Today's the day, you guys...
The Stepmom Project is officially here!This is the place where I will interview a different stepmom every month, in hopes of normalizing stepfamilies for those who aren't a part of one, and providing support for those who are! (For more information on the purpose of the project, check out this post.)
I'm also excited to announce that I have already had a slew of stepmoms who are interested in participating and sharing their stories. Would you like to be part of the project, too? Fill out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!
The questions were all anonymously submitted from friends and blog readers - I wanted to gather questions that people *wished* they could ask about stepparenting but may not feel comfortable doing so directly.
I'm going to begin by answering the questions myself (it only seems fair) and sharing a bit more of my stepmom story for those who might be new around here! :)
|Laura Marie Duncan Photography|
-What's your name and general location?
My name is Grady Savage and I live in New Hampshire.
-How many stepchildren do you have?
I have one 12-year-old stepdaughter, Jessica.
-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
I've been with my husband for just about five years now, and I met my stepdaughter when she was seven years old. My husband and I have been married for a little over a year at this point, but I've considered myself a "stepmom" for all intents and purposes since she was about eight. My stepdaughter lives with her dad (and me now, of course!) full-time and visits her mom over the summers, so I've essentially been a full-time stepmom for the past four years. I'm 28 years old, and was 23 when my husband and I started dating, so I was living quite a different lifestyle than many of my friends were experiencing at the time.
-What does your stepchild call you? If you also have biological children, how does the role of titles (ie mom and dad) work in your family?
My stepdaughter calls me Grady. She refers to me as her stepmom, and she refers to myself and my husband Christopher collectively as "her parents" when she's talking about both of us. (Note: She very much considers her mom part of "her parents" too, I just mean that if she's meeting us somewhere she might say "I need to go see my parents." It's not exclusive to just the two of us, it's just more simple to say, I think :-P) I don't have any biological children at this point, so "Grady" works okay for us with no trouble.
-How/When did you first meet your now stepchild(ren)? Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
I actually wrote about when I first met Jess in this post, but when I first met her she was seven, and it was just a quick "Hello, nice to meet you, hang out for a few minutes, goodbye." type situation. Chris and I felt very strongly about not involving me in Jess' life at all until we knew our relationship was serious and heading in a committed direction, so it was several months before I met her at all, even casually. After the inital meeting, I gradually began spending more time with her, and then eventually we just all started to feel like a cohesive unit and it's been that way ever since. Christopher and I were married in September 2015 and I feel like that has only solidified our family bond.
-How do you and your partner handle discipline/rules within your family? (Is it 50/50?) How do you and your partner make sure you are both respected by the child?
This is a tricky question because it's so easy to say "the stepparent shouldn't do any of the discipline" but in practice it's really not that simple. Chris and I have agreed on our rules for our family together, separate from conversing with Jess about those rules. Christopher is the one who introduces and enforces rules generally, however, I am an adult in this house too, and if I'm alone with Jess and she's not behaving in a way that follows our house rules, I will absolutely address it. Generally this does not involve punishment or anything like that, but I'm certainly going to speak up if she's not doing what she's supposed to be doing and she knows it. I think the key part of that in our family (and in many others) is that Christopher has my back on things, 100%. He supports me addressing things when we're alone, if needed, but most importantly he will step up to address things himself if he notices me getting frustrated or wanting to enforce a rule when he's around. That has been huge for our relationship and has certainly helped to facilitate a positive relationship for me and Jess where I don't have to be "the enforcer" all the time, and where he models showing me respect. I feel very very grateful for that, because I have heard many a story where that hasn't been the case and it seems like it makes the already hard job of stepparenting exponentially more difficult.
-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchild’s other biological parent? (Not your partner) If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
I used to participate a fair amount in communication with my stepdaughter's mom, but it wasn't working for any of us the way we had hoped, so I've stepped back from that. So far, it has gone much more smoothly to have my husband as the sole person in charge of communication, and for now that's what works well for us.
-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the child (when the child is with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the child with you?
I know this would be a very different answer if we had an every other week or weekdays/weekends schedule, but for the most part Jess is with us all the time, so we don't have too much juggling to do in this regard. My husband and I do make a point to take a small vacation or trip over the summer, just the two of us, because nurturing our relationship with that one-on-one time is important to us, and it just seems to work best to do that when Jess is already away, rather than ask someone to watch her for a duration of time. Otherwise, though, we celebrate holidays, take family trips, etc. all together because she's almost always with us!
