Managing Blended Family Finances (ie hands off my shoe budget!)

Dollar Sign isolated on white background. 3D render

If food fights and first sleepovers weren’t enough, the freight train of stepmother firsts is about to bring a new flavour of normal your way.

Finances.

Specifically, shared finances. Melded finances started off simple back in the day where all you were trying to do was merge funds as a kid-free couple in your early 20s. This era probably felt very straightforward if you had refrained from diving into a mortgage or cultivating a care factor over retirement funds.

Fast forward a bunch of years and if you’ve still maintained a budget that is not impeded by the need to keep any small humans alive, you’ve probably become nicely settled into being the queen of your financial domain. If you want to pay half the GDP of a small nation to spend some quality time at a silent yoga retreat to eat and sleep like a peasant and refrain from all verbal interactions then there’s no one around to judge you.

If you shack up with a stepdad, you are buying into a complex financial world – one where all the might of the family law court, the child support agency and the tax office are king. Get used to it, the elephant in the room that is the child support calculation and it’s minions that manage the collection of school fees, books and uniforms are going to be putting their grubby feet on your furniture for as many years as it takes to marry this guy’s kids off.

Even if you get a handle on what these grabby chaps are going to shave off your shoe budget, there’s a bunch of sneaky little overheads inherent in managing a family of kidlets. Like food. Like clothing.

To top it all off, if there’s child support involved, and there almost always is unless the ex is no longer of this world, or is in jail, then you are going to watch dollars that ordinarily would have greased the wheels of your household head over to hers. Repeatedly. 

These financial shenanigans are going to surround you for a while, so you need to understand this whole get-up and have a strategy to deal. Here’s some advice.

Kids are expensive

If you are a parent already, you know all this, so skip to the next section so you can preserve some energy to dwell darkly on how child support is spent. If not, read on and know this:

Food. Kids prefer highly processed foods. This means you are not just paying for whatever original food item may have existed in the general area of a fruit roll-up, but all the rolling, extracting and packaging equipment that has been involved since, not to mention the R&D spend on genetic modification that may be secreted deeply in its past. A simple plate of pear quadrants whilst cheaper and more recognisable to Mother Nature, is excruciatingly unpalatable to a 4-year-old.

Clothes. Kids relentlessly grow out of their wardrobes and are immune to any conversation about buying cheap versions based on the solid formula of cost-per-wear that you’ve personally used to justify ‘classic’ and ‘vintage’ purchases for about the last twenty years. Those swooshy Nikes are going to be on that kid for about seven outings, but don’t even suggest that they be clad in Dunlop Volleys till their feet stop growing. If they don’t grow out of them, they’ll lose them. Losing elements of a school uniform is a special kid art form. I’ve developed a dark conspiracy that the lost property office at a primary school is a complete myth and, under cover of darkness, they secretly launder (literally and figuratively) items back into the local suburban uniform store where you’ll buy them again to replace the lost item.

If they are not lost at school they’ll be lost in that Bermuda Triangle that always exists between split parent households where neither party’s willingness to admit culpability means the most Mexican of standoffs will result when it comes to replacement.

Don’t think about how the child support is being spent

Watching child support dollars flow like unstoppable lava into another household is relentlessly disconcerting, and something you’ll be ill-prepared for unless you’ve had the experience of investing in 1980s timeshare holidays or early 2000s agribusiness.

My friends, in this case, you need to make like Elsa and just let it go.

Do not try to determine what child support is intended to cover, in an effort to see if it absolves your household income from items such as school fees or uniforms. You will lose what remains of your Netflix-binge-ravaged eyesight if you try to find guidelines on this topic on any government website.

Do not internally or overtly make any observation on how your household’s contribution to the child’s mother appears to be funding her expensive high maintenance balayage hair colour, intricate tattoo collection or new boyfriend’s desire to make his garage band the next Nirvana. Nothing good can come of you comparing your now-budget summer holiday in a wonky floored, grease-and-despair scented cabin in a caravan park awash with grubby 10 year olds to her newly subsidised trips to Hawaii complete with infinity pool and kids club. For every mother who seems to be rorting the child support system there are ten others that need every last dollar that your household is providing.

