be able to legally adopt my (severely autistic) son if/when we do.

    I am moved beyond words when I think of it.

  13. My main thought as a 19 year old faced with an 8 year old step-daughter was, does she come with a handbook. 20 years later she acquired a step son and told me she had the exact same thought.

  14. I'm not a step mom, but I am a single mom and my two year old daughter has a StepMom.

    It was hard being on the other side of the fence (What if she loves her more than me? What if people think my daughter is her daughter? What if she's NOT NICE to my daughter? What if, what if, what if...) but so far it's been good.

    Before my daughter started to spend the night at her dad's house, I asked StepMom out for coffee. If my daughter was going to be spending the night, I wanted to (at the very least) have met everyone who lives there.

    I'm not sure what she thought of me, but I thought she was great. I had a genuinely nice time with her and it made me feel a trillion times better about my daughter spending the night away from me. (Not that it made it easy by all means, just not quite as heartwrenchingly terrible as it could have been.)

    I was sure to tell StepMom that I had step parents (some great, some not) and that I know how important a role they play in the life of a child. After all, the key word is PARENT... not step.

    Now when my daughter is excited to see StepMom, sure, it breaks my heart a little (probably the mama-bear part of me that always wants to keep her all for myself)... But most of me is filled with happiness that my daughter is crazy for her StepMom.

    After all, an amazing StepMom is just one more person who's going to love my daughter no matter what and who's going to work hard to keep her safe and happy.

    ... And that makes me happy.

    Yay for step parents!

  15. Thank you so much for this post. I love to start my mornings with a dose of you two whatever the topic, but when I saw today's title I felt an extra little pang, because I knew the StepMamas were about to get some love.

    We are the Velveteen Rabbits of Mommyland, you know. All we want is to be Real Moms-- in our stepkids' eyes as well as the eyes of other moms-- but eventually we learn that the secret to becoming a Real mom is simply to live as one (and is there anything as REAL as a toddler with a raging fever at 3 AM on a weeknight?). And as the Skin Horse says, "once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

    I am still at the beginning of my journey, but I've already given my heart to two motherless babies. My husband--who is ten years my senior--has two gorgeous, sassy kids: one with his beloved wife, who died before their son turned four; and one "bonus" from a brief relationship that ended just before we got together. The dynamic with Bonus Baby's mother has been challenging at best, and the past few years have been some of the fastest growing up I've ever done, as we've battled first to visit, then co-parent, and finally assume full custody of Bonus Baby, whose mother can't or won't (unclear which; but the result is the same) care for her after all. It has been ugly, heart-breaking, and expensive, and it isn't even over yet! But even combined with the day-to-day trickiness of taking over a job started by someone else (and it is a minefield, whether you're dealing with a benevolent ghost or an angry ex!)the crappy noise always gets shouted down by the love you give and get while you are guiding a growing person through the world. You do what you have to do to keep your babies safe, and both Bonus Baby and her Big Bro are unquestionably mine, as I am theirs and their dad's.

    We'll see. It's early yet, and I am braced for the slings and arrows of adolescence (plus whatever else comes of this hideous custody thing), but for now they accept my clumsy attempts at mothering wholeheartedly, and hopefully it will be enough. They are enough for me. They make me Real. <3

  16. I actually have named my son's stepmom his "bonus mom" because over the course of the last several years, she has been gracious and open to a relationship which benefits my son ... far more so than my ex (whom I speak to only when I absolutely have to). I am thankful for her.

  17. Thanks for posting that. I think it could be very helpful to many people.

  18. I am not a step mom, but, my daughter has been given the gift of a fabulous step mom. I was totally FREAKED at the idea of someone else besides me playing mama. The baby daddy and step mom live 1200 miles from my daughter and I. My daughet was 18 months old on her first visit. I aksed for a phone call and said to her....I have no clue what this can accomplish, but, please convince me that my child will be safe, sound and whole while she is with you. And her response was....I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND, my daughter was 2 when she met her step mom I know what you are going through. I'm glad that my ex husband had the good sense to find such a wonderful woman to be his daughters step mama. The more positive role models in a childs life the better. So hats off to all the men and women who are raising children.

