How much, indeed?
I found this post on UrbanStepmom recently.
It addresses a key question. People outside stepfamilies often seem to think that as stepmothers we have almost a duty to unblinkingly make whatever concessions of any possible magnitude that are (apparently) required by life with stepchildren because “the kids must come first” or “the kids didn’t ask for their parents to separate”.
True, they didn’t.
But does that mean that a stepmother should automatically, say, take on a one hour plus each way commute to work every day? Or move away from her friends, family, work, social and support networks?
I’m not saying what the answer should be, but I do think that it’s important to question these assumptions, and to weigh them up against the assumptions that a stepfather might face in the equivalent situation.
Because sexism is far from dead, and women still feel enormous social pressure to sacrifice themselves and their needs as carers of children, even when those children aren’t their own.
Absent the same degree of gendered expectations, it seems more than likely to me that our hypothetical stepfather would face less of these “putting the kids first at any cost” assumptions, and feel less push to relocate (or whatever demand was being made) both externally and internally.
What do you think?
From UrbanStepmom.com: How Much Should We Change Our Lives?
I was out with one of my favorite urban stepmoms the other night for a good chin wag and mid week martini. One of the issues that came up for her was the fact that as her relationship gets more serious with her boyfriend (who has kids obviously) the expectations also become more serious. The main one worth discussing here is where to live now that she’ll be spending more time with his kids.
She is very urban; a film producer, lives in a swank condo downtown, lots of pilates and martinis, lots of travel, and her boyfriend’s kids live a good 90 minutes drive away. He is currently living with her, where there really isn’t room for his kids, and he commutes to go see his kids on weekends.
Sounds unsustainable in the long term.
She said that they are going to need to move to a bigger place to accommodate the kids when they have them. I glibbly suggested she move to where the kids lived. Her response was “No, he is with me now, and this is my life and this is where I live. It is his choice if he wants to be with me”. I found this response to be full of empowerment and confidence of a single woman with no kids. I was envious of her steadfast determination to not change her life to accommodate his just because he has kids.
Chances are her soul would die a slow death if she moved 90 minutes away into the thick stillness of suburban life. She likes living downtown and doesn’t see why she needs to change it.
More power to her I say. May as well set the ground rules early on in the relationship before you start doing things and changing things that you might regret. I however, did not embody that empowerment and confidence. I threw myself into the expectations of the role immediately and have always understood that “the kids come first”. Six years later, I’m not sure this is the most airtight mantra for a happy life.
Fortunately for me, I did not have to move into suburbia as I too would have died a slow death not being able to walk to Starbucks, bookstores and my yoga class. I also wisely kept my career which was always a big part of me. I still insist on making time for myself even sometimes instead of spending family time. And I still get together with girlfriends on a regular basis.
But recently we had a situation come up where we were to entertain the idea of moving. My husband’s ex got married recently and her husband lives across the border in the US (he too shares the belief that he is not changing his life for the kids). It is only about a 40 minute drive for us, but if you put the kids first, we had to ask ourselves if our neighborhood made the most sense given that their mother technically lives in another neighborhood (well, country really).
Although I was reluctant, I tried to have an open mind as we took a drive to a more mutally central neighborhood and toured some homes we could live in. There were some gorgeous homes in this new neighborhood and it seemed like the neighbors were very nice, but on the drive home I listed all the things in my mind I would have to change if we moved there. And it was a long list.
My work commute would be at least an hour each way. I’d have to find a new gym, new yoga studio, new running route, new neighbors to be friends with. I wouldn’t see my friends as much. I wouldn’t see my family as much. I wouldn’t catch much theatre or sporting events. There would be a great deal of change indeed.
But, the kids would be close to their Mom and their Dad. Life would be easier for all of them. The kids would adapt to the change. Would I?
In the end, nothing is happening with any urgency. I think I have veto power. I think I could Kaibosh the whole plan if I felt strongly enough. But because I have been so adaptable in the past, I wonder if I really could veto it if it is “the best thing for the kids”?