I feel like I’ve heard it all. From being told “oh, he’s so lucky to have you!”, or “you’re so good for adopting!”, in regards to my adopted son. To hearing “they’ll look back and know how amazing you are to them!”, and “they love you, just like you’re their real mom!”, when talking about my stepsons. But my all time, least favorite comment to hear regularly is “it must be so nice to have a week off!”, when someone hears that our children are all split between homes.
If you’re an adoptive or stepmom, I’m sure you’ve heard similar comments. So to everyone who is not in my shoes, to all of the biological moms, to everyone in a stable home with one mom and one dad, here’s some reality.
1- Children from split homes battle more anxiety and depression than those in one home, with the stability and security of always knowing where they’ll be. So please, PLEASE refrain from telling our kids how cool it must be to have two bedrooms and houses. It’s not weekly, rotating vacation, it’s reality for our kids. They often feel torn in two, even in the most ideal coparenting situations.
2- Trust is earned, but it’s substantially harder to earn from children who aren’t biologically yours. Same goes with the parent trusting the child, it’s not a built in thing. It takes work to convince each other that we’ll always be there, especially when we aren’t physically there during the time with the other parent.
3- There is no off week. My husband and I don’t go on date nights every week we don’t have children in our care, nor do we just sit back and relax. Quite the opposite. In my career, I’m able to arrange my working hours to assure I’m able to be home with the kids, more often than not. Although I’m super thankful for that flexibility, it means I cram double work into the time the kids are with their other parents. Beyond working extra hours, we spend time thinking, wondering, sometimes worrying about our kids when they’re away. Just like our children don’t take vacations by going between homes, the parents aren’t suddenly off duty and removed from everything that comes with being a parent.
4- Love is the key. Love is the cornerstone. Love is a choice, and it’s not always pretty. But love is what makes, and keeps, a family intact. Through all of the “you’re not my real mom/dad” comments, and the manipulations that use “I do it (don’t do it) at my mom/dad’s house”, we realize that we are all still learning that when all else is spinning out of control, love remains. We all test the boundaries, as we learn just how strong the bond of love really is. And in our home, God is the foundation and example of love for our family. If God can love us, despite our junk, surely my kids and I can love each other as we endure the chaos of a blended home.
Blended homes are hard work. Adoptive mom life occasionally brings the challenge of a child who doesn’t know what it means to have a parent, as they struggle to try to be equal in authority and decision making. Not knowing the difference between parent and child finds my son and I in tense situations, where he thinks that he can parent me as well. Stepmom life occasionally brings the challenge of a child who doesn’t understand why they have “extra” parents, and sometimes battle feeling that they are the cause for all relationships survival or destruction.
We aren’t lucky, good, or amazing. We are real though, and we’re never off a week. It’s hard, really stinkin’ hard. But it’s worth it. In this whirlwind of beautiful chaos, we are creating our story.