My Parenting Journey – Gaining a Step Son

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A wonderful lady came forward to share her story on gaining a step son and the many gifts it has come with.  She has remained anonymous for various reasons but we are so honoured and thrilled that she felt she could share her journey with us.  We hope you enjoying reading it.                  

How did your parenting journey start?
It started in 2013 when I got together with my now husband,  He already had a little boy of two and a half whom he had on alternative weekends.   

What were your expectations?
I didn’t have many expectations to begin with, as we kept a bit of distance and didn’t rush things and certainly not when he was around. I played with him and read him stories but didn’t get involved in parenting however I did have certain expectations about children's development as I am an aunty and have a large family. I have grown up around children.  When things became more serious with us (we’d known each other a long time) and especially when we moved in together I took a more parental role in the home.  I had to establish and learn the boundaries on the job pretty quick.  We then expected certain boundaries to be respected and maintained, but equally understood this may take some time to settle down.  It took about 4 months to get into the swing of things and it has been a huge learning curve.  It continues on today and is a lot to do with some of my step-sons challenges, such as having hyper-mobile joints, a weak core and low confidence, speech delays and an issue with his eyesight!

How do you feel about those expectations now?
I was very unprepared, for nearly 20 years living as an adult independently, to sharing a home with a two and a half year old!  Yeah, it was an adventurous and stressful time. I am happy we invested the time in establishing those boundaries now as it paid off, we live a lot more harmoniously because of it.  (Oh, in case you were wondering what those things were…. things like eating at the dinner table together, table manners, being polite, encouraging eye contact, playing in the woods or outdoors, helping tidy up by putting toys away and staying in bed, playing quietly or knocking on the office door before walking in.)

What has been the easiest part (or parts)?
Bonding with my step-son has always been an absolute breeze.  We have had a couple of clashes (to be expected) but our connection is so natural and genuine.  I’m a big kid and love to play at the park or walk the dog, it was bound to go well!  Setting a bedtime routine and boundaries around waking up and playing quietly and privacy, have really helped create peace and harmony on a regular basis that transfers to any home, making it easy to visit friends and family.

Where have you struggled the most?
Wow, there are a few to chose from, I don’t know that I can choose just one.  There were so many at first, it was a big change overnight and then over time some of those things have faded away and others are more challenging.
Feeling isolated has been difficult, every step family is different so finding someone who truly gets it hasn’t happened yet.  My husband gets it from the inside but he is ‘the’ parent so doesn’t get it. 

Friends don’t throw you a baber shower and coo over your toddler/child like they do a babe from the loins, their support is scant.  Not all of them, but many – especially ones with kids don’t bother, even when you babysat their own children, attended their baby showers and christenings.   

Family take a while to warm up (those that do, as some of ours, half of ours in fact, haven’t) for the same reasons; the opportunity for us to connect with him is a total of 10 days in a month so time for family to visit and balance everything else makes weeks into months before we visit again. 

Time management Life suddenly becomes really complicated and revolves around who is where when (normal parenting) overnight with no growing a baby and watching it grow up…. Our time is made up of 2 weekends, Friday, Sat and Sun and Wednesday night each week, so how on earth do we get to fit in family time, friend time, us time, playtime, music time, reading time, eating time, leisuretime, homework, dog walk and on and on?  I went through what every new Mum goes through, sleep deprivation from 16 times up in a night nearly 3 year old and juggling life without the support I observe given to expectant and new maternal mums.

Parenting First of all accepting that I had a parenting role in the home, and then finding out what that looked like for this little boy. Then when you get it sussed, they work it out and you have to come up with another way, that parenting fun!  Where my role stopped, what I could influence or control and what I had to let go, once I had worked out my parenting style my husband and I really united on ours.  In fact I took my lead from him to begin with and then added my own personality on it, I think it took a good 18 months to work it out and guess that is when I owned my parenting style.

The Ex She left my husband for another when the boy was 2, it’d been going on for some time… However I don’t think she is over the moon long term with her choice, as he is long time unemployed and they have 5 kids between them so he is the free childcare (sticking them all in front of the tv and never going to the park or play in the garden). She is the sole bread winner, works full-time, runs a part time business and has recently had major surgery.  She has always been incredibly demanding and at times mean and spiteful. She is a compulsive liar and horrid things fall out of my step-sons mouth since he started talking properly agaed about 4.  We have taught him right from wrong and correct information he has been mis-informed about, like who his real Dad is.  Yes, those sorts of lies.   On two or three occaisions she has been pleasant to me face-to-face, some of the time she is neutral and others she has been an absolute deliberate mean, cow.  I did not expect things to go the way they did, that is for sure.  The day after we got married she went full on mean and stopped us seeing step-son for 6 weeks, then blamed us for him being insecure. That sort of mean.   We have since arranged to meet up for a hot chocolate and have a chat, she made noises about reaching out, I wrote her a letter.  It has taken us 4 months to get to the point of meeting face-to-face.  I would NEVER choose to sit down and make small talk with any of my husbands exs. Let alone his ex-wife, but this isn’t about me and it isn’t about her, it is about my step-son.  She wants to know a bit more about me, I know all I need to about her and welcome the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with her.  We are totally different sorts of people and we have one little boy in common, that is something beautiful even if she has been rather hateful towards me, I will rise above that and shower her with my smile and kind heart.  

Have you always felt supported?
No, not really.  Sadly some old friends and family made judgements, they took a long time (if ever)to warm up to the idea, some of the family send birthday cards and presents and others don’t, or ask how he is doing – silly things like that.

What helps you get through the tough days?
Some of my experience has been the hardest thing I have ever had to overcome, yet I did!  There are many gifts to being a step-parent, remembering them and staying grateful for all that I do have in my life are two powerful tools to help me keep on going, sleep is also a wonderful gift where we all get to reset the clock.  I do get nights and days off, some weekends I even get a layin!

What makes you smile?
So many things, seeing another person smile, watching the sunrise, spending time in nature, watching animals relax, travelling, Unicorns and rainbows, I could go on… In our home a genuine funny joke told by my step-son, seeing a smile light up a loved ones face, hearing my step-son laugh, or sharing a moment. 

Anything else you would like to add?
One of the best things I did was let it all go, it was a difficult time and my husband and I found a way to reset the clock.  We experienced a 5 month separation and reset the boundaries, in the long term it really was the best thing we did.  I later joined a step parenting group on Facebook and while everyone's story is different, it has helped me to write about it and we are all going through it together.  This group has helped take away the isolation and given me a space to provide support to others too.

Cover image used from Pexels.com