The 5th Grade Stepmom Mistake
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – you’ll be criticized for it anyway.”
Never in the history of blended families has there ever been a more true statement. I learned early on that no matter what I did as the stepmom that there would be someone who either thought I was doing too much or not enough. Someone that thought I was overstepping and someone who thought I was too distant. Someone who thought I bought too many toys and someone who thought I was heartless and didn’t give enough. Family, friends, teachers, the parents of my stepson’s friends, the biological mom, and random people that we run into in the donut section at the grocery store all have an opinion on how I am doing as the stepmom. It is exhausting trying to keep that many people, who aren’t even in our inner circle, happy. And why should we worry about keeping them happy in the first place? We shouldn’t.
After feeling the damned if you do & damned if you don’t tug of war for far too long I decided to do a little experiment when my stepson was in 5th grade. In full disclosure I am nowhere near proud of this but I am hoping that it will resonate with some stepmom out there who struggles with this, too. When my stepson was in 5th grade I completely backed off when it came to all things school related. Completely. Up until this point I was totally hands on when it came to school because I want nothing more than to see him succeed & go on to have a bright future. Let’s face it. Statistically kids whose parents aren’t married are already at a disadvantage when it comes to school. No way in you know where am I going to let him become another statistic. On the spectrum of how much I care about how he does in school & about him in general I definitely land on the obnoxiously embarrassing side of caring too much, although now that he is in middle school I try to keep it cool. No hugs in public. Prior to 5th grade I made sure to check his planner at night. Stay in communication with the teachers. Sign us up for conferences, keep tabs on all of the papers coming home, and really know what was going on. But the more I seemed to care and be involved, the more I felt the push back of the damned if you do & damned if you don’t tug of war. And somedays, I just didn’t know if it was worth the constant battle. There were days where I would lock myself in the bathroom and sit on the floor in tears because, whether true or not, I felt like I was the only parent out of three who seemed to care. So why should I keep caring so much when all it is doing is causing WWIII?
So I stopped.
I told my husband that when school started in the fall I was going to be completely hands off when it came to school. He knew why. I was tired of feeling like all I was doing was adding to the fire by being involved. At first I didn’t really believe that I would follow through, and I don’t think he did either, but my stubbornness came out in full force. It also didn’t help that we had a toddler & I was pregnant and extremely hormonal at the time. That may have contributed to my stubbornness as well. I went the entire school year with only meeting his teacher once at Meet The Teacher before school even started. I didn’t sign us up for conferences & we never went. I didn’t email her. I didn’t check his grades online. I didn’t even open his planner, but maybe once or twice, all year. I had absolutely no idea what was going on at school other than who he was sitting by at lunch. And you know what? It. Sucked.
My husband was incredibly upset that I had decided to be hands off with school & he didn’t like it at all. At. All. It caused some major arguments that lasted until the wee hours of the morning where we would finally make up and one of us would go get McDonalds & we’d sit and eat on the living room floor and de-brief. Those arguments happened way more than I’d like to admit. He didn’t like that all of the sudden I just didn’t seem to care. That I was choosing to not be involved in that area of his life. And he was totally justified in feeling that way and being upset with me. Truth be told, of course I cared! But my stubbornness was masking that. Why was I so worried about making other people happy when the only two people that matter in this situation are my husband and stepson?
The school year ended and I felt like one giant failure of a stepmom. I didn’t even get the teacher an end of the year gift like I normally do. The school year ended & besides our traditional trip to Dairy Queen after school on the last day it was very anti-climatic and I felt like I totally messed up. I remember feeling the weight of my decision and wished that I could go back in time and take it all back. We always tell him that we ask him things about school because we care. We discipline him when he doesn’t turn in his homework because we care. We get in his business because we care. We push him because we care. And we tell him that if we didn’t care, we wouldn’t ask or hold him accountable. But we do. So what kind of message did I send him when all of the sudden I stopped doing those things with school? It makes me nauseous.
Needless to say, I vowed to never do that again. I care more about him & his future than making someone upset because they think I am too involved. I honestly don’t think parents can be too involved when it comes to caring & wanting the best for our kids & I think we can all agree on that. The only people I care about making happy in this situation is my husband and stepson. Period. I know that as soon as we become involved in things that “stepmom’s shouldn’t be involved in” that there is always push back by someone. But who cares. Who. Freaking. Cares. Because I’d rather be the stepmom that cares too much than the one that sits on the sidelines.
Stepmoms – all that matters is our husbands and step kids. Don’t do what I did and let the constant tug of war cause you to sit out for an entire school year. Don’t let your pride & stubbornness get in the way when you feel like you are the only one that cares, because you are going to have those days, it is normal. Don’t let the fear of making family, friends, or the biological mom upset. It isn’t about them. It is never about them. It is always about the kids & what is best for them. So do what you feel in your heart is right, you’ll be criticized for it anyway.