The wicked step-mother has been around for decades in children’s stories. Think of the story of Cinderella. Her step-mother and step sisters were seen as evil. Fast forward to our current day and step parents are still trying to shed this negative connotation around being a step parent.
By Deanne Atkinson
Almost seven years ago I found myself entering a world I knew nothing about. As a single mum of a five year old I was ready for love again and when it arrived my life changed forever. I started my journey as a step mother to two boys. I vowed not to be the ugly step mother but I knew I needed support to face the complexities and pressure that I found came along with blending a family. There were different behaviours and habits which were new to me, different parenting styles, different eating habits, extra laundry, triple the cooking, reduced privacy, and lack of space and personality clashes. More noise, more mess, more everything. There were days which were ugly and I knew for this family to survive we needed to be patient, learn tolerance and acceptance and a deeper understanding from everyone’s perspective.
Being a Step Child
I learnt how important it is to have compassion and empathy towards my step children and an understanding how as a new partner, not to interfere with their relationship with their father. It was important I respected that they have time together with their dad without me around. I also needed to get to know them, what they had been through, who they were their traits and personality. I knew they had to adapt to the new living arrangements and the disruption to their lives as they readjust to the changes.
As a step parent I was aware that my role in those first few years was really only building a trust and respect with each child as well as supporting my own son and any issues he was experiencing in this new arrangement. With a daughter born into the family the complexities continued and everyone needed time to adapt.
Relationships can suffer greatly under the pressure of blending a family and a great deal of open communication and honesty was required within our household. The complexities can have a negative effect on each other and if not discussed resentment can creep in. There were ups and downs and sacrifices to make but the key was honesty and having equality within the relationship.
Making it work
So with determination, passion and perhaps some moments of insanity I committed to my new role wholeheartedly. I turned to what I knew, a deeper more spiritual approach, looking on the inside, my inner self. With every negative emotion which raised its ugly head (resentment, frustration, intolerance and so on) I explored what was going on inside of me. I faced my ugly side. I accepted that it was a part of me but a part which I could change. I opened my heart to these boys for they were an extension of their dad who I loved. I found compassion for the road they had travelled. I accepted them, enjoyed them and my heart started to love them. I extended myself beyond what I thought was possible. I put myself in their shoes. I grew in tolerance, acceptance and in love. I have earned their respect, their love and trust but it has taken years of dedication and commitment. It was a proud moment the day I married their father; we had made it, blended our family and survived the ugly times. Life now is far more settled and loving relationships have been formed.
A positive approach towards step parenting
So my experience around step parenting is a positive one. I recall when I was pregnant with my son over 12 years ago that I never dreamt that years later at the end of each week I would ‘hand him over’ for another woman to mother him with my now ex husband. When pregnant I never dreamt that I would only look after him every seven days. I never dreamt that I would miss a milestone because it happened when he was at his dad’s.
So with this in mind from a mother’s understanding of handing over her child, I am determined to be the best step mum I can be. To love, respect, grow and care for my step children with my best intentions. With this experience I am now able to support other step parents navigate their way through blending their family and ensure they have the support they require to make sure their family survives too.
Deanne is the Founder of Parent with Passion, a service which helps break the negative cycle in parenting and supports a childhood for our children that they don’t have to recover from in years to come. As a Parent Coach and Spiritual Counsellor she is determined to increase awareness of the power of parenting. How our actions can last a life time. She has a spiritual approach to parenting meaning she is all about feelings and emotions. Deanne looks beneath behaviour to the emotion and supports both children and parents to move through negativity by addressing what the underlying feeling is. With her experience as a step parent her service extends to supporting blended families work through the complexities with the children’s best interest as priority.
For appointments or more information www.parentwithpassion.com