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The Heat of Step-Parenting

Image credit: Nancy Phillips
Image credit: Nancy Phillips

I recently got a new tattoo. It’s a Sanskrit word that translates to “heat” in English. The word, which is “tapas” (yes…like little plates of food), can also be interpreted as catharsis, austerities, self discipline, spiritual effort, change, tolerance or transformation. It represents the difficult things one must endure in order to become someone of character and strength and the discipline that is required to endure difficulty in order to reap a blessing. This, in a nutshell, is parenting to me. And this is one of many important reasons it resonated with me enough to actually have it tattooed on my body….yes, while the kids watched.

Parenting is hard. Step-parenting is even harder. Raising someone else’s children…another mother’s child?? Fuuuuuuuck….

To be honest, it’s not a task I would wish on my worst enemy. It is, by far, one of the most painful experiences of my life (which may or may not have to do with the fact that I am also step-parenting teenagers). But it’s also the reason why this principle of tapas is so important to me.

I have always been a relatively disciplined person. I rarely shy away from a challenge and I love to test myself. I consider it a matter of personal pride to make sacrifices, to persevere, to do what’s right and not what is easy. My determination and self-discipline is what makes me me. I’m a fighter.

That being said, I did not realize I was stepping into a fire when I first met my now husband. I was just in love and there was no way on God’s green earth I was going to walk away from that. Fast forward seven years and here we are….in a house made of fire. It has only recently occurred to me though, that I am in fact, living in a fire. However, since said realization I have actively, consciously chosen to not only stay in the fire, but to add coals to said fire to make it burn bigger, hotter and brighter than any of us ever thought possible. I’ve doubled down.

“Why in the name of all that is holy would you choose to make the fire hotter?” you ask. Because now that I see the fire, I also see the necessity of the fire. I see the beauty in the fire. And I see the blessing that is on the other side of the fire. I recognize that when a field is burned, new growth rises from the soil. New, fresh, beautiful life. And I know, that no matter how hard things are now, they won’t always be this way. And the taller I stand in this fire and let these kids know that I will stand in the fire for them and with them, the more beautiful the growth when the fire goes out. Because that’s what kids need, especially kids who have been through a divorce: Someone to stand next to them, stand for them, stand in their place, no matter what happens. And the reward is greater and bigger than any fire you could ever imagine. It’s like the super sweet snuggles you get from your threenager after throwing the mother of all tantrums. It’s the “thank you” you get from a teenager who rarely addresses other humans in non-text message form. It’s the “I love you” from a kid who’s not even yours. And it’s worth every degree of heat there is.

So I ask you this question from the Yamas & Niyamas, “Can you show courage and stay in the fire until you find the blessing?”


About Betsy McDonald

Betsy McDonald
Betsy McDonald is a soon-to-be wife and stepmother to two teenagers, ages 16 and 14, both of whom are taller than she. She spends her days doing PR, marketing and event planning, and her nights boxing, dancing and attempting a variety of unorthodox work outs that require a little more balance than she actually possesses. In the meantime, she spends plenty of time at Lake Tahoe and is working on perfecting the lacrosse mom persona, golfing, attempting SUP yoga, remodeling a home with her fiancé, planning her wedding, and maintaining the overall health, wealth and happiness of her newly found family. As a child growing up in Nebraska, Betsy’s dad would travel to Lake Tahoe to ski, bringing home pennant flags, T-shirts and a variety of other Reno-Tahoe-related paraphernalia. This prompted her to desire to find out just what “the Biggest Little City in the World” actually meant. By chance, she would end up here thanks to a job transfer to Gardnerville for her mom and the Millennium Scholarship. As a 14-year resident of the Biggest Little City, she’s proud to live and love in Reno. Betsy is an athlete, a writer and a cancer survivor – and hopefully an amazing stepmom. Stay tuned….

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