Step-Moms Are Not The Enemy
In my 20’s, I had a list in my head of all the things I wanted in a husband. Right there at the top was “never married, and no kids.” It’s not that I didn’t like kids, I just didn’t want the drama and baggage that usually comes with that situation. However, when you fall in love, all the “rules” go out the window.
When I met my now-husband, I soon learned that he was divorced and had a young son. I was apprehensive, but I figured if this kid is anything like his dad, he would be pretty great. I was really lucky in that my now-Stepson is truly an awesome kid. I’ll be honest, though… I was scared to become a Stepmom.
I’ve always loved kids and wanted at least 1 or 2 myself. I dreamed about the bond we would have, Mommy and baby. One of the toughest things about becoming a Stepmom is that you have to develop that bond with a child whose early years you weren’t around for. I wasn’t there when he needed rocked back to sleep as a baby. I wasn’t there when he said his first word, or took his first step. I wasn’t there for those early memories.
My Stepson was 4 when I met him. In a sense, it wasn’t as difficult as I think it would have been had he been several years older at the time. Although we hit it off pretty good right away, it was a confusing situation for both of us. For him, not knowing exactly who this lady was and why she was hanging around a lot. For me, not knowing exactly where I fit in. I wasn’t sure what I could and couldn’t say, or what I could and couldn’t do. I’d never been on this side of it, and wasn’t sure where the boundaries were.
You see, I had a Stepmom myself, and the experience wasn’t exactly what you’d call pleasant. I was 6 when she came into my life. She was young and pretty, and I was excited to have a fun big sister-like friend. At least, that’s how I looked at it from a child’s perspective. She WAS fun. She liked to play with me, fix my hair, and I got to wear all these really pretty dresses all the time. It was great…until it wasn’t anymore. When she got pregnant with my oldest little sister, everything changed.
She wasn’t fun and nice anymore. She didn’t want to play or hang out with me anymore. She no longer needed me to fill that “daughter” role. After all, she was having one of her very own, and I was just in the way of her perfect family. I won’t go so far as to compare myself to Cinderella, but in some aspects, that is how I felt.
She and my Dad had 3 daughters together, and I adored my little sisters. Still do. I am quite a bit older than them (9, 10, and 15 years older to be exact), so I sometimes felt more like a Mom figure to them than a big sister. However, that age gap just helped further the divide my Stepmom put between me and HER family.
Unfortunately, I could go on and on about the roughness of our relationship, but I’ve put a lot of that behind me, and try not to dwell too much on the past. The one thing I knew was that if I were ever in that situation again, I would do everything in my power to be the complete opposite of her.
When I married my husband and officially became a Stepmom, I tried incredibly hard to find my place. A place where I would have a great relationship with my Stepson, but at the same time not step on any toes. His mother was not easy to deal with at the time, and sometimes made things very difficult. I get it. It can’t be easy at all to see your son with someone new. I tried (and still do try) everything possible to keep the peace. I didn’t want to give her a reason to hate me. I wanted to keep as much civility between all of us as possible. I didn’t want my Stepson to ever feel caught in the middle of everything like I often did as a child.
The first big test was his 5th birthday party. My now-husband and I had been together for the better part of a year at this point. He and his ex-wife always had a joint birthday party so that their son would always have some sort of normalcy. The day before the party, she decided that I wasn’t going to be allowed to attend. My now-husband was furious, and I was hurt. However, as an attempt to form some kind of peace between us, I didn’t put up a fight. I guess I can see her side. She, herself, hadn’t met me yet (mostly because she refused to) and she didn’t want his party to be the first time. I didn’t want to be the cause of any unnecessary drama, so I stayed at home while everyone else went to the birthday party.
Nearly 5 years later, I feel like I’ve somewhat found my place as a Stepmom. I still do my best to toe the line and not overstep any boundaries. I still worry that I’ll do or say something that will upset his Mom, and sometimes I do unintentionally. I guess that comes with the territory.It’s hard not having him all the time. We are lucky in that we share joint custody, so we do get him 50% of the time, but it’s hard to keep a great family dynamic going when things change every Sunday at 6pm. That goes the same for both sides. Half of the time, I’m doing all the “Mom” things…packing school lunches, waiting in the car pickup line, helping with homework, getting up at night when he’s sick or has a bad dream, but I’ll still never be “Mom.” I’m certainly not trying to take his Mom’s place, and I love that he has a great relationship with her. I know it’s tough on both sides, and this is the new normal that we are all living and dealing with.
My husband and I have since had a little girl. I’ll be honest, it sometimes can be difficult to treat both kids the same, but I do my best every day to accomplish that. I love them both, but in different ways.
And that little girl just ADORES her Bubba! Likewise for him. He has really blossomed in his big brother role, and I love seeing the two of them play together. As she’s growing up, it makes it even more difficult when he leaves for his Mom’s week. Little sister will look around for Bubba, and go sit outside his door, hoping he will come out to play.
There are so many bad connotations with the word “Stepmom” that it almost feels like a bad word when you say it. Nearly every instance in books, movies, and even a lot of real life stories, features the Stepmom as a child’s worst nightmare. However, we aren’t all like the Evil Stepmother in Cinderella. In reality, most of us are just doing the best we can with the situation we’ve been given, and trying not to step on any toes in the process.
We may not be the ideal, cookie-cutter family I had dreamed of having, but this is our modern day, perfectly imperfect family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do you have a non-traditional family dynamic? How do you make it work?