stepping up


This week I was asked to write an opinion piece for parenting website Kidspot about being a step mum. This isn't something I have written too much about here - namely because I didn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or compromise my burgeoning relationship with the kids.

But writing about my experience has almost been a form of therapy and actually helped me better understand my feelings about this new role in my life. It's been a bumpy ride so far but we're all gradually adjusting to the "new norm".

Both my step kids have read this piece as has my partner. Hopefully a few other women in my position might find this helpful too. I think the thing to remember is there's no "right answer" when it comes to what type of step mum you're going to be. Do what feels right for you don't let anyone set expectations about how your role will develop. Enjoy!

Being a step-parent may very well be the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life.

And perhaps extremely naively on my behalf (but not uncommon amongst women in my position I’m sure) I had no idea what I was actually getting into when I agreed to move in with my boyfriend (now fiancé) and his two kids who live with us 50 per cent of the time.

I knew I was inheriting an instant family but somewhat surprisingly - or maybe just stupidly - the thought never crossed my mind that these two children had their own fledgling lives with interests, commitments and, at 11 and 13, a hell of a lot of extra curricular stuff to attend.

School musicals, presentation evenings, primary school graduations, footy presentation nights, dancing concerts - the list goes on…. and on, and on and on.

At first I was really hesitant to attend these events. I didn’t want to tread on any toes (namely the kids biological mum’s) but my partner thought it was important for me to be there to support the kids and “getting my step mum on” has quickly become a regular part of my life.

Should institutions be more respectful of blended families?

This week a parenting group on Facebook has exploded with comments and differing opinions after a stepmother posted about a special event at her stepdaughter’s school.

Each student was only limited tickets, which meant she would miss out in favour of the girl’s biological parents. She argued that schools and other organisations should be more accommodating of the needs of blended families.

Comments ranged from complete outrage to a more mature understanding of a difficult situation - after all, no school hall can fit absolutely everyone.

“That’s crap,” was one common take, while others were more along the lines of “suck it up”.

While I haven’t faced this issue myself, I get that there are some parts of my stepkids’ lives that I might not get to share right at the exact moment they happen.

That’s not to say I won’t be around to celebrate with them when they reach certain milestones (dinner after graduation, ice creams after footy presentation) but I understand there’s some stuff that I physically won’t be able to attend for one reason or another.

And you know what? That’s completely fine. The fact is I’m not their biological parent - they have a mum and a dad who love them very much and who should be the ones at important life events.

It’s about the kids - not the adults

What right do I have to take a spot from either of them just so I can selfishly be part of the action?

While it would be nice if we could all be there together like one big happy Brady Bunch, that’s not the reality so, as hard as it might be, step-parents sometimes just have to suck it up.

A friend who is part of a blended family says: “While it’s great when my husband (my son’s stepdad) can be involved in my son’s activities some of the time - it’s not the end of the world if he can’t be. We’re all too bloody entitled these days - not everything goes exactly the way we want it to all the time. Sometimes it’ll be easy to be involved, sometimes it won’t. Move on.”

And since when did it become about me anyway? I think we all need to remember why we’re doing all of this - for the kids. If the kids are healthy and happy and have the support they need then does it really matter where it comes from?

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  1. Great article Chelsea. It's a tough gig and one that can go to crap very easily when people start having expectations of what you should and shouldn't be doing. Every family is different and every child is different. Enter a family that both bring kids to the equation and it's even more of a challenge. Unity, empathy, support and understanding at the couple level is the only way. I hope it keeps getting better for you.