The Balance of Meeting the Needs of Others

Images don’t always tell the entire story. I feel this is especially true in the area of stepparenting. We have such a societal vision of the “ideal family”, and we work desperately hard to uphold this vision, that I don’t think we acknowledge what a stepfamily actually involves.

My stepchildren love me, yet they struggle to fully understand me and truly include me. It’s as if their lives, having been so torn apart and needing attention, do not permit the possibility of adding one more thing. Plus, no one truly wants a stepparent. It is a role never created in the original family dynamic.

At our family dinners, I am frequently ignored. I am not exaggerating or kidding. But the kids always want me present at dinner. They will talk over me, around me, sing while I try to speak, etc. It’s as if the children so need attention, that there is simply no space for my life at this table.

My time is important to me, so at times, I feel this family dinner places me in the bind of determining which means more to me- their needs or mine?

The poem at the end speaks to why I am there. I see my stepdaughter and I feel her pain at trying to create a family dynamic, so she can get what she needs- time and attention. And, she knows, if I am there, she will receive it. Once again, I see how the needs of others (good or bad) drive my actions.

“The ‘Family’ Table”

“Are you coming?”
The invitation sent with regularity

The “family” table is the marked destination.

Someone else’s needs have always been
a homing beacon for me-
Giving me sense and direction where I had none.

I follow a swerving, serving course. Needs, requests,
and wants pop-up as guideposts so I do not lose my way.

At your setting of “family”,
I am the interloper.

My part never writ in the original composition. The
screenplay set before my arrival.

I am never the understudy, though you bill me as such.
An understudy implies a role, of which I have none.

I come and I sit and I dutifully play my part.

While you, my sweet younger self,
with equal desperation,
holds together the fantasy in your tiny, tiny hands.

14 thoughts on “The Balance of Meeting the Needs of Others

  1. Every stepmother can relate to “the family table” but most of us would find it difficult to put into words. This is beautiful expressed. Your stepdaughter doesn’t know yet how fortunate she is to have you at the table but the day will surely come.

    • I just want to cry at your words- it takes one to know one πŸ™‚ As stepmoms, we try so very hard, don’t we? In some ways, we see the picture more accurately than others. πŸ™‚ Good luck to you πŸ™‚ And thank you for your support!

  2. What you give today will always be with them! Don’t underestimate your value to them and your family today and the tomorrows to come!

      • all is okay, or will be! it will be whatever it will be…
        you, on the other hand, take care of those children! you give them more than you know!

      • hang on to your hat…somethings are coming to a head, cause she did cross a line recently.
        she’s sick that’s why she can’t move on, but, that’s not our problem, her behavior causes problems and so we have to deal with that.

  3. I’m so thankful you are an artist and poet – you have expressed so eloquently what we (the stepparent) struggles with on a daily basis. To be or not to be…..truer words have never been spoken (even if they weren’t talking about step-parenting!).

    • Oh, thankk you so much!! That means a great deal to me. You have no idea how much it means to me that other stepparents have felt as I have. It’s such a constant balancing act. πŸ™‚

  4. I am a step-mother of two great girls, I have a son. The kids get along well, call each other brother and sister. They love me, they know their dad is very happy now. I never try to take the place of their mom but I find it hard to find a happy medium. I don’t want to cross the line. Thankfully we have no behavior problems, they are respectful. I wonder, should I hug them, do they want to be hugged? It just takes time I suppose.

    • Hi! I so understand what you write. It is such a difficult balancing act. As I write in my poem, their is no true role for a stepmom, nor are we simply an “understudy” of the actual Mom. It’s a difficult position, to say the least!

      • We did famly counseling before we married a couple years ago.We knew blending a family is hard.We had family meetings for a while,we need to do that again actually.I think communication is important with everyone.The counselor said it can take 5-7 years to “blend” a family well.I am lucky, my husbands ex wife is great, we communicate if need be.She and my husband talk things out when it comes to the girls and they are both flexible with the days they are here or there.It’s all about the kids.It sounds like we hae alot in common.

      • That is very cool!! My husbands ex- is very against counseling, so although, we have wanted to take the kids, it causes too much stress. I agree that it takes years, however, for a family to truly blend. I wish you all the best. For me, stepparenting is like no other thing in my life ! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the messages of hope.

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