This blog seems to have multiple personalities at times. Sometimes I write about sailing, sometimes about my relationship with Xing Fu, & recently, very often about being a stepmom & how incredibly difficult that is. Funny, being a mom is definitely difficult & I sometimes think that I've been putting a hell of a lot more effort into being a stepmom than a mom these days--it is a double-edged sword to be sure. But in all honesty, it seems that this stepmom gig is harder than the mom gig. Why is that? Mebbe it has something to do with the fact that my kid loves me & I love him & we've had years to develop our own peculiar brand of disfunction & this relationship is relatively new & before approximately 3 1/2 years ago, neither of us knew the other existed....
But, I keep working on it & sometimes I feel like I'm spinning my wheels & I also think that sometimes I'm pretty under-appreciated for the things that I do as well. And recently, after really extending myself so much that I gave up some really important BFF time that I kinda needed, to spend a good portion of the day with one skid, I was just so frustrated because I really did feel somewhat under-appreciated. And, as if by magic, I downloaded the wonderful resource entitled StepMom Magazine and there it was in this month's issue. The affirmation I was looking for:
"...what commonly happens is that a lot of men feel uncomfortable showing affection to their wives. They don’t get to be with their kids full time and for many of the men I work with, this is a sorrow for them, to not be with their kids full time. What ends up happening is a lot of wives feel thrown under the bus the week that the kids are there and they are not shown the attention or the affection they desire. They are told by their husbands things like, “I get to see you all the time, but I only get to see my kids half the time.” From: Eyes Wide Open: An Interview with Gregg Ockun
by MARY T. KELLY, M.A. http://www.stepmommag.com/monthly-issues/
OK, how true is that!! And boy have I heard it before....and yes, I totally get the missing seeing the kids full time--I know it would be extremely difficult for me (case in point, whenever my kid is away at camp). But I shouldn't be cast aside like yesterday's newspaper (do they make those anymore??) & that is how I feel often & particularly when it's their weekend. And that isn't reality either. I like the point that was also made about modeling a good marriage & relationship--it is natural & should be demonstrated to all of the kids--bio & step because neither have seen very positive ones from their parents. That the relationship is a priority to both of us. Gregg goes on to say that if he didn't make his marriage a priority, it just sets up further tensions with his wife and well....that leads to further antagonism. He normalizes the marriage. He makes it a point to make time for the relationship even when his kids are there.
"And in order to do that [priority] you have to have respect, you have to show affection, you have to respect your partner’s feelings. And in doing so, I thought it was important that we spend some quality time together, to carve out whatever quality time there is.
It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It can just be a walk in the park or date night or whatever other opportunities come along. And we did that not only when the kids weren’t there. I also made it a point to do it when the kids were with us because that’s what parents who haven’t gone through divorce do. (italics/color added) They go out on their own date night, they go out to the movies and they have a babysitter. Why should we not be able to do that just because I’m having my week with my kids? I think it’s perfectly normal."
Statistics back this approach up apparently. Most re-marriages end up in divorce & according to the article it has a lot to do with whether the household is "kid-centric" vs. "adult-centric". It ain't easy finding that balance--practice, practice, practice. And, oh the guilt--it seems to be the biggest issue that divorced fathers inherit. And it drives them to neglect the one person who will give them the most support....how do you find the balance? This seems to be the biggest struggle that we have these days.