I really try to not give too much additional press to some of the more sensational stories that come out of the 24/7 news feeds (*coughCharlieSheencough*), but there was one last week that I can’t let by without giving some of the other side of the story and rambling/ranting a bit.  What am I talking about?  The author of a new book who discusses how she was a better mother when she left her 20-year marriage and two young boys behind.  Um, excuse me?

I realize that people can be misrepresented in the quest to get better book sales or hits on their website (Yes, Tiger Mom, I’m talking about you), but seriously? There’s no way that someone should be making the abandonment of your family into a book.  A blog maybe, but not a book to take on the Today Show circuit. All parents know there are ups and downs to the “job” – no one signs up for the tantrums of 2- or 13-year-olds, but we press on because like it or not, that’s part of being a parent.  I used to say that I never really knew what the term “forever” meant until I gave birth to my twins.  I was FOREVER in charge of the well-being of these tiny little humans and for the rest of my life I was a mom! Holy moly! And there have been many days between then and now where I wanted a weekend off or even just one night, sometimes life just doesn’t work that way. It’s called something that I’m working on with my own kids: responsibility.  I completely understand that women (or men) shouldn’t have to give up their life for 18 years so their kids can grow up in a loving home, but my goodness – how selfish can you get?

I want to read her husband’s side of this story because I’ve seen first-hand how the children fare when Mommy decides she doesn’t want that responsibility anymore and it’s not an improvement for anyone left behind.  My 13-year-old step-daughter was “abandoned” by her birth mom when she was barely two years old. Her birth mom decided she wasn’t really ready to be a mom and left. My daughter grieved and does have some continuing things that she’s working through, but she’s been able to have a fairly stable life provided by her dad and has done okay for herself. There has been more than one occasion over the years where she has questioned if she did something to force her birth mom out or if her birth mom loves/remembers her. No kid should have to go through that. Luckily my husband was able to get help from his family and make sure that his (now our) daughter was cared for and loved. He could handle whatever came his way, but when it came to it, he couldn’t protect his daughter from that pain and that was the hardest part for him.

I realize that parents leave all the time due to all sorts of reasons, but at least when the reason is that the parents aren’t compatible, the kids can (someday) rationalize that it wasn’t their fault. How does the kid that was abandoned because their mom or dad didn’t want to be a parent anymore work through that? And yes, it is abandonment. A child who has had two parents in their life and suddenly doesn’t have one anymore due to a parent’s free-will decision (and not a tragedy) has been abandoned. That is not something that we need to be writing books about – I think every parent would know that not having kids anymore would be a freeing exercise; we don’t have to pay you money to read about it. And if you feel the need to justify your decisions by writing a book, keep it in your journal. Parenthood isn’t for everyone, but please make sure you figure that out BEFORE you become a parent. Maybe that’s her intent? To be a form of birth control by saying that parenthood isn’t for everyone? I think maybe there’s a better way to market yourself without seeming like a selfish b*tch if that’s the case.
Like most of the population, my life is not a fairy tale.  My husband will fully admit that he’s not Prince Charming and I’d like to think that I’m not the Wicked Stepmother.  I certainly have my moments, but it has nothing to do with the fact that I have a stepdaughter; it’s because I have bad days just like everyone else. 

Have I ever wished that my stepdaughter’s birth mom could be in her life so we could get every other weekend off while she visits her?  Sure.  Have I ever wished that she would disappear down a river or at a school science fair?  Not a chance. 

I’ve been in my stepdaughter’s life for 10 of her 12 years and I’m not about to quit while I’m ahead.  I was incredibly lucky to be involved in her life at such a young age – she decided on her own to call me “Mom” after I married her dad when she was 4 (“Mommy” was saved for her birth mom).  I’m not sure at that point that I had really earned the title, but she sure put me to task to try.

Stepmoms have a hard job because we have to be a mom to kids without replacing their birth moms (for better or for worse).  We have to start and maintain a relationship with our husbands while also forging relationships with his children – which are all on completely different levels depending on the age and personality of the kids.  I used to dream for the day my stepdaughter would turn 18 because I’d finally have “alone time” with my husband.  Then we decided to have a child of our own and “reset” the clock by 8 years.  *facepalm*

As tough as it has been to raise my stepdaughter with my husband as primary parent, I know I’m one of the lucky ones who was able to remove a toxic birth mom from our daughter’s life.  Though we did try to maintain contact for many years, we don’t have to deal with her birth mom on a regular basis anymore.  We certainly keep tabs on her so when age 18 does roll around we can let them have contact on my stepdaughter’s terms, but that’s about it.  I do get a small kick out of the fact that if/when she does make contact with her birthmom, it will be a role reversal of her birthmom not being able to replace her stepmom as an important part of her life. 

One of the hardest aspects of being a stepmother is knowing that I missed out on the early moments of her life.  Things that happened when she was a baby I only know through hear-say and a handful of photos, and the things I was around for I hardly remember now because of the introduction of the twins into our lives.  I think I’ve been able to teach my stepdaughter a lot though, and as long as she safely graduates high school, I’ll know that I really did contribute to the life of another.

What’s funny is that I think of her as my kid, but at the same time get a little defensive when it comes to distinguishing her as a stepdaughter – because I guess certain appearances are more important than I ever thought before – but I don’t really want people to think that I was pregnant at my high school graduation.  ;)

I’m not afraid of what the teenage years are going to bring because I can deal with her on a more mature level now.  I survived taking her to Kindergarten, middle school orientation, and many Saturdays standing in the rain watching her play soccer.  It took a while to get here, but the package deal when I married my husband was well worth the journey.  I don’t recommend being a stepmom to everyone, but it can work out without putting the stepkids into domestic slavery, feeding them poisoned apples, or any of the real-life horror stories.

Does anyone have any fun step-parent stories to share?  Bring it - the good, the bad, the ugly.  I've probably heard them all in the last 10 years.