A couple weeks ago, Charlie, my step daughter, had a volleyball tournament. I showed up a little late because Jackson had a pine derby race beforehand. Anyone who has been to a volleyball tournament knows that there is a lot of down time. During this time, the girls usually eat, mess around and just have fun. The parents usually talk and catch up. You know? All the normal things that people do at events like these. At this particular event, I started chatting with another mom. She was super nice and we talked for a long time, laughing and actually enjoying each other’s company. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you such a boring story. Here’s why this is story is so important and why it stands out. It was the FIRST time a mom at one of these events had talked to me. This was the first time I wasn’t treated like the step mom or the “other woman” (which I’m not!). I’ve been attending all of Charlie’s sporting events (unless I was in labor) since she was 3. Soccer games, gymnastics, softball, volleyball… And it took 10 years for a mom to actually talk to me!
What I am about to write is going to really piss some people off. I’m not going to apologize because this is the truth that I am living and what I have experienced as a step mom. Being a step mom is LONELY!! First of all, before having your own biological children, other parents don’t actually see you as a parent. I can’t tell you how often I would participate in a conversation about parenting and a friend would turn to me and say “you’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with this yet because you don’t have children”. Knife. To. The. Heart. What people don’t realize is that being a step parent is just as hard as being a parent and often times harder.
My step daughter is 13. She’s been attending the same school since she was in kindergarten. When Joe and I were first dating and married, I gave a serious effort into meeting Charlie’s classmate’s parents. I attended school events, sporting events, club events, you name it. I put myself out there and would nervously approach other moms and try to have conversations with them. I can count on one hand (without all the fingers on that hand) how many times the moms would actually respond and engage in conversation with me. They would look at me like I was crazy or like they were betraying Charlie’s mom’s friendship. Here’s the thing, I NEVER did anything wrong. I wasn’t the other woman. I hadn’t broken up the marriage. In fact, Joe didn’t do anything wrong either, his ex-wife wanted the divorce. I met Joe after his divorce, fell in love with him and Charlie and wanted to do what was best for Charlie. So there was really no reason for anyone to treat me like I was the other woman. Every year, Joe would give my contact information to the school office so they could include me on the school email list. After all, I was actively part of Charlie’s life and would need to know the schedule and happenings of the school. EVERY year they didn’t put me on the list. EVERY YEAR!!!!! So every week for the last 9 years, Joe forwards the weekly email to me so that I know what is going on. Charlie has a friend, a supposed best friend. This girl’s mom is very good friends with Charlie’s mom. Knowing that Charlie wanted to hang out with her best friend on the weekend, I reached out to the best friend’s mom and asked if her daughter could come over and play. Four times she said no and after that she actually just stopped responding. When Charlie was in Gymnastics, I took her to a practice. One of her friends from school attended the same practice and the mom was there. Now, that particular day I had had a pretty rough day at work (almost every day as an intensive special ed teacher is rough). I was zoning out and the other mom walked by me and muttered under her breath “you can try smiling”. Uuuuuummmm, ok!!! You guys! I consider myself a pretty nice, fun person. I don’t think I’m a bitch. I try to be outgoing and make people feel at ease in awkward situations like these. I know it isn’t easy attending events when both sets of parents are there. I know the teacher is uncomfortable at Back to School Night or conferences of the Science Fair when we are all there. I get it!! But does that give you permission to be rude?
So, here’s the reason why I’m writing this. We all know someone who is divorced. We all are in situations where there are step parents. Go talk to them! Include them. Trust me, they feel more awkward than you do. If a step parent is attending all of those events, knowing that they are going to be looked at rudely, knowing that there might be some engagement with the ex that is uncomfortable, knowing that they are going to be ignored, and yet they are still there, they are good people. They are trying to do what is best for the child and make the best out of a hard situation. So please, go up to them. Engage in a conversation. Talk to them like they are normal, because they are. They did not want to be in this situation, they just are and all they want is to be treated like a parent.
I'm an average girl who has discovered her passion for self-development after warrioring (yes, it's a word) through 6 miscarriages. I took that passion and applied it to helping others find their passions through High Performance Coaching. Boy mom to two "energetic boys" and navigating the art of being a step mom to a teenage girl, all while working daily on maintaining an authentic relationship with the best husband around. Sometimes mindful. Sometimes a runner. Always a little crazy!