“You knew what you were getting into when you married him.”
When we hear those words, it makes us want to punch something; usually the mouth that spoke them.
The sentiment reflects an ignorant mindset from many of those who have never walked in the shoes of a stepmom.
Want to know what I “knew” when I married my husband?
I knew that my experience as a stepchild was a pretty great one. That my mom and stepmom always got along and that my parents never fought in front of me.
I “knew” that I was marrying an amazing man whose kids were nice to me.
I “knew” that his ex-wife wasn’t happy about me but that she’d eventually get over it.
Just as a new parent can never really know what to expect when their biological baby enters the world, no member of the stepfamily could have actually known what they were in for.
What many outsiders don’t know is that the challenges don’t just appear the moment we start dating our partners. In fact, many of them don’t even show up until we get married.
It seems the marriage itself triggers many of these issues:
- The ex-wife who behaves like a three year old, full-blown tantrums and all, when she realizes you’re here to stay
- Kids who previously thought you were cool, now loathe you as they have to share their dad’s time and attention
- The parent who doesn’t really parent because he’s feeling so much guilt over the divorce, which leaves you in a house full of wild, undisciplined children
- Court dates and custody battles
- Parental alienation syndrome
- Doctor’s offices and school systems who don’t recognize you unless they get approval from both parents
…just to name a few.
So no, we didn’t “know” this was what we were signing up for when we said “I do.”
I think it’s shocking that people really think if we were faced with all these challenges on our first date – or before we fell in love with our partners – that we would have stayed.
Except for a few masochistic woman, many of us would have jumped ship.
For most of us, we were already madly in love with our partners when the common stepfamily challenges started to rear their ugly heads. And so we stayed.
And we continue to stay because we believe our men are worth it. We believe our marriage is worth it. And to make sure it continues to be worth it, we need to have many more good times than bad.
One stepmom told me that when someone tells her she knew what she was getting into, she replies with, “Did you know everything you were getting into with your first child?” And when they say “no,” she says “Well I guess we both knew but didn’t really know.”
I like this response. And it’s probably more effective than giving them the finger.
And what about you? How have you responded to this blissfully ignorant statement by people who have never been part of a stepfamily?
Update: Jenna is no longer admin for the Childless Stepmom Facebook group.
© 2012 Jenna Korf All Rights Reserved
(photo credit:graur razvan donut)