Are you in a place in your life where you feel like you don’t belong? Maybe you have lost the connection with your spouse, so you feel like you’re living with a stranger. Maybe you’re not in that position but, you’ve been there before. Maybe you don’t feel like you belong with the people that you call family. Or maybe you have an insane feeling of being a visitor in your own home.
It sounds weird writing that and reading it back. “Being a visitor in your own home”. Because if it is your home, why do you not feel tethered or grounded there?
I am a visitor in my own home! I’m sure it sounds weird to you too, because it is. But, this is my life. I am a guest in my home.
I have tears in my eyes as I read that back because it is genuinely how I feel. I may be a guest that has had a long visit, but this rings true for me and I’m sure many step-parents feel the same.
When you meet someone with kids, you’re joining in on what was already established. For me, I was joining a family with pre-established rules, expectations and boundaries. Some fell right in line with what I believed in, like being polite, being patient, kind, playing hard and loving harder. But, there were some things that did not match me. The kids went to bed later than I liked. The youngest boy still slept with his Dad every night at the age of 4. The kids were allowed to watch shows, movies and video games that I thought were a little mature for their ages. They were allowed to spend a lot of time in front of screens. The kids were allowed to eat candy a lot of the time and they drank and still drink more pop than I find comfortable.
Some of it drove me nuts. Being witness to it in the early days made me question things and I worried about it in regards to blending our lives together when that time was to come. But that was when I didn’t live with my boyfriend and the kids in the beginning of the relationship and they were not things that affected me that much. I could go to my own home and I thought no more about it.
Ok, so this isn’t to bash parents that parent in this way. I’m not even bashing my fiancé and his choices to parent in this way. It’s just that it is not what I would have wanted to do if they were biologically my children. I identify as being a “guest” in my home because my fiancé and the kids and their lifestyle were a well-oiled machine that functioned without my involvement and was organized without my input.
I felt like I “took” part in joining in on something that didn’t have my “touch” or “flair” in it. It was assumed that I would be the one having to convert my thinking to match the “gathering or function” and there wasn’t much room for my opinions, thoughts and feelings. Much the same way you would feel when you go to your friend’s house and witness your friend parenting, or correcting behaviour in a way that you do not agree with. As the guest, you would most likely keep your mouth shut, because it is simply “not your place”. This is the overall feeling that I have had in this adventure as a step-mom. It is simply “not your place”, both figuratively and literally.
I’m sitting in my living room as I type this and as I look around, to my right is a mantle full of Star Wars paraphernalia. On the wall are two shelves full of horror movie “Pop” characters that sandwich a family photo. My fiancé is on the couch wrapped in a Star Wars fleece blanket as he plays a zombie video game. On the wall next to me, is a bookshelf full of his cook books and the wall next to that are two pieces of Asian art (to which I have no idea what they say). In a little corner there is a sign that says “You Are My Sunshine You Make Me Happy When Skies Are Grey”. This is one of the five pieces of décor that really are me on our main level.
I look around the space and I do not recognize myself in any of it. It’s as if I was never even a part of decorating the space, or that I was even in this home from the beginning of it being ours. It looks like I joined the family after it was decorated. It feels like I was not part of the planning and decision making of this space that is also mine! Like that feeling that you get when you go to a friend’s house and you look around and say “yuck, I would never have that ugly blank in my house” or “I could totally see myself owning that”. It’s how I feel when I look around my own home. It’s the same feeling as I have as a guest in someone else’s house.
One of the hardest and trickiest parts of my life are when my fiancé or the kids are engaging in a conversation and I feel like I don’t know what they’re talking about because I was not privy to the information from something in the past. Or, something has happened in texts and phone conversations that I was not a part of – which is all the time!
I feel like I orbit around my fiancé and the kids and they are the centre of my life. But I am acknowledged and seen only when they have time, you know, in the same way that we slow down to see and acknowledge the moon. The moon is always there, even in the day sky the moon is still a constant. But when it is exceptionally big or bright or different is when we actually take the time to see its beauty and splendour.
That’s me. I’m the moon. It’s rare that I am paused for. It is once in a “blue moon” (no pun intended) that time is carved out just for me. Where I am not like a guest is that most guests are catered to for the duration of their stay. As a good host you make sure that their needs are met. You offer them your best accommodations and dining experience and you make the time to be attentive in their conversation topics, interests and as you catch-up you dial in to ensure they feel heard.
That’s not my experience as a guest. Or maybe I am a guest and the host just isn’t good at that gig. In addition to being the guest or the moon, like the moon there is a large chunk where I am invisible; meanwhile I’M RIGHT THERE!! When someone asks my step-children “where did you get that?” and their response is “my dad” – meanwhile, it was ME! Or, one of the step-children wants to go to their friend’s house where they need a ride and they say “Dad can I go to so-and-so’s house?”, and I’m the only driver in the home. It’s a puzzling world I tell ya!
Why did I write this one?
I promise, it wasn’t to bitch and moan, though it feels good to get that off of my chest! It was because this is the side of this role that goes unnoticed, is misrepresented and not talked about. When you choose to be in a relationship with someone with children and essentially a family and you’re the odd man out, you’re bound to feel these ways at some point.
It is the loneliest experience of my life for many reasons. One – because I am 34 and there are no other people my age going through this that I know personally. Two – because it is uncomfortable to be honest about these feelings and someone is always going to bash my fiancé for not being good enough for me, etc. And three – because when you assume this role, it is assumed that you will be selfless and therefore, shouldn’t complain.
Well friends, I’m here and I feel it and you are not alone!
Read more of Michelle’s blog posts HERE.
I am a 33 year old Step-Mom to three kids who would describe me as a dramatic, fun-loving hopeless romantic (insert eyeroll). Transplanted from Pickering, Ontario and currently living in Calgary, Alberta. My friends would describe me as an open-book, a safe space and an ever evolving shoulder to cry on (my friend told me to say that). I work with children with special needs; a career inspired by my involvement with Willowjak. I have been thrown some pretty big curve balls in my short time here on this planet but, have faced them with a good book in hand and a cup of tea on my night stand. My hope is that what I have experienced in my life can be of use to others. Some support to prove that we are not alone; though we may feel like we are, that we are seen; though we feel invisible and that we have a voice; though we may not know we have one yet.
You can hear more about Michelle’s story when she appeared as a guest on Willowjak’s ‘Choose Your Own After’, by listening HERE.