I rely on humor quite a bit in my life and in my writing because…
1)I enjoy laughing and trying to find the lighter side of life and 2) sometimes I wear humor as a mask to hide the pain I really feel inside. I just want it to be clear that as I write this, I am not in any way joking about my feelings. Being a stepmom has been one of the most brutal experiences of my life. I have enjoyed great rewards from sharing my life with the four children I help raise, but I have also found my moments of excruciating heartbreak. Like today.
Nothing will prepare you for the eternal state of being an outsider, an intruder, or unwanted like marrying a man with children and trying to live with and help take care of them. When my aunt first found out that the new man in my life had four children, she actually said, “that proves you have mental problems.” I was offended by her rude comment when she made it, but I have come to realize that she may have been accurate.
I have thrown myself at these four children (now ages 10-17, but they were 5-12 when we started dating) acting in every possible way that I could to demonstrate to them how committed I was to being there for them and making them a part of my life. I go out of my way to show them that I treat them exactly like my own children – the same chores, same consequences, same level of presents on Christmas, the same time and attention.
Sometimes I feel a glimmer of warmth, appreciation, or like I’m part of the family. Often I feel like I’m walking on a tightrope over a snapping pit of alligators. Today my presence is wanted. Tomorrow I am vermin.
My patience and give-a-damn keeps wearing thinner. How much more can one person take? I am regularly stolen from, lied about, sassed at, and treated like I owe everyone. I’m welcome so long as someone has a request for something they want purchased or if they need a ride somewhere; otherwise, I am the resident waste of skin.
Like the tide, I roll in on the sand to show affection, be there as a rock in their lives, and extend my heart for them to break. I then recoil back to my solitude at sea as time after time my hand of friendship is smacked in disgust or one of them wipes their muddy boots all over my soul. My oceanic hideaway has become my bed with door closed to the world. More often than not, one can find me here either crying, trying to sleep away my sadness, writing, or tuning out the world watching a movie.
Today I give up. I actually fantasized about hurtling my car off of a bridge after dropping my kids off to their dad for his week with them. I imagined how their world would be so much better without the irritation of their stepmother in it. I imagined the tranquility of no longer having my heart broken after another betrayal. Maybe tomorrow the sun will come out again and I will courageously – perhaps stupidly – scramble up the sandy beach, like a hermit crab, to where they frolic and lounge in the warmth. Maybe tomorrow I will get a smile, even a sincere “thank you” or some reassurance that my presence means something to someone.
I struggle with what my role should be in their life. Many times I have been the life preserver who rescued their emotions from the disappointment of their own mother not being in their lives as much as they would like. Sometimes I’m the lifeguard, watching over the events and jumping in where needed. I think, perhaps, I am a lighthouse. I beckon to any in my vicinity with my warm and welcoming light to let them know I am there when they need me and to try to keep them safe; but, mostly, I stand alone. I am my own entity standing alone on the shore, watching the others live their lives far below. They will come to me if they need shelter, but mostly I’m a novelty.
I don’t know how to answer the question “would I do it again?” I love my husband deeply. I cherish the fact that I finally found the best friend, lover, and life partner that my heart has so long desired. I wouldn’t want to give him or our marriage up for anything. I love his four kids. Perhaps that’s what makes it hurt so bad. I love them, I hurt for them, I try to be there and do everything for them; but, I am just a painful reminder of who I’m not: their mother. Every act of love is a sort of insult because it’s not her doing it. Every time I have to speak up for myself or the rules of the house, I am an unforgiveable monster for doing so.
It’s a truly no win situation. Next week is their mother’s week, but I already know they will be here 4 days of her 7. I predict many frustrated and lonely hours of sitting on my bed resenting the passage of time and mourning what could be. I live for the occasional moments when my husband and I finally have a moment to ourselves, and I blindly put my faith in the hope that “things will get better” or “eventually they will grow up and understand it and appreciate everything.”
I pray for all of you other stepmoms out there feeling this pain. I know I’m not alone. I believe there should be some special order of extraordinary women (and men) who open their hearts to the damaged children of divorce in hopes of bringing them comfort or stability. This path we travel is more challenging than just about anything else I can imagine. I am broken today, but I will try to pull myself up and carry on tomorrow.