My parents are high school sweethearts. They stayed together all through college, got married when they were 23, bought a house, had 2 kids (1 girl, 1 boy), got wall-to-wall burnt orange carpeting, and lived happily ever after. My childhood was so stable and predictable and I grew up assuming every “normal” kid had a life like me. I’m not gonna lie — 18 years of being totally oblivious was pretty sweet.
During my senior year of high school, I found out that my pal (and crush) Andy was going to be a father at the ripe old age of 19.
When I got the news, I did what any good friend would do: I made fun of Andy mercilessly. Because that is obviously what someone needs when they find out they are going to be a teenage dad.
But guess what? Karma is REAL. Little did I know, that baby was my future stepson.
Because my parents had been together forever, I never thought about what it meant to be a stepmom or considered that I would ever be one. After all, no little girl talks excitedly about how she can’t wait to be a stepmom when she grows up. Honestly, I had never really thought about having kids at all — biological or not — so even just becoming a mother-type figure was beyond my comprehension.
I’ve known my stepson since he was born, started dating Andy when the little dude was 4, and became an official stepmom when he was 10. He’s 14 now (WTF) and although becoming a legitimate stepmom has certainly been a process, I think I’m finally finding my place in our complicated, wonderful family.
Every “bonus parent” has to deal with a different situation, but here are 4 things that have surprised me about becoming a stepmom:
1. I think I might have maternal instincts. Mothers and their children have this crazy hormonal bonding thing that happens because — shocker — the kid actually grew INSIDE the mother’s body. I’ve never had a thing grow inside me (unless I have an undiagnosed tumor I’m not aware of yet), so I doubt this is anything like a real mother, but every once in a while, I feel oddly maternal. Like when my stepson doesn’t feel well, I automatically kick into caretaker mode and want to nurse him back to health. And I make his breakfast for him every morning (OK, I pour cereal into a bowl and slice up a banana) just to make sure he eats decently before going off to school. And when he talks about certain girls, I stalk them online to make sure they aren’t tiny hookers. Ya know, the regular mom-ish stuff.
2. Stepmoms and biological moms can work together in peace and harmony. Andy and his son’s mother didn’t always see eye-to-eye in the beginning years. They were really young and life is weird. But over time, they’ve become admirable co-parents and bio mom has graciously welcomed me as the parental third-wheel with open arms. We’re able to talk easily, go to events/appointments together, and work as a team. She’s never made me feel like I’m overstepping my bounds as a bonus mom, and when teachers/doctors/anyone give me that “Oh, you’re just a stepmom” look, she tells them that I am awesome and legit. THIS IS FOR REAL GUYS. NOT ALL MOMS AND STEPMOMS WANT TO CHOKE EACH OTHER.
3. Sometimes I relate to Teen Mom so hard. Teen Mom gets a lot of crap for being a shitty reality show, but knowing more than one person who had a kid a little too young, I can say that the rollercoaster is real. But now when I watch, I want to jump in the screen and yell “Things are going to get better! I swear!” I also get really excited when the dads start dating and/or get married because then there are more stepmoms on the show. If I started a club do you think they would join? (None of Adam’s girls are allowed though because they are straight up gross.)
4. I’m better at group projects than I previously thought. I’ve never been great with group projects because I’m an all or nothing kind of girl — I’m either the boss, or someone with absolutely no authority. If I’m not totally in charge, then I don’t want to pretend to listen to the ideas of others and “make it work.” I’m still bitter that the only reason I didn’t get a 4.0 in my Masters program is because of a miscommunication in a group project that resulted in an A-. THANKS, RYAN M.! YOU RUINED EVERYTHING. (I’m a Scorpio, grudges happen).
Anyway, back to the stepmom thing — so when you become a stepmom, you’re basically involved in the biggest group project of your life that you are 100% not in charge of no matter what. But at the same time, you also have to contribute to the project and can’t really just sit back and smile and nod (because you will stab yourself). I have my moments where I try to do too much (and I also have moments where I yell and cry and say “I’m not doing ANYTHING ANYMORE! EVERYONE LEAVE ME ALONE!”), but overall, I’ve surprised myself with how well I am playing with others.
Being a stepmom is not easy, but let’s be honest — being any kind of parent is not easy. Thankfully, I have a cool stepson who loves ice cream almost as much as me, and has a strong appreciation for toilet humor and horrible puns. I think he’s gonna turn out just fine — awesome, even — and I’m happy I’ve been invited along for the ride.