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Can’t live with them, can’t fire them, can’t force them out … step kids, that is. What’s a stepmom to do?


Eleven years ago I took on the job of a lifetime—step-mom to three fully formed, highly opinionated, bereft teenage kids—I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Neither did my husband. And, neither did the kids. All of us were on shaky ground and it quickly turned to quicksand.


I underestimated the role I was expected to fulfill. After all, the kids were old enough to feed themselves, drive to school, and set alarm clocks. Their father had cared for them since their mother died a couple of years earlier. It was, from outside appearances, a functioning family. I saw myself as an add-on. Here was a family that was making do, and I could join in, make things better and we’d all go forward in happy family unison.


I was a moron! And, I was dead wrong.


And, it turns out that I am not alone.


As a member of a stepmoms’ group I hear lots of similar stories. Sure, the circumstances are different. Families that come together after divorces, when children are babies, or much younger than mine were. Families made up of yours, mine and ours. Families that combine kids from vastly different backgrounds. However, despite the various combinations and circumstances, the feelings, disappointments, fears, and judgments are deep, very real, and enormously similar.


There are nine of us in this group and the other night, after a glass of wine, we took a poll:

A) How many women love their husbands? Answer: 9.

B) How many women would do this again, would knowing what they know now? Answer: Zero. That includes the women who have gone on to have biological children with their husbands.


Conclusion—being a stepmom is hard work and no one goes into the job adequately warned, prepared or with the right mindset. It takes a while to realize that being a step mom is exceedingly unlike being a mom.


But, is it that way for the step dads, too. I decided to ask a few.


I asked one step dad, whose stepdaughter is out of the house and has a daughter of her own, how he’d answer the poll. Yes, he loves his wife. No, he’d not do it again. His advice for someone contemplating becoming a stepparent. “Don’t!” What’s the best part about being a stepparent? “They eventually move out.” Any advice? “Boarding school. Start early—is there boarding pre-school?”


Come on—step-parenting is as old as, well, uh, parenting, and it can’t all be like the old movies, Yours, Mine, and Ours or With Twelve You Get Egg Roll. What experiences do others have? What advice would you offer? Suggestions, warnings? Do you want to hear more?

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