It’s my privilege to have Shannon Dew, author at Dewing Life, to guest post today. Visit her site – it’s full of encouragement and practical advice for parenting blended families. I’m thankful to have her contribute to our parenting series!
“What have I gotten myself into?” The first year I was married to the love of my life and his three children I often had this thought. The first year almost did me in. You see, I am a perfectionist and I don’t ask for help and to top off those positive character traits, I am a people-pleaser. Good golly…just writing that makes me tired…living it nearly killed me.
Our wedding was beautiful and intimate and our honeymoon was lazy and relaxed. We returned home to REALITY! Blending a family of five children with ages that ranged 7 to 19 is no small feat. We felt we had done a good job preparing everyone for our wedding. His girls even came to stay with me and my girls in the house we bought a couple of weeks before the wedding. A good sign that everyone was excited. A new house, new relationships and a new normal. We were all hopeful as we began this new life together, but it would not be without its challenges. My favorite saying in that first year was, “Change is hard even when it’s good”.
The day we returned from our honeymoon my mom told me that all FOUR girls had lice. LICE!! You have to understand that my stepdaughter’s have enough hair between them to cover a small country. It took us nearly a month to be rid of that infestation. To this day when I see the girls scratch their heads I am on top of them looking through their locks to see if I see anything resembling lice as they are screaming and knocking my hands away secretly scared I may find something. We were all traumatized by that experience.
We got married in November so that we could spend the holidays together as a family. Between nit picking hair and buying Christmas gifts for this huge family and extended family, I often wondered often what have we done? That holiday season was stressful. I was doing it all. Super Mom and Super Duper Step Mom. She runs, she buys, she cleans and cooks and nit picks nightly while watching Christmas movies creating the perfect home environment, while asking for help from no one! She IS AMAZING! And she was burning out quickly. We were not even two months in and I was struggling.
I was working hard on building relationships with my stepchildren and I was band-aiding my own children as they had a new school and neighborhood to adjust to since our move. I was in a part of town where I knew no one and I missed my friends and the life I had built on the other side of town for 15 years. I was giving a lot and not receiving much. My husband was trying to be my mainstay, but because I was busy doing it all for everyone else I was on an island. I had cut myself off and was just in “doing” mode. I couldn’t receive. We talked about it, but I just couldn’t stop and I was becoming resentful. I wanted help, but would not ask for it. Why?
Honestly, I loved the attention it gave me. The comparisons the girls gave me to their biological mother were positive. She was smarter than I and was not doing every little thing for them, but I pressed on with my S on my chest doing more and better and cooler things. I soon began to resent my husband for not doing more, but what was left to do? I never asked him to do anything.
That summer I was starting to get really tired. I was sleeping more and doing less. I thought maybe I was depressed. I made an appointment to see my doctor. He found a huge cyst on my thyroid. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was my wake up call and my reflection time. My thyroid and the mass were removed. I was treated successfully and I continue to take replacement drugs, but that time made me realize that I cannot do it all.
Not only had I not been relying on my husband or asking anything from any of the kids, I had not been relying on God. I had set myself up to be the martyr. You know the one who says, “Oh no, I have it”, and then seethes as they perform the task. They enjoy the attention, but loathe the responsibility. Yes, that was me.
As a mom, I think this behavior is a trap so many can fall into. However, a step mom can be special prey because as a stepparent there are always strangers in the house. That means that first year especially, you can feel like someone is always watching and judging your every move. That is how I felt. I don’t know if that was true or not, but because two of my stepchildren were older I was super conscious of my actions.
My advice to new and old step-moms is to take time for yourself. I’m working on this myself. Don’t allow yourself to get lost in your new normal. Do something that is totally one hundred percent for you. Don’t get caught up in the comparison to the biological mother. Just do what you think is right and stay out of that trap. Keep your focus first on your husband and make time for one another. Talk openly and not defensively. The last and most important piece is to find a Godly woman or women that can walk along side you. If at all possible look for another woman in a blended family. We are unique in our struggles and it is nice to have someone who understands. I have someone I partner with and she and I use one another to grow and keep us honest.
Step-parenting is not for the faint of heart and it is not easy, but almost four years later I will tell you that it is the most rewarding role and I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. I love our new normal and all the ups and downs that go with it. The relationships I have with all my children are ones I wouldn’t trade. My husband and I are closer than ever and he has been my rock. Blending a family can teach you some of the greatest lessons you will ever learn in your life. Each day brings new challenges but now I don’t face them alone.