2019 was another year of change for me.
I met Mr M (online dating app Hinge if anyone’s interested…) and after a couple of months fell madly in love and decided to find a house (renting not buying – I’m not THAT spontaneous) and move in together along with his 2 little munchkins. Obviously a few friends thought I was a teeny bit insane moving to a new area (to be close to the kids schools) with a man I had only known a short while with 2 children I had only met a handful of times. But, at the time it felt right. So we did it.
I hold my hands up to the fact I was COMPLETELY unprepared at how much this change would affect me. I felt OK in myself (apart from the teething issues of moving in with someone and getting used to each other). But my body reacted in a way I wasn’t prepared for. I developed eczema around my eyes which was totally new to me and my hair started falling out. I literally felt as though I was falling apart. It was a delayed reaction. The excitement and novelty of my new life and responsibilities carried me through the early days – no problem. But the reality eventually hit. I had gone from a 1 bedroom flat that I owned, decorated and shared with Ted (my gorgeous Persian kitty), to a 3 bedroom house in a village further away from my parents and with 3 other humans (and Ted). It’s an undeniably big change, but, like an Emu (or is it an Ostrich??) I buried my head in the sand.
Now I am lucky, I bonded with the girls pretty much straight away, I love spending time with them and I genuinely love them as if they were part of me, although that makes the adjustment easier, becoming a step mum still has its challenges. The girls spend 50% of their time with their mum and 50% of their time with us. They have 2 fantastic, active parents that look after them, love them and give them everything they need. So I like to think I am just an additional human to love them, but it can get tricky. I’ve not had much contact with their mum, so I don’t know how she feels about the situation but I always make a conscious effort to ask what the girls have planned and if they’ve had a nice time when they are with their mummy. I want them to feel comfortable talking about their mum in front of me, not that they can’t speak openly about exciting or maybe difficult things. I like to know what she does allow them and not allow them to do so I don’t overstep any boundaries – it can sometimes feel like a guessing game. One thing I know I woudn’t ever do is share their faces on my blog, I just don’t feel that’s appropriate. I would also never dream of getting the girls hair cut or any changes to their appearance without running it past Mr M first and ask if he would want to ask their mum.
Emily (the 11 year old) came back to us in the summer with her hair dip-died. Point made.
So what exactly are my rights? As a step mum who lives with the kids 50% of the time. I do pick-ups and drop offs on rare occasions as Mr M has that covered, but I cook and clean for them (so does Mr M – I definitely don’t do any more than 50%). I look after them whilst he’s out, he looks after them when I am out. We look after them if they are sick or scared. They spend time with my parents who they adore and who adore them. I go to school shows, I drop them at parties and pick them up. So I have stepped into the role and responsibility of a parent. Now I wasn’t asked to, Mr M didn’t ask me to clean their clothes or tidy their wardrobes or read to them or bathe them. I chose to do all that. I chose to step-in (pun intended). But what that’s led to is a resentment raising its head every now and then, I’m good enough to do all these things but I can’t have a say in the big stuff. Or maybe I can? I just haven’t exercised that right yet – because I haven’t felt ‘worthy’ having only been around a short period of time.
So there’s the where do I fit in head f*ck. I’m still trying to figure it all out, but what helps is that Mr M gives me responsibility, when it comes to discipline, life lessons, general chit chat he always makes sure I’m respected and listened to and we are seen as a join force/ a partnership. Plus the girls are amazingly respectful, loving, kind kids so everything generally works pretty well.
Then there’s the fear. The fear that all of this might be taken away.
That’s hard to write. But it’s true.
I’ve been in the girls’ lives a small amount of time, and in that time the relationship has had a lot of highs but also a few lows, we moved pretty quick and moving in with anyone is tough, never mind someone you are still getting to know.
I’ve been in my fair share of relationships, all of which, up to this point, have not worked out. – obviously. So as positive as I am about this all, I naturally sometimes worry, especially if we aren’t getting on for a couple of days. What happens if it ends. With one decision my role of step mum could easily be taken away, that petrifies me and it petrifies me that one day either myself or Mr M would make that decision.
I don’t see myself making the choice to be a birth parent in the future, the role of step mum is very real, it’s not a half-hearted job or stepping stone until I have ‘my own’ kids. It’s an all-in thing.
I love these girls as though they were my own flesh and blood. But they aren’t. Part of me thinks about self-preservation, stepping back. Not being so emotionally invested for all our sakes, just in case. But that would be impossible. So I choose to live my life, try not to worry about the future but worry about the now. And right now, in this moment, I am happy. Mr M is cooking dinner, I’m writing, which I have the luxury of time to do and we are seeing the girls tomorrow and have them for the next week. I can’t wait. I’ve missed them and I know they will have missed me.