Being a Stepmom: The Largest Challenge of Life

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[Note: I wrote this for a friend, may she have some peace, and got permission from The Girl to post. Thank you for your kind permission:) ] 

There’s no support group for stepmoms. There should be—society hates us. We are always the bad guy.  We are the evil witch. Disney hates us, cartoons hate us, and the world sees us as inferior to real moms. Even in cases where the “real mom” makes the choice not to do what real moms are supposed to do and we step in and get the job done.

You never see a Hollywood blockbuster where the stepmom’s the hero—where the real mom doesn’t show and the stepmom goes to all the school meetings, picks up from sports, makes sure there is food, birthday parties, checks the homework and wipes up the tears because mom isn’t there. Or where the stepmom covers for the mom who kept promising to visit—telling the child mom has complications in her life—that adults have complications, too. That mom loves her, but just isn’t ready to be a mom. And that you are very, very sorry, but would it be okay to have some ice cream together instead?

No one wants ice cream with stepmoms at times like this.

There is no right answer to tell a child when her mom is not tucking her into bed—when it has to be you instead. The stepmom. The Woman Who Can Never Be Mom.

Sometimes the Real Mom is great, but things just weren’t so great when she was married to Dad. And so the splitting of weeks and days and holidays begins. The splitting of Dad with the stepmom. And it’s all…her…fault.

Stepmoms know that. The best ones try so very hard to fill both voids. They make a happy marriage, create a blended family and run backup for Mom. They fight the ghosts of marriage one with the best smile they can muster. Only they never get credit. They get anger that the void was there in the first place, and that things didn’t work out in that fairy tale way that they are supposed to unfold.

And so the stepmom gets the poison apple. The poison apples of resentment, of arguments, of fights, and cold shoulders. We, who have been busy baking cookies, tying shoes and finishing school projects, get punished for crimes we don’t commit.

How does a stepmom survive?

The answer is simple. Love. Forgiveness. Understanding. Nothing less. Nothing more. It can’t be demanded, it can’t be bought. It may not come right away. You are watering a seed that divorce has thrown on hostile ground. In weeds. In a crack in the sidewalk. In the shade. You continue to water this seed. Someday it will grow. And you hope it will bloom while you’re there to see it.

And one day…maybe…you might get a “thank you.” Or you will be told first of an important event. You will be invited to a function. You will overhear nice things being said about you to The Friends. You will be called in to pick up the pieces during the first breakup before Real Mom or Dad. Or, maybe in casual conversation, you will be—accidentally—called, “Mom.”

The secret though, is to learn not to take it personally. This is the hardest part of all. Because it’s all extremely personal.

Society will always paint us with the image of evil. But the truth is, it should do the opposite. We have these children because we chose them. Many people walk away. We could have walked away—we didn’t choose the simplest route. We chose a man and married a family. And we do the best we can to make that family as joyful as we can, despite the trauma of divorce or even death or departure of a beloved parent.

And that is all we can do.  We take solace in the fact that we are doing it right, even if no one quite agrees….today.

 

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