Yup, I said it. Provocative? Yes. True? YES!
Being well into our second year of marriage—I know, it's been a long time since I have blogged, oops—I just have to say this honestly: my teenagers are my birth control.
Up until this point I haven't posted too much about what it's been like as a step mom and what I have shared has been pretty mild. But being a (step) parent is anything but mild. It's rugged terrain and often I feel without the right gear for the trek.
People say to me, “You guys look like you are doing so well,” or, “You got this. I am so impressed with you.” And while that is well meaning, we all know that appearances are never what they seem. And if people only judge how I fare based off social media or a few blog posts, then they would be wrong.
(Warning: this post does not have all the positive realities that I know come along with being a step parent or even a parent. This post is raw and me venting. But I think this post is important, because it's real. This has been burning within me for the last nine months—it's finally time to give it birth!)
Stepmom Life is No Joke
Let me be clear: being a step mother is hard and often sucks. Fine. I knew that heading into this. But when you step parent—or just plain parent—teenagers, it really sucks. Why? Because (most) teenagers suck. It’s a proven scientific fact that the human brain is at its most base—its lowest form—during the teenage years. Thus, my leap from singledom to insta-parenting of two teens has rocked my world like no other life experience yet.
The biggest way its shaken my snow globe?
It makes me doubt if I really want to have kids of my own.
Before Glenn and I started seriously dating, I told him point blank: “I will love your children, because I have chosen to love you. I understand that when I commit to you, I commit to them. But I need my own babies. Deal or no deal?” Glenn being Glenn was, of course, down with it, and I thought, "Wee!! I can't wait to start a family of my own with this man."
HA! How naive of me.
When most people dream of starting a family and getting pregnant, they dream of a little, precious, swaddled babe, sleeping sweetly. A little darling they can cuddle with and dress in cute, little outfits. They look forward to hearing the adorable cooing sounds of first life. *Sigh* My heart flutters just describing it. Wanting to be a mom is one of the earliest memories I have. And nothing has ever put that dream into question.
...my teenagers crushed my soul and broke my heart. Until the realities of (step) parenting smacked me around and revealed what’s up.
When you dream about becoming a parent, you don’t dream about parenting—and that's wassup. Sure, you may talk through your parenting philosophies, but your ideological rubber has yet not met the reality of the road. Even in the first year of your child’s life you are not parenting (yes, I said that). Let me clarify: you are a parent, but you are not yet parenting. You are sustaining their life, which some may argue is parenting, but for the sake of my argument it's simply not. My sister had three kids within two years around the same time I married Glenn and together we took on our respective parental roles. And the struggles she had—breastfeeding and feeling like a farm factory, not getting enough sleep, not having time for herself—were NOT my struggles and we were good with that truth. My struggles are discussing existential questions of morality and respect, why drugs can be damaging at a young age, why being considerate is an important social skill, etc. etc. My struggle is equipping an almost-adult to be a decent human being in the world! Both sustaining a life and parenting teens are exhausting, but I find the latter truly soul-depleting, which exhausts you in a much deeper way than lack of physical rest.
It seems to me that true parenting begins when life lessons are involved. And because little babies are so dependent and can’t speak or think on their own yet—thank you, God—there’s nothing to teach them yet, nothing to impart. And it’s the imparting that is crucial to the definition of parent—the leaving of a legacy, the shaping of a child’s character...
The Inside Scoop
But luckily for me, I get the inside scoop on this whole having-a-baby-who-turns-into-a-sassy-rude-teenager thing. I have insight into how being a parent can utterly destroy your heart... and? I am not so sure I wanna sign up for that.
Abruptly and actively living the parental experience without first having the joy of a little baby is not how it's meant to be.
Similar to how two people fall for each other, get mentally- and hormonally-hooked on one another, and then realize, "ugh, you're a mess, but I'm already in," so too with starting a family! We're meant to have this adorable, little person who can't talk back and looks to us to survive! That's how becoming a parent should start. With someone you can hold who has miniature, pinchable extremities...and all is well, because they cannot say or think a single word yet...
Until they can, right? And then all bets are off... and the real work of parenting begins.
Is It Worth It?
But at least you had the sweet moments. Which is something I didn't get.
Look, I know I signed up for a parenting-trial-by-fire. I am not asking for pity. I am asking for help—nay, reassurance! In the face of choosing to have my own child, the knowledge I now have about being a parent makes me accountable to a whole new level of truth. And this truth makes the decision to have a baby of my own so much harder. This decision is less emotional/biological for me now and simply cerebral. Having a child is a big-friggin-deal...
Teenagers love words... and being nasty with them. And through my experiences with them and seeing the pain they cause, I have to ask myself.... is it worth it?
Well, parents? Is it?!
Don't scroll down and comment yet. Hear me out.
Step parenting has confirmed for me the beauty of God's design. We weren't meant to know ahead of time of the pain of parenting. Only the joy. We were meant to fall in love—the same exact way we did when we fell in love with our partner—and then be so drunk in love that the painful parts of parenting aren't quite so sharp. And we can see our friends struggle with their kids, but somehow, we think—or is it hope?—that it will be different for us.
I've wanted to be a mom since I was five; it's crazy to me that now I have genuine pause. Is it because it's closer to being a reality now and I understand what I really am asking for? Would I have this seed of doubt if I didn't have my step kids in all their glory to throw me off the chase? Am I at an advantage now, going in with my eyes completely open, as to what I can expect?
Who knows. I am trying hard to not dwell in the "what ifs." But teenagers say the most hurtful things. I know they are literally insane with hormones, but even if they apologize, their words still have power. And they still hurt us, don't they, parents?
And this hurt makes me want to get sterilized.
I don't think I was supposed to know this hurt yet. But I do, so now what?
I Cannot Decide Afraid—Sorrow and Joy Come From the Same Well
I said that I've had this blog inside me for nine months. Ironic, since that's the gestational period. But really, I started this post back in December 2017. Count it on your fingers. That's roughly nine months as it's now August. These last nine months haven't been a constant state of angst and despair, but I have been wrestling, wanting to be real with myself as Glenn and I think about our life.
My teenagers have often made me want to give up on ever being a mother to my own children. They have caused that much heartache in me without even my own flesh and blood! But having a child from my body is so deeply wired into my being it would be sad if I didn't at least try. It's up to God if being a mom to children of my own should ever comes to pass.
Teenagers are fools in its true definition. I know I need to have grace for these fools and separate my lived experience with them from my God-given desire. I try to remind myself that my step mother experience does not predict how my own future children will be one day. And I remind myself of a very important life truth—I cannot live a fear-led life. The decision to try for a child cannot be made based off fear. Instead I need to have faith and trust that it will end up okay. Probably even more than okay.
I look at Glenn and want nothing more than to extend our love into a little human being, who I will probably love having. Will there be sorrow? Of course, but I think that sorrow makes the joy all the more brilliant.
As the Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran says, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears." I get that joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. But I want to know and feel what others who have had their own children have known and felt—I want to know the joy. The flip side to all this pain. I want the full spectrum of parenting, which includes the joy, not just the pain I know as a step parent. And it's for the joy set before me that I persevere in this and that no matter how much my heart may break, I know it's still worth it.