Confessions of a soon-to-be step-mom

It’s just a little over a month before our wedding and you know what my biggest fear is? No not that I will trip in my dress walking down the aisle and face-plant right before the groom’s feet (although I have had that dream a few times now). Rather, it's that I would suck at being a step-mom. You see I have three grown-up children of my own; I thought I was finished with parenting of young children till Scott came into my life and brought with him his three children. After all I managed to parent three humans and they turned out okay (well, the first two at least: jury’s still out on the third one).

As soon as I realised we were in it for the long haul, it dawned on me! I am going to be a step-mom. My first reaction was to be their best friend. You know, when you first become a parent you think, I’m going to be nothing like my mom, I’m going to be the coolest, hippest parent out there, and when the tough decisions have to be made you soon come to realise that you can’t be their best friend, you have to be the parent. I learned that the same applies for step-parenting; I can be friendly but not their best friend, because when daddy says no and they look at me all puppy dog-eyed to change his mind then I have to be daddy’s best friend.

Changing tactics:

At first I tried to “help” by adding some pearls of wisdom on how I did things with my children when they were younger. Yeah, that didn’t go down too well with two different generations and six very different children. I have always maintained that parenting is 98% about finding what works for you and figuring it all out along the way and here I am telling my partner what he is doing wrong.Then I tried the “I’m just going to stay the hell out of it” approach.

Whenever there was a difficult decision (or any decision, to be honest) to be made, I deferred to dad.  Karen, can we… Go ask your dad. Karen, may I… Go ask your dad. That way I wasn’t responsible for anything and couldn’t be blamed if it all went pear-shaped. And for goodness’ sake don’t ever leave me alone with them for extended periods of time where I might be forced to make a decision! Luckily Scott would only ever pop off to the local café to get milk so I could always use wait till dad gets back and you can ask him.

This didn’t work either, because I found I was backing off from being a part of this little family unit; I was the outsider looking in. I told myself it was the best way and backed it up with a reassuring, well, I’m not trying to be their mom, they already have one (a really great one, by the way). The lies we tell ourselves when trying to justify something.

So for now I will have to rethink this role of step-mom, what does it mean and just how far do I go in balancing co-parenting and stepping on toes? I have no idea, but I will let you know in about 15 years or so if it all worked out in the end.

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What challenges have you found as a step-parent?
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