Thursday, 21 January 2016

Modern Day Samaritan Woman

What is a Step Mother?

This is a difficult question to answer. The internet is full of cute quotes attempting to define her… or pin her down;  but I haven’t found anything that has resonated with me as “that’s it”…”that’s me”…”I can relate to this”

Being a step mother was and remains such an alien concept to me that I never fully comprehend what it would entail and how many “land mines” I would inadvertently activate while attempting to build the foundation of my home and marriage…

I never realized at the onset how much I would have to depend on my husband to circumvent the landmines and to back me up when the hostility towards me set in…and I never once expected him to abandon me to my fate…

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines her as

“a woman that your father marries after his marriage to or relationship with your mother has ended”

The Cambridge Dictionary defines her as

“the woman who is ​married to someone's ​father but who is not ​their ​real mother(Emphasis my own)

Technically, the above statements are clinically correct, but they hardly describe who a step mother actually is or even closely describe the role that she is supposed to play. As the woman of the house she is automatically assigned the role of mother and expected to perform all the mother related tasks…

I can be defined as a “failed” step mother.

Does this mean that my adult step children “failed” as well?

After all a relationship requires two people…

Why is the step mother always automatically blamed for failure?

And more importantly why does she and society naturally assume that she is to blame for the break down?

I believe that when a woman gives birth, she sheds her status as free agent and steps into the skin of a mother. Once she has done this there is no stepping back to that free agent status. Her heart is now on her sleeve and she operates as a mother from then on, even in the absence of her children.

Like a caterpillar metamorphosis’s into a butterfly and can’t go back to being a caterpillar, so too does a woman transform into mother… 

I wore my mom skin for so many years that I effortlessly put on the step mother skin fully confident and believing that I would be a successful step mother. I didn’t expect my step children to do anything other than to merely respect that I have married their father and am therefore legally entitled to move into the home and make it my own.

I didn’t expect them to like me and I certainly did not expect them to automatically love me…I knew that this would have to be earned.

I intended to learn to love my new family, guard over them and nurture them just as I had my previous one.

I built my home on mutual respect and personal discipline and just as my own biological children were expected to comply to the general house rules, so too did I expect my step children to.

After all, at the age of fifty I am quite established in my housewifery. I know what works and what doesn’t. I know how to run my home efficiently, to the benefit of the entire family.

Yet, little more than a year later, I am a failed step mother…and having morphed into a step-mom skin, I simply don’t know how to morph back to just being a mom again.

Reflecting on what went wrong I have found the following things to have played a role in the break down that we as a blended family experienced.

  I, as the step mother should have defined my personal boundaries from the onset and maintained them.

   I, as the step mother should have insisted that the house rules be adhered to, 
and not been so flexible, because well…. 
“These are my step children so we are adjusting…” In bending my own house rules I inadvertently created a situation where the house rules would eventually be discarded altogether by my step children, creating undue friction between my husband and I.

 I, as the step mother should never have permitted my husband to push me into the 
role of enforcer of the rules…Being the outsider, I neither had the authority or the responsibility to enforce discipline within the home.

I, as the step mother should have commanded more respect. Being the step mother, third wife didn’t make me an inferior woman and wife. Somehow, the lines became blurred at some point and it became “ok” to treat me as inferior…

Reflecting on how things changed so drastically and what I could or should have done differently, I started to realize that the hostility I experienced prior to moving out of the home was not something I had generated from within, or even deserved. The hostility I encountered was a result of my step children’s own thoughts, feelings and animosity that were being reflected onto me, as if I were the one that had those thoughts and feelings.

I couldn’t understand why I was being accused of these things when most of the accusations were unwarranted. I had wanted to save my marriage and my relationship with my step children, so I closely guarded my own thoughts and focused on the incorrect behaviour versus breaking down the character of my step children.

With hindsight I realized that had I known that what I was experiencing were their thoughts, projected as mine, while still in the home perhaps my reaction to the hostility might have been handled differently.

Sadly, my relationship with my husband was broken as a result of this. He naturally felt the need to side with his biological children, regardless of their behaviour towards me, and I could not permit the behaviour to continue. We had reached an impasse.

Becoming a step mother was a gradual process, as I got to know the family, dated their father, visited, eventually married and moved into the home, 

BUT, the end of my step mothering was brutally abrupt.

One day I was a step mother and the next I was a childless step mother…

But, a step mother none the less…I had now morphed into the skin of step mother, I didn’t know how to morph back and with time I have come to realise that I didn’t really want to morph back.

Step mothering for me was an honour…Almost a do over, a gift from God above, after my own children had grown up and left my “nest”.

Despite the problems I encountered, I did grow to love my step children and I did have high hopes of growing our family into a successful blended family.

Like any mother and step mother, I miss my step children, I worry about them, I am concerned for their safety and their futures… I simply don’t know where the “off” switch is….

So, I turn instead to prayer and pray for my step family…

I trust my Father in Heaven to work a miracle, although I am at a loss to explain what this miracle would or should entail. In this respect I rely heavily on precious Holy Spirit in knowing the desires of my heart, that I am unable to articulate into words… and interceding on my behalf, as I intercede on their behalf…

Have you experienced a similar situation in your blended family? How did you manage the endless landmines?

 *Hugs* till next time.