Step-parenting is No Fourth of July Picnic

Dear Readers,

I have been on the road again this week helping my father. He is 95 years old, and he broke his upper leg very badly in March. He went from the hospital to a terrible nursing home to a somewhat better one.

On Tuesday, we saw the orthopedic surgeon again. After three months, the leg still isn’t healing much, but the doctor believes the hardware he installed around the bones will hold him up. He says Dad can start walking with a walker AND he says Dad can go home. This young ortho expert doesn’t know what he’s saying. Dad lives alone. His will is strong, but his body is fragile. My brother and I both live far away. This situation is wearing us out. We’ll both be doing some commuting while we figure out how to get things organized. Moving Dad from his three-bedroom house in suburbia to some kind of senior residence would be much easier on us, but it’s Dad’s life, and he has the right to live it the way he wants to. He wants to go home.

I arrived in the middle of a heat wave. Driving Dad’s car through the horrible traffic in San Jose, sweating, tired and hungry, I told myself taking care of Dad–and my dog Annie, who just had knee surgery three weeks ago–is my job now. Perhaps I was denied motherhood so I could devote myself to caregiving for my husband and our parents. It’s not really what I want to do, but it’s the job God has given me. I would so much rather focus on my writing and music and maybe take an actual vacation. Someday.

Meanwhile, it’s that time of year when we’re forced to look at pictures of everybody’s kids in graduation gowns or on vacation. Babies seem to be everywhere. Right? And, those of us who have stepchildren may suddenly find them arriving for extended visits, disrupting our usually childless lives.

A 2012 post, “Stepchildren Add Stress to Childless Marriages,” has drawn a barrage of comments this week. You might want to read them and join the conversation. Step-parenting is tough, and folks who think they’re a perfect substitute for having your own kids are wrong. It’s the not the same.

What do you think? What’s bugging you these days? Thanks for being here.

Sue

 

 

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Sometimes you have to stick with your decision


You know what drives me crazy? When someone who has been married for 15 or 20 years decides to break up a marriage because NOW one of them has decided they have to have children. Sometimes it’s the one with baby lust who ends it. Sometimes it’s their partner because they can’t bear the resentment of the childless spouse—or because they believe that ridiculous old saying if you love them set them free.
Here’s a thought. Why not stick to the commitment you made years ago to stay together for the rest of your lives, no matter what? Rich or poor, in sickness or in health, through snoring, foot fungus, cancer scares and second thoughts about not having kids? So many people who comment here mention that they love this person, that he/she is their soul mate and they don’t know if they’ll ever find anyone else they love this much. Yet they’re thinking about leaving in the hope they’ll find someone else who has all the same great qualities, along with a yearning to be a parent.
The grass is not always greener, and the eggs are not getting any fresher. Before you leap out of a relationship or poison your relationship with resentment, consider that when you accepted this person into your life, you accepted the whole package, including his family, his kids from previous relationships, his big nose or balding head, and his reluctance to parent. Sometimes, as with my first marriage, there are a lot more problems besides disagreeing over whether to have children. That marriage was doomed. But if you really love him (or her), you stop looking around and considering other possibilities and other lives. Think about it.
Enough nagging. It’s the holidays. I hope you all survived Thanksgiving and are looking forward to Christmas. I spent Turkey Day with my dad, brother, and my sister-in-law’s vast family. All of the other women had children, lots of them. They also had living mothers and husbands. Did I feel a pang of sadness and loss? You bet. But then I thought about having to buy Christmas presents for six children and sixteen grandchildren, and I felt lucky. I can hang out with my niece and nephew and shower them with gifts. I can love the young people who are in my life through church and my writing and music activities. Then I can come home and do Christmas my way—and stay out of the shopping mall. I don’t mind that at all.
How are you doing this holiday season? Let us know in the comments.