Just let the funds go forth with good grace (and the knowledge that child support law makes it non-negotiable anyway) and know that one day this too will pass.

Maybe help get the kid a job at Maccas so that day that it passes might come sooner.

An option – contribute nothing except your own share.

This would appear to be a perfectly valid strategy for several reasons. Let’s start with the obvious –  this crazy little village had its own functioning financial eco-system before you existed and it survived just fine.  It was feeding, housing and clothing itself as either a single unit or a split household well before you came on the scene. Through some terrified 3am research in one of those early dad-dating days I established that (at least in my jurisdiction) the child support overlords don’t look at the new chick on the block as a contributor either.

It does get a tiny bit tough though if you are spreadsheeting within an inch of your life just to prove that your contribution is entirely fair based on your personal consumption of utilities, fridge space and internet data. If this means that your partner’s income dissipates to a level that leaves him drinking instant coffee and taking homebrand ramen to work for lunch while you drink $60 bottles of rose and engage a personal Pilates instructor then you might have missed the whole point of a true domestic partnership.

You might want to strike a balance where you’ll possibly contribute more to the household than you would if no children existed in it, but allows for greater human dignity and equality (and perhaps a greater likelihood that occasions might be marked by little sparkly trinkets from your partner from time to time)

Above all? Its only money. This whole shindig is likely to cost you less than the single-girl-sauvignon blanc savaging of your liver that was the status quo before you dated a dad.

Tips for the First Stepfamily Vacay

If you’ve taken the gradual approach to offspring introductions and are party to the regulation alternate weekend structure of step-parenting, you may not have experienced the very special kind of immersion that is the school holidays.

As a non-maternal type, you will have rigorously avoided holidaying in school term breaks – smugly dodging inflated air fares and shuddering outwardly at the concept of theme parks overrun with children recklessly toting multi-coloured ice-creams near your white linen pants.  Inevitably, you WILL holiday as a newly blended family, high-season tariffs be-damned. This relentless period of consecutive exposure to a new stepchild will be a learning experience on both sides. Here’s a guide to planning for this momentous event.

Carefully select the venue

Your holiday venue selection criteria to date may have involved:

  • High expectations regarding the thread count of bedroom linen
  • A need to be walking distance to a local restaurant or within the range of Uber eats so that your afternoon drinks aren’t dampened by needing to pilot a vehicle to get fed
  • An in-house day spa
  • Proximity to wineries

None of these apply to the first accompanied-by-stepchild holiday.

The single most important factor? Activities. Lots of them. For avoidance of doubt, this does not mean guided wine flights, cheese tasting tours or the 3-hour spa indulgence package. It means distinctly different things like trampolines, an outdoor pool awash with like-minded ten year olds, a games room and proximity to any joint that serves nachos.

On holidays, kids expect a ridiculous amount of entertainment. During school terms, they know how their day pans out  – wake up, protest about having a shower, do six hours or seven hours of school, eat everything in sight, reject dinner, protest about bedtime and sleep. On holidays, a new timetable applies and it needs to be filled, and it needs to be understood. 

An actual conversation on my first step-vacay:

“after breakfast, after we go to the beach, then you get your coffee, then we ride the bikes, then we have lunch, then we go to the pool THEN WHAT WILL WE DO???”

Be aware that if you answer that question with a proposed activity, you are bound by it. If you fail to deliver on that, you are guaranteed to hear this

“BUT YOU SAID!?”

Ensure you pick a venue that is a veritable Disneyland of extracurricular activities unless you want to be subjected to a lot of a whining and even more Monopoly.

Pack wine

You will likely already know that a certain amount of wine creates a very lovely temporary shroud that will protect you all from all kinds of reality in the form of heartbreak, work stress and the guilt of a carb binge. Mothers know, that once past that pesky period involving breastfeeding, wine will also take the edge off dealing with toddler tantrums, primary school dramas, endless laundry and hair washing battles.

