Kate Spade website)
Like most Stepmoms (and Dads, Moms and Stepdads), I've sacrificed things I wanted for the sake of my family. It's hard to justify Jimmy Choo when Junior needs braces, right? But if I've learned anything during the Stepmom Stepback it's that I need to do things just for me every once in a while.
A few people commented in Learning the Art of the Stepmom Stepback that the Stepmom Stepback sounded like a dance. The more I've thought about, the more appropriate that sounded. Learning to step back is like a dance: there's a fine art to figuring out when and exactly how far you should step, on what beats you should come back in and when you should do a perfectly executed spin and get the heck off the floor.
My own dance hasn't always been perfect and there have been plenty of uncomfortable challenges. I'd tried stepping back several times before, but I don't think I'd convinced myself that I was entirely ready to step back. My blog was actually responsible for my backing in to Stepbacksville.
That's the thing about stepping back. You have to believe you really want to.
I know for me, I'd been resistant to stepping back because I had convinced myself that my stepkids really needed me. I used my care for them to validate so many of the emotions I felt inside. To make myself feel better about myself, I needed to believe that I was necessary.
I found myself saying "If I don't do it, and their parents are busy, who will do it?" or "If I don't help my husband and my stepkids' mom, then they'll be mad at me or think I'm selfish." The worst thing I thought was "If I don't treat my stepkids like they were my own flesh and blood what kind of Stepmonster am I?"
But like I said in my last post: My stepkids have a Mom and a Dad. A really good Mom and Dad actually. They are both sane people who work really really hard and who love their kids with all of their hearts and would do anything for them. By thrusting myself into the situations that I did last year -- by assuming the role of extra Mom or extra Dad -- I made things hard for everyone, including myself.
In learning to step back, I had to have a long and almost uncomfortable talk with myself to figure out what kind of parent I wanted to be. I remembered there was a reason I stopped trying to get pregnant. I liked being a little selfish with my time and my hard-earned money. I wanted to enjoy those times I had alone with my husband. Probably the most shocking of all: I didn't want the full fledged responsibility of being a kid's entire world.
Once I figured out that I didn't want that full-fledged responsibility, it became a little easier to step back. There are two people in this world that made the commitment to be fully responsible for my stepkids: my husband and their mom. I made the commitment to support my husband and be a good parent.
Being a good parent doesn't mean that I ignore my stepkids or treat them poorly. I still watch out for them, hold them when they're sick, help them with homework and hug them like my life depended on it. I will be there for them through thick and thin, as unconditionally as I can be and for as long they want me in their lives.
Stepping back doesn't mean that I love them any less or that I care less for them. In fact, I probably love them more because of it. I parent in the way I want to, not the way I think I should because my guilty conscience says "do this or else no one will love you."
Learning to step back may have been one of the best presents I gave myself all year....well, that and the purse.