I know this may be long, but I need to talk to someone, and I don't know where to turn.
Tonight my 11 yr old and 15 yr old step-daughters were fighting. I've been with the family since they were 7 and 11. The younger daughter very much thinks of me as her other mom. The older has gradually accepted me and our relationships started off rocky but has been pretty good lately. We also have a new baby--4 months old, my birth daughter. Yesterday she had her vaccines and today she had a fever and was in pain and it was a really hard day. So, tonight, my 11 yr old and 15 yr old (step)daughters were fighting. I went to try to break it up. I was carrying the baby. She got hurt. The 11 yr old accidentally hit her (not hard, but where her sores from vaccines were). Then she slammed the bathroom door and it hit the baby's head. She is okay, but she screamed and has a small welt on her head. I will NOT try to break up a fight between those girls again. If they rip each other's hair out, so be it. My wife says they aren't allowed to hold baby for a while. Natural consequence. But my gut reaction was intense. My instinct was to pack a bag and go stay with a friend, and I had thoughts and feelings like maybe this is it, maybe I'm done, maybe we can't stay here. I don't know where we'd go. Anyhow, they are my family. I can't talk about this with any friends because they wouldn't understand that. I don't want to tell any friends because I would just feel like I had to defend the girls, and I can't right now. I don't even know what I want to do. Stay or go. Ultimately, I want to stay. But right now, I want to GO. And I can't think of anyone I know who would understand. That's why I'm posting here. I'm just praying someone will read this who can understand. For the first time ever I had a glimpse of "what if this didn't work out," but I am committed to them. I love them. I love my wife. And she's a good mom to my little baby. I am committed to them and I have to stay, but it can't be at the cost of my daughter. Maybe I'm still overreacting, because I'm still having really high emotions. After the door slamming and the baby getting hurt, the 15 yr old was pounding on the bathroom door, and I told her to stop and she went on a rant of "Go to Hell I fucking hate you you're a fucking retard you're not my mom you can't parent me" blah blah blah blah blah and slammed her door. That was it. Then my wife came home and I gave her the baby and left for about five minutes trying to think because I was shaking from adrenalin. The baby is okay. The girls are okay. But I am feeling uncertain for the first time.
I haven't experienced anything like this in my personal life, but I'm heading into this territory and I think about the possibility sometimes. My step-kids are 6 and 8 and although they throw tantrums, they aren't yet cursing me out or telling me that they hate me (yet). I'm also six months pregnant and wonder it will be like to have a baby in the mix. Will the six-year-old stop screaming or shouting randomly because he'll realize that it will wake the baby up? Will the 8-year-old stop hitting her dad or her brother when she is upset because she realizes the danger of physical violence around a newborn? Probably not. What I have learned about kids is that they are constantly experiencing the same sorts of emotions that adults have without a mature understanding or way of coping with it. Anxiety, fear, anger and sadness manifest as screaming, crying, hitting, swearing and losing control. Your girls sound like they lost control for lack of having coping skills and that is perfectly normal.
The other day I found a high school journal of mine where I was cussing and complaining about my parents not giving me money for something - and I sounded like a horrible, ungrateful brat. I love my parents and I think they are awesome people. I have totally forgotten about any reasons I had when I was a teen to be mad at them. I'd like to remember myself as a responsible, mature teenager, but unfortunately I was not. Most kids lose their cool, especially as they near adulthood and start facing real adult challenges for which they are still developing coping mechanism (which is why some teens turn to drugs or sex and such).
This makes me think about my time working as a direct-care staff at a therapeutic maternity home for teenage mothers with histories of drug abuse and other traumas. The girls that I worked with weren't my family and although I could quit at any time when things got tough- I didn't, because I chose them. I chose to deal with their suicide threats and their struggles with parenting and the swearing, violence and pain. I chose them, because I loved them and I wanted to help them realize their potential. It was scary to see them have breakdowns around their own children. To watch them slam doors while holding their own babies. To see their babies crying because they were shouting or yelling. But trying to understand their pain and supporting them can trump the flight reaction (I did take many personal sanity breaks though). I'm sure you want the same for your teenage step-daughters and I honor your strength in cooling off and allowing your love and dedication to your family rise above your initial reaction to leave.
No one says that parenting will be easy. And no one on earth has ever said that parenting two teenage step-daughters (and a baby!) will be easy. But it is more than possible and I think your head is in the right place. Feeling uncertain is okay as long as you take the time you need to find your certainty again. Stay strong, mama.