Your first step-holiday might sound like the perfect opportunity to abstain from drinking, to insert a bonus detox event into your calendar given that you should probably stay upright and alert whilst partially responsible for a dependent human.

No. Wrong.

Firstly, this is not your child. If someone needs to retain their ability to drive a child to an emergency room following a cycling accident, it certainly need not be you.

Secondly, you are going to need SOMETHING grown-up to look forward to after a relentless day of child-centred activity.

Be prepared for the intensity

Family holidays are intense. As pre-work, binge-watch all variations of the Griswold movies. Then try to imagine them without humour.

Be reminded that this involves MULTIPLE consecutive days of unfolding stepchild experiences with the added spice of

  • No intermission. You are three hours from home. You can’t take a day off part way through the event. The best you can do is head out to ‘get a coffee and the newspaper’ and try to stretch that to an hour. 
  • No personal space. If you make the rookie mistake of re-creating what you loved when you were a kid and booked a cabin in a family caravan park, you are going to be confined to an area smaller than a shoebox and filled with cheap furnishings.  You will be huddling around a 32 inch LED TV. You will not be able to sneak in a nana nap mid afternoon while some kind of robust father-son wrestling and screaming ensues on the other side of a wafer-thin wall. Although I’m going to now avidly lobby for its universal acceptance, it is currently unheard of to book an extra cabin across the other side of the park to allow you to read crime novels in peace accompanied by home-made espresso martinis.

Control the duration

As a new couple, luxuriously lengthy breaks in amazing locations will always adhere to the principle that more time is better than less.

For your first step-holiday, try to consider the way in which children start kindergarten. Gradually. They go for a couple of hours each day. They do a day here and there. Only after a carefully planned time do they try to string together five consecutive days. It’s very gradual. In the holiday scenario, its you that needs to be ever-so-slowly immersed.

Don’t lock yourself into a ten day break, regardless of your previous principle that amortising the airfare over a longer holiday duration makes everything more economical.

My empirical research suggests this:

  • If you are in a location that has a long documented history of excellent weather and a procession of theme parks use the formula of number of theme parks plus one day.
  • If there is any chance of rain, a three night maximum is best.

An even more-evolved strategy, which I feel I should almost stamp with a personal patent, is the blended holiday. The blended family holidays together for the first portion of the break, with you returning to work at the halfway point. Nearly genius, this allows some father-child bonding time and an opportunity for you to return to your couch and your cat. Not recommended for the first holiday, this an advanced strategy to be implemented when you are three or four years in.

This is about planning,  people. Fail to plan, plan to fail.

The (Stepmother) Princess Diaries

Having ‘Stepmother’ set up as a Google alert presents an endless array of fodder. More often than not it’s a fairly relentless reinforcement of the Disney villain style stepmother stories – women implicated in acts of casual violence, wilful neglect and harsh vengeance. Every now and then though, there’s a shiny little nugget nesting in the Google swamp. This week it was this headline.

Princess Beatrice could become a STEPMOTHER.

Note: I did not add the CAPS. The article had the CAPS, suggesting Princess Bea’s destiny was as astonishing as if she were to become an ASTRONAUT, PLAYBOY BUNNY or the NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Had this publication unearthed the potential for her to become a scientologist, JayZ’s next wife or the host of American idol I feel they’d be less likely to lean on the caps lock.

I am inexplicably pleased at the ability to consider a young princess becoming a stepmother. Neither of these two fates were those that I’d considered a possibility as I contemplated my life plan. One of them did eventuate and it’s not the one that involves diamond tiaras, summer country estates and a brace of corgis.

Could the rocky road to stepmotherhood be less nuts and more pillowy marshmallows if you were a princess?  I think yes. Here’s why.

