I have a book club I attend on a monthly basis, no I’m not 70 years old. We pick a book to read every month, but in all reality we never seem to read it nor talk about it. Book Club is an excuse to leave our kids and husbands behind and have 3 hours to ourselves. In book club I started reconnecting with Chrissy, a girl I knew for years. It’s weird, we both came out of long term relationships at one point, that ended up turning south. Chrissy was online dating and always had a funny story to share with the book club. One day, her story was about Troy (her now husband). In Chrissy’s pre-interview, I asked her how she and Troy met, and here’s her side of the story.
“Troy and I met logging on to E-Harmony 2 years ago. I became his E-Ho immediately. I found a stalker and my husband on there so I’m not exactly sure if I’m endorsing the site yet. I was 31 years old and he was 38 years old when we met. He checked all the boxes and an extra one who was 3 years old at the time. He had been married for 7 years and deeply rooted in Santa Barbara where he worked and played.”
As you can see Chrissy is hilarious, and at this time her and I started talking about “step mom world”. It’s a world that is a tough job some days, but rewarding on others. We started having our nights of talking till midnight about our stories, struggles and wants for the future. She just understood when I had a situation I was going through, or we would help each other out in solving a problem. Bottom line, it was nice to embark in this world and have a lunch date to ramble on and on about shit nobody else cared about.
Chrissy and Troy got engaged exactly a year later and were married seven months after that, and she was not pregnant! They are now living together and sharing custody of Troy’s little five-year-old. They are learning the ropes of life as a blended family.
Chrissy is a step mom, but in my eyes she is a mom. Her heart is so big, she talks about her stepson and has his best interest all the time. You will find her most weeks either cooking for her family, taking her stepson on a little date or stalking Craiglist for her next deal. I wanted to interview Chrissy so she could tell us the truth of being a stepmom. I know like me, someone is out there and just wants to relate to how it is raising a child that is not their’s but loving a child like it is theirs.
Describe your relationship with your stepson
I’ll never forget our first date. I was nervous so I brought my dog to break the ice. We decided to meet at a casual location, a farmers market in Goleta where there wouldn’t be too much pressure. I remember walking up to the bench and seeing his scruff of blonde hair and big brown eyes. He became very shy as he realized it was me approaching. He was 3 and it felt like one of the most important first dates and a nerve racking interview all at the same time. Of course, I wanted him to like me but more importantly I just wanted us to have some type of chemistry to start a relationship. At this point his dad and I knew we were serious and that meant this little guy would become an important part of my life. We played with the dog for a few minutes while he felt out the situation. When I knew we were ready to take the next step I asked him to Starbucks in the plaza to go get a milk. He took my hand and we ditched Dad with the dog. We were off to a good start. Things have been like that ever since. He feels out the situation then we ditch Dad and the dog. He is cautious and I am patient.
We are lucky to spend a lot of time together. I had him every Monday per the custody agreement up until recently. We were up to all kinds of adventures, lunches, going to see my customers and errands together. We learned a lot about one another during this time. I discovered some of the basics like how to talk to a child, what made him laugh, how incredibly long it takes a child to buckle a seat belt but how empowered a child feels to buckle their own seatbelt. He learned quite a few things too. He now knows that Coffee Bean is better than Starbucks, its ok to improvise and use the inside part of your shirt to blow your nose if you can’t immediately find a tissue and he also picked up a few tricks on how to push my buttons. We have become very close because of this special opportunity.
There have been some moments that I will never forget. For Mother’s Day last year all the moms got roses. I didn’t think much of it. I don’t expect anyone to recognize me on Mother’s Day let alone his school. I picked him up early the day after and he had something he wanted to give me. He took a little orange butterfly bead out of his pocket that he clearly lifted from the craft center (endearing) and told me it was for Mother’s Day because I didn’t get a rose. He wanted me to put it on a necklace and wear it. I told him I would never forget that day. It was the day I knew he saw me as special and it was also the day I realized I selfishly missed an opportunity to talk to him about stealing. I wore that necklace on our wedding day.
When Troy and I were explaining to him we were getting married and what that meant he was absorbing it all. A few days went by and then one evening he looked me in the eyes and said, “When I grow up, I want to marry you”. I mean really…melt me!! I will also never forget when he stuck his tongue out at me for the first time either or the days he walks right by me as though I’m invisible. Those things really burn me. It’s funny how the words Melt and Burn are so similar but means something so different. Our relationship has its ups and downs as we build but the highs feels really high and the lows feel really low when you are trying to build a bond from scratch.
