By Elle Hamr
Ahh…to be a stepparent…There are endless joys, fulfillments, and pleasures from watching the children of your spouse grow.
WAIT A MINUTE!
You mean not all stepparents are selfish, petty, greedy, and evil? According to Disney and just about every “single parent”, they are. So what makes me not evil?
Being a stepparent is the second hardest thing I have signed up for in my brief 30 years (Oh god, I’m turning freaking 30!) No one seems to believe anyone could love a child not born by them as much as they love themselves. No one is there to support the stepparent when they do love them like the “real parents” either. The answer to every single problem is always “They’re not yours; they’re theirs. Stop stressing yourself out.” And here’s my personal favorite: “No stepparent EVER has a say in a child’s life.”
When I am working overtime in factories for ten years to provide for children that are growing up in MY house, with insurance paid for my ME, groceries and bills paid for by ME, Christmas and birthdays paid for by ME, clothes bought by ME, yeah I think I have a say in what goes on. Clearly, I give a shit. Some people could care less, yes. They’re out there. But in no way does my love or my sacrifices weigh any less than that of a “real parent”. “How is it hard on you?” “They’re not yours. You have it easy.” No the-absolute-fuck! I do not!
When I first became a stepmom, when I was just his girlfriend, I had to deal with traditional “psycho baby mama drama”. She would sit up at night and send him hundreds of one-word texts because she knew he was with me for the night. Even if he shut his phone off, when he powered it back on, those messages would still come through one at a time, essentially rendering his phone useless. Other times she would message me running her mouth. Of course I got the “I have STDs now you do too” schtick. I never had them then and still don’t now. (That was some classic baby mama drama lines right there.) What did I do wrong? Nothing. I started dating baby daddy- that’s it! They had a toxic relationship, and they both knew it. At the time, she just didn’t know how to let go. She’s had some personal growth over the years since then too.
Eventually, we all lived together. Let that sink in. That is some advanced pro-level baby mama drama rollercoaster shit you haven’t even heard of yet. We had our good days, our silent days, and our I’ve-been-at-work-all-day-clean-up-after-yourself-and-watch-the-damn-kids days. We all had growing to do and now almost ten years later, we all have. Kids are thriving. So again, what makes me evil?
I have changed diapers. I have potty trained. I have taught numbers and letters with colors too. I have scrubbed numerous bodily fluids from carpets, walls, and clothes. I have winced at all the lost teeth, scraped knees, and bombardments of girly high-pitched screams. I have had to feed them like barn animals at times; cleaning the floor after they’re done. I have wiped runny noses and been the disciplinarian and Santa Claus at the same time. I have sung movie numbers I didn’t like just because I have heard them 400 times against my will. I have done the homework and dealt with the teachers.
I have also watched them all suffer in sickness too. Sickness usually goes away but when it doesn’t and no doctor can provide a reason for why a skinny nine-year-old girl’s knees are suddenly the size of mine (a 200lb, 5’9” grown woman), your strength for both the kids AND the parents truly shines.
When you love your stepchildren, even seeing their parents hurting takes a toll. They’re weak, uncertain, scared, and emotional. But because you are the stepparent, you get put on the back burner automatically, no matter what. Your feelings and insecurities don’t matter because you are not the “real parent” and it’s all about them. Congratulations, you are the third wheel.
You get to go to work with your best fake face on because you still need heat and lights in the winter. Being the stepparent, you have no rights to anything for them or support from courts (unless you go through the ring of fire) or from employers even after you marry into the family. So you basically get to sit and stew in everyone else’s pain and worry, unable to help.
One Christmas, my youngest was not able to decorate the tree because she spent two weeks at Children’s Hospital. When she returned, she hung one ornament while being supported by crutches because she was unable to stand or walk. I watched Tiny Tim decorate with that one ornament through flooded eyes. I didn’t even get to see it really…
These kids have always been with me and a part of me, in my house. I have worked overtime for them and when that was taken from me, I went back to school for them. I drive myself crazy for them; strive to get out of apartments and into a house for them. I give everything I am to these beautiful crazy girls so that we can all have a nice life together.
I didn’t just marry their father. I married them too. Does it make me mentally ill that I will willingly fork over every part of me down to my sanity over-and-over for them still? After all that? I have to be harder on them because I am the one here to do it, to deal with problems when they arise so that when they do get to spend time with their father (after he gets home from working sun up to sun down), that times is filled with smiles.
But Disney says I am Evil.