You are a princess

If you are a princess, dating a man with a little girl, surely you have hit the jackpot. Every little girl wants to be a princess. Very few little girls have a mama, even a faux-mama, who has hived off a portion of the crown jewels, has Phillip Treacy on speed-dial, and has a grandma who happens to be a reigning monarch. Surely it’s easier to impress a new step-girl if you are able to let her parade around the house in actual tiara that’s probably worth more than her actual mama’s house.

Note:  Princess Beatrice’s new boyfriend’s offspring only comprises a son which is just another example of the universe failing to cut a stepmother a break.

You have privileges – the child will pick up on this

Although the new royals are refreshingly modern and are at times spotted doing their actual own grocery shopping, they do generally operate in a cosy cushion of privilege.

As a royal, you don’t catch the bus. You are generally schlepped about in a black Range Rover.

Even if you are too low on the royal rungs to fly private, there is still no fear of being relegated to an egg and bacon burger in an airport Hungry Jacks. The doors of the highest status airport lounge will literally fling themselves open and welcome you in.

The kid’s Instagram is going to be next level.

Surely you can’t fear the bio mum

Stepmothers are innately prone to regarding themselves unfavourably in any comparison to a biological mother. Even on your best day, your most confident day, where all your pros far outweigh the cons, you are still reminded that your new partner had a flesh-and-blood child with this woman.

Princess Beatrice, on her darker days, might feel any of those feelings that she’s not smarter, prettier, or has fewer bad hair days than the child’s actual mother.

But darl, you’re still an actual princess. This is right up there with having actually spawned the child.

 

No financial fears

As a princess, the monarchy has been funding every frivolity you’ve ever engaged in since you emerged from the womb, no matter how many other heirs stand in front of you ascending a throne. Your mama’s pricey pram, the upmarket education, your time out to do good works and those sparkly earrings you flounced about in at your 21st.

NOWHERE in your future are you likely to experience any of the financial challenges that litter your regulation stepmother’s universe – trying to agree a fair split of school books and uniforms, rationing the extracurricular activities, figuring out who pays for the first passport.

Nor are you going to be subject to any of the vagaries of child support arrangements. You are part of the infrastructure that oversees the child support agency. No one married to a royal ever got garnisheed.

You are very likely to simply shut up the ex by leaping all the waiting lists and swiftly ensconcing your new stepchild in an upmarket, strictly blue-blood school whereupon all financial discussions will just drift away.

Good luck Princess Beatrice, hopefully you’ll pave the way so that the next royal stepmother doesn’t suffer the ALL-CAPS.

 

The First Sleepover: A Childless Stepmother’s Guide

That honeymoon period with a new love is a blissful time. You are likely rocking your best-ever body courtesy of the divorce diet and that phase of unfamiliarity that stops you scarfing carbs in plain view of your new partner.  Everything is new, nothing is niggly and you are only one step short of having Snow White’s best life, surrounded by helpful woodland creatures and indulging in tuneful duets with baby birds.

You may have even met your potential stepchildren, and if its early days, spent time indulging in an array of joyous kiddie activities, with only the tiniest shot of vodka to take the edge of the meeting-the-kid nerves.

The point at which it becomes a whole new ballgame, or in fact a whole new ballpark, is the first sleepover where the stepkiddies are involved. Here are some tips.

Leave it for as long as possible

Have as many kid-free sleepovers as you like. This is something to be encouraged and practically mandatory in case the white-hot early days of a romance flames out, revealing a certain shallowness or long-term incompatibility amongst its smoking ashes. You want to know this before you share a sleepover with kiddies. If this is another relationship that will be rendered to the Nope File, you do not want to have been unnecessarily exposed to the wayward spitting involved in junior bedtime teeth brushing rituals or been anywhere remotely within the vicinity of an awkward bedwetting phase.

If you aren’t yet ready to commit to being friends on Facebook, give the stepkid sleepover the swerve.

Consider your attire

Sleepwear for the first blended sleepover requires some careful thought.

