Saturday, June 09, 2007

Me and Nanny McPhee

Love that movie. If you haven't seen it, you should, because there just aren't enough good step-mother stories in the world. I've decided Walt Disney had some serious mom issues, I mean, seriously dude, what was the last Disney Movie you watched when the mother DIDN'T die?

Disney Movie Recipe:

1 Dead Mother
1 Wicked Step-Mother
1 Oblivious Father
1 or more merry children who have access to unlimited resources, more freedoms than most adults and have no respect for authority.

Mix with generous amounts of beautiful animation, high-falutin' Hollywood voice overs and a cheap plastic product line to be given out at McDonald's and sit back while the cash flows in.

My own journey into step motherhood began at the tender age of 20. M, E, and D were 11, 9 and 5 respectively and we had a 50/50 custody arrangement with Hubster's ex. To say she was all up in our business was the understatement of the year. However, I had youth and skill on my side so i was determined to be the BEST step mother EVAR period. And also I had an insane amount of love and energy all bottled up inside. Well, you know how when you have your first kid you plan on doing everything right? Epidural? Not me! Breastfeeding? Absolutely! Perfectly co-ordinated outfits with shoes for a newborn? How could you not?! Right?! Yeah, well, it was sorta like that, only they were older and not having control over their whole universe made exerting my perfectionism somewhat frustrating and futile at times.

So for three years I immersed myself in kid stuff. I went to every ball game, program, parent teacher conference; you name it I was there. Then their mother moved 100 miles away, took D with her and the earth tilted off it's axis. Suddenly, I was in charge of the 200 mile car pool twice every week to get kids to and from "visitation", building a house, working full time and taking the boys to wrestling tournaments every.stinking.weekend. all over the entire state of Wyoming.

And then I got pregnant with B. On purpose.

Is it any wonder I nearly lost my mind? Me thinks not. My first foray into the world of the internet was to find some kind of help with this tricky step-parenting gig. I found a discussion forum with dozens of like-minded ladies and slowly began unraveling the way I really felt about being a step-parent. Basicly, it was kicking my @$$. I'm not kidding when I tell you that moving 900 miles from his ex was the best thing that ever happened to me as a person married to my Hubster. However, it also coincided with my crash into reality.

Suddenly free from the constraints of "the other woman" breathing down my neck and the constant fear and threat of litigation I scarcely knew how to behave. Slowly, I became a real mom, and while I'm not always certain that is a good thing, I do realize it is a normal thing. Reading other posts in bloggy land, I am reassured that the chaos that has descended upon my home is not limited to these four walls, but quite normal for households of every size, kind and circumstance. Finally being able to admit that my now teenaged step children were driving me absolutely ape and sharing that admission with other parents led to feelings of validation and camaraderie instead of accusations of inferior parenting. Learning that, admitting they were driving me crazy didn't mean I loved them any less, was terribly reassuring.

I now find myself at an uneasy peace with the kids' mom. Once I began to recognize that I was probably an insufferable snot in my pursuit of perfect parenting, I began tallying up all the ways she acted like a complete horses behind and I figured we're probably about even. Trust her? Depends on what for, like, she'll never be a gal pal, but since the weekly screaming matches have come to an end, I no longer feel like I need to be on my guard every second and I've even had a handful of pleasant conversations with her. There are area's that we have just agreed to disagree on, there are things we hate to admit, and there are things we would have done different but I no longer feel the need to discredit her facade which used to drive me over the edge. I don't know if she still feels the need to discredit and complain about Hubster and I at every opportunity, but I am relieved to discover that I no longer care. The kids, for the most part, seem to have a pretty realistic bead on where everyone stands.

I can't say that step-parenting has been my favorite thing. If I could have been the only momma I'd have done that in a heartbeat, I couldn't love my step-kids more if I'd have given birth to them myself. I think the step-parenting adventure wore an excessive amount of my "shiny" off. But it has given me some insights that I wouldn't have had otherwise, and some perspectives about marriage and divorce that only those intimately acquainted with divorce situations have. I am definitely not the girl you want to talk to if you are thinking abut leaving your husband. Or maybe I am. Depends on how you look at it. The Second Wives Club has gotten me through. How lucky I am to have found two other women who raised their husband's children with the ex noisily in the background. My time in boot camp is pretty much over. D graduates next year, and this year, our anniversary will mark the milestone of having been married to Hubster longer than the ex was. The kids still come home every now and then, now that they have a choice in the matter, and I guess that's about the best that a step-mom can hope for. Well, that and having your name appear on the wedding invitation. But who ever said rewriting fairy tales was gonna be easy...right?

1 comment:

The Author said...

Disney is harsh on all parents but particularly step-parents. Don't get me started on their "oh, I'm a helpless princess, please save me" themes.

You've done an amazing job and have children you can be proud of -- even when they choose to go their own way and it's not what you would choose for them. You've given them a strong foundation and you should be proud of the job you've done.