  19. I was a step child and I am now a step mom. One of the worst parts about a step mom is that I have to deal with a mother who has a tendancy to put her needs in front of her childrens'. My step son lives with us and his mother (Season One) had been gone for 10 yrs. He is 14. Now my step daughter (Let's call her Amy) is 8 and she lives with her mother (Season Two). I am Season Three. Amy has been dropped off at my house for the weekend smelling like garbage and in clohtes 2 sizes too small. There are times when she has told me that she went all week without a bath (as I can deduce from her smell) or brushing her teeth. She spent Christmas with us because her mother did not buy the kids any Christmas gifts. (She has more than enough money, but has very bad spending habits.) Amy got sick christmas Eve night. When my kids are sick, I don't care who they are visiting - they come home and Mommy takes care of them. Season Two was angry because we wanted her to come get Amy. My husband and I didn't want to give her up for the holiday but we thought it would be best to let Amy go home and rest in bed than to hang out in our living room on the couch (we have a TINY apartment and the couch is where she sleeps) and spread germs around. Giving it to the 14 yrs old isn't so bad, but I also have a 1 yr old and a 5 week old newborn. We were called selfish. I found out that she was spending christmas weekend at her new boyfriends house and would have had to have left his house to come get her daughter thus ruining her weekend. Amy has also informed her father and I that the weekend she did not come visit us (which happens maybe once every 6 weekends)her mother took her to sleep over the boyfriends house. It wouldn't be such a big deal if we knew said boyfriend or had at least met him, but she does this without consulting my husband and lets not forget to mention that Season Two only met this guy about 6 weeks ago. What kind of example is that for Amy? CPS has been involved with Season Two, but it didn't help much. They let her get away with everything. I and thankful that Season Two moved in with her mother as at least now Grandma makes sure Amy is bathed and fed and has clothes that fit. Amy is a sweet, loving little girl who adores all three of her brothers, her daddy, and me. I am thankful that I get to be a positive influence in her life. I just wish I didn't have to deal with Season Two.

  20. Thanks for the boost, from another stepmom.

    It's tough to wish that I'd given birth to my husband's child. It's tough to care for my stepson full time, and in every sense be the Mom, all except for the label and status. I don't think I knew the constant sense of loss I'd feel when I took on the job. But I also didn't know how deeply in love I could fall with this little boy, and how rich my life could be in my new role. Thanks for acknowledging the tough!
    I like what StepUpMama says above, about being made Real. I'm feeling more Real as time goes by. Someday I'll grow the whiskers.

  21. I would love to have a great relationship with my step daughter's mom. but she's unfortunately crazytown! Great list...all true.

  22. Thanks so much for the post! I am the 29 year old stepmom to three girls, aged 17, 14, and 12. I've also got two "ours" rugrats, little boys aged 2 and 3mo. These last 5 years have been a wild ride, and there are way too many days where I wonder WTF I was thinking =) It's nice to know that not everyone leans towards the Disney version of stepmoms.

  23. Since my ex left me for my kids now-Stepmom while I was pregnant with my third child our relationship can be very strained at times, but I try to remember what a lazy butt husband I USED to have and I know she is doing most of the work in raising my kids when they are there. I am remarried too and my current husband loves my kids like they are his own and I try to remember she must feel the same way about my children.

  24. Oh, I'm crying. Seriously. I am a stepmom to a beautiful 11 year old young lady, who lives with us and visits her mom every other weekend. I loved this post, even though my situation is kind of the opposite in that my stepdaughter lives with me and visits her mom. I am mom in our house--to my daughters and my stepdaughter and my 21 month old twins. Blended families are HARD, but if you love enough, it all kind of works itself out. We've had problems with my stepdaughter's mom, but mostly we're okay now. We just have to love each other, and we get through just about everything. Thanks for the comments, thanks for the post.

  25. Thank you for posting something dedicated to step-moms. It's one of those jobs that you don't get a lot of credit for. At church on mother's day, do I stand up when they ask all the moms to stand up? I don't have any kids of my own, and they do call me mom....I usually stand up feeling guilty.

    It would be so great to get a Rants from Step- MommyLand....any takers? You must be as snarky as Lydia and Kate for any readers to follow you.




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