Hello my friends!
I'm so excited to bring you the next installment of The Stepmom Club Series!
Today we have Natalie, a mom and stepmom, with us on the blog today to share her stepmothering story! Natalie's beautiful honesty really stuck out to me and I'm stoked for you all to read it. Such a refreshing, wonderful take.
(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!)
I'm excited for you all to read Natalie's stepmom story, so here we go!...
-What is your name and general location?
Natalie - Midwest
-How many stepchildren do you have? (And what age and gender, if you’re comfortable sharing) If you have biological children, feel free to let us know about them here, too!
9 year old stepson, 3 year old bio daughter, and one on the way.
-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
I was 21 when I got with my husband and already knew he had a son. My stepson had just turned 2 at the time and was mostly living with his mother. My husband moved in with me when I was 23 and we set up a room for my stepson, but he was only there every other weekend and sometimes even then he wasn’t there if they were visiting my husband’s family, who live 3 hours away. My husband and I got married when I was 24, had my daughter when I was 25, then right after I turned 26, we switched custody roles and my stepson started living with us full-time and visiting his mom every other weekend. I’m now 28 and my stepson is 9.
-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?
When talking directly to me, he calls me Natalie. When my daughter is around and he’s talking to her about me he will say ‘Mommy,’ but only so she understands. People who don’t know us, always assume I’m his bio and will refer to me as Mom. He’s never corrected them. I only correct them if it’s someone who will need to know like his teachers or doctors.
-How/When did you first meet your now stepchild? Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
I still have difficulty bonding with him. There were years and years where I felt horrible and my husband and I would fight about it. Everyone thinks if you don’t love them a certain way, you are a horrible person. It’s not logical or fair at all to put that on anyone, let alone a stepparent and a child. It’s like picking a stranger off the street and telling someone they have to love them like they love you or you don’t really love them. It’s confusing and creates a huge amount of pressure on the child and stepparent when there are already a lot of changes going on.
I feel like we are now in a situation where both my stepson and I are comfortable around each other and have a certain amount of love and respect for each other, but that couldn’t just appear out of thin air. These things, like any other type of relationship, take a lot of time. He’s old enough now to not be as influenced by outside sources as before, and to find things in common with me, but I definitely feel there is always a loyalty thing with him where he feels like if he likes me and is friends with me that it is somehow betraying his mother.
-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?
I am a stay-at-home mom, so I am with our kids most of the time. This makes me the main handler of immediate discipline situations, such as when the children are fighting over a toy or game. I’m also the enforcer of making sure his homework is done, room is clean and other after-school chores are done. If there is a huge issue at hand, my husband and I will talk together and figure out what we think is the best course of action. I’m going to be straight up honest and say that sometimes I push a choice on him 100%, because I’m worn out. I also do this with my daughter though, so I think that’s more of a parenting thing and not a stepparent thing.
-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’m the main contact for anything that has to do with the schedule, just because I keep track of all the appointments, school events, and after-school activities. My husband is there at the beginning of the year when we all sit down with our calendars to map our weekend and holiday schedule, but he is the worker and will sometimes be distracted. He used to agree to things with her without me knowing and it would mess up schedules, so his mom and I now know just to talk to each other instead of trying to go through him. He tries, but it’s just easier sometimes to have a straight conversation instead of going through multiple channels. If anything has to do with changing a date for anything family related, he gets final say, but if it’s her wanting to take him somewhere after school, before my husband even gets home from work, he doesn’t care if we make changes.
-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?
In the beginning, we tried really hard to not do anything without him. After we had our daughter we quickly realized that wasn’t feasible and it caused a lot of stress. Now we know our holiday schedule for the year ahead of time, so we know if he’s going to be at certain family functions or not. He misses some of ours and he misses some of hers, and that’s okay. Sometimes he makes comments and we have to remind him that he may not think it’s fair sometimes, but that he actually gets a lot more family time than a lot of other kids, including his sister. We do have a birthday party for him every year with us and she also has one for him, so he gets two parties, two cakes, two sets of guests with gifts, etc. This year, he said it wasn’t fair that I made our daughter two birthday cakes (she couldn’t decide and picked two themes, but she still only had one party) and we had to remind him that he gets multiple birthdays and multiple christmases (his moms family, his dads family, my family) and his sister only gets one birthday a year. We also have to remind him with such a huge age difference that I used to have huge parties for him when he was younger, but as you get older, birthdays become less and less theatrical. He’s getting older and realizing that things aren’t always equal, but that everyone gets treated as fairly as possible and everyone gets what they need. His parties are still fun and always the theme he requests, so trust me, he’s not being deprived.
-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
The events leading up to the custody switch were very difficult. He confided things in me that I didn’t know how to cope with. Family Services had to get involved and my heart and stomach were in knots for months. He took over a year to really transition and that year was rough with my first bio being so young and me also feeling the need to over protect and be there for him in every aspect. He needed me more than my daughter did. I was still in the new mom stage and now I was almost 100% responsible for another child instantly. I felt like the worst mom in the world for spending most of my energy on him and not my bio daughter. I went from seeing him every other weekend to being a full time new mom with a kid who didn’t want to be away from his mom at all. He was being told to tell adults at his school bad things about me so that he could live with his mom again. I had to be investigated by the same family services who suggested he live with us, because of a call they received. They obviously found nothing wrong and realized there were a lot of emotions and games being played to try to get him back into his mother’s home, but it still hurt a lot to have those accusations against me. I kept the report and occasionally come across it and it still hurts.
