Thursday, June 30, 2005


I saw this article in the guardian and it prompted me to think about my own situation. My partner has two children - boys aged 18 and 16. I have been a significant adult in their lives for about 10 years now.

I do not call my Mum's husband and my Dad's wife Step-parents. I have always called them by their names and described them as I have just done. I was 15 though, so I guess that made it clearer to me. My own experience has meant that I have been extra-sensitive to making sure that I am not trying to replace my partners children's mum. I have never been and would not want to be "step-Mum".

One phrase in the article really struck home - "The clarity of family life was absent," she wrote. "We did not know what we were aiming at." Me and my partner have often talked about having to make it up as we went along - not having a clear model to base things on - this has it's advantages. We have not been too constrained by stereotypes.

I dealt with my parents separation at the age of 15 (1986) and my partner's mother re-married when he was young (in the early 60's). We both have our own experience to base our situation on. I lived between houses until I left home to go to university and even then, still shared time between the two when I visited and stayed during holiday periods. That was often helpful - if I was finding it difficult in one place, I went to the other....

Interestingly, research shows - "a stepfamily in which there is limited yo-yoing between households has a better chance of success". I can see how that might be the case, but that means if both parents are alive, one misses out/ the child misses out on one parental relationship.

I have been really careful to not change the home environment too much when they were at their mum's so it was different when they came here. I know that I have not always managed to do this in practice. I hardly ever go into their bedroom - I always put their clean clothes on the landing for them to collect if I do the washing, for example.

In last few years when my partner's ex-wife was ill and his children lived here more of the time, the yo-yoing reduced, and that was harder to deal with in many ways - they missed their mum and we were all used to the routine. For the last few years they have lived with us full-time and our relationship has changed subtly - but this is also due to them now being young adults and quite independent. When they were younger I did more for them - mainly if their Dad was not available.

Their Mum died two years ago and we have all had adjustments to make as a result. My partner is their emotional and practical support and I am a back-up. The "housework" I do is my contribution to the shared household. I hope I'm a reasonable one - but I am not perfect.

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