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The hard part about being a working stepmom

Categories: Making Time, Parenting, The Juggle, Working? Living?


I just got home from the airport. My three big kids are winging their way back to their mom and stepdad as I type this, and my husband and I have just tucked two heartbroken little kids into their beds. My husband is venting in the garage, working on one of his many car-related projects. I’m throwing myself into my work. The only things that makes this bearable is the fact that I know they had a fun summer and I know how excited they are to see their mom and stepdad again. The fact that there are people who love them dearly on both sides of this flight, people who have missed them the way we miss them now.

This stepmothering thing… you get used to it. You learn how to manage and juggle. But it never really gets easier. At least, it hasn’t for me, even nearly 10 years into it.

It’s hard not to resent the hours I spend at the office. The hours more I spend typing away after they’re in bed I can deal with, because the only thing I’m missing out on then is sleep. I have to work; it puts food on the table and a roof over our heads and pays for karate and horseback riding and the million other tiny necessities you want to provide for your kids, whether or not you’re the one who birthed them.

But at the end of my life, I’m not going to wish I had put in a few hundred more hours of overtime. I’m going to wish I had snuck out of work early to watch our oldest son dance the “Cotton Eyed Joe” for the umpteenth time, or that I helped our teenage daughter create a prom dress out of garbage bags and pink ribbon for dress-up day at her job, or that I managed to get to our preteen daughter’s karate graduation ceremony to see her get her yellow belt in person instead of on video.

So I did. And I’m glad. If my work suffered, it’s because my kids didn’t, and that’s a choice I’ll make every time. I’m pretty sure, though, that work didn’t notice that the circles under my eyes were a bit more pronounced, or that I was consuming even more caffeine than usual, or that I finished a project or two by 5 a.m. instead of 5 p.m. But my kids noticed that I was there for them, I think, and that makes everything else worth it.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Our time with our kids is short. Much shorter than it seems when we’re right in the thick of it, hip-deep in diapers and Dora the Explorer and daycare.

But my time with my stepkids is even shorter. And I never feel that more acutely than when they leave and I realize that an entire summer — with the stress and scheduling and juggling and clashes between siblings, big and little — has flown by in an instant, and I’m left with a houseful of clutter that I’m reluctant to clean up, because I wish they were still here.

Working stepmoms, can you relate? How do you cope with your juggle?

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3 comments so far...

  • I’m really glad you’re looling at working motherhood from the stepmom’s perspective.

    My stepmom juggle is a little different; my stepchildren live just one town over from us (about 12 miles or so away), and are with their dad and me two nights each week and every other weekend, so it’s more of a regular routine for us. And since their dad and I don’t have other children together, and my son is only with us over the holidays (he’s not a kid anymore, that one), the juggle is more of an off-and-on thing - we squeeze some things into the “off” nights so we can be more focused on the kids on the “on” ones. Because you’re totally right - they notice that you’re there for them.

    Florinda  |  August 11th, 2008 at 2:57 pm

  • As usual, you hit the nail right on the head. I couldn’t agree with you more……

    BlapherMJ  |  August 12th, 2008 at 10:04 pm

  • Florinda — I’m right there with you.

    I have two stepkids that live with us two days during the week and every other weekend. We live a mile south of the kids’ mom. We do not have our own child.

    My stepkids are both in school and active which means I get all of the joys of working full time and rearranging schedules to get the kids to their events.

    My husband also has a very busy work schedule and the kids’ mom works odd hours so I tend to live a “at the drop of the hat” kind of life.

    It’s harried but it keeps life interesting.

    I sometimes grow aggravated by the lack of appreciation — I didn’t give birth, but I am expected to act like Mom #2 — but then I also realize my stepkids are the ultimate benefactors in the end.

    One can not suffer from too much love!

    Erin  |  August 19th, 2008 at 4:21 pm