life, love, and maybe babies

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Parenting over popularity

Today I'm veering off the topic of infertility and instead I'm going to whine for a moment about the other thing in my life that is just as important...

Step parenting.

Right off the bat, let's get something out of the way. I love being a stepmom. For real. It is something that was not in my life plan, but it came to me anyway and I'm forever grateful.

My step kids are everything to me. I love them with the same heart, soul, and mind that I love my own biological son. But full disclosure, it is a different kind of love.

(And by the way, that's how it should be.)

My stepdaughters have two parents who love them with their entire being, their every breath, their every thought. They are loved by their parents in the same way that I love my son. I will never love my stepdaughters that way because they are not mine. The position of Mom and Dad have been filled...I just work here.

So that being said - I still need to bitch, because step parenting (and spoiler alert, even regular parenting) isn't always glitter and hugs and marshmallows.

Here's the deal. My husband and I parent very, very differently than my stepdaughters' mother does (we'll call her Mama Ex). I'll spare you all the gory details, but for over 10 years we have tried the whole "co-parenting" thing, where we offer to get together with Mama Ex and sing kumbaya and come up with a plan for how to be on the same page or at least in the same chapter.

It's a lost cause. We aren't even reading the same parenting book.




In our house, my husband and I believe in rules, chores*, and responsibilities so we can raise his daughters to be productive members of society.

(*Chores equals clean the bathroom, unload the dishwasher, and occasionally help wipe the table after dinner. We're not talking slave labor, here.)

Mama Ex doesn't necessarily believe in those things, which is totally her right. My stepdaughters don't clean their room at her house, or mop a floor, or wash a dish. And that's fine. She can and should raise her children however she sees fit, and it's really none of my business...

Until it is.

I see my husband's relationship with his daughters taking a turn to negative-town before my very eyes because of this glaring difference in parenting styles. Earlier this month, my oldest step daughter texted her dad that she wanted to stay with her mom for the week and not come to our house. Her reasons? We treat her like a child and she should be able to make her own decisions about what she does at home. (Cue an eye roll so hard I literally saw the front of my brain.) Obviously we declined her request to skip a week at our home, but when she turns 18 next August, she will technically be able to stop coming over if she chooses. 

It breaks our hearts to know that might actually happen.

The way I see it, it is because we want to treat her like an adult that we give her and her sister chores and responsibilities in this home. If we wanted to treat them like a child, they wouldn't be expected to do anything and we'd also be wiping their tushies after they go poo poo.

Look, I get it. I was 16 once. I hated my parents for imposing chores on me (especially in the summer. Ugh FML). I wanted all the benefits of being an adult (do whatever, wherever, whenever) but none of the responsibilities (like paying for whatever, wherever, whenever) and I'm sure that's how my stepdaughter feels as well. 

The difference is, I grew up in a home where both of my parents understood the necessity of preparing me for adulthood. They knew that being a teen is supposed to suck. Otherwise I'd have ended up 32 years old, living in their basement, with a stimulating career at "Things Remembered" engraving wedding goblets for all of my friends who got the hell out of their parents' house. The job description for a parent is to make life just uncomfortable enough that one day your kids wake up and think, "Huh, maybe I should get my own place. Then I can leave pizza in my room for 5 weeks and not get in trouble!"

(And then they have to pay for an ant exterminator and you laugh at them and say I told you so.)

My parents didn't enjoy giving me chores per se. Of course they wanted to give me a carefree life, but they knew that doing so would cripple me from becoming the adult I was meant to be.

Unfortunately in our current situation, one parent wants to truly treat his child like an adult, and the other wants to keep her seemingly in a state of toddlerhood. Both styles of parenting are valid and both have their merits and downfalls. But, for this child, choosing between those two "parenting styles"? Girl, please. Obviously one of them totally rocks and the other seems awful and abusive.

THAT ISN'T RIGHT.

Why should the person who loves his kids so much that he's willing to be the parent and not the friend be punished for doing so? 

Many people that I have vented to say something along the lines of, "Don't worry, when she gets older, your stepdaughter will understand." While that's a nice thought, there's no guarantee. Because over there across town, Mama Ex is thinking the exact same thing. She's also thinking that someday her daughter will grow up and understand how mom has been right all along and her dad was indeed a cotton headed ninny muggins.

Someone is going to be the loser in this scenario. And seemingly it will be the household who is a lot less fun...i.e. us.

Part of me wants to say, "Screw it, Mama Ex. You win. We will no longer give the kids any chores or make them accountable for any damn thing they do." I mean, that would be the easiest. The girls would be happiest in the short run. 

(Although that means I would have to start cleaning their bathroom and I mean, hell to the no.)





The biggest problem I have with giving up and giving in is, parenting isn't about the short game. If it was, I would let my son play with knives because in the short run OMG IT MAKES HIM SO HAPPY. But in the long run, he really does need his fingers...so I take away the cutlery. I feel that I owe my husband's child the best part of my parenting self. To do any less would be a disservice to her. 

And in case you're wondering, I will raise my son exactly the same way. Homeboy will be doing chores as soon as I can trust him to not drink the toilet bowl cleaner.

Parenting is all about the long haul. You can't (in my humble, often unasked for opinion) raise smart, savvy, strong kids by doing everything for them and also letting them do whatever they dream up. They have to learn the most basic of the basics so that someday when they're shacking up with their hot new boyfriend, they don't have to ask him to wash their underwear.

My husband and I believe that learning to be accountable, learning to save and manage your money, learning to load a dishwasher...these are important enough lessons that they must be taught by someone.

And so we will do it.

Even if that means we have to be the bad guy.

Even if that means we lose the popular vote.


1 comment:

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