Surviving Step Parenting- Marriage, Unwrapped

Young couple  in bed, toned black and white effect, vignette.

Carrie and her husband Mark took our marriage prep class a few years back and we were lucky enough to share in their wedding. I asked her to write about her experience becoming a step mom and she agreed even though she is not a blogger. I so appreciate her perspective on navigating this tricky road. I’d say her step daughter is incredibly blessed.

No one talked about the end of the night. How could she know the fabulous party with the girls in their party dresses and the boys in their “handsome shirts” would end differently than any other night? At the end of our wedding reception my new stepdaughter cried harder and louder than I thought possible. Her expectation? She would go back home with her dad and I where we would all spend the night. My expectation? She would lovingly hug and kiss us goodnight then wave as my new husband and I drove off to start our honeymoon. The magical mist surrounding the wedding had lifted. And so our life began as a new family.

My husband is a doting, intuitive and devoted father. He has partial custody and we travel regularly for visitation. Mark tries to maintain routine even though the majority of the time we have McKenzie we are staying at a hotel. He knows his daughter thrives on routine. I was a new addition to the routine. As a result, McKenzie and I struggled to have harmony in our relationship. She appreciated me as a playmate but not as the person with whom she had to share her dad’s time. As a five year old she didn’t know the words to express her complex feelings and would instead glare at me, cry and declare, “I want my mommy!” I was convinced she hated me. My husband lovingly and repeatedly explained that McKenzie didn’t hate me. He was able to comfort his daughter and his wife simultaneously. He encouraged her to respect me and encouraged me to keep loving and to trying to understand her.

I knew step parenting wouldn’t be easy but I really thought I’d be better at it as soon as I said ‘I do. We all have expectations. Expectations of our self, our mate, our friends, our colleagues and our children can be so deeply embedded in our mind that we cannot help but to be disappointed when they don’t measure up. By being aware of my own expectations and encouraging McKenzie to verbalize her feelings when she reacts to failed expectations we are now able to better traverse daily situations.

Of course, we still have difficult moments and days. I pray often for God to give me parental love and a greater understanding of my child. I am blessed with a fabulous husband who models parental love and a God who invented parental love. I hope I will continue to progress toward thriving rather than surviving step parenting.

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