The Stepmom Club Series: Alex!



Happy Saturday!

I'm excited to showcase another feature on The Stepmom Club Series today!

Today was have Alex on the blog, sharing her perspective on stepmotherhood.  Alex has been a stepmom for about seven years and lives with her stepkids nearly full-time, so she has quite a lot of experience living the stepmom life.

(Would you like to be part of the project?  Fill out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)

And without further ado, here is Alex's story...



-What is your name and general location?
My name is Alex Clifton. I currently reside in South Carolina.



-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!
I have two step-kids. One girl, Camryn, who turned seventeen in May, and one boy, Caleb, who is fifteen.



-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?  
I became a step-mom in my late twenties, right on the heels of thirty. And, I guess I’d say that my immersion into step-parenting was a head-first dive, as I imagine that it is for many women. I have been a permanent presence in Camryn and Caleb’s lives since they were eight and ten, and I had interactions with them as young as three and five. My spouse and I were not rash or flippant about my transition into the role. I had significant time with the kids prior to marrying my husband, and I continue to see being stepmom as akin to becoming a new parent: there’s no training manual and you simply must learn as you go along. But, I adamantly contend that being a new step-mom comes with unique challenges specific to the role, such as dealing with legalities and logistics, exes, and many moments of ambiguity, to name a few. My step-kids are with us 95% of the time, so my daily routine necessarily involves helping them with both literal and figurative growing pains, school functions, and homework.





-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?
I do not have any biological children, and I never will. I believe in signs, wonder, and providence. I think our lives line up the way that they’re supposed to. Perhaps there once was a time when I envisioned myself having children, giving birth to children, but I cannot see that now. And, I haven’t been able to see it for years. I am very blessed that I was chosen to have my life intertwined with two amazing kids--kids who I help shape, and they help shape me. The kids have always addressed me by my first name, and they have adopted my affinity for nicknames and pet names. For example, I call Camryn “Chica,” “little chick,” or “baby girl” as terms of endearment. Most times, they introduce me to their friends simply as “stepmom.”



-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?
In many situations, I let dad lead, which is how I feel it should be, insofar as he is the primary biological guardian. But we established long ago that our parenting is a joint effort. We both work full-time jobs, with my spouses’ hours often spanning into the evening. As such, my husband trusts me to make choices and decisions fit for the kids when they are on my watch. If some type of extreme occurrence arises, I consult him and we discuss it together.



-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?
Most of the activities we plan, in general, are family-oriented ie. restaurants, movies, and games. Be it that the kids are with us the majority of the time we try to foster what we see as a balanced lifestyle. My husband and I do not believe that life is experienced only on the heights, which means that our time with the kids is not always characterized by extravagant trips and outings. But, we are deliberate and meaningful with the time spent. It’s nice to have pure moments of simple hang-out time, where I get to see the kids grow into the young adults they are becoming.




-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
I’d say that the hardest thing about being stepmom is what I call the “stepmom-language-game.” The “stepmom-language-game” is the web that I get caught in when asked if I have children or a stranger addresses me as “mom” or I accidentally slip “my” before “kids,” then quickly backtrack and say, “The kids.” This is the area I grapple with most in my upcoming book about the experience of stepmom. It seems that the words that escape my lips as it concerns the kids and my family, are under scrutiny--there are words and modifiers that I should not--cannot--use, while others are acceptable. The rationale and sentiments behind what I choose to say is often overlooked. I plan my life around my stepkids in the same way that biological parents do, but when I’m leaving work and say, “I need to pick up my kiddos,” people latch on and ask me twenty-questions, as if trying to authenticate my claim to the children. And I do love them and claim them.



-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
I cried tears of joy when the kids acknowledged me on Mother’s Day this year. I don’t hold my breath, and I never know how that day will unfold for them--I’m certain that they mediate many, possibly conflicting, thoughts and emotions--but the thankless nature of being stepmom makes outside acknowledgment and recognition inexplicably monumental.





-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
I find that writing and journaling, whether formally or leisurely, free association style, is very helpful in dealing with things that happen in the step-mom experience. I often urge women in the role, new or seasoned, writer or not, to pick up pen and paper or a laptop and jot down thoughts and experiences. There is a catharsis and transformative self-awareness that can grow from focusing your thoughts and feelings in written form. Moreover, “The Evil Stepmother Speaks” was one of the first step-mom blogs I encountered that helped me feel hopeful. Another one is “A Childless Stepmother” on blogger. The author is raw and candid, tapping into experiences that any stepmom can appreciate, but the revelations are especially valuable to stepmoms with no biological children.



-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.


Young Alex,


Being a stepmom is a singularly unique experience that is packed with beauty and difficulty. Live life to the fullest and appreciate your alone time and down time, because there won’t be much of that in the years to come. And, every time you feel frustrated or misunderstood or eclipsed, just know that growth and the shaping process is changing you for the better. There will be days when you’re tired and you feel as if you have nothing left to give, but you will--you do. What you do matters and makes a positive difference, even if the kids don’t know or can’t see it. Perhaps, they can and do see it, but they may not be able to articulate what they feel, and that is okay. Make peace with that. Your job is to be there, being fully you, and full of love.


P.S. Don’t be nervous about meeting bio-mom or the ex-in-laws. You are where you are because you are meant to be there. Your spouse loves you and supports you. Always be a first-rate version of yourself, and speak your truth.




-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
I cannot say that I have experienced jealousy in my stepmom role, but I have often experienced anger and frustration, which I think is noteworthy. I become upset because I think it’s possible to foster a respectful, courteous relationship with bio-mom and ex-in-laws, grandparents, etc. However, when my efforts are met with disrespect or are simply ignored I feel like we are missing out on an opportunity to provide the kids with experiences that could be wholesome for them. I do not expect every stepmom and bio-mom to be best friends, some may even contend that a best friend relationship between these two figures is impossible. But, I expect respect for my home and marriage, and I hold myself accountable to do the same. If the kids see us work together and/or be around each other maturely then everyone wins. I admit that I am a bit fanciful and idealistic, but stepmoms and bio-moms are not required to be contemptuous toward one another. In fact, there might be occasions when we as parents can benefit from consulting one another and communicating effectively.




-Was your now partner having children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
The fact that my partner had kids from a previous relationship never scared me away, simply because there came a moment when I knew, undoubtedly, that he and I were supposed to be together. As love grew in my heart for him, love blossomed in my heart for his children. This does not mean that one should be lackadaisical when walking into a relationship with someone who has kids. Take your time. Do the foundational groundwork, and build a relationship with your partner that stands firm.



-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
Yes.


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.


By day, I am a full-time Bakery Cafe associate. But, I am also a writer. I am currently in the process of completing the first draft of an Adult Fiction/Thriller, which I hope will be complete in the fall. Aside from the thriller, I am working on a book entitled, “The Calling of a Step-Mom,” which ties in with my blog (http://www.saavysage.blogspot.com) and my Twitter account. If you are on Instagram or Twitter find me @acliftonlauri.

Aside from writing, I am a walking jukebox (the kids say I know every song), and I watch Jeopardy! every night.


Thanks again, Alex, for sharing your stepmotherhood story today!  If you enjoyed her perspective, feel free to go check out her blog here!

Did you like reading Alex's interview?  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!)

Thank you everything!  Have a great weekend - I'm off to my friend's wedding today and I can't wait! I hope you have an amazing weekend, too! <3 

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