This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, amazing, challenging things. This is the story of Kate and her blended family.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I'm Kate Rowan, and I'm a step-mom. I'm also a wife, mom, pet owner and blogger at I Dream Loudly. I'm 25 years old, and I live in south west Colorado in a tiny mountain town. Hubby and I love to hike and walk our hairy dogs along the river. I am a stay at home mom to Leif, our 3 1/2 month old baby.
How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband on Craigslist, actually! I was looking for pen pals, and put an ad in the "strictly platonic" section. In one hour, I got about 50 offers for sex with strangers...and one nice guy who wanted to write. He caught my eye, and I wrote him back. It was love at first email. We are completely inseparable, and have been married for two years. He makes me deliriously happy.
How did you feel when you discovered he had children from a previous marriage?
Honestly, I didn't think about it too much. I was there for him. I fell in love with him. Having a child was an added bonus to me, but I didn't think about his daughter too much until later. She was a baby, only a bit over a year old. She wasn't able to voice her opinion about me, so it made it easier on me to fall in love with her. She is ridiculously adorable.
Did you have any concerns about being a step-mom?
Not at first. I have a ton of experience with kids, so caring for her when she was with us just came naturally. My husband needed a lot of help since he didn't have as much experience, so I just fell into the routine of being a caretaker without a hitch. She was a lot of fun. Later on I started to get stressed because she was getting older and starting to talk, and her needs were changing. We moved 6 hrs away when she was 2, and then it was hard to be a step-parent from a distance. She would come to visit, and it would take about 5 days to settle into a routine. By then, it was prepping for her to go home. We will always struggle with being close to her with the distance between us.
What is your family's specific arrangement?
My stepdaughter lives with her mom full time, and we have her when we can. It's not ideal. When we lived close by, we had her weekends and some days during the week. It was awesome then. We now live far away, about 6 hrs. It's hard for us to get time with her. We used to try to have her every 6 weeks-2 months, but it was breaking our car and the bank. We have also moved several times and sometimes our living situations haven't made it possible to have her. It's our biggest regret.
It's also difficult because separation anxiety can set in. We do our best to make it comfortable for her, but we have different parenting methods from her mom, and she is still very young. We are hoping as she gets older it will be easier to understand. For now, we are accepting that we won't have her as much, and hopefully that will be less stressful for her. We talk to her on the phone and tell her about our lives. I send packages at holidays and try to stay on top of her likes and dislikes.
What have been the biggest challenges of life with step-children? The biggest rewards?
The biggest challenge was stepping back. I tried to be Super Step-mom for a while, and I burned out. I was trying to be a perfectionist, and it hurt my ability to see that it's not about being perfect. I needed to step back and be a wife, first and foremost. Being a step-mom needed to come second. I needed to be married to my best friend, and support him as a parent. My stepdaughter has a mom and dad. I was a bonus, but I wasn't supposed to be her everything. I was a support role. I needed to relax and enjoy my life. The biggest reward is having my stepdaughter tell me that she loves me. I adore her, and I think she is so smart and wonderful.
Have your step-children affected your feelings about having children of your own?
Yes, very much so. I realized that I really wanted to be a parent, but to my own child. It might sound mean, but I wanted my own baby. Not because I wanted to push my stepdaughter away, but because it is so heartbreaking to have to drop her off and walk away for a long time. I wanted to have the family we always talked about having. I never wanted to drop my baby off somewhere and wonder how he was and if he missed me.
My husband and I will always have an open door to my stepdaughter, and if she wants to live with us, she is very welcome. But she is her mom's baby, and I would never want to take her away from her mom, just like I would never want my son away from me. We want to have a few children together, and raise our family the way we feel is right in our hearts.
What advice would you give to others with blended families?
Breathe! It's not easy, and requires lots of patience and care and love. Spouses need to stick together especially tight, because the statistics are very against second marriages. You need to remember that if you are supportive of your spouse, you are supporting the child. Don't be a super step-parent. Just be there. Your presence is so important, and the simple act of being a phone call away is better than forcing yourself into their lives. They need to be kids. They are doing the best they know how to and just saying "We love you and miss you!" is so great. As a step-parent, you are a support person. Be supportive!
Are any of you step-parents? Any questions for Kate?