Saturday, 8 July 2017

How to be a Happy Step Mum

So, I'd say I've been too busy to write this week but I think that's just an excuse. This weeks been busy and sleep deprived, but nothing abnormal. What's changed is that I've come to some realizations about step parenting, and how is affected my life as a biological parent. Those realizations aren't necessarily bad, but they are taking some time to work through. I still don't think I'm quite ready to write about those yet.

So what's brought these realizations to the forefront? A mixture of things I suppose- being around lots of other first time mums, meeting lots of new families who are just as complicated as us (that is to say, not 'first families'), self reflection and a new book called How to be a Happy Step Mum.

I've had this book for a while now, and my Kindle tells me I was 19% of the way through it when I last attempted to read it. Back then, I was so wrapped up in life and what was going on, the vast amount of changes happening to me, that I couldn't relate to the book at all. And so I gave up.

I'm much better able to access it now, and its brought with it a lot of understanding of the situation I was in, the situation I am now in and future situations I may have to deal with. It's helped me to define my role as a step mother much better, and this has lead to some very positive steps in my relationship with my step son.

However, it's also brought back memories. And not all of those are positive. In fact, the very first memories are quite painful.

I wanted to share these with you. Not to discredit my step son or make him sound bad, not to make anyone feel sorry for me- but because someone out there might be going through the same thing right now. And if that person is anything like me, I couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel. The beginning of this journey was so lonely, I felt like I was the only woman on the planet going through it. I nearly left my other half and gave up on the whole idea of being a family all together. It's only on reflection that I can see how far we have come.  I had no idea we could make it this far, or that we could be happy.

When I met my other half, he wasn't shy about telling me he had a son. And I wasn't put off. I'd always wanted to be a mum, and here was a man who loved me and a ready made child just waiting for my love. It was going to be perfect. Like many step mothers, I think I automatically assumed my step child and I would love one another because we both loved the same man.

Wrong.

It became apparent very quickly that his little boy didn't like me. Things were changing, and he was a little boy who was very afraid I would take his dad away. Having lost his mum already, I can see why he might have issues with me. I can see that now, but perhaps because I had no kids of my own or because I was used to being young, free and selfish, I couldn't see it then. I could only see a little boy who made a big deal over everything, and who seemed to go out of his way to make me look awful.

It started by his refusing to eat in front of me. To be fair, I very quickly suggested changes to his eating routine, including changing from him eating alone to eating with us. And I suggested this might help because we could keep an eye on him and help him develop his knife and fork skills. Which is great, except I think he took that as me picking on him. And so, he refused to eat if I was in the room.

This stressed me out massively. I couldn't understand it. I thought he was just doing it to be difficult, so I'd tell him off. Then he'd refuse to eat anything and just walk round the house making puppy dog eyes at his dad all day. I felt like a monster, and I couldn't understand why he was behaving like this.

Then things started to get worse.

When we walked along near a road, the rule was he had to hold someones hand and stand on the inside of the path. But if I was on the inside of the path, all hell would break loose. He was refuse to hold my hand, twisting his arm and pulling hard. In public places he would pull so hard he would almost sit on the floor, and then scream YOU'RE HURTING ME at the top of his voice. I'd drop his hand instantly, afraid someone would realize I wasn't his mum and ring social services or something. Feeling so afraid made me feel angry with him, especially as it was him pulling that was hurting him in the first place.

One particularly stressful day, we were walking home from town. My other half crossed the road and then a car came round the corner. My step child and I stayed put, until it was safe to follow suit. But instead of just crossing the road, he started screaming and making grasping motions for his dad who was about 4 paces away. It was like I'd ripped him apart from his dad, who was standing directly in front of him and waiting for him to cross the road. It was so irrational and so public, it pissed me off instantly. I felt so humiliated and made to look like some sort of monster.

Another time we were walking back from the park when he was asked to hold my hand. He screamed and cried and pulled at the top of his voice for his dad, who was just the other side of me. It was utterly ridiculous. I couldn't help burning red and putting my head down, wondering what all the people in the houses near by must think I was doing to this poor child and all I was doing was holding his hand and keeping him away from traffic.

If I took him anywhere nice, it was pretty much a recipe for disaster. I took him swimming once and he screamed because I wasn't touching him in the pool. It was so shallow he could touch the floor and walk himself and I was literally less than an arms length away. I got really cross and told him if he didn't stop being silly we would have to go home, and is that what he wanted?! He nodded enthusiastically. All the while his screams echoed across the pool and I was conscious of the lifeguards gaze on me. It had taken me so long to get us ready to come swimming and I thought it would be fun, but yet again, it seemed to have been a pointless exercise. I went home angry and deflated. I'd been looking forward to the outing.

Whenever he was dropped off to us, he would scream blue murder while they were there. Almost as soon as they left he would be fine, but I was sure it made them thinking I was mistreating him or something.

He would cry about most things I did. I walked too fast. I gave him a bowl when he was being sick rather than letting him vomit on the floor. I served him the wrong food.

I felt so left out during the visits, and particularly upset that as soon as he arrived he would make sad faces at his dad. I bought toys for him that I thought he would like, I took him to places he might be interested in, I drove us up every weekend so he could see his dad more often. I did everything I could think of and he hated me.

He began to wet himself and even once pooed when I took him out. The odd accident was understandable but he started to wee every time he was put on the spot, almost in protest. Sometimes I would be saying to him about going to the toilet when he needed to, and he'd be nodding and weeing over the floor at the same time.

These were not good days. It took a very long time to carve out my place in this family. I used to feel so left out when he came to visit. He and his dad would sit on the sofa watching a favorite kids movie, and there would be no where left for me to sit. I found it difficult to leave the house because you had to take so much stuff with you (spare outfit, especially pants, wipes ect) that I bought new bags especially. Handbags became redundant. I had no where to go to think that he wasn't going to follow me to. And overall, I felt like my presences made everyone worry around him because of the way he reacted to me. I felt like a monster.

Time.

Time is the answer. Rome wasn't built in a day. Love doesn't always just happen with step children. In a lot of cases, it happens without you realizing- gradually.  With each positive memory you create, your placing a building block for a good relationship.

According to my book, the first 2 years are the hardest. I'm 3 years in now, and it's totally different. Don't give up. Get as much support as you can and talk with your partner lots.

#MummyTrials









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