Being a stepmom, without having 'produced' children myself with my own biological features, makes me belong to a vulnerable species. Everybody involved has an opinion on how you should, or should not, behave as a parent. Especially all parents do and there are a lot of parents in the world, biological parents. It is actually quite funny: becoming a parent (if your body is allowing you to and you meet the right co-parent, or the other way around...;-)) seems to be the easiest thing in the world... You just have a very pleasurable experience that lasts in between 3 and 11 minutes on average (says scientific research), wait for 9 months and tadaaaa...you've just won the title of parent for the rest of your life! There are not a lot of other roles in life that are gained with so little effort and without any doubt. And there you have your purpose for life, you can build your whole identity, who you are, around it and a lot of people do, especially moms.
So towards the summer holiday I always get a bit nervous. What do I want to do with the three weeks of holidays we will have with the kids? Will I come along on the entire holiday? Do I take the lead in organising? Shall we take friends? How do I make sure my needs are also met? And, most important of all, how will my husband Patrick and I manage as co-parents 24/7, loving, caring and educating in such different ways? Now, I do understand the last one is a very big one, also for biological parents that are going on holiday with their 'own' kids. Managing parenthood while running around between schools, offices, sporting clubs, friends and family is a totally different ballgame. On holiday, being a parent is the only thing that is left from your busy life and I know that is a challenge for a lot of people, especially dads.
Being very conscious about my role as a stepmom, this year I decided to fully step into it and show myself as I am during holiday. I believe that is the most inspiring and also kids need inspiration, especially after a busy school year. So with a lot of care I arranged for us to go to Panama, where we had met this lovely couple running the B&B we were staying at. We agreed the kids and Patrick would do their Padi open water there, so that we can take them along wherever we are and show them the beauty and importance of the underwater world. And of course we would visit a native village to show them the different way of living of the biggest part of the population in the world (and of course I couldn't keep myself from explaining once again, that being raised in Holland makes them part of only 1% of the world that is really wealthy and how that explains my sadness and/or anger if they say 'we've got nothing to do', sitting on the couch with an iPad and phone in their hands, a big garden to play football and a trampoline that is hardly ever used...sorry...got carried away a bit there ;-)).
I couldn't have dreamt it to be the holiday it turned out to be. We were the only family staying in the B&B, so we got a whole little island to ourselves and all the love and care from Sue and David, the lovely couple running the place. The talks, dogs, fun, the walk at their self-built house in the jungle, the way they treated the kids, rolemodeling respect, inspiration, authenticity. It made me so happy, so close to myself and therefor very close to being a 'real' parent.
On return Patrick and I had dinner with my grandma, turning 98 in November. She enjoyed the chinese food we brought and loved being able to talk about her three kids, that are all facing their own issues at the moment. She asked for our advice, whether or not she should write a letter to one of her sons about some of her worries. We had a lovely dinner as three parents discussing the best ways to support in a caring way without opposing yourself.
Now, at this very moment, a lot of parents are returning to their working roles, called jobs. Back to the safety of the fulness of life. Wouldn't it be lovely if everybody would take some of that art of parenting into their working place and behave as human, loving, caring and inspirational as possible? After all, the art of parenting, I think, doesn't come with biological children, but comes with our being human and able to love and care for the people around us. Why shouldn't we try the same at work? Might be fun!