I am 30 years old and I am a step mother. I am the middle child of five children and my two older brothers were from our father’s previous marriage. We never have nor will we ever refer to them as “half brothers” they are just simply our brothers. Further to that, they never referred to my mother as their “step-mom”, just mom. So, when I started dating my partner who had a six year old son (“J”), I was really excited. I also had a really hard time managing my expectations as to the role I would play in his life. It has been an amazing adventure so far, and the first lesson I learned – very quickly I might add – was that there is no place for expectations in a blended household. The only way to manage is to just be kind and patient and go with the flow. Now I refer to this amazing little boy as my son, I may not be his biological mother but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him just as much. Here is some of the story of how I got to where I am.
I knew going into this relationship that it meant not just dating one person but two because my partner has a son who was six at the time. This didn’t concern me one bit, in fact I was thrilled by the prospect. I always wanted children, but it hadn’t happened for me with my previous boyfriend of 11 years and I couldn’t wait to have this little person in my life. I thought I was prepared, but let me tell you this, I was not.
After a year of being together I stopped to do some reflecting on how I felt about having this amazing little boy in my life and all of the things that I had thought and felt during the last year and this is what I came up with.
There was really no way to prepare myself for going from having no children to having a six year old. I can honestly say it is the most rewarding and terrifying thing I have ever done.
Here is my list of things I was prepared for:
- I was never going to be number one, his son would always come first. This was something that I understood going into to and it was totally ok with me. He still has always made me feel important, special, loved and appreciated. He understands that this was a big change for me and is very supportive of me taking my time and doing things at my pace, however fast or slow that may be;
- My life was going to change dramatically. I have always been able to run my life according to my plan, but now there is a little person who takes priority over everything. This is not a negative thing, it gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment seeing my son thriving and happy. My own needs seem much less important now;
- I was going to have to get up to speed fast. On things like which foods J likes and dislikes, his friends at school, his schedules and habits, and his personality in general;
- I was going to have his mother in my life. I knew that this was a fact, but I knew very little about her. Aside from the basics, she is J’s biological mom, my partner’s ex, and that she has another little boy from a different relationship, J’s brother. I was terrified of meeting her, and not knowing how she would react to me being in her son’s life; and
- I was going to have to let J set the pace in our relationship. I couldn’t force him to like me or to love me, I would have to wait for him to come to me. Thankfully, he warmed to me almost immediately and we have an amazing bond.
Now there is a lot more that I am leaving out, but for sake of condensing this post I will move on. That brings me to my list of things that I was not prepared for.
- How nervous and terrified I was going to be when I first started spending time with J. My partner and I had known one another for a long time, and we were both fully committed to this relationship before it even started. But I had not fully realized before hand how much depended on J. If he absolutely hated me then what chance did I have making things work with his dad. He wouldn’t want to subject his son to having a parent in his life that he couldn’t stand. There was no need to worry though, we hit it off perfectly and have had an incredible bond ever since;
- How much love I was going to have for my partner after seeing him be a father. It makes me so happy and proud to be able to be his co-parent;
- How I would feel when J said I love you for the first time. I told him I loved him probably a hundred times before he said it back (I would never force him to say it). But when he said it to me first, for the first time, I literally melted. My heart felt like it was going to explode and I barely stopped myself from doing a happy dance on the spot.
- How confusing it would be when people ask me whether I have children or not. In my heart and mind, I have a beautiful son, so that usually how I answer. But in the beginning, it made me uncomfortable because I felt like was lying or somehow betraying his mom by saying so. Now however I don’t have those feelings because I am more comfortable in my role.
- How dismissive some people can be to non-biological parents. These types of people look down on me like I didn’t earn the right to be called a mother, or like I am just playing house and needn’t be taken seriously. Every time this happens it makes me feel so demeaned and sad. The first few times it happened I had to go and hide in the bathroom because I was crying and upset. I have grown a tougher skin than that now thankfully, but once in a while it still gets to me;
- I didn’t realize before this that mother jealousy was a thing. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with this unreasonable jealousy that I am not his biological mother. I get so sad that I missed the first five years of his life. I wasn’t there when he came into the world, or when he took his first steps, or said his first word. It isn’t fair to myself or anybody else to feel that way but I do anyway. I wish with all my heart that I could have been there from the beginning. That being said, he did just fine before me, his mom and dad love him so much, and I am so thankful for the time that I do get with him.
- How hard it was going to be sometimes to take a back seat in the parenting. My partner and J’s mom are very supportive of me having an opinion and being involved, but at the end of the day they always have the final say and I have to support that, even if I sometimes don’t agree.
- How much love I was capable of. This little human has invaded every corner of heart and soul and it is amazing, but also terrifying. I know it sounds cliché but it is literally like your heart is wandering around outside of your body. Parenthood makes you more vulnerable then you have ever been.
- How much I was going to enjoy watching his amazing mind grow and learn. He amazes me daily with his witty sense of humor and his inquisitive questions. He is so smart and I am in awe constantly at how fast he is growing and learning.
- Mothers day. I did not know what to expect on my first mothers day, I knew I wanted to be included but we had only been together for about seven months and I didn’t expect to be. But when the day came, I received a beautiful bracelet from J which of course abruptly put me in ugly snotty tears. I also got a lovely Happy Mothers day from J’s mom which made the day even more special.
- Which brings me to J’s biological mom. I said before that I was terrified of meeting her and how she was going to react to me. I shouldn’t have been. Sure, she was a bit hesitant at first, as any mother would be, but it didn’t take long before she warmed up to me. I can honestly say that I am so blessed to have her as a co-parent. She is a fierce and loving mother, she is a friend, she is a force of nature. We have created a parenting relationship based on support, friendship and respect. With J in the middle as the most important thing. I couldn’t ask for a better person to share motherhood with.
Being a step parent is a wonderful adventure that will take you on many highs and many lows and it is a decision that I wouldn’t reverse for anything. I am so completely in love with my little family and I hope one day we can make it even bigger and full of love. I am so grateful for my partner. He has been so supportive and loving and appreciative through this journey. He always makes time for just us and he loves the bond between our son and I so much, he is my hero in so many ways. My heart is full and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
If you are a person reading this that is currently a step parent, I salute you. You have taken a step that will irreversibly change you forever, and you are making a difference in so many lives.
If you are a person who is thinking of dating somebody with children, here are my words for you. It is not for the feint of heart, however, if you are willing to take this dive, go big or go home. Because you can’t just come and go when there are kids involved, they will love you and you will become one of the most important and influential people in their lives. That being said, if you do decide to take the plunge, I can promise you that it will be worth it. Loving your partner and his/her/your children will be the most fulfilling journey of your life, and I wish you the best!