It's weird being a stepmom.
I used to have this picture in my head of how my life would look when I found my future husband. Even though I was a stepkid twice over, I always pictured I'd find someone who was unattached and we would build our lives together. It never occured to me that the love of my life might already have a life to blend with mine.
This is, of course, very silly. First, even unattached people have lives beyond the significant other. They have friends, family, career worries, money worries, goals, needs, and foibles. It's very easy to lose sight of this as a single non-parent, because your life is simply your life, and while it involves others, it's not inexorably linked to anyone's.
The second reason I should have kept an open mind about finding someone attached is kind of sad, but true. The number of divorces holds stead at a little more than half of the number of marriages. This means that, statistically, if I meet someone willing/ready to marry, chances are they're already divorced. In fact, five of the six men I've dated were then or are now divorced, and two of them have children.
There's this whole paradigm shift when you start dating someone with children. The picture of what your life is going to look like starts to shift. And there is always a moment of freak out. Mine started the evening of the first full day I spent with Scruffy's kids. I was not at all convinced that I was going to be able to handle sharing Scruffy not just with children, but with children that weren't mine. I would forever be linked to a person that Scruffy had loved before me, and for about an hour, that was completely unacceptable.
I got over it for selfish reasons. I literally cannot picture a person existing that I could ever love more than Scruffy. So I resigned myself to give it a college try, though in the back of my brain, I thought I knew that I would never be as happy as if Scruffy had never met his first wife.
But the kids changed my mind. I don't know quite when it happened, but they stopped being something I was going to have to get used to and started being status quo. Then the started being that brought me such joy. And now, I can't imagine my life without them.
It's still hard, because even though I love them, I'm not their mother. I don't know what each scar is for, I can't tell them baby stories, and there's always this feeling in the back of my brain that I'm being judged by the "real" parents around me. While I might know rationally this is untrue, the fear is still there.
We make it work though. I tell the kids stories about my family, and ask them about their scars. I do my best, and I love them, and all my parent friends tell me that's what matters. We have fun together, and love watching movies and playing games and dancing and just being a family. This is, of course, at ages 8 and 9. We'll see how the tweens and teens go...