Being a step mum was, and often still is, the biggest challenge of my life to date and not something that comes to me easily – I’m not a mother-earth kind of person, I’m not very good at rolling with the punches and I like to be in control. I think my upbringing has defined me as quite an independent and self-sufficient person. Being an only child meant that I spent quite a lot of time on my own, consequently I need my own space from time to time. I have two sons (25 and 24) and two step sons (23 and 19), and I have often found the hustle and bustle of a large family quite overwhelming (not to mention noisy!). I think initially the hardest part of having step children is that they were brought up in a very different way than my own boys and if I’m honest, there were lots of things I didn’t approve of on that front
My husband and I got married in June 2006. When he asked his boys how they felt about us getting married, I got the thumbs up on the basis that I made good pies (what an accolade!). We have been very lucky because all four of our boys do get on, particularly my husband’s eldest and my youngest. We have all been on holidays together and even though 3 of them have left home we still try and get together for a family meal now and again – not quite so easy these days because my youngest son left university last year and moved to Tokyo to start a new job.
My youngest step son still lives with us on alternate weeks and I think he has been the biggest challenge for me. He has had a few learning and behaviour problems over the years and was quite a difficult child – I found it exceptionally hard when I couldn’t reason with him or control his behaviour. I think there were some underlying problems causing this, which were further compounded by his parents splitting up. When he was still quite little he asked me if he could call me Mum. This filled me with pride and horror all at the same time. I’m pretty sure it was a security thing for him and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. I knew it wouldn’t sit well with my own sons, plus I knew his mum would kick off about it, so I gently explained that I thought it would hurt his mum’s feelings and he accepted that. I reassured him that I would always be there for him and look after him like a mum but that it would probably be better if he carried on calling me by my name.
Despite the difficulties of being a step mum and the way it has challenged me personally, I have had a great opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ to take my own experiences as a step child, to draw from my dad and step mum’s example and to provide my step sons with the best opportunity to thrive that I am capable of giving them. I don’t find being a step mum easy, maybe I’m not supposed to, but I do often find it rewarding. I know that they trust me and I know that their dad and I provide the security that they need. I remember them saying once that they like the fact that “you and dad always stay the same, nothing changes” – in other words we are reliable and dependable.
About the writer: Nicky is a member of our Family Matters Institute team. She is an advocate for dads and families, and engages regularly with our dad.info audience on our Facebook page.