A question that occasionally pops up in my DMs or on email is “Do you get on with your step kids?!”, usually followed by a brief tale of a “blended family” going a bit tits up. So I’m bringing this one outta the parental shadows. Sure, it’s taboo as no one wants to publicly declare that they don’t like/don’t get on with an innocent sprog; least of all the spawn of their beloved. It’s a toughie, but with well over half a mill step families, currently squabbling under one roof in the UK*, it’s an issue that’s going nowhere!
Me (Jess) & Mr OG (Russell)
Hugo ( 10) Noah (15)
Bruno (9) Marley (12)
So, do I get on with my step kids? NO, I don’t a lot of the time, but you know what? I don’t get on with my own, personally birthed, kids a lot of the time either! Whether they were brought into this world courtesy of my pelvic floor or another mother’s, kids, particularly boys between the ages of 8-16, have a tendency to be really bloody infuriating.
And if you ask them if they like me, they’d give you the same two letter answer… NO!
The reality is, no one ever day-dreamed When I grow up, I want to be a step parent!, you know why? It’s largely a thankless, shitty job. You’re forever viewed as the stand-in, the substitute, the replacement or, luckily not in my case, the one that stole daddy/mummy. Sure it’s all fun and games at the beginning, as the step-parent you’re determined you’re not going to be like Maleficent – you’re going to be the fun one, the one they confide in. But before you know it they’re answering back and you’re muttering under your breath and clenching your fists in silent never to be vented frustration.
The flip side to this is that while I certainly didn’t dream of being a step-mum, my step-sons didn’t ever ask to be in this position either! I’m not the only one wading in alien territory with blurred boundaries and a different set of rules every other weekend. Being a step kid sucks too – I’m incredibly mindful of the fact that for part of their lives they have to live in a house without all their usual possessions – their favourite pillow, the t-shirt that they left at mums or the smell of familiarity.
So, I guess, as the adult it’s about, well, being the adult and noticing why being a step-parent is, in fact, one of the only jobs harder than being a parent, and, tougher on kids than being a hormone ravaged 14 year old boy fighting his way out of his skinny jeans on a hot day!
The most fundamental difference I’ve observed through my 4 years of research is: when I get pissed off, shouty and a little bit hormonal with my own, precious gits they also get the lovable, squishy, “oh, I remember why I had you now” mummy. My “own” kids get the worst, but they get the best too, and all the mush in between. My step sons on the other hand, get the same “why have you left your bloody trainers there? Not in there with that drink! No, you can’t have another packet of crisps, your dinner’s nearly ready!” as my ratbags, but, via a non-verbal, yet crystal-clear communique 3.9 years ago, they don’t want the hugs and head kisses mine get in abundance post wanker-mummy rant. So we’re just left with a gaping crevice of post-rant void, which I walk away from feeling like a shit; then later, my desperate compensatory attempts of sparkly doughnuts and suggestions of trips to the beach/skate-park get met by feeble grunts as they’re not sure if it’s safe to come out yet!
I don’t profess to have all the answers, in fact, not really any at all, but the only thing I know makes my relationship better with N & M – spending time with just them. Take Mr OG out of the equation, as it’s his interactions with them that sometimes riles me more than anything else. When I spend time with just the boys my step-mum ju-ju returns and the Wicked Step-Mother is banished for another few days!