Hello all! My name's Liz and I'm new here. I am a step-mom but with what I think is a very unique situation, or combined situations. I live with my partner of over 5 years and his daughter who will soon be 7. He also has a 17 year old son and a 13 year old daughter who live with their mother, his ex-wife. One thing that I find separates me from most step-mothers on other boards I've posted on, and probably this one too, is that my SD's (the youngest) mother passed away from complications of Leukemia when SD was 13 months old. She and SO lived with his parents and I came on the scene only a few months later. When SD was a little over 3 years old, the three of us moved into our first apartment together. I have basically been her mom, even though I never planned, or really wanted, to have children. To be honest, I have to admit I often don't really think of SO's other kids as my step-kids, and part of that may be because they do not spend a lot of time here at our house (though we do see them a lot and SO spends a lot of time driving them to and fro and watching them at their house), SO and I are not legally married, and my relationship with their half-sister is so different being that I am her mom day in and day out.
Another thing that I feel makes my situation so unique is religion. SO was raised Catholic in a Catholic family but he is pretty agnostic now. I am Pagan. SD's birth mother was raised Christian but converted to Judaism as an adult. Because she had planned to raise her Jewish (though she also planned to make sure she knew about other religions, and know that she would support SD should she choose a different path as she herself had done), SO decided to follow through with that. This has been difficult for me, and I will not pretend that it is always rational or that it is not selfish of me to have the feelings I have. If I had a child of my own, I would certainly want to raise him/her with Pagan holidays and rituals, so I suppose we would have two children being raised two different ways. Thing is, we do not have a Jewish home life. SD goes to a Jewish day school (her maternal grandparents pay since SO and I are pretty broke most days), and when she is at her maternal grandmother's on Friday night, even though she is a Christian, she has learned a lot about Judaism and will have Shabbat - light the candles, say the prayers, etc. She also joined a local Temple so that she and SD have a place to go for Saturday services if she wants and attend special holiday events/services. SO and I have occasionally done Shabbat here, but he's pretty lax about most religious things, leaving it to everyone else (yes, there's some amount of annoyance you sense there), and frankly, if he's not going to do it, I'm not either since it's not my religion. While he has repeatedly said that her mother wanted her to be open to all religions and he has nothing against Paganism and has encouraged me to share my rituals and holidays with her, for the most part I don't know if it can really be done, at least at this age, when she is being taught so much about one religion who's teachings are often at odds with what I believe personally and who's teachings tell followers that my chosen faith is, well, wrong. Unfortunately, I find I have sort of fallen away from nurturing my own faith, yet participate in all the Jewish holidays as well as Christmas. I end up feeling resentful.
Anyway, I'm sorry for the rambling. So I have the "normal" challenges that come with step-parenting - the ex-wife sometimes even though we get along pretty well, the challenges of parenting a child you did not help create and who did not come from you, the challenges of step children with special needs (SO's son is physically and somewhat mentally disabled and his older daughter has ADHD and ODD), combined with the additional challenges of an inter-faith family, and being the full-time mother to a child who's birth mother died (not to mention being a partner to a man who had to bury a wife and mother to his child). And believe me, those last two have brought about some very, very unpleasant emotions and hardships for me. So thanks for reading (unless you are asleep by now!), and I hope to find, and maybe give, some help here.