It’s definitely not something that dreams are made out of. It’s not something little girls include when imagining their future weddings. Even practical adults still waiting for ‘the one’ don’t anticipate spending eternity mothering another couples’ child.
That’s the funny thing about life and expectations, though, right? You just never know where you’re going to end up and where you may stop along the way. Being a farmer’s wife with three children at the age of 21 was not a picture that came to mind when I used to think about my future. But here I am, living the life, jumping the hurdles and learning as much as I can along the way!
A few years ago, I thought I knew exactly what being a stepmom meant. Boy oh boy how wrong I was! Here are 6 lies about stepmotherhood that I used to believe were true:
1. The love is automatic.
It’s not. It may sound heartless if you’ve never experienced a similar situation. The truth is, no matter how much genuine love and adoration you have for your husband, that emotion doesn’t just transfer over to his offspring. When I met my husband’s kids for the first time, I had not yet had a child of my own. I was still under the impression that locking eyes with your newborn after months and months of waiting was a magical moment where you learned how to love more than you ever thought possible. For some mothers, maybe this is the case. When it came time for me to deliver my son, I learned quickly that the love doesn’t just appear or show up when you need it to. It is created over time with bonding and funny times and sad times and messy times and everything in between.
Knowing what I do now about the process of falling in love with my own child, it makes sense to me that step-love cannot be automatic. You can want and pray and yearn for it to be there all you want, but it’s not something that happens overnight – or in some cases – at all.
When you do finally start making connections and breakthroughs with your new children, remember to nurture and care for that relationship. It only gets trickier from there!
2. It’s going to be difficult.
Difficult is such an inappropriate word to use here. ‘Difficult’ describes having an uncomfortable conversation with your boss or having to learn a complicated macro for an Excel sheet. That’s difficult. It doesn’t even come CLOSE to describing the trials of being a step parent.
Of course, there are plenty of wonderful moments that generate from being in a blended family. The triumphs and proud moments of any of my kids will always be near and dear to my heart. However, storms will come. I will never forget the time that my husband’s daughter (11 at the time) expressed her feelings of wanting to stay at her mom’s house rather than with us. In my head, I knew I would much rather be with my own mom, and I would probably choose my mom over my dad if it came down to it. In my heart, all I knew was the gut-wrenching feeling of loss and rejection.
Did she mean to cause me pain by saying this? OF COURSE NOT. That little girl needed to be close to her momma. Period. But that didn’t make it any less painful.
The point is, when you’re a stepmom, you’re faced with being 2nd or 3rd or 4th choice every day. To pretend it doesn’t hurt would be a lie. What makes it all easier is the knowledge that every single one of the kids are thriving in a way that works best for them.
3. I will love and treat all the kids exactly the same.
HA. Let’s all laugh together!
I made a promise to myself when I was a teenager still living under my parents’ roof (and by parents I mean dad and stepmom). That promise stemmed directly from the type of relationship that I had with my father’s wife. She started out great, as most marriages do. She was super willing to help me out with things that my biological mom should have been around for (more on that later). She was a great mediator for my dad and I because we butted heads so often. But the best part about my dad marrying again: she had two kids of her own! Her daughter was near my age and it didn’t take us long to become very close. We introduced ourselves to everyone as sisters and giggled when strangers exclaimed, “You look so much alike!” Life truly was spectacular at that time.
I can’t remember exactly when it all went wrong. I do recall the love between the two adults going sour, slowly and then all at once. The next thing I knew, my dad was spending nights on the couch and weekends working a lot of hours. The couple had issues, for sure. But it turned out, the easiest way for her to lash out at my dad during the final days of their marriage, was to take it out on his three kids. Being the oldest, I probably took the heat for most things. I definitely noticed it more. As long as I live, I’ll never forget the treatment and hate I was served just for merely existing. Most Saturday mornings, I would wake up to a quiet house. It wouldn’t take me long to determine who was home and who wasn’t. Generally, my dad had already left for work, my stepmom had taken her two kids for a fun/relaxing/shopping day, and my two little siblings and I were left by ourselves. With a fucking chore list neatly written and placed on the kitchen counter.
Don’t get me wrong, the three of us were perfectly capable of surviving for the day on our own. But to top it off with chores while she took her kids somewhere cool? Heartless. When the entire marriage was all said and done, I vowed to myself to never be like that to any step kids I may have in the future.
At that time, it was very clear to me how to treat everyone fairly. It seemed pretty black and white. Now that I’m (kind of) an adult, I see things a bit differently. My husband and I have three kids altogether. His daughter (Miss Sass) and his son (B1) both have the same mom but have 9 years in between them! Our son (B2) is only 10 months younger than his older brother. Each one of those babies requires a different type of loving, scolding, punishing and cuddling. It’s a battle every day to give each one of our kids the kind of raising they need, but SO worth it.
The important thing here: they are loved. SO loved. And they know it. That’s what matters.
4. There is no shame in being a stepmom.
I made another promise as Hubby and I became serious with our relationship. I would refrain from using words like “stepmom” and “stepkids”. That little ‘step’ is just an unnecessary jab, right?
Well, yes and no.
From experience, I’ve noticed that it does not work when you introduce a beautiful eleven year old girl as your daughter. When you yourself are only 22. Eleven years does not add up, people. I could see the confusion on the faces of people who met Miss Sass in that way. It always led to another conversation about how I actually did acquire part-time guardianship of a ray of sunshine the same height as me. So, I learned pretty quick that it’s easier to just spit those titles out and get it over with. And you know what? The words don’t taste as bad in my mouth now. Because it sounds so cute, though, I call those kids my bonus babies!
Honestly, I’m proud to be a stepmom. It takes courage and guts and A LOT of patience to do what I do. However, I still think stepmoms every where are given a bad rap. Disney used to LOVE making movies where the main evil villain was a non-biological mother (Cinderella and Snow White – I’m looking at you). I’m glad they’ve steered away from that in recent years. It would be cool to see a film where the stepmom was a super good person who made a positive influence in all of her kids’ lives. Somebody, get on that!
Tidbit of advice: no matter how much you may have loved the movie Parent Trap as a kid, don’t – I repeat DO NOT – re-watch it after you are an adult with step children. It’s just dang uncomfortable to see that woman and all of her hatefulness.
5. Being a stepmom makes me a mom.
A few years ago, I might have fought someone if they tried to tell me that this was a lie. The very NAME describes me as a mom, am I right? Plus, when you begin being a stepmother to a kid less than one year old, that’s like extra mom points, right?
No. Wrong. Just no. I was very close to understanding what it was like to have my own son. But I was not there. And I didn’t realize just how much of a gap existed until our littlest was born. It’s hard to put words down to explain the transition that happens when fresh, raw motherhood is experienced first hand.
All of that being said, there’s no way I could regret ever beginning the journey to becoming a step mom. There is still plenty I know I need to learn, but every day, in our own way, my little family thrives. I love all of my kids!!