I’m not sure the roles are any different being a stepmom- I cook, clean, grocery shop, drive to practices, do laundry and make social plans…the usual. I actually think I probably do less because my husband loves doing baths and making lunches. He also feels the need to take on more of the responsibility because he is his son.
What I do as a stepmom that other moms may not do in their house is that I am regularly previewing legal documents. Is anybody else a self-taught paralegal?!?
What is tough about being a step mom?
Biting my tongue: I think it is a sick joke to have someone with my personality type become a step mom. Shutting my mouth is my daily challenge. Sometimes it’s an hourly goal. There are often times I put myself in timeout. Sometimes having a 3rd person chiming in is just not helpful and believe it or not the influence of the stepmom is not always appreciated. Imagine that. Buzz topics I am desperately trying to bite my tongue about:
Education/School– Unless it’s how I can help with the potluck everything else is off limits. The speed at which the alphabet is taught, resources and progress made are not always well received. Where he should go to school…eeeek stay outta that one!! I just shut my mouth and help pay the bill. It’s like being at the nail salon when they ask you if you want the callus removing treatment but your foot is already lathered in goo and the pumice stone is in attack mode. Just surrender. It hurts less when you don’t fight it.
Discipline– Troy and I agreed early on that I would take part in disciplining. Not beating the child, but if I said no he had to listen. That kind of a thing. Let’s be real, his dad is the final word in our house and he goes to his moms 50% of the time where I have no authority whatsoever. It makes consistent discipline difficult. There are things I just can’t say or do because I am his stepmom. This is where my internal monologue really takes off! He gets away with things for the basic reasons; he’s dang cute, he’s smart, but mainly because his dad has divorce guilt that as a stepmom I have decided not to get in the middle of. I want him to work that out on his own and not resent me for forcing him to face.
Court happenings– I mean DAMN that is a jacked up system! I used to think buying a car and getting a cell phone upgrade were the quickest ways to get screwed. That was before I became a stepmom. Family Court is by far the fast lane to a good stiff jab in the ass.
Being lonely-We just got married in October and I think I had some expectations as a new bride that I didn’t even realize I would have. I want to spend time with my husband and have his undivided attention for a day, evening, maybe just over coffee. I have come to realize a whole weekend is almost out of the question. The time we have my stepson I forgo my husband because I know how precious their time is together. I can’t imagine only seeing my child half of his life. We try to maximize our time together as a family, but I also try to respect this is their important time together. It feels like a whirlwind of energy, happiness and change when he gets here. There is also sadness but excitement to spend alone time with Troy when he goes to his moms. There are so many emotions!
Weird Stepmom Sex– Yeah, is it just me? You get to have awesome no kid sex half the time, then the other half is extra cautious stepkid sex because God forbid you get walked in on. All hell would break loose if his mom ever heard about your tramp stamp that her son saw. All I can ever think about is how much it would cost in court to defend the type of security measures we have on our bedroom doors to prevent a middle of the night pee trip turning into the reason he didn’t get into Harvard. See, I’m already feeling closed for business!
4. If you could write a book about being a step mom, what advice would you give in the book?
Never apologize for an impulse buy on a court day, a rough drop off or anytime you’re feeling unappreciated. The UPS man knows me, well.
The other advice I can give and what truly keeps me sane is we started seeing a Blended Family Counselor before we were married. We see her together every other week and we go alone when we need a tune up or when we are tuned up. We call those our date nights and we leave there feeling on the same page. She helps us navigate things neither of us have ever been through and bring things back into perspective. She makes sure we get what we want which is that my stepsons best interests are always put first without sacrificing our marriage. Sometimes those are hard decisions. They aren’t always things that come naturally to me; taking a back seat, seeing past myself, agreeing to things that out of principle are wrong but it’s all worth it if he can have a little bit better day or feel a tiny bit less stress. That is also when our house runs the best and we feel the best. There is no better sound than a child laughing, no better pat on the back than him making his own bed in the morning and no greater compliment than when he tells us he feels like we live in a hotel with a famous restaurant attached to it. There is certainly extra work involved and another little person to always consider but that’s what we are here for after all and that is what I signed up for when marrying a man with a child.