-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
When Jess was quite young and we moved into a new apartment, she really really struggled with sleeping at night. It would take her hours to actually fall asleep, and she would wake up in the middle of the night several times, almost every night. This made for a very overtired, frustrated child and equally overtired and frustrated adults in our house. I knew it was going to take establishing solid routines and lots of time for her to get settled and comfortable, but it was probably a full year of interrupted sleep for everyone, and it was a very stressful time. As a young adult who jumped into this parenting gig, it was a very jarring place to be and a tough period for our family. For the record, she is now an awesome sleeper with a solid bedtime routine! Turns out, it really did just take time :)
-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
It's honestly so hard to pick out just one, but I am constantly delighted by Jess' killer sense of humor as she's gotten older. She never ceases to throw out some hilarious one-liner or sassy statement and I love to see how clever and hysterical she is. But if we're getting more specific, I have this one memory from when she must've been, I don't know, ten years old? She and I sat on the couch together for hours, just the two of us snuggled under a giant comforter, while she told me every detail about a computer game she was really into at the time. I loved her passion and I loved asking her questions about the game - it was such a simple moment, but I still remember it vividly and will treasure that memory for a long time.
-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
Oh my gosh, yes! I'm actually planning on making a whole post on this soon!
I know you're a big nerd so you've already done a whole lot of research on this whole "stepparenting" thing, but just don't be surprised when some things come out of left field. When one unsuspecting comment can make you cry at your desk at work or when Jess says one little thing that brightens up your whole week. There's no way to be ready for this. I know you want to be, but it's just not possible, truly. All you need to know right now is you're in for a lot of work, but it'll be worth it. Jessica is such an amazing kid and Christopher is a wonderful husband and father. YUP, that's right girlfriend, I said HUSBAND. Hollah! Get ready for the prettiest wedding of all time and a lifetime of wildness and laughter in that future Savage household of yours.
Love you forever,
-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
Oh, totally. Obviously that would change the dynamics of EVERYTHING and that's not how the world works, but that doesn't mean I don't sometimes wish this were all easier and I was just somehow magically her mom instead of her stepmom. Most of the time I'm pretty comfortable with my role, but we all have our days and I experience that just like anyone else would.
-What do you say when people ask if you have kids? (if you’re a stepmom with no biological children)
I honestly usually just say "I have a stepdaughter." If it's in some online survey or something with only "yes/no" options, I say yes. She's my kid. I go to parent meetings at school and take her places and buy her clothes and all of the parent things, so if I only have a yes or no option, I'm going with yes. If I'm able to elaborate though, I certainly just say she's my stepdaughter. People have generally been decently kind and receptive, thank goodness.
-What do you say when a stranger (waitress or something like that) refers to you and your spouse as mom and dad? (ie “Ask your mom and dad”)
OH MY GOODNESS, THIS HAS HAPPENED SINCE JESS WAS TINY. If it's just a random person we don't know and will probably never see again, we don't bother saying anything. We know what they mean. If it's someone at school or that we may interact with again, one of us will just politely correct them.
-How are you preparing for when the child might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
Jess has actually said that to me before, when she was younger, but it wasn't in the way you'd think. I forget the context now, but she was just stating it as a fact (I think in relation to a school paper or something?) and so it was a super easy thing to respond to. I basically just said "Yup, you're right. I'm your stepmom." and that was the end of it. It hasn't come up again since then, but if it does, I imagine I'll react in a similar way, at least outwardly. Other people saying it is a lot tougher to deal with, I think. Ultimately I have to remember that people who don't understand your family don't have the right to have an opinion about it, so their thoughts are irrelevant. (Easier said than done, of course!)
-Was your now partner having a child or children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
Hmm... I'm not sure I really know how to answer this question. I don't think it was either, honestly. I think it was just a fact - if I wanted to be with Christopher, it was a reality that I would be entering into more than one type of relationship. I don't think I ever viewed it as a specifically positive or negative thing, it was just a very serious thing that needed to be considered as we moved forward in our relationship. Chris and I were extremely honest when we began persuing a relationship, though, so I always felt like we were able to talk about everything and really openly communicate, which I think made the fact that he had a child seem less daunting to me, if that makes sense.
-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
Quite honestly yes. I know that I am extremely blessed that I get along so well with Jess, and I am WELL aware that this is not always the case with stepmoms and their stepkids, but I really truly love this child. Stepmom life comes with it's difficulties and trials, that's for sure, but I wouldn't take it back, I really wouldn't. I think I am a better person for knowing my stepdaughter (and my husband, of course) and I am thankful that this is where my life has brought me.
-Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering. Also, please leave any blog or contact links below if you’d like that information to be featured here.
Well, you all already know my blog info ;) And three interesting facts? I've been participating in theatre since I was 8 years old, I put ice in my orange juice (I honestly didn't know this was a strange thing until Jess told me it was this past weekend :-P), and I'm quite good at pig latin. Like, really really good. Are-ay ooh-yay ealous-jay? ;)