If you’ve made it through the worst of your singledom heartache, then you’ve likely buried every item of sleepwear that was the equivalent of comfort food during your periods of darkest despair. The polarfleece bathrobe that kept you alive while your bloodflow tried to warm the daggers of ice where your heart used to be. The forgiving snuggie that accommodated that period of time on the couch where you lived off Netflix and sauv blanc, helpfully providing oversized pockets for stashing snacks that were reassuring in their sky-high percentage of saturated fats. The tracksuit that sheltered you from the cold hell of sleeping alone, then conveniently doubled as daywear.

If you’ve carved out a #revengebody through a diet of clear spirits and tears during your being-single phase, you’ve likely revitalised your bedroom wardrobe by rocketing to the VIP list on Victoria’s Secret. You’ve purchased garments of immense fragility at a gigantic cost per gram of fabric which now make you look all shimmery and svelte.

These are not the outfits for the first sleepover where children are present. You do not want to greet a child in a hallway in something skimpy, since these nuggets of childhood experience are invariably the first to be conveyed in graphic detail to the biological mother. As fab as you might feel, all juiced up on early-days oxytocin, you do not want to make a teenage step-kid feel like they have woken up in the playboy mansion.

The desirable state is somewhere vaguely in between. Leave the French lace at home, but equally don’t try to rescusitate your despair-encrusted snuggie. Go for some respectable PJs with good coverage, skipping flannelette versions involving cartoon characters if you fear regressing into frumpsville.

Talk about the arrangements

As pedestrian as it may seem, it’s very wise to have a pretty frank discussion about the bedtime rituals that are about to unfold. Shared time between two households and a desire on the part of a split bio parent to appease a child can make for some fairly loose bedtime boundaries.

You want to know if there is a tendency towards night terrors that is going to cause you to wake suddenly to unearthly screams.  It’s worth knowing that there will be a full-blown tanty involved as toothbrushing time looms. You need to know if there is a well-established door-knocking protocol or if a kiddie could just bust into the bedroom without warning.

From personal experience, you absolutely need to know  that a six year old will shimmy into a pair of pull-ups and plant himself on your side of the bed, given that’s been the way this household has rolled since the split. You need to have a strategy in advance for that one.

Don’t be setting any breakfast precedents

During the first sleepover event, aim to be a background person. Now is not the time to indulge any long-repressed desire to be a Gwyneth-style earth mother. Regardless of your horror at the dietary damage being wrought on a miniature human, do NOT try to wrest the box of Coco-pops from their grasp and aim to explain the virtues of a green smoothie. If you are truly determined to create a nutritionally balanced haven in the wasteland of Disney-dad indulgence, it’s a game of stealth and subtlety and a long game at that. It’s not something that you should leap into immediately after the first overnighter.

Don’t try to demonstrate your extensive research into the realm of the mummy blogger and make buttermilk pancakes complete with human features in the form of blueberry eyes and a smeary raspberry coulis mouth. If it turns out well, you’ve created a precedent that you will needed to replicate, which will become immensely tedious. If it goes awry, you’ll have created something that invokes that particular child’s fear of clowns.

Don’t expect that the child has the first clue about the joy of a bircher muesli involving steel-cut oats that have meditatively bathed overnight in organic cloudy apple juice. That is like sharing a glass of fabulous prosecco with a cask-wine drinker – unmitigated wastage.

Be prepared to just roll with the brekky traditions that already exist.

Save your energy for the battle to ensure your side of the bed remains free of small humans that are yet to master full continence.

Mother’s Day Survival Tips for the Childless Stepmother

If your ovaries have never fired up, not even when Ryan Gosling was looking to spawn offspring, then Mother’s Day means nothing other than a day to avoid eating out and being financially slaughtered by a sentimentally festive mark-up.

For the first year or two of being a step-parent, given your complete lack of parenting awareness, you won’t register anything on Mother’s Day other than the already-well-ingrained desire to honour your own mother.

