When I was a little girl, I daydreamed about what my life would be like as an adult. I imagined living somewhere interesting and in a large, beautiful home. I also imagined that I would have a house full of children, perhaps eight of them, and we would have a loving and active family life. I was raised an only child, so the polar opposite situation of a big family and lots of siblings was intriguing to me.
As I became an adult and started to recognize the amount of time and resources that went into raising children and supporting a family, I modified my vision to just two children. I felt that two kids were as much as I could reasonably support and offer my time and attention to.
When I was finally married and started to have my own family, I continued to dream of the future and imagined that my husband and I would be married “’til death do us part.” Nothing about my life plans hinted at anything abnormal or deviating from the “two kids, happy marriage” fantasy; but, life had other plans for me!
My marriage crumbled apart at the ten-year mark, and I suddenly found myself to be a single mother with two children starting my life over. Part of my dream was still intact, but being a divorced mom nearing forty was never what I wanted from life. Life still had a few more surprises in store for me, and somehow my childhood daydreams were about to become reality!
I met the love of my life following the biggest disappointment of my life. I was handed a new opportunity to get it right and have my love and my family; but, it wouldn’t be quite that simple. As with many remarriages, ours would be a blending of his four children with my two. Suddenly, I had a house full of children, as I had once imagined, and our home was certainly full of activity!
You might say that I became an accidental stepparent. Being a stepmom was never anything I imagined for myself. No little girl, playing with her dolls, acts out being the second wife or the stepmom! We all want the neat and tidy version of family that is us with the spouse of our dreams and the children we share together. No one wistfully fantasizes about ex-wives stirring up drama, angry and resentful stepchildren, or somehow feeling like a stranger in their own home; yet, there I was.
Being a stepparent is far from the simple way of having a family. For many, it’s the “plan B” after the original plan fails to hold up as expected. Yet, as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain!” With children that we birth, we suffer through a physical pregnancy and labor to deliver them into the world.
A stepfamily is the product of intense labor to gain trust, build routines, heal broken hearts, and create a sense of unity.
We’ve experienced plenty of pain in the eight years our family has been together; yet, those pains have made way for a depth and richness to my life that would not be possible without these new bonds we have formed. I look back now on my previous vanilla existence and wonder how that simplistic path could have filled my time or even my heart as much as the one I follow now.
The easy path has fewer bumps and detours along it, but my path has forced me to stretch and grow in every area of my life. I landed into a life that I would have never previously picked or imagined for myself; but, I am gratified that I have made an unexpected life my own and am finding ways to thrive, even under the pressures of being a stepparent.
If I had a way to go back and tell my younger self about the future, I’m not sure that I would ever steer her directly toward becoming a stepmom. Raising someone else’s children is extremely challenging!
There are beautiful and rewarding moments, but also many disappointing and maddening ones. I wouldn’t tell her not to become a stepparent, but I would encourage her to be a lot more educated and prepared for the adventure than I was if she made the choice to do so.
The easy path has many virtues, but I appreciate that the challenging one I have accepted has made my life more interesting and brought precious people into my and my children’s lives. This life is not for everyone; yet, how can any of us really say what the future holds or whether being a stepparent is in the cards? I never saw it coming, but here I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Audrey Cade, author of Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision, is a matriarch of a stepfamily of six children and an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, stepparenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage. She is a featured blogger for DivorcedMoms, contributor for DivorceForce, Worthy Living and has been published in The Divorce Magazine, The Good Men Project, StepMom Magazine, and others. Her professional experience is a case manager social worker for developmentally-disabled children, and she holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology. Follow Audrey on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Listen each Wednesday to her weekly Divorce Warrior Dialog podcast on her website.