Being a stepmom is not easy. Raising a blended family sometimes feels like putting a puzzle together with key pieces missing. It feels a bit like you have to “make up time” and create “magical family memories” in the few hours you actually have to spend with your step child between school, activities, time at biomom’s house, etc… Honestly, sometimes I think it just plain stinks. Routines are hard to keep, changes to the “schedule” are inevitable, and just as you get into a rhythm it’s time to “swap”.
As a stepmom, I probably have it as good as it gets (apart from maybe legally adopting my step daughter). We have a schedule with one week on and one week off. My husband has wonderful boundaries and I came into step daughter’s life when she was about 2.5 years old – a great age for being a care giver and creating a bond. My relationship with biomom was at first fraught with passive/aggressive behaviors interrupting time with my now husband and a lot of blame directed at me. But hey, when you are in pain and see your ex moving on, its human nature to try to ‘understand’ what went wrong. It’s easy to point the finger at someone else rather than taking responsibility for your role in your marriages’ demise. I get it, I really do but it was difficult and affected my professional position at the time. Once I stopped caring (and she found a new partner) my life became much easier.
As time has progressed and I have watched my step daughter grow into a beautiful girl. I also gave birth to a child of my own. Building a relationship with my own child has been my muse and I have LOVED every moment. However, I sometimes worry about the relationship I haven’t been building with my step daughter. I reach out to her, check in with her, include her every chance I get but something feels….off.
When her dad and I ask her about things she want to do or what would interest her apart from reading and playing on the iPad, we are met with indifference, a shoulder shrug, an “I don’t know…maybe”, or “yeah, I guess so”. When she was younger, I tended to think her lack of enthusiasm was just due to being an only child and a kid who wants for nothing (because she has 2 houses and 2 of everything, literally…).
This attitude has been there for a long time and her father and I are left to wonder, is this a pre-teen thing? Is this a result of swapping houses weekly? Or is it due to the significant differences in parenting styles between the two households? We tend to give her a lot of “down time”, time to be a kid and do a lot of family activities. Her time with her mom is heavily scheduled for her and largely parent directed. Our main concern is that she has real difficulty being self-directed and it comes across as being a bit lazy.
Is this lack of excitement and lack of interests/passion normal for a newly minted 10 year old? Is there something as a stepmom that I could do to help spark her joy and help her discover her interests while fostering self-direction (apart from telling her she is capable of toasting her own bagel)?
Any advice from the collective stepMOM experience is warmly welcomed.