After a while though, the cumulative effort you’ve invested in cooking, cleaning, driving your step-child to a million things, finding band-aids in emergencies and dealing with relentless laundry may trigger a prickle of annoyance at not receiving any skerrick of recognition on Mother’s Day.  It’s possible that you may feel a teensy bit overlooked (notwithstanding your immense gratitude at not having been through that whole childbirth process).

Here are some of the insights into Mother’s Day from actual Mamas to help you understand what you are really missing out on (or not).

The Breakfast

If you wanted cold toast, undrinkable coffee and eggs more rubbery than politician campaign promises, there is no need to yearn for a Mother’s day breakfast, you might simply take the Monday 6am on a domestic airline.

Every biological mother knows that, good intentions aside, the domestic ineptitude of a small child knows no bounds and that the chaos wrought in the kitchen on Mother’s Day is no way compensated by the delivery of a lukewarm meal to your bedside. Someone will undoubtedly fail to turn off the gas underneath the frypan after use, rendering egg-remnants into industrial grade concrete which can never be removed. You can only hope they didn’t use your Le Creuset.

The lack of fine motor skills renders most youngsters unable to control a two litre bottle of OJ, leaving a sticky lake on the kitchen bench.

The void of observational skill or general interest in your wellbeing on the part of a child means they won’t realise you gave up all caffeinated drinks five years ago and will result in your being served up dodgy Earl Grey tea from bags encrusted with pantry-crud and long past any reasonable expiry date.

The gifts

Mother’s Day gifts are a domestic version of the office Kris Kringle, in that they seem to be gifts chosen by someone who does not really know you.

When the children are at an age where they can only source their gifts from the school mother’s day stall, the haul is going to be constrained to cheap $2 gifts that have arrived in container-loads from mainland China.  But then, who doesn’t want:

  • A fridge-magnet-enabled shopping list so that you can be reminded of your overwhelming domestic responsibilities every time you do some hopeful foraging for wine or cheese
  • A miniature sewing kit which is just like every version that comes free in any reputable hotel room. Given busy women are likely to have a tendency to deal with fallen hems with double sided sticky tape or the application of a snappy little staple, they already know that life is too short to actually do mending.
  • A torch for your handbag
  • Tea-towels as substantial as filo pastry
  • Lavender sachets to place in your sock drawer to ensure your feet smell like Nana.

No Day off from being a mother

Notwithstanding the potential for breakfast in bed, there is no get-out-of-jail-free card for women on Mother’s Day.  Mothers know they are still going to be surrounded by humans and pets that need to be fed. If you are a working woman, Sunday remains one of the few days where there is a chance to make inroads into laundry or ironing.

Notwithstanding the event, Baby Mamas gain no relief from the Sunday night ritual of trying to find school clothes for the next day and dealing with Friday’s forgotten lunchbox remnants.

So, even though you might feel the stirrings of annoyance at doing a lot of the work of being a mother without all the Mother’s day glory, be reassured that you are not necessarily missing out on anything.

Survival tips

If, as a Stepmother with no kids of your own, you are feeling vaguely slighted by lack of recognition on Mother’s Day, here are some tips:

  1. By definition, the stepchildren are likely to be at their mother’s house, so pour yourself a glass of wine, rejoice in the absence of any school week prep and watch all the reality TV shows without having to share the remote.
  2. Eat whatever you want for breakfast, in bed, without the risk of stray egg yolk on your Egyptian cotton.

From Sex And The City to Stepmother

There’s a pivotal moment in your online dating experience where your cursor hovers over the ‘children’ question.  To click the ‘no’ option is to exclude any male with a child, and if you are in your 40s, probably reduce the pool of matches to something like the number of people you’ll see in a lineup at your local takeaway food shop when you are picking up your Friday night noodles for one.