-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
Best moments happen all of the time when the kids are getting along and loving on each other and both happy. I feel like in those moments, everything is normal and right. One of the funniest moments from when he was really little was when I had him convinced for a good year that girls don’t fart, so every time I farted, he would blame his dad or whoever else was around with total conviction and wouldn’t let them blame it on me.
As he’s gotten older, I think my favorite memories are when I visit his school and all his friends know who I am and he doesn’t correct them when they say “Your mom is here,” or ask him something about his mom knowing they’re talking about me. I don’t want to replace his mom, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about how much “easier” our lives would be if I was his mom.
If you are a stepparent, don’t ever feel like a horrible person for having those thoughts float into your head occasionally. You can’t stop them from showing up in your head, but you can stop them from turning into a version of reality that won’t be good for anyone.
Another good memory in the making is the game club my stepson and I started at our library. It’s a lot of fun to be able to have something that’s only ours that we don’t share with one of the other parents.
-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
No. None. I just recently came across this blog and was so intrigued by the honesty in it, I wanted to be a part of it. I have read many books about stepparenting and have seen many blogs and forums, but none of them are what I feel is completely honest. There are things that you feel and things that you think as a stepparent that if said out loud come with horrible retribution from others. I have always kept my feelings bottled up inside, because when they begin leaking out, no one understands. I love my husband, but he will never be a stepparent and therefore never fully understand no matter how hard he tries.
-What advice would you give your former self if you could send a letter back in time? Please write a short version of that letter here.
You have an amazing opportunity to create a beautiful family that will make your heart want to explode. It’s going to be the most difficult thing you will do and you will struggle the entire time, but IT. IS. WORTH IT!
To make things a little easier on yourself and avoid a lot of fights, know that you aren’t wrong in feeling whatever you feel. There are going to be people, even your husband, who will make you feel like you are so wrong for how you feel, but they don’t and won’t ever understand. Just know that it’s okay that they won’t understand and it’s okay for you to feel those things. They will eventually see that things are okay and that you have to take your own path. Just breathe, always follow your gut, and love yourself above all.
You’ll get so used to trying to please everyone and walk on eggshells to try to be the perfect parent, but it will ruin you! You will never be perfect, but you can be happy!!!! Looking back, there are probably times where you could have gone about something differently to not hurt someone’s feelings like they hurt yours, but all in all, you have always done what is right and what needed to be done to get your family through hard times. Your husband will tell you over and over in the beginning that they are a package deal and you have to love them both or else it won’t work, but here’s the thing….you can’t force love. It will come! I promise! But you can’t let someone else tell you how or when it will happen. Love doesn’t work like that. Just build a mutual respect and the fun times and the love will fall into place.
One last thing….try not to nitpick or be so controlling. You’re not perfect, quit trying to make everyone else that way. It only stresses you out. You’re the only one it hurts. They don’t care. Lol So don’t get worked up over little things (aka pretty much everything).
-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
ABSOLUTELY! Are you kidding me?! Of course I get jealous. The thing is, nothing is going to change that. Ever. I will NEVER carry him for 9 months and give birth to him. It’s not possible, so that’s one of things you kind of just have to learn to bury and deal with. There is absolutely no changing that.
-What do you say when people ask if you have kids?
Before my daughter, I would just say, I have a stepson. Now it’s just, I have two kids. Unless, of course it’s my doctor who wants to know how this next birth may be affected. Lol Then I have a step and a bio.
-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”)
Nothing. He always answers them, so I don’t feel like it’s ever been a big deal to him or needed to be addressed.
-How are you preparing for when the child might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
Well, sorry about your luck, but I am his parent. Have been for years. He doesn’t remember his life without me in it.
-Was your now partner having a child or children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
It was a con. Not a huge con, but it still wasn’t a pro. I think every woman wants to start her family and have all the firsts. There were a lot of times I felt inconvenienced by the situation and upset that I would never get certain “firsts.” As I’ve gotten older, those things don’t matter, but they sure did back then. Especially when my husband would say, well when he was this age or when we were pregnant with him, etc. Not enough to throw away an amazing relationship, but they were still stressful and sometimes disappointing. You’ll get through them if it’s meant to be and get on to bigger and better things.
-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
Yes. It’s complicated, but the result is still the same.
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.
I’m not a very interesting person anymore, but these are the interesting things about me I came up with:
- I love getting tattoos. I wish I could get them whenever I felt like it, but, you know, money and kids. Lol Not really a stay-at-home mom’s cheap passion.
- My husband says an interesting thing is that I care so much about equality and for everyone to be treated fairly even if I hardly know them and especially for someone who doesn’t like being around people. LOL Thanks, honey.
- I enjoy horror films, storms, video games, board games and jigsaw puzzles. I know, I party hard and should really be put on a leash.
Thank you, Natalie, for sharing your story and your family with us! I'm really happy you were able to be here on the blog today and I so appreciate your rawness and honesty here. I was really moved by it and I'm so glad to feature it!
Did you like reading Natalie's story? Want to read more in this series? Check them all out here!
(Don't forget that if you're interested in sharing your own stepmotherhood story just out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)