I recently read a clever post by A Healthy Stepmother (check out her blog) about the stepmother wilderness in which she likened preparing to be a stepmom to training to take on the wilderness. I suppose that started me thinking in this direction. I am not incredibly familiar with wilderness outings (though I did read Wild by Cheryl Strayed), but I do work at a college and am therefore intimately familiar with preparing our students to study abroad. I think living in a stepfamily may be a bit like studying abroad.
Language – sometimes there is a language that seems foreign or odd. In our family, there are often idioms or or nicknames that are completely foreign to me. What are poppy eggs?! Why is one of the kids called LoDog? etc.
Culture – I’ve heard in Mexico or even Hawaii time is different than here in the states. Showing up late is normal and showing up early seems rude. I think some families have their own cultures like that two. When two blend there is sometimes a clash of cultures.
Food – This one must be obvious. Those studying in a foreign country have to adjust to all sorts of new foods. Some they might adjust to instantly. Others are more of an acquired taste and they really miss the the foods they grew up with.
Comfort Zome – We may be forced to try new things we never would have at home. For students studying abroad it may be using the subway. In our family, it may be camping or zip lining.
Homesickness – Most go through a real a period of homesickness – a time when they long for the familiar and question whether leaving it was the right decision.
New lens by which to see your own culture – After studying abroad most see their own home culture in a different light. this new light causes people to think, “Wait a minute, maybe there is more than one way of doing that.” or even”I thought there way of doings things was weird, but what if that way is normal and the way I’ve been doing things is actually what’s weird.”
Enlightenment – I suppose my one hope is that most of our students who study abroad find their own footing. They eventually pick up the language. They grow to love the food. They push past the homesickness. And for many the study abroad experience becomes one of the most meaningful in their lives.
So my hope for my own life and for all the other stepmoms out there is that sooner rather than later this strange new world starts to feel like home.