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Keeping Perspective

Iím the newcomer. My partner, Deborah, has a daughter. Callista is 12 and she lives half the week with her other Mom, Jean, Deborahís ex. For now, I am not Callistaís step and Iím not part of her family, as all agree Jean and Deborah are her parents and Callista gets to say who is in her family.

I think itís possible that one day Callista will see me as a step and a member of her family; Deborah and I have been sweethearts for two years, and Iíve been living in the household for a year, so itís early yet.

Iíve heard many people talk about how hard being part of a step family is, no matter which is your role. For me it is more accurate and helpful to take the perspective that itís not ďhard,Ē thereís just a bit more pain floating around that must be addressed.

I think my main challenge is to keep shoveling away at my pain so I can come to the dinner table relaxed, knowing I am cherished, ready to act like an adult! To me that means getting enough emotional caring from Deborah and others at appropriate times so I can sort out misery related to ways my family of origin missed the boat for the children, including me.

Then I can sit down for dinner without a dark cloud over my head, eager for what Callista has to relate about her day, with plenty of attention to make sure this family doesnít miss the boat for the children. I also try hard to provide perspective for Deborah: though itís miserable sometimes to have a partner and child both clamoring for her attention and to feel like she has to pick or canít please anyone regardless, we all can find our way.

Her pain will yield and soften if I can give her good listening. ďAm I a good Mom?Ē or ďI hate it that I have to miss your first soccer game!Ē or ďOh, honey, all I want to do is give you some of all the love I feel for you, but I canít right now,Ē all these and more are feelings that I choose to help her navigate.

And Callistaís pain about losing her family of origin and getting stuck with someone (me) that she didnít pick and all the rest of it can be eased by loving time with her Mom.

I take very seriously my opportunity to facilitate and protect their time together. And if Callista pushes Deborahís buttons, I try to provide whatever support Deborah needs to go back up to Callistaís room, persist til she opens the door and then listen to more outpouring of pain til the end of it is reached.

Rather than having a hard life, we step family members, whoever we are, have a bit more pain to handle. This perspective is supported by knowing that pain does have an end. Loving and holding and listening well make the household a place of ease, at least until the next episode!

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