A few weeks ago, I read this article, which described step parenting as being a thankless job. When I was searching for the link to include in this blog, a lot of links came up that used those exact words: step parenting is a thankless job.
I don’t know that I’d say it’s thankless, but it is hard. Especially if you come into it not having any kids of your own. My frame of reference is how my parents raised me, how my siblings parent my nieces and nephews…which may be vastly different from how CH’s mom parents him or how HH wants to parent him.
I don’t consider myself a hugely nurturing type. My mom used to always tell me, when you have kids of your own, the instinct will kick in.” I guess…but since I have not actually given birth to any kids, I don’t know how true that theory is.
Last night, I was at dinner with Tazzee and Miss Mile High. We somehow started talking about how CH got sick a few weeks ago and threw up onto his comforter. I told him to clean it up and then put the comforter in the washing machine. He just threw it into the washing machine without cleaning up any of the, uh, food chunks. When he woke me up, it was like he really had no clue what to do, and I wondered if he was thinking that I was going to clean up his vomit. I said, “maybe if he was 5, but at 15 I feel like the statute of limitations on cleaning up your bodily fluids has expired.” Miss Mile High said, “but the way people raise kids today, maybe if you were his mom you would’ve actually cleaned it up. Kids are so coddled today.”
I distinctly remember thinking, “no ma’am.” Mainly because at 15, I wouldn’t have expected my mom to clean up after me like that. I was so much more independent than he is at this age. Is it a girl thing? Maybe so. But there it is again – expectations based on your own frame of reference.
As a step parent, I walk this line every day. Am I nurturing enough? Firm enough? Does this child respect me? Are his biological parents going to block me from parenting in a way I think is correct? You don’t want to step on their toes, but you need peace in your own house. I also recognize that we’re trying to get a boy ready to be a man in this world. I can’t stand to see kids who don’t know how to do anything for themselves. I’ve been washing clothes since I could reach the washing machine knobs. I mentioned to HH that I wanted to show CH how to start doing his own laundry. Mind you, his own laundry, not the household laundry, which is what I did as a teen. And he’s like, “well, I do laundry when I get home, there’s no need for him to do it…” Dude – will you be there to do his laundry in 2.5 years with him at college or in the military? What is the problem with him learning now? Would it kill him to wash his bed linens? Some towels? And then I recognize that if this was my own child that I gave birth to, this probably wouldn’t even be a discussion. It’s just one of the “little” things that I acquiesce on, because sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Like Valerie J. Lewis-Coleman said, sometimes “step parenting is like working at a late-night convenience store – all of the responsibility and none of the authority.”
I don’t like feeling lost. I feel lost when it comes to step parenting.
Saturday night, I was sitting around talking with my sisters and my cousin, and my cousin said, “Cass is a mom now!” We all laughed, but I remember thinking how foreign that sounded, and how I don’t feel like anyone’s mom. At best, I feel like a guardian. I feel like, he has a mom…he doesn’t need another one.
Parenting, in general, is a lot of little things that no one is going to thank you for, biological parent or not. It’s not a job where you keep a tally and say, “hey, I spent $105 on you this weekend” or, “hey, I took up this battle with this teacher on your son’s behalf!” When you marry someone with kids, that’s just what you’re going to be doing. The difference is, you don’t have that biological bond that makes you do these things. You have to actively choose to do it (or not do it). You have to fight the “evil step parent” syndrome. As a step parent, you have to hope that all of the adults in the equation will focus on what’s best for the child.
Thankless? Sometimes. Difficult? All the time. Who knows, maybe in a year, I’ll have a totally different mind set.