I used to joke about being a child bride (I don’t anymore because that’s of course a very real issue in parts of the world). But really, looking back, I was very young when I got married.
I was 25 years old, and I married a man 21 years older than me. He had two children, a girl, nine, and a boy, four, from two previous marriages.
So at age 25, I became a third wife, and officially a step mum.
I thought I was doing a decent job at the time, but let’s face it – I was way in over my head. What I know now as a mother, and at age 42…well, suffice it to say, I could have really used that wisdom and life experience back then.
Without it, all I could do was the best I knew how.
I was recently asked for step-mum advice. I’m certainly no parenting expert – but I can at least share what I’ve learnt.
1. Other parents often won’t treat you as an equal.
I had an interesting experience. One of the kids’ mums was pragmatic and knew she needed me on her side. But she was also very insecure with me on the scene – which meant that she was nice to my face but disrespectful and deliberately undermined me behind my back.
The other mother was much more – well, let’s say ‘outspoken’. She was frustrated with my husband – and rightly so – and was concerned I wasn’t a sufficient parental substitute. That felt unfair at the time, but I could see her point: my husband should have been stepping up.
I also noticed when I joined my husband at school social events, I was treated as somewhat of an oddity. The women were suspicious. The men, curious.
Anyone who took the time to speak to me didn’t walk away with a clearer picture, because what they would find is a very young woman, who took the whole parenting gig very seriously. It’s not possible, they thought. She can’t possibly get it.
So even if my intentions were solid gold, I was in a bit of a no-win situation. I know that’s not the experience of every step parent – but it is, often enough, for me to say let that be their problem.