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Perspective | Carolyn Hax: If being a stepmom is hard for her, is she not meant to be one?


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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m a late 20-something who’s been dating a late 30-something single dad for several years now. It has taken me a while to get used to the idea that I could be a stepmom if our relationship got serious, but over time, I’ve come to accept and dare I say even cherish that role and my blossoming relationship with the little boy.

It hasn’t been easy though — we have been juggling long-distance for a couple of years now, so coordinating everyone’s busy schedules (including the mom’s, who also lives in a different state) has been difficult. Fending off the constant questioning of friends and family can be a bit of a drag, too.

My question is, if it has taken me this long to grow into the stepmom role, and given all the other many challenges, would it be better for everyone if I stepped away? I really don’t want to and I’m confident our relationship is worth every challenge, but I also don’t want to get in the way of the world’s best single dad if in several years I realize I wasn’t cut out for the job.

Can I Stepmom?: I think your experience is more the norm, that it takes time. So, no, its taking a while doesn’t mean you’re doomed. Maybe tell your partner you struggle with self-doubt, but step away, no.

If you want to step away, though, and are looking for things to justify doing that, then that’s different. It is really important that you’re all-in. Which is not to be mistaken for “loving every minute!!!!” — it just means being committed to giving it your best and riding out the toughest times.

I take you at your word that you’re not eyeing the door; I’m just trying to cover it all. If the only issue really is that you’ve had to work at it through multiple challenges, well, that just sounds like the job description to me: parent or stepparent. As for the “constant questioning”: Please say to the culprits, “I know you’re showing you care, but having to respond many times over just makes my life harder.”

Dear Carolyn: Why oh why do we still get crushes into our 40s, especially when we’re contentedly partnered/not even looking? I can’t be the only one. I have out of nowhere developed feelings for a woman I’ve known casually for years. She and I both are in committed relationships — and anyway, pretty sure she’s straight. I feel a bit ridiculous and like I’m 17 again … this isn’t even a question, more of a distraction, I guess I need one!

Too Old for This: Don’t we all.

Crushes are so weird — I mean, think back on some long-expired crush. Can you even remember what the attraction was?

That’s our best weapon against the weirdness: We know it’s going to be REALLY INTENSE and then die.

So, you mantra-fy that, I guess: “It goes away. It goes away. It goes away.”

Re: Crush: I started looking past the crush sensations to view them as serving a purpose: to guide me toward something I need more of in my life by focusing on a person who embodies it. Maybe they are really spontaneous or confident, or whatever. It doesn’t help the whole “I feel like a total doofus around this person” problem, but I get over crushes sooner and improve the quality my life at the same time.

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