5. Is there something you have learned about yourself since you have been a step mom?
I constantly question how strong of a woman I am. Being a stepmom has required a village for me and many vices. I did not know before becoming a stepmom how much help I needed to get through a single week. My friends to vent to, my sister to slap me around with extra compassion, my mom who’s been there with a blended family herself, my brothers who have been stepson’s, the rest of my family who support my decision and embrace my stepson as though he’s been ours all along, my nail lady to make me feel pretty, my chiropractor to work it out, our housekeeper who makes every other Friday feel like Christmas, dark chocolate, my therapist to tell us we’re doing a great job, all of the nice women at the Oxnard TJ Maxx that so kindly tell me, “ma’am, the registers will be closing in five minutes” and obviously my husband to be in it with me. I used to be pretty low profile and now I am about as high maintenance as they come!
It is much harder than I could have imagined.
At 5 years old he is sweetness mixed with a dash of defiance and he is also still feeling out everyone’s roles. He double checks what I’ve said with Troy just to make sure what I say hold weight and every time I look up as though I’m not sure if it does either…it does. My husband has said “because I’m his dad” to me a few times as though I’m a roommate and not a true parental figure. Living inside a home where you can be made to feel like the outsider can be a hard life to navigate and accept. These are all situations and feelings that have to be dealt with and can be difficult. There’s also a woman who can’t stand to look at me but will let me care for her child 50% of the time and be there for him when he’s sick without acknowledgments and certainly never a thank you. I have insecurities of my own if I’m doing right by everyone including myself.
It takes a lot of inner strength to know Thank You from a stepchild will come someday and to look for them silently now while he’s young. It is easy to see how much my husband and his family loves me and appreciates the sacrifices and the love I show his child. What I have learned becoming a stepmom is you have to settle for whatever feedback your stepchild wants to give. I have to work for every hug and hello but I’m certain someday giving him a loving, stable home where he has had peace and was shown love will give me a special place in his heart.
The biggest surprise I learned about myself is my capacity to love someone else’s child. My stepson and I don’t have the luxury of a birthright bond. Our affection and relationship is built on time and a choice we make every day. When we are frustrated with each other or we need space we don’t have 5 years and a vaginal canal passage to bring us together. We have strength and a caring that comes from a place of wanting happiness in our family and our connection that has been built on trust and respect. It is fragile at times but on nights when we are cuddling on the couch or cracking up dancing in the kitchen I can sit back and be proud of how far we’ve come in such a short time. It is hard to believe that a 5 year old has this capacity to be so open and I love him for that among so many other things. His happiness means the world to me and I think he feels that. I find myself so proud when I see my influences. When he requests “sweet jams” on the way to school or refers to potty as “turds” and tries to convince his friends kale chips taste just like popcorn I notice I’m beaming!
I also learned about Chicken Nuggets shaped like Dinosaurs. Where were those when I was baked in college? I mean, Junk food and in shapes, anyone else feelin this?!?! I was going down the wrong aisles.
Things are fresh and new and I am adjusting to a lot. This year I have started sharing a house, being married and picked up a stepson along the way. Sometimes I think of my old life… horseback riding bareback on the beach with my hair blowing in the wind. Oh wait, that’s the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” commercial ☺ but my life was simple. Me and my dog in a sweet bachelorette pad with sweeping ocean views. Things have certainly changed so my learning curve has been substantial! There has been and will always be a lot to learn becoming a stepmom but what I continue to learn about myself is that my heart is open, love is flowing and my mind is BLOWN. Most importantly, I’ve never been happier and I wouldn’t change any of the decisions I’ve made.
Now that you have told the Mother Effin Truth, who do you want to nominate to tell their story as a mother? And why?
I am not much for Cheeze but I just have to say I am really blessed to be surrounded by so many inspirational women and exceptional mama’s. I would have liked to nominated a dozen ladies but I’m not a believer in everyone gets a trophy so I want to tell you about my sister-in –law Jenny. Since the day I met her we had a great connection. We were definitely fast friends and lucky to be family now. She has a great smile an infectious laugh, huge heart, makes out with her hubby in public and LOVES on her kids. I am smiling just thinking about her.
In January of 2014 Jenny was sexual assaulted and has been dealing with the most life changing event of her life. Strength does not begin to explain what I see from her. The love and devotion to her husband and children to do everything in her power to overcome what she must live with every day is not only an inspiration it is truly amazing. She handles life before and after this tragedy with such grace that you can’t believe she the week she has had or that she has been in testimony all day after taking one of her kids to Urgent Care for this or that. She embraces her children every chance she gets and surrounds herself with family at every opportunity. She has a fight in her that not only saved her life, but I can see is getting passed down to her children and I can only hope rubs off on some of us.