Stepmoms Speak

27 10 2008

I asked Laura Ruby, author of the novel I’m Not Julia Roberts (, to answer some questions about her experience being a stepmom.  

What is your greatest challenge as a stepmom? 
I think it’s the general lack of control. I’m a custodial stepmom and my husband’s two girls live with us, so I’m responsible for all the day-to-day stuff that happens with kids – meals, lessons, doctors’ appointments, help with homework, discipline etc. Yet I didn’t choose this house, the neighborhood we live in, the schools they attend, the doctors they visit, etc. I do have influence, but it’s not the same. I liken the job of a stepmom to an adjunct faculty member at a college: You have all the same responsibilities as a professor, but without the respect or the benefits. 
How do you deal with it? 
There’s the general stress-relieving activities: going for a run or a walk, taking myself to a movie, watching endless Law & Order reruns, talking to my cats, muttering darkly to myself. Mostly though, I try to remind myself that despite the frustrations, both my stepkids are happy and healthy and I enjoy them. 
Also, I redecorate a lot. : ) 
What is your greatest reward as a stepmom? 
Funny, it’s the little things that feel most rewarding to me. Like when my older stepdaughter, who’s away at school, calls me because she’s not feeling well and wants comforting. Chatting with my younger stepdaughter while we make dinner. Helping both of them dye their hair funny colors; a) it grows out and b) my hair was pink when I was a teen. 
For a stepfamily to work, everyone has to compromise. I had to get used to a new family, a new city and a new job, my stepkids had to make room for a new person in their lives, and my husband had to keep us all on an even keel. None of us has had it easy. But after more than a decade of living together, I can say that we did a pretty good job. I’m proud of us. 
How do you maintain your boundaries? 
One of the first things my husband did when I moved in is to clean out an extra bedroom, load it up with bookshelves, and call it my office. He taught the girls to knock before entering, and they always did. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or angry or resentful, I would retreat to my office to work, read, or just regroup. Having “a room of one’s own” saved my sanity. I think everyone should have one. 
What do you do to relieve stress? 
I call up a friend and talk it through. When that doesn’t work, I put on my iPod and dance around like a maniac. Hard to be stressed out when “Dancing Queen” is blasting out your eardrums.




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