Lessons Learned
Three Suggestions from Veteran Stepmoms​
StepWidow's List
Hello all, I'm 32, and I've been a Smom since 2008. I have two SS's ages 16 and 10 and two bio DD's ages 13 and 10. I have to admit there are quite a few things I would do differently. This marriage is so different than my first one, a second marriage though fulfilling has these differences that I think I fell into like land mines at times. There have been things that I never expected to be that different or that big of a deal, but because of it being a second marriage the dynamics just make it that way. 

1. First off a smaller thing: I would not have started out so readily supplying my SS's with "things" like I do for my own DD's. I'm referring to the times that I bought DD's a shirt, so I felt this need to be fair and make sure I did the same for SS's. Same goes for everyday items, things that, yes the kids need, but it's what happens after that that frustrates me looking back. When it came time for me to encourage taking care of things, or things would come up missing and I would inquire... all the sudden I was the bad guy. I'm sorry, but with my DD's if things go missing, get ruined by careless treatment, I as a parent institute some form of consequence. DH on the other hand seeing his boys without their "things" would run out and replace them as if it was no big deal. I suppose it wasn't a big deal to him. He wasn't the one that bought the things that I did, took the time, literally handed the money over etc. I was in the mindset of "we" and in this instance he clearly was not. So, as time goes along and SS's complain that they don't have swimsuits, or pants, or shorts and I can think of the countless ones that I've bought (more than for my own girls) and DH is catering to their needs... I'm done with that.

DH NEEDS to be responsible for providing their things and they need to go to DH for their things. Period. If they go missing after HE dealt with it, maybe he would support consequences and hold his children responsible for it. This is not to say that I will never buy them anything, of course I will, but when it comes to their needs... SS's NEED to go to DH and DH NEEDS to take care of that. I feel that it became whatever I've done had no value. Lends to resentment on my part. Sure it was "convenient" for DH and SS's for a while to use me like this, but no more.... and I WISH I had not been so willing to take on responsibility from the beginning.

I wish I would have realized how unappreciated my efforts would be and how in this area we are not treated like partners but rather tools to be used. DH was caught with IF he didn't run out and provide something he was the "bad" guy. Sure it was easier to pawn it off on me. Overall I'm frustrated by everyone's participation in the dynamic of this issue, but ultimately I did and do have the power to change it. SS's have treated my contribution as expendable. I wish I would have contributed LESS. 

2. The second thing, a bit larger thing: It goes hand in hand with the first issue, but is a larger issue of responsibility. I wish from the get go I would not have been willing to take on more responsibility with SS's. DH had his hands full when I first met him. BM was SUPER flaky. Their inconsistent life was not my normal at all. DH told me he was craving a consistent life and was struggling with so much inconsistency himself. After my entering the picture BM came back into the picture more and more. Overall I'm happy for the boys that she's in their life consistently, but the things that have transpired I'm angry about. When DH and BM BOTH had issues with OSS they were SOOOOoooooo willing to turn responsibility for him over to me. At the time I was willing to pick him up, drop him off, take him here and there because the idea was that he needed supervision.

I foolishly thought we could work together. The moment OSS complained about it BM turned on me. The irony of the whole situation, our afternoons and things were actually fine. It was stressful to me because I was unsure and admittedly did not TRUST OSS. That lead me to recording our time in the car together so that there could be no lying later. I'm eternally grateful that I did that because bingo bango that's exactly what happened. It blew the wind out of SS's sails in terms of lying about me, yet BM has held on to me being "abusive" to OSS. I should have NEVER thought that we could work together. I should have never been willing to take responsibility like that for SS's. In an ideal world we could all work together and I feel I've done everything I can to work together. I was under the impression that all parents at least try to do good things for their children. I was so sadly mistaken as I've watched the manipulation of the situation. The undermining. I should have had NO part of it and been there in a supportive role to my husband. 

3. The third thing, the biggest thing of all: BM. You know, I EXPECTED to have issues with the children. That part I expected and thought with time and relationship building we could work through things. I'm a SD myself. I have a Smom. WE worked through things, and sure it took YEARS, but we did it. I didn't like her from the get go, I was NOT thrilled to have her in my life. Fast forward, I love her. She's been there for me like it or not. Here's the thing... my mother was NOT in the picture at all. The dynamics were entirely different. Sure I didn't like it, but emotionally I had no where to run. Given the dynamic that I knew my own Smom has given me advice and I've learned that though well intentioned, it doesn't apply to MY dynamic as a Smom. It DID apply to hers, but quite frankly, she really doesn't know what it's like to have another parent involved and kids that go back and forth and what we deal with because of that.

My Smom's bio son, his father wasn't involved in his life either... so it was just a different dynamic. I wish I would have known enough to NOT try to work WITH her so much, but to stay out of it. I wish I would have NOT wasted my time and efforts trying to include someone that I know is so important to my SS's, but does everything she can to mess with our plans, has disappointed her sons leaving DH and myself to clean up her messes... yet... fast forward a little bit, SS's are ok with her and she's the greatest mom ever.

I should have not been so helpful... I should have NOT taken SS's to the doctor, made sure OSS had his blood pressure monitoring, got them caught up on their shots, did extra with them when BM flaked out on weekend after weekend, tried to console them when BM lied about her whereabouts, console them when BM refused to come to their birthday parties even when I offered to not be there. DH could have handled all that on his own and I could have been his supportive wife. SS's are fine with all that now, I'm still bitter. Why did I clean up her messes to be left sitting in the mess myself??? SS's don't appreciate it. DH does, but it hasn't changed the outcome. I'm trying "now" to go forward with what I feel I should have been doing all along.

Be pleasant to BM, but that's pretty much it. I will no longer even try to work with her, as it doesn't matter what I do. I refuse to continue frustrating myself. DH is frustrated with me pulling back more, as it's less convenient for him. When BM flakes and or won't be responsible even on her time, I've been there to "fill in" yet there is no sense of that reality from SS's. 

Ultimately the ONE thing I would do different and it applies to ALL of these situations.... be DH's WIFE. It's far more important than being a Smom to children who regularly reject me thanks to the loyalty bind they are put in. I don't want them in that position. I didn't choose to place them there. I wish I could make BM "behave" somehow, but that's so far beyond my control it's laughable. The only thing I can control is MY behavior. Time to behave like a wife. I know DH misses me as a more willing Smom, but it's just not possible. We have issues to work through in that sense with our marriage, but the reality is... we are married... I am his wife... he deserves my support and I deserve his respect as his wife. IF somehow I can be a Smom in a positive way, that's the bonus plan. 

I think as women who are nurturers, we place so much stock in being the caregivers... naturally leaning toward the children. In a second marriage or a marriage that comes with children from previous relationships... our nurturing needs to be focused on fostering our marriages. It's hard enough. I would say DH and myself both have had that fantasy of one big happy family. Unfortunately I think in MOST of our situations we Smoms come to the reality of that not being the case much sooner than our DH's. We get used as scapegoats. 

Time to focus on being wives. Should have been a bigger focus for me from the beginning. I guess I'm a bit of an "I can do it all" kind of woman. As I widow I appreciate the second chance at love so very much. I never intended to be in a second marriage. I miss that first marriage continuity. Having a second chance though, I'd do anything not to lose it... I know what that loss is like. 

Blessings for good marriages!
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055