I think its a somewhat universal experience to have walked through fancy stores as a child and been told to keep your hands to yourself. No one wants broken glass all over the place or the pricey tag at the register. This is one of the ways that my parents taught me to be responsible. The same thing went for messes in our house. You spill it; You clean it.
The confusing piece was that we lived in a community and everyone had chores. Chores that they did regardless of whether they were responsible for the mess making. Taking out EVERYONE’s trash or cleaning the communal toilet? Not fun, but necessary. The great thing about dividing responsibility like this was that things can got done more frequently and more quickly.
But the two principles can be a little counter-intuitive. I mean, if someone is going to sweep every evening, then why clean up my spilled dry cereal in the morning? Because you are responsible for the mess you make. Okay, so why I am cleaning up other’s feces from the toilet?
We have this problem in a larger life sense too. My friend has a blended family and she’s taken on the role of both mother and stepmother. Mom checked out awhile ago, leaving two very confused, horribly neglected kiddos in her wake. Did my friend make a mess of these kiddos lives? No. Are they part of her community and her shared responsibility? Absolutely!
But how can we find the balance between caring for ourselves (our own mess and broken things) and sharing in the joint responsibility of communal living?
To be truthful, my friend could spend a lifetime scrubbing up this mess left for her. She would never be finished. Literally, in fifteen years the toilet might still be gushing sewage. So how does she balance all of this?
I honestly don’t know, because I’m not living it.
Yet, if I had to guess or offer advice, I would say what I said not long ago about parenting.
Me first, then you.
Take care of your own mess or rather your own responsibilities first. You are a step-mom first. Do that job first. Don’t get overwhelmed by filling the bottomless void of an abandoning mother. You’ll never, ever be able to fill that whole completely.
I have quite a few other friends who love, love, love their step-parents. They often remark at how their step-parent went above and beyond what was necessary in their role. THAT is what you want to be. You do NOT want to be the step-parent who tried to be their real parent and failed.
You cannot be someone that you are not.
You are who you are. It is enough for the role that you are meant to play.