What does being a Step-Mummy mean??
I have been trying to build a bond with little B since May 2017 (after having to fight through the legal system) and have had this question on my mind since her Daddy and I first got together. Many of the fairy-tale books depict stepmothers as wicked and evil, the most famous examples being Snow White and Cinderella, infact there are 100’s of stories written about these ‘awful’ stepmothers.
I have done some research, can you believe that almost 1 in 10 children (under 18) are now part of a stepfamily, and thought back to my childhood to try and put myself in the shoes of little B. My parents separated when I was young and my mum re-married when I was 8, my dad never married again or had a serious relationship so I don’t have the personal experience of having a stepmother. My parents still had an amicable relationship and dad would come over every weekend to see us. He didn’t have space for me and my siblings as he had to move back with his parents, allowing us to stay in the family home. My dad always supported my mum – don’t get me wrong I didn’t have a rosy home life – but dad accepted the new man in our life and they got on. As far as I know dad didn’t have any issues with my stepdad, and if he did it never showed. My sibling and I would go shopping with him, he would look after us when mum went out and he would reprimand us if needed. From memory he never took over from my dad, he wasn’t there to replace him, however he cared for us, he would be there for birthdays and Christmas. And a child’s natural loyalty is towards their parent so this wasn’t enough to build a bond though, he never went out of his way to parent me and it showed, as when he and mum separated I no longer saw him, which is a shame as he was part of my childhood. Inevitably this throws up a whole host of other questions –
What happens to that bond if the adults split?
Is it worth becoming close to a step child?
What are the rights of a step-parent after separation?
Anyhow, my mum and step-dad never had any children of their own, and neither did my step-dad have any from a previous relationship. I haven’t had to adjust to step or half siblings changing the family dynamic. I didn’t have any friends at school with step-mums, a few with step-dads, but no actual memories to help me with know how to be a step-mum myself.
Fast forward to having my own children, two girls, which are now adults! I had them young which statistically meant I ended up a single mother, and I had to hand them over to their dad every other weekend. Not only was this difficult due to the circumstances surrounding the breakup, but they were still quite young and I naturally wanted them with me all the time, I didn’t think anyone could look after them like I did. He never went to develop a lasting relationship with another woman, so I didn’t have to worry about a new ‘mum’ helping to look after them while in his care. And now they are grown up enough to need looking after by another woman.
I however did meet someone new who didn’t have any children of his own, and we took it slowly when introducing them. It was all very thought out and they took to him very well, I didn’t force them but he was kind and they could see it. I still did all the school drop offs, and pick-ups, cooked the dinners, did the home work and saw to them if they hurt themselves or were unwell. Maybe it’s a man thing to not do those things, or maybe it was just his thing and he didn’t want to do it. We went on to have a son of our own and he was great with him, getting stuck in to every aspect of his care. So maybe looking back it didn’t come naturally to him to take care of a child that wasn’t biologically his. Sadly, our relationship ended, but it was very amicable and he would come for a family dinner every week and have our son every other weekend without fail. I never once questioned his ability to care for our son on his own. We parented together with amazing communication. On the flipside, he never took the girls with him anywhere, there would still be a birthday card in the first few years following the split, but nothing more. And that’s a shame after 7 years of living together. I suppose they had their own dad whom they saw occasionally, so why does he need to look after them now he wasn’t with their mum? Isn’t that a real shame, and should children have to be put through that when a relationship ends?
Then the inevitable happened, my son’s dad met someone new. I’d always known it would happen and I trusted his dad to only introduce him to someone he thought would look after him well, but I honestly didn’t like it when that time came. He was my son and I wanted to take care of him. What if he cried for me, what if she was horrible to him? What if he got in the way of her having a relationship with his dad? And over the last 3 years my son has come to me and said he finds it difficult, he was used to just him and his dad all the time, he now needs to adjust to the change, she has two girls of her own and he must fit in with them too. But when I asked if she was nice to him, and he says yes, then that is good enough. I want her to love him like I do, but that won’t ever happen, and not because I think I’m the only one capable of that love. But maybe one day she will be lucky enough to get a bond with him like me and his dad do. So as long as he’s happy and she keeps him safe then I will be forever thankful. We would always buy his dad birthday and Christmas presents, we also bought a gift when they had their own child. I personally want my son to know that it’s ok to have another family, and that’s I see his dad positively. I never want to test his loyalties.
|A trip to Moors Valley Country Park|
And this is what I have taken in to my new role as step-mummy – my desire for my son to have a bond with his step-mum. Our children have not chosen to be part of these two families, all they want is love and affection from the people their parents have fallen in love with. Little B’s daddy and I love each other, we’re resilient and are building a future, part of that means we will take all the time and make all the effort necessary for both my son and B. It also means I have to deal with a mum who is very averse to this new situation. B didn’t care for me immediately, she needed to learn to like being around me, we're now at the point where she accepts me which I can see is further developing that bond. I don’t want to take over her mum’s role, but I will be a mother figure while she is around me, I want her to feel safe and loved whenever we are together.
So, what does being a step-mummy mean?
Right now, all I believe that to mean is that I support her dad when she is here – after all that’s who she wants to see most at the moment. Understanding that it’s all very different from what she is used to, showering her with affection and making sure she knows how welcome she is in our new home (we’re lucky enough to be able to provide her own room so she can have her own space) and allowing her the freedom to develop her relationship with me at her own pace.
I also believe it to mean supporting her mum, discussing her wishes and sharing what has happened with B when she is with us. This has been something of an ongoing struggle and something that has affected the progress B has had with her acceptance of this new family setup. I truly hope that one day this side of things will get better. Despite all of that we see a better acceptance of me every time little B comes to our house. So, I feel my belief of what it means is working. 6 months ago, she wouldn’t come into the same room as me, but now she calls me to read her a bedtime story, to help her get dressed, to pay with her toys and loves playing hide & seek – just so she can scare her daddy!
|Who doesn't love a wooden block|
Like I’ve said before, I thought because I’m a mum it would be easy taking on someone else’s child – it hasn’t been, for lots of different reasons – did you know, back in 2005 Parentline Plus received 14,500 calls from step-parents who were experiencing high levels of depression and anxiety. Thankfully even though it’s been incredibly stressful at times, her daddy and I have pulled together, I wouldn’t change it for the world, it has taught me about being more patient, of accepting that others put obstacles in the way and not letting those things affect our family, but most importantly it takes TIME, something I wish I’d known at the start of this – I’ve read that it takes on average 4 years for a new step family to bond, meaning we are still at the early stages.
I want to dispel those historic fairy-tales and not be seen as a wicked stepmother!