I said goodbye to my kid on Sunday for a month--it never fails--I always cry--at least I didn't embarrass him at the airport (this year he flew to Raleigh-Durham then a bus to his camp instead of me or my folks driving him--believe it or not, it was way cheaper!). This is his 5th year so you'd think I'd get with the program by now--so not the case & I think this year may be particularly difficult with all of the changes going on. In the past, the hardest part of the summer was the possibility that my entire support structure would be gone & I'd have some time without work, Xing Fu, my besties on vaycay, & my kid all at the same time which created a feeling like the rug being yanked out from under. Not a pleasant place to be. As a result, I recognize the need for a certain amount of structure--I need to feel connected in some way--of course this feeling has changed because now that I live with Xing Fu, there isn't really any time where he's not around for an extended period of time, & I work by choice during the summer so the only huge gap in my support system is that my kid is gone for a month. But I'm worried.
I read a lot about blended families & being a stepmom these days. In fact, I was pointed in the direction of an older website but a good one: http://www.steptogether.org/ In it I found an article about the stages of development of a blended family. This is the stage we're in right now--I shared this article with Xing Fu & I think he would agree. Here's an excerpt by Patricia Papernow:
During the early stages, the family stays divided along biological
lines, with most nourishment, agreement on rules and rituals and easy
connection happening within the biological subsystem(s).
In the Fantasy Stage, the adults yearn to heal the pain created by
divorce or death. Both partners may imagine that because they adore each
other, stepparents and stepchildren will also. Stepparents may have
fantasies about marrying a nurturing parent, and biological parents may
imagine that the new adult will ease the load of single parenting.
Children, in contrast, often continue to have a powerful and enduring
investment in seeing their parents back together or reclaiming an
exclusive relationship with their single parent.
In the Immersion Stage, members of the stepfamily are faced with the
reality of their new structure. Stepparents encounter unexpectedly
strong and negative feelings, jealousy, resentment, confusion and
inadequacy as they are subtly, but consistently, excluded by the spouse
and stepchildren. The biological parent is somewhat less uncomfortable,
as he has the support and nourishment of the children. The adult has the
uneasy feeling that something is amiss, but can't sort out just what it
is. Stepparents often conclude, it must be me.
The Awareness Stage sees stepfamilies beginning to put names on
painful feelings. A better understanding about the biological
parent-child bond helps stepparents to see patterns (I'm jealous not
because I'm neurotic, but because I'm an outsider!). Giving up
fantasies of an instant family frees the stepparent to accomplish a
crucial developmental task: get to know the strangers she has joined.
The developmental tasks of the early stages include bearing the
confusion and disappointment of early stepfamily living without giving
up; beginning to identify and articulate the very different experience
stepfamily structure creates for each individual in the stepfamily; and
relinquishing fantasies enough to engage actively in the step-by-step
process of building a family out of strangers.
I really want to be a good stepmom--but as I read, I have seen some things emerge that trouble me greatly. I can see where we are in relation to what I've read, & it is so predictable. I've become the stepmonster. And here's where not having my kid in my corner hurts the most--he's not here to defend me or to speak up. I am the outsider & without him with me--I am really the outsider because no matter what I think or feel the alignment ain't gonna be with me--at least not right now. I'm hoping that by doing this research on the stepfamily that Xing Fu & I can be more aware of the dynamics going on--there was a huge blow-up on Tuesday which further elucidated for me that I am the enemy. I don't want to give up & as some articles suggest to "disengage" but I am getting to that point. I knew that this blended family thing would be extremely difficult going in (one of the most difficult experiences of my life so I've heard) & I am committed to making this work, but when do I get a break?
And the weird thing about all of this is that I am a stepdaughter too--been there, done that & yet, you'd think that I get it & in all actuality I do--I remember being at my dad's house at the age of 12 & really hating my stepmother because she changed everything! It was her fault! She took my dad away from me! I'm quite sure I was a nasty & difficult SD at times--but in that situation my dad didn't help make things better. And she wasn't the nicest to me either--she was only 9 years older than me & I think she was a pretty good example of "how not to be a good & kind stepmom". She got better or maybe I just got older & cared less about the whole thing. I don't want to be that SM--I don't think I am but boy do I feel like that's how my stepkids think of me right now.