The Uncompromising ties of Stepparenting

 I think stepparents are always maneuvering through a balancing act.  The love for our stepchildren versus the constant reminder they are “not ours”.  Our view and visions for our stepchildren versus the limited authority a non-biological parent has.  Our own needs and wants for our time and energy versus the time and energy stepchildren and family dynamics require.  For many of us, our own financial desires and dreams versus the cost of raising children.

On some days- weeeks, even- I almost pat myself on the back with my Special Ops level maneuvering through this minefield. And, then my husband receives a phone call like he did yesterday afternoon and I am struck again with how uncompromisinig the ties of stepparenting truly are.

On this Saturday, my husband’s ex-wife called with news that she had lost her job.

I have put a great deal of time and energy into the “fnancial health” of our household.  My husband and I combine our incomes for the most part.  I have an open heart about expenses for his children, as I think most stepparents do.  I have been happy with the work we have all done and the household we have.

And, on this day, I was reminded  how re-marriage with children is a constant, never- ending entanglement with a 3rd party- the ex-spouse. It is not enough to take care of your own household.  At some time, some place, you may be expected to step forth into a situation, completely not of your making, when an ex-spouse is involved.

For those who say, “Well, you knew he had children when you married him.”  I get it.  But, I will admit, like many a stepparent I know, I was naive about the consuming entanglements that divorce with children creates.  Divorce with children is the tie that binds- forever.

Of course, I want the best for my stepchildren, but do I want to support their Mom’s household, when  we are already supporting ours with the children half-time? THe answer, of course, is no.  I am tired of the life I create impinged upon in such a signficant way.

In the end, I would hope this all works out.  I would never want to see anyone unemployed.   The emotional grief and stress for children when a parent loses a job is significant, so we will be dealing with this as well.

I know some may read this and think, “Where is your compassion? A woman just lost her job.”  My compassion would have been much greater had my husband’s ex-wife upon informing him of her job loss, not immediately followed with , “I am going to talk to my lawyer. I won’t be able to pay anything for the kids anymore.”

Uh… the ties of divorce with children may be consuming, but so is one’s responsiblity to his or her children.  Had my stepchildren’s Mom called with a plan other than my husband taking care of the children for her, I would be a bit more open to compassion. As it stands, we all have ties and obligations in our lives. Divorce ends the ties between husband and wife. In divorce with children, some of these ties may remain- but obligation of each parent to provide for his or her children is perhaps the greatest tie of them all.

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2 thoughts on “The Uncompromising ties of Stepparenting

  1. I know exactly what you mean. My step-kids (not much of kids anymore) have been living with us for over 3 years now. Their mom has not paid a single penny towards them throughout this time, and on top of that she is sending them of by saying ‘I have no money’ to everything they ask (in the divorce my husband and her has split finance exactly in a half, on top of that she took all the belongings, including all kids possessions; beds, desks etc) She even had a chick to tell us that she pays for food while they are staying at her house (hardly, once, maybe twice a month if they are lucky). And yes, she does have a job! From what I have heard, she even has been promoted to a supervisory position, which normally comes with raise too!

    Having to be stepparent is very complex job, and I think all of us who are a stepmom have superpowers and are absolutely awesome! 🙂

    • Thank you for writing this! I agree with you – stepmoms are a special breed of people!! We really have to handle it all with a sense of style and grace. I appreciate you outlining your situaiton. It always helps to hear how others navigate this never-ending challenge.

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