Should the role of Stepmom come with a rule book?

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Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. The two fall in love, get married and start a family. If, however, you’re a woman of a certain age, the story may change. Tell me if you have heard this before. Man meets woman. Woman silently wishes her dating days are over. Man tells woman he has kids from a previous relationship. The couple, more mature and pragmatic, forges ahead, gets married and blends families. Simultaneously, the woman has two new titles after her name, wife and stepmother. Full of optimism and love, she embraces her new roles. But what happens when said stepmother is told,

Stay in your lane and play your position?

Perhaps naively, it never occurred to me that a stepmother’s biggest task would be to stay in the background, help when needed, but never be included in significant decision-making or disciplinary actions. I assumed that a martial partnership would also include a close-to-equal say in the lives of the children. I mean, there may not be a biological tie, but surely, a stepmother has to mean more than a babysitter or a teacher? As someone who dated a man with two young children, I often wondered what my role would be in their lives should the relationship advance to the next level? In the meantime, I battled internally with how much of a connection to build to the kids and their well beings. I was always aware that at any moment, the bonds we formed could be broken; the relationship could end or the biological mother could exert her veto power and exclude me from their lives. Surely, it would leave a considerable hole in my heart, and perhaps in theirs too. It wasn’t until last week when watching The Wendy Williams Show did I hear what might be the popular opinion of many biological mothers. Essentially Williams advised stepmothers to stand-down, not to make stepchildren her “everything” and always keep in mind that the kids are not hers. Although, I am no longer in that relationship, Williams’ words struck me. Would I have been expected to maintain a certain distance from the children? If I had married him, does staying in my lane mean remaining tight-lipped on important topics like their schooling? Certainly, a portion of my earnings would pay for their food, clothes, outings, and transportation. There would be holidays and birthdays shared together. Photos snapped to memorialize moments. Could I not consider us a family?

As more children are born outside of marriage and on the opposite end of the spectrum, divorce continues at the same rate, dating someone with children becomes a more probable scenario. What are the rules of engagement?

Can you cap the depth of your feelings simply because the offspring are not biologically your own? How do you silence your opinion and ideas on raising kids that in every way other than DNA are part of you? If becoming a stepmother means staying in your lane, maybe it’s time to park the car and walk.

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“Turn your mess into your MESSage”

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There’s a wonderful relationship coach whom I follow on Twitter named, Tony Gaskins, Jr. (@TonyGaskins) He publishes a newsletter in an attempt to motivate and guide folks to their path. He recently wrote, turn your mess into your message.

Think about it, we all have at least one mess in our lives. For some it’s career – can’t find a job, can’t keep a job, can’t find career fulfillment. Their mess can be found in the deep breaths taken when the alarm clock shouts signaling another day at work has arrived. For others, it’s money. Whether it’s trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, saving for retirement, or digging out of debt, financial woes plague many of us.  Their mess can be found in crumpled up ATM receipts revealing balances too low to make them feel secure. There are people who struggle with weight and body image issues. They move around this world feeling inadequate and confused on how to make and stick to an active and healthy lifestyle. Their mess can be found in empty boxes of junk food, over or under-sized clothing or medical charts warning them a change is needed.

My mess is simple. My Achilles heel is relationships. Have you ever heard the song, Indestructible, by Robyn? 

She sings, “let the bad ones in, let the good ones go.” Well, I have never met Robyn, but I am pretty sure she is singing about me. For as far back as I can remember, I have had a crush on some boy. In pre-k, it was a sandy-haired boy named, John. My heart belonged to Jason each summer from ages 7-10. My first kiss at age 12 was to a rambunctious kid named, William. Those were all harmless crushes punctuated with cheesy notes passed back and forth between friends. It wasn’t until I became a teenager that the heartbreak began. In all the years that have followed, I still haven’t been able to get it right. That’s a post (or perhaps several posts) for another time… But for now, just know that I have a mess too.

This space is titled, Questions, No Answers simply because I do not pretend to know what the hell I am talking about. However, that does not stop me from having a lot to say, questions to ask, and answers to seek. Let this page be the beginning of a community for people to share their own messes and just read about my own.

ASK MORE QUESTIONS, my people… because only through knowledge can we empower ourselves to be better than we were yesterday. In the meantime, grab a broom and let’s try to tidy up our mess!