So, I was shopping for meat (don’t laugh) at our local market and I got into a brief conversation with the butcher. I tell him I need four New York strips and to get the large one since my son loves steak.
He gives me a quizzical look that says, “You don’t look old enough to have children.” I decide to have a little fun and I say, “Yes, that great big one right there in the back for my son. He’s 17 years old. He likes to eat.”
Now his expression is a mixture of horror and curiosity. I can see the wheels turning… how old was she when she had a kid? Twelve? Should I be scared? Should I call someone? Did she grow up in hippie commune? Did I see her on an episode of Law & Order SVU?
I further explain that I am 30 years old.
This doesn’t do much to alleviate the expression. I only added 3 years to his assumption.
So I continue and explain that my husband is 46.
Ooooohhhh, that makes much more sense. The butcher’s expression turns sly and I think he mutters something like, “Lucky dude” or “He must be rich”.
Um, thank you?
Anyway, as he is wrapping up my meat (don’t laugh) we chat about how I’m a step mom with 2 teenagers. One is 13 the other is 17, etc etc, and he says, “Ok, so you’re pretty much like their sister, right? I mean you guys are pretty close in age.”
What’s surprising to me (perhaps I am alone in this) is that more than one person has actually said that to me. Really? Sister? Does a sister go grocery shopping every week, cook dinner, clean the house, keep on top of grades, do the dishes, clean the house some more, make sure the kids take vitamins, and do the laundry?
Furthermore, do sisters have to worry about budgets, or going to three different stores for groceries to save money, or earn a living while doing all the above?
I might occasionally, sometimes, rarely borrow a swimming suit top or t-shirt from my step daughter, and I may or may not read the same books as my step son. I may listen to the same radio stations, shop at the same stores, and I may be closer in age to my step son than I am to my husband, but that doesn’t count…. right?
As I mulled over this observation, I started to understand that step moms, especially younger step moms, have a tricky dynamic in a family structure. On one hand, you must play the role of “mom” while being careful not to make your kids feel like you are trying to BE their mom. I am amazed by how easy it could be for a child of a divorced home to feel like a step parent is taking over. Of course, you want your step kids to like you, but you also need to make sure they respect you as well. How is a step parent supposed to discipline? I can just hear it now, “You’re not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you.”
Luckily for me, Teenagers 1 and 2 have never said that nor have they have expressed any resentment if I do have to occasionally set them straight. I mean, after I threaten them with 40 lashes and no dinner for a week, who could possibly argue with me? I am always right anyway, obviously.
As a step mom, I have played several different roles within my family. I’m the mom-figure that the kids listen to, comes to with cuts and bruises for healing, looks up to as a role model (Yikes – that one is still a work in progress on my end), and I’m usually the first person they tell about good grades or test scores. NOTE: I said tell me about good grades… we are working on the grades with Teenager 1 but that is for another post.
I have found that being the mom-figure is very rewarding. But the most rewarding thing for me is actually being more like the sister-figure. The friend type of sister-figure I might add, not the one who breaks all the toys or takes all her sister’s clothes. Both kids talk to me, which is so important. They tell me about school, their friends, emotional things they are going through, and I’m the shoulder they cry on. To be able to offer two exceptional human beings friendship, respect, and support is what makes being a step mom so awesome.
What’s even more awesome? The fact they give the same friendship, respect, support, and love back to me.