Stepmom. That role definitely gets a bad rap! Think Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and the von Trapp family, for instance. The cruelty that is portrayed in these fictional roles definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But did you know: The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are now more stepfamilies than original families in the U.S.? So if you are a Stepmom, you are actually in pretty good company.
I happen to be one, too. And after my fairy-tale wedding took place, reality set in. I love the children in my family in ways I can’t fully express, but I must confess that being a Stepmom can be complicated.
Here are a few reasons why:
You start out playing catch-up. As a stepparent, you start out already behind. You are quickly trying to learn who the family pediatrician is, what are the favorite foods of each family member, how did the 5 year old get that scar above her right eye, what the bedtime routine is, which blanket is necessary for the youngest’s ability to sleep, how Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy are handled in this household, and what the family traditions, stories, and history are. That’s complicated.
You’re not the Mom. Whether the biological mother is in the picture or not, you are still not the Mom. And guess what? Children are pretty loyal to their mothers. Sometimes this means that a child will displace their anger (about the demise of their two parents living under the same roof) with anger toward…you guessed it, the Stepmom. Your voice may not count on most decisions regarding your stepchildren because you are not the biological parent. You may love these children like your own, take them to their doctor’s appointments, tuck them in at night, and soothe their tears, but you are not the Mom. That’s complicated.
You get all the work without the reward. You work your butt off for your family, which includes lots of parenting. But you may not get recognized on Mother’s Day. Or as a parent on Senior Night. Or on said child’s social media. You may feel like you are doing all the work without any reward. That’s complicated.
Despite all of this, it’s worth it. I wholeheartedly recognize that being a stepparent can be extremely difficult. I hope that your relationships with stepchildren and extended family are more positive than not. But you know what else I recognize? The children you are a stepparent for have one more person rooting for them, one more adult who thinks they are pretty special, one more parent in their corner. Your heart is invested and this will bring about rewards (for both you and them) that may never be seen. That’s complicated.
But matters of the heart usually are.
Let me be the one to say this today: thank you for what you do. Thank you for wiping noses and bottoms, holding hands, dealing with attitudes, choosing to be the bigger person, allowing the child to call you by the name they feel comfortable with, letting children express rather than repress their anger, teaching, spending time with and loving the children in your home with your whole heart.
I couldn’t respect you more.
And that’s NOT complicated.