Here is the thing about being a step parent. Until you ARE one, you never actually understand what it entails. Being a co-parent is single handedly the most difficult thing I have ever done. Haaaaaands down. Even more challenging than birthing an 8lb 11oz baby without drugs.
On one end you have my ex-husband, and together we raised two kids. We have shared custody of our children, a week on/week off basis.
On the other end there is my husband and his ex, who have a son. They also follow a week on/week off schedule.
Together my husband and I have Finn, a wacky and wild, boundary pushing two year old.
Three separate branches within one family unit, where I stand in the centre. This also means that for one week we have four kids, and then one week with just one kid.
Some days I feel like I’m being split in multiple directions. I have to focus on so many aspects of our family and keep them all intertwined and organized. I have to communicate with one ex about teacher memos, appointments, homework, illnesses, lost snowpants etc. And on the other end of the spectrum, I do my best to stay in the loop with regards to the happenings of my step son. But that in itself is hard to jump into a coparenting unit that is established and running independently on its own – and you are the outsider.
Right smack in the middle is an “ours” baby with her own appointments, and MANY illnesses, and quirks and babysitter to communicate with etc.
To top it all off, we all have different parenting styles. Together they mesh under one single roof, and it can be frustrating and confusing for parents AND kids. Some strict rules, some much more relaxed, and everything in between. Coparenting can also make it very easy to point fingers at others when problems arise as opposed to one mother and father and their kids all in one home. So when a problem presents itself, it’s easy to throw the blame on someone else and the step parents become the scapegoats.
Then you add in the “step parent” stigma… “You’re not my mom/dad! I don’t have to listen to you!” Or sometimes rules and discipline coming from a step parent (especially step-parents introduced later on in the child’s life) doesn’t feel like a lesson: it feels like a personal attack. Even if it comes from a place of love and guidance – it just doesn’t feel the same as being parented by a biological mother or father. It then translates into feelings of being mistreated, which can turn into a downward spiral. So sometimes, my husband and I have to take back seats when it comes to raising our “own” children, which further puts the divide between our family.
God…. It’s exhausting.
I feel like I have multiple personalities. I don’t WANT to separate our sides. It would be much simpler if we could all just function as a whole.
But we can’t. We are coparenting. And this is the harsh reality of it.
Coparenting really is an invisible battle. You have to love when it’s not reciprocated, and give a part of yourself – even if it doesn’t feel “natural” at first. It’s being emotionally available and trying to figure each other out. Its patience and understanding. It’s constantly questioning if you’re doing enough, and wondering if what you’re doing is the right thing. It’s a balancing act – balancing multiple wings within the unit. It’s wondering how your kids are doing when they are with their “other families” and missing them when the house is quiet. And that can quite honestly be the hardest part. The empty feeling when your kids are not home, and it’s quiet and you have three less humans to kiss goodnight.
Regardless of the challenges, I don’t know that I would change it for the world. I have more family to love in the process, and when all the kids are here, it’s chaos and laughter and love.
So. Much. Love.
And for that, I am ever so grateful.