(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/16/14)
Well – I want to celebrate!
I’m a childfree stepmom, which means that I have chosen to have no biological children. Being childfree has it’s own set of challenges, the most basic being a lack of understanding. I read a marvelous article on nymag.com yesterday – 25 Famous Women on Childlessness. If you want to get a good idea of how I feel about not having children, I definitely recommend checking it out. They hit the nail on the head.
So – in honor of National Stepfamily Day, I’ve decided today is a great day to focus on the positive aspects of being a childfree stepmom. There are things I love about having someone else’s children (and not my own) in my life, and I think it’s about time I paid tribute to that.
Having the ‘kid experience’ without all the responsibility.
I choose to be childfree in part because I don’t want the full time responsibility of raising a child. Having stepkids means I get to have kids in my life, but I’m not the primary parent who is making all the choices about their welfare. Instead, I get what I think of as the ‘good stuff’ – learning what makes them tick, hearing about their days and what’s new at school, celebrating birthdays and holidays, shopping for the presents. What I don’t have to do is discipline, drive them to school, pack their lunches, talk to their teachers, teach them to drive – the list goes on and on. I get to know them as people without all the responsibilities that the bio parents have. I think that’s pretty cool, and it helps me build a unique relationship with them.
Having the time and space to pursue my own interests without guilt.
Parenting is hard, there is no doubt about that. Every day is a new challenge, from getting them to eat something healthy to dealing with their performance at school. But not being the biological parent means that generally the onus is off me to solve those problems. I only get involved when it’s clear I need to be involved – I do believe too many cooks in the kitchen can be a problem in stepfamilies, especially when the bio parents have different parenting styles. The kids already have so many different voices to listen to and to please, they don’t need me adding mine to the mix to make things even more confusing. So I stay out of most of those parenting issues. The flipside is that I have extra time to pursue my own interests. My identity is not wholly wrapped up in being a parent. I think part of my success as a stepmom is knowing when my husband needs personal time with the kids without me and not feeling excluded because of it. I simply see it as time that I can spend with my friends or taking a class or gardening or whatever I happen to be into that week.
Being in touch with what it’s like to be a kid today.
As a childfree woman pushing 40, it would be easy to be disconnected to younger generations. But having a unique relationship with my stepkids means I get to see the world through their eyes. I have long discussions with my stepdaughter at the kitchen table. I ask lots of questions about her classes and her friends and her thoughts about life. I think it’s so important just to give kids a chance to talk and be heard, and I like providing that for them. Being a good listener, and offering up advice when needed, gives me a perspective about them and about the world they are growing up in that I think I wouldn’t have if I were a biological parent. I like knowing about what kids are into these days, and seeing how things have changed and how they’ve stayed the same.