In my journey as a step mum in a blended family, I have encountered many milestones that have transformed my view on life.
Some situations have forced me to put my pride aside and interact with people that I may not have been so excited to stand alongside, including the Bio mom. We sometimes dread the most significant milestone moments, such as: graduations, weddings and babies, that are inevitably shared with the step kids’ biological moms. This can be extremely challenging, especially when you face an ex who views you as an intruder or outsider who oversteps the role of a parent in her kids’ lives.
A month ago I had to attend our oldest daughters’ graduation in Los Angeles. To be honest, this day felt like it had come too quickly. I knew such occasions would come sooner than later, but I still wasn’t ready.
You see, when I met my husband I knew I had to cope with his children, parenthood and his family. But dealing with the Ex was not part of the deal…..
Since the beginning of the year, my husband had made it very clear that we had to attend the graduation together. My step daughter also made it clear that she wanted all her parents to be there, so I just couldn’t let her down. In short, there was no way out, but to share the stage.
I spent months trying to play out the day in my head, trying to imagine all the things that could go wrong and how I could prepare myself.
What would I wear? My hairstyle?
What if the mom made a scene at the graduation? Would I be blamed for it?
What would I do during the photo sessions?
Would we make it through the post-graduation dinner without killing each other?
What would we talk about?
Did I need to lose some weight?
I was fearful of being cast aside on that day. I was worried I wouldn’t be acknowledged or even recognised by her side of the family. I had a lot of insecurities to work on and not enough time. I had no practice.
So the day came, and we travelled for the graduation. I fell sick right after we arrived and missed the baccalaureate service which happened the day before graduation. I guess I had all this pent up anxiety that really wasn’t helping the situation. On the other hand, my husband was too excited to notice how anxious I was, his little girl was graduating, and with honors!!
Finally the day came and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I said a prayer before we left for the event, and asked for grace to make it through in one piece. The ceremony was short and beautiful, (Kenyan graduations should take a leaf from this). And for a moment I was so proud of her for getting her accolade that I forgot what was awaiting me.
After the ceremony we all took pictures together and went for dinner. Everyone was so happy that we somehow managed to put our issues aside for the night. We engaged in general talk, enjoyed the food and at the end of the night, said our happy goodbyes!!! Thank God for a special aunty who helped diffuse the tension.
As I sat across the table from all those people, I realised that there will be many more moments in my step kids’ lives that I would have to share. I will have to learn how to step aside gracefully, without feeling snubbed or minimising the importance of the role I play every single day.
Through my journey as a step mum, I have found out that it helps to: share your fears with your partner and even your kids, have a plan at hand in case things don’t work out the way you would want them to, have general topics ready to keep the conversation going and remember to look your best on that day because you need all the confidence you can master.
Next year we will be having another graduation in the family; soon there will be weddings and babies. These events can leave you worrying about who will walk them down the aisle, whether she will take you with her to buy her wedding dress, or whether he will he invite you for his baby’s christening.
Sometimes the children want you there and sometimes they don’t, depending on your relationship. They may want to share the experience with their bio parents only and you have to respect their wishes. When the girls are preparing to be mothers, they may want to ask their biological mothers how their experience was. At that moment she may only want her mother’s input and comfort. We have to be able to not take it personally, and appreciate that it is only human nature.
I know that it hurts, especially if you have the children full time and you have raised them as your own. But this is expected and we have to prepare ourselves for those moments when we will not be needed in the way we want to be needed.
The key is to always remind yourself that it’s not about you. It’s about the kids and making those days special for them. Make this their day; share their desire to make it nothing short of amazing!!
You know what; maybe it’s less about learning to step aside and more about learning to step up. By facing my own insecurities, I have been able to forge stronger and more loving relationships with my stepchildren.
By helping them enjoy and revel in their achievements, in whatever way they needed me to, I make it easier for them to make room for me alongside their mother.
Here are some photos of the graduation. I survived after all !!