There are so many changes to adapt to when you move to another country that sometimes it is hard to know where or who you are.
But for me the most challenging thing has been without doubt the change from childless independent woman to evil step-mother.
I had to create another blog to write about that as it has been a steep learning curve and I needed to create a safe place to explore many difficult feelings and experiences. I was trying so hard to be nice – yet getting in touch with terrible anger and even hatred. If you want to read about people facing difficult emotions then go and read online Stepparent Forums. Noone prepares you for what it is like in reality and there are a lot of people suffering out there and often blaming themselves.
I went through an interesting process today, out walking Bonnie in the park and mulling things over as usual. I felt myself shift from tired beaten down victim who wants to run away……. to someone who could stand up for herself and fight her corner. I don’t like fighting – surely people can just be nice to each other? Can’t they? Well, sometimes that just isn’t going to happen.
Here’s the story.
If you have never been a stepparent please don’t judge what I tell you. It is nothing like being a parent – it is much more complicated and in my opinion, harder. And being a stepmother is not the same as being a stepfather. Those fairy tales weren’t joking – stepmothers have a raw deal and it’s no wonder they can get murderous.
In the beginning
I came onto the scene when the boy was 14 – entering adolescence. I have never known him as a normal child. Never seen him being loving or entertaining or cuddly like small boys can be. I have no memories of his eyes lighting up when he sees me, nor of him running to me for a hug when he is hurt. I arrived for the worst bit without any shared happy history. We haven’t been through a bonding experience like mothers and babies do from the beginning
He hates me
I didn’t expect that.
I probably arrived with absurd notions about parenting. I don’t have my own children and I had no experience at all of what is involved in being a step-parent. None of my friends had step children and I have never had a step family myself. I now know that of course a child will hate the person who intrudes into their home and takes away attention from them.
Whatever the original parental relationship was like, it had one strong common bond – The Child.
I arrived and although I wanted to make a relationship with The Child, he didn’t want one with me. His survival does not depend on me and in fact I am an obstacle in his life. I come between him and his father.
He is a boy so doesn’t express his emotions. He tolerates me so long as I don’t get in his way. But if I come between him and his desires then it becomes obvious. He hates me.
Obviously we have an added difficulty in that we don’t share the same language. Luckily for me he speaks quite good English and I quickly decided to only speak that with him. If I struggle to talk in Spanish or even worse Catalan, it puts me in a very inferior position and he has even less respect for me than he does already. He is an expert at the raised eyebrow, the silent putdown.
For the first year our main meeting point was the dinner table where he and his father spoke in Catalan and I sat in grumpy silence, trying to understand what was going on.
I actually learnt a lot of Catalan in those days as the conversations were fairly repetitive. Food. School. Homework. That sort of thing.
There were many times when I was totally lost about what was happening as he spoke with his father about plans or trips or events or, more often than not, things that he wanted to have. Of course he used to turn on me if I intervened and sneer ‘you don’t know what we are talking about so mind your own business’.
Language also affects how I relate to his friends. It is awkward enough talking with monosyllabic teenagers but I am at a great disadvantage as I can’t be natural and chat and joke in a light manner. Usually they ignore me and talk with his father. If I say something I see terror in their eyes – I might suddenly burst into English and they might have to answer.
I am told he is a normal adolescent. If that means lying, being rude, swearing a lot, missing school, not doing any homework, refusing to help in the house, stealing money and using our credit cards, playing online poker, looking at food on his plate and saying he won’t eat that shit, not showering without being paid, never cleaning his teeth and spending ALL his awake home time on the computer or mobile phone, then yes, he is a normal adolescent.
If mothers always get the blame then what about stepmothers?
My partner’s family complained that I wasn’t playing the mother role in the house. Perhaps it was a compliment that they thought me capable of mothering someone who had so little desire to be mothered. And in what way was I qualified for this important job? Just because I am a woman?
Did they think I could make everything better? This was actually quite an interesting introduction into mother-blame. Never having been a mother before I hadn’t understood quite how crazy with rage this sort of thoughtless stupid remark can make you.
So, this morning I was walking, mumbling to myself about how I can’t live one more moment with someone who doesn’t want me in their life, who doesn’t like me and who sometimes actively hates me when ……..
….suddenly I received some help from the ethers.
I realised that I am much stronger than I believe.
How can I be so scared of a 17 year old baby who has no money, inadequate social skills, not very good job prospects and at the moment, no qualifications?
I have a bad habit of feeling small and vulnerable and getting stuck in despair but of course there is a part of me that is tough as boots. I just need to remember it!
Years ago I took an intensive five year survival course in character building at the school of bad relationships when I was in love with someone with borderline personality syndrome. After that brush with madness (and I am talking about my own there), surely a stroppy, selfish, lazy, rude and spoilt adolescent should be a doddle in the park?
PS I can’t say often enough that if you have never been in this situation then you can’t know what it is like. I used to believe that stepmothers should be patient and understanding and loving and mature. Stepchildren have often been through horrible family breakups and need help not negativity.
But that was before I actually lived this situation. We are only human and adolescents can be bitingly cruel and cleverly manipulative. And deep down, they don’t want you there. Yes they may be wonderful people underneath but sometimes it takes a saint or a doormat to stay loving and open. Birth parents find it hard enough but they have a magic potion called unconditional love flowing in their veins. We are expected to be good parents without any help – magical or from society. Add to this the language and cultural differences and perhaps you can see what I am talking about.