Flippantly clicking the ‘I don’t want any, but yours are ok’ doesn’t seem like a big deal.  Statistically, the male is unlikely to be a solo parent with full custody, which means kid-free windows, and if they spawned whilst very young, the offspring may be a well adjusted 20-something, who might turn out to be like a cool younger brother. So you click it, and then wait for your laptop to instinctively shriek an alarm greater in decibels than the combined female audience at a One Direction concert.  It doesn’t. You wait to see if it triggers a pop-up box offering up the latest iteration of Crocs as a sign that you are on a path that is incongruous with every molecule of your being.  It doesn’t.   You log off leaving a rather large floodgate wedged right open and head off for a glass of something sparkling.

Something happens.  You meet a dad,  things go riotously well, and nary a thought is given to the prospect of the miniature humans lurking in the shadows.  Next minute, you are on track for a whole new universe of life lessons, even after you thought that grasping the perils of drinking and tweeting meant you already knew everything you needed to know.  Here are three key truths that will shortly become devastatingly obvious.

Its not about you anymore

Biological mothers  know this.  They aren’t born with this insight, but that’s the reason why Mother Nature invokes a nine month pregnancy window, where suddenly something that feels vaguely parasitic takes up residence inside you, jostling your internal organs, controlling everything about what you eat, how you sleep, denying you the consumption  of soft cheeses, causing involuntary daily expulsion of your stomach contents and dictating the wearing of flat shoes.  If you didn’t understand that your life was no longer your own, once this period is up your body will literally turn itself inside out trying to expel the small being and nothing will ever quite go back in its rightful place again.  This is followed by a period of sleep deprivation so insidious that Guantanamo Bay is trying to clone the process. Eventually this just eases back to a general loss of every element of freedom and spontaneity you once had.

If you acquire a small human late in life, without going through this rite of passage to get there, you have no framework available to deal with it.   You will realise very quickly that you are no longer the princess, the focal point for all attention and the consensus is that it’s a little like being left on the side of the road while the family drive off in the car.

It appears that this is why, universally, if you hadn’t already, you will take up drinking wine.

You will need to come to grips with the S-word

Take a moment, have a cup of tea or a glass of something chilled and try to cite a positive example of a stepmother. Trawl the depths of your Disney experience and your entire back-catalog of fairy tales and you will not find one instance of a glamorous, fabulous and much-revered stepmother.  Not a one.

If you’ve shacked up with a rockstar some twenty years your senior, you can try to pass yourself off as a sibling of the child, but if you can’t pull this one off, at some point someone in the street is going to pass comment on the child you are with and you are going to stumble when trying to describe that you are not their mother.  It hardly trips off the tongue to describe yourself as ‘little Robbie’s dad’s girlfriend’ or even worse ‘partner’.  If you don’t elaborate that you are not the child’s mother, the laws of early childhood karma will kick in. He/she will pick that moment to pull a full scale tantrum and you’ll want to step back and point out that you share NO genetic material and had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the upbringing of this child, save for plying them with a few Freddo frogs and Chicken nuggets over the last couple of months.

Even if you think you will never feel comfortable referring to yourself in this way, you are going to have to use the word stepmother at least descriptively. My recommendation? Embrace the term and make it your life’s mission to band together with others to create a critical mass of glamorous, kind and supremely fabulous stepmothers so that in several hundred years the Disney version becomes urban myth.

You have a whole new level of ineptitude

You know nothing about this caper.  You may have sued corporations, saved lives and run multi million dollar deals, but you don’t know anything about raising children and even if you did, you have no role to play as you are not a parent.

What you will inevitably do is overcompensate, spoil the kiddie rotten, indulge a little in all the things you liked as a kid and eventually assemble some degree of life skill.

If you don’t, Google can tell you pretty much all you need to know.

 

Just when you think you are not cut out for this craziness,  there is a moment when it all turns around.  It could be something as simple as you nailing a skerrick of respect as the Uno Queen of the household. It might be the day that you actually appear in one of the fridge-paintings, albeit trailing a sorry last behind the pet dog, the next door neighbour’s turtle and the kitchen windowsill Venus flytrap plant …and the kid has drawn you in a manner that adds a few kgs.

 

But hey….you made it……