Commitment: Your very funny and insightful book, The Package Deal: My (not so) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom, is a memoir of how you went from single career woman in San Francisco to a married stepmom of two adolescent boys in Austin, Texas – a sudden and drastic transition! What were the most difficult aspects of this change in location and identity?
Izzy Rose: I remember the day I told my therapist that I was quitting my job, getting married, taking on another woman’s kids and moving across country, and she pointed out that the only thing I’d left off the “stressful situation” list was a death in the family. She was right. I was taking on an enormous amount at once and I gave up much in the process, too.
After hauling off to Texas, I realized I’d left my identity behind. Who was I if I wasn’t the single, TV producer from San Francisco? Those first few months in Austin were terrifying and I absolutely wouldn’t want to relive those scared, desperate days, but had I never left my old life behind I wouldn’t have gained the experiences I wrote about in The Package Deal. It’s a scary thing to walk away from what we know and who we think we are, but when we step outside our safety zone we find the space to reinvent ourselves.
Commitment: In the beginning of The Package Deal, you express how surprised you were that you, an independent career woman, could fall for a guy with kids and become an instant mom. Are you still surprised about this turn in your life?
Izzy: I shouldn’t have been surprised that once I found my Mr. Wonderful he’d come with strings attached because this is just the new reality for many women who have put career before marriage and promotion before parenting. The dating pool changes once you hit your thirties-- many of the available men are hardly single. They come with small versions of themselves and an ex-wife: what I call, the package deal.
Commitment: You make the distinction between “sweet-smelling babies that look like you,” and “someone else’s nearly full grown kids” – a comparison which really brings home the difference between being a “bio-mom” and being a stepmom. Love for one’s babies is simpler and often instantaneous as compared to a more complicated and slower love for one’s stepchildren. How did your relationship with your two stepsons develop?
Izzy: No question about it, the “love thing” has troubled me since day one. I liked the boys right away, but I didn’t feel that instant, mama bear bond you hear biological mothers talk about. Even to this day, I question how connected I feel to my stepsons. And it feels pretty crummy to admit that our love is lukewarm, but I decided a while ago to give myself a break. Just because you adore the man doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way about his kids. Or they, you. Love takes time. With stepkids, it’s a long courtship. We’ll get there eventually.
Commitment: Throughout the book, you come up with several “Stepmom Rules” such as “Kids do not appreciate fancy dinners as much as adults do,” “Relinquish all grand ideas of gaining control,” and “Don’t act like a hostess; act like a mother.” How helpful were these rules?
Izzy: Because most of us become instant mothers without much, if any, prior advice or instruction (there is no stepparenting Bible), I thought it would be a fun exercise to create my version of the rules. Some of them are pretty silly, so I was surprised when readers really connected with them. Stepmom Rule Number Ten: Surrender Your Expectations is the crowd favorite.
Commitment: Your book is hysterical! How important was your sense of humor during the transition from single career woman to stepmom?
Izzy: Extremely important. Being able to laugh at myself is what got me through that first difficult year. And girlfriends. One of my favorite pieces of advice for new stepmoms is to seek out one good girlfriend who is willing to listen to you spill the good, the bad and the revolting. I truly believe that laughing and groaning over our shared stories is one of the best antidotes for warding off stepmom insanity. It’s worked for me.
Commitment: Your website is www.StepMothersmilk.com. What is Stepmother’s Milk?
Izzy: Stepmother’s Milk is my metaphor for how women nurture and care for each other in trying times. Often, the best pacifier is the voice of another woman, telling her story that lets you know you’re not alone.
Commitment: In your book, you state that as a stepmom, you’ve accepted that you “can’t and won’t always come first” with your husband. Is that difficult to accept?
Izzy: The reality is that in every stepfamily, no one person comes first every time. At best, we each take turns in the center ring.
Commitment: Long before you were a stepmom, you were a stepdaughter. How has this impacted the way you treat your two stepsons?
Izzy: I joke that I entered into this arrangement with no parenting credentials and with only one advantage: I speak the blended family language. A child of divorce, I can transport myself back to ten-year-old me and remember very clearly what it was like to suddenly have two sets of house keys and more parents than I bargained for. I don’t pretend to understand teenage boys, but when it comes to the stepkid stuff, I get it. My similar upbringing has allowed me to be compassionate and patient… most days.
Commitment: What is the difference between a “Fun Monkey” and a stepmom?
Izzy: The Fun Monkey is the woman I used to be before I became a stepmom-- the cool girlfriend who took the kids out to movies, jacked them up on hot chocolate and encouraged them to ignore tedious realities like homework and chores. Once I became their stepmother and we all moved in together, I quickly transformed into the antithesis of fun: the Ruler of Cleanliness and Order. I like to think that after three years later, I’ve found a middle ground.
Commitment: Why did you decide to write The Package Deal?
Izzy: By putting my imperfect self out there and telling my personal story, I hope to inspire a few hearty laughs and provide some relief to the millions of women who have also signed up to help raise another woman’s kids. If by reading The Package Deal, other stepmothers find themselves saying “ME, TOO,” I think we can soon look forward to a mainstream discussion on the subject of stepparenting.
Izzy Rose is an Emmy award-winning television producer from the San Francisco Bay Area and the best-selling author of The Package Deal: My (not-so) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom. She’s the creator of stepmothersmilk.com, a blog and resource site for the modern-day stepmom with national and international readership. She’s appeared countless times on television and radio programs in San Francisco, Austin and Memphis and is a regular contributor to Stepmom Magazine. Her work has been called “compulsively readable,” “laugh out loud,” “heartfelt,” and “ultimately reassuring.” When she’s not writing about stepparenting, she’s busy with ghost writing projects. Her most recent project, Spirited: Connect to the Guides Around You, the book she wrote with Rebecca Rosen, published by Harper Collins, releases in February 2010.
To purchase The Package Deal, click here.