May 26, 2008
I saw the movie No Reservations the other day. I enjoy romance and I do like good food, so the other day when I had piles and mounds of laundry to catch up on I rented it. It was so charming. There are not many movies I would say relate with step parenting, well this one did for me. I drew a lot of parallels with the main character, Kate. She lives her life like she runs the kitchen of a upscale restaurant in Manhattan with a no-nonsense intensity that both captivates and intimidates everyone around her. With breathtaking precision, she powers through each hectic shift, coordinating hundreds of meals, preparing delicate sauces, seasoning and simmering each dish to absolute perfection. Kate is a terrific chef at a Manhattan restaurant, sent to therapy by the restaurant owner because she is cold, unyielding, rule-bound, and a pain in the neck. Kate's world is flipped over when her sister dies and her ten-year-old niece, Zoe, comes to live with her. As Kate struggles to be a parent to a grief-stricken child, the one world she used to control is now turned up side down.
I could relate with many of these same emotions when I became a step mother to Alexis and Olivia. I felt a lot like Kate did, trying to juggle a new role with my set ways and trying to maintain the same standard of perfection. I would try so hard to make them feel welcome and a part of our new family. I expected it to be picturesque. Wow, my expectations where way off. I would warmly greet the girls at the door after being dropped off by their Mom so anxious to help them settle back in. They would be grief stricken in lieu of their mothers’ absence and would cry and sob for their mother as if dead, divorce can feel a lot like that for a child. I made meals the girls would turn their nose at. I ran three different schedules and even had a similar scene in the movie where Kate forgets Zoe at school, yes sad to admit that did happen once to Alexis, it took me a long time to get over that one. Zoe (the little girl in the movie) tells Kate “You don’t have to try so hard.” What a great message! I am a perfectionist and through the years have learned that living with a perfectionist mentality in a step parent role has potential to make you crazy. Though I am Chandler’s mother it was such a different role to fill for Alexis and Olivia. What was it they needed from me? They already have a mother. I have come to understand that children Chandler, Alexis and Olivia all needed love, acceptance, bonding, security in a ever changing and uncertain world. I have had to learn a lot about being flexible and have had to change my focus from stringent structure and strict routine to living more in the moment with my children. It has not been easy to change my perfectionist way of thinking, but the more I do, the more liberating my life becomes. I am learning it is just not possible to do it all! I strive to no longer be engaged by the element of being a perfectionist, it continues to be a process in my life.
I think long and hard about how I want my children to remember me and I make every effort to live each day with that thought in mind.
at 9:59 PM