By Sarah Macias @macisar
I am a stepmom. I do not have any bio children of my own, so to claim the title of “MOM” feels awkward to me. “Mom” feels a little like a sweater that fits too tightly. My two stepdaughters already have a mom. They don’t really need me to be another one. But I learned they did have room for a stepmom.
When I came into my stepdaughter’s lives two years ago they were already fully-formed little girls. They were little girls who did not necessarily need me, want me, or ask for me, but welcomed me into their little-big hearts nonetheless. In two years I went from having no kids (and not even really wanting them) to kissing booboos and wiping away tears. I’ve cried with them and laughed with them and have watched them grow faster than I thought was possible. I read parenting books, and step-parenting blogs/research articles/books, etc. I’ve played Barbies and house and monsters and teacher, and I’ve realized that even if I didn’t want kids of my own, I could still love these kids that weren’t mine as if they were my own. I have fallen so deeply in love with being my girls’ stepmom, and I am forever grateful for this blessing.
That being said, being a stepmom has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Stepmoms are simultaneously expected to play an active part in the kids’ lives, but not too active. We are supposed to play the mom-role, but we are not supposed to make active decisions in the upbringing of our stepchildren. We may have supportive husbands or partners who try to keep us involved, but ultimately, we are not their bio parents and if what we feel goes against the bio parents’ beliefs, we are expected to keep quiet and get on board.
I’ve often read and have been told a couple of times that I should treat being a stepmom like being a fun aunt. You kind of let their parents do everything, you spoil them, you occasionally wipe away a few tears or clean up big messes, but at the end of the day, you breathe and relax because all of the hard things should be decided by their real parents.
Clearly, it needs to be said – step-parenthood is not that easy. Unlike a “fun auntie” – I can’t just walk away at the end of a day or at the end of a certain time period. Just because the kids go to their other home doesn’t mean I get an actual break. At the other end of when the girls go home to their mom, I have a partner who is sad his kids aren’t with him. He feels an ache I don’t fully understand and realize because I am not biologically tied to the humans that just left my house.
As a stepmom, I sometimes have to deal with feeling like the girls are competing with me for my partner’s attention and affection. When that happens, I know have to adjust or change what I’ve been doing because my girls need to know we will put them first. I know it is normal for this to happen in a nuclear family too, but the difference is, my girls don’t get to see their dad all of the time. Do I sometimes get jealous that I have to share my partner in this way? Yes, admittedly I do. So much of what happens inside my own house sometimes feels out of my control, and for someone with control issues, that has been really scary to face. My partner’s decisions, money, time, and commitments don’t belong to solely me, and while there has been some grief around feeling like I am not his priority, it has just meant that I have had to change what I always thought “a normal family” looked like. How many people can say that their partner’s ex has – and always will have – a big impact on their own personal lives? How many people have to share their home, time, efforts, pictures, clothes, and even memories with a woman/a second family revolved around this ex? Not too many.
So has it been easy? No. No one said motherhood is easy but step-motherhood comes with its own set of challenges as well.
Despite all of that, despite being constantly reminded that I am not their mother each time I look at my stepdaughters, I am grateful for this journey. I am glad I chose this life – because I do get to choose this life every day. I am open to the idea of having bio children of my own in the future because I have seen how my partner is as a dad, but I’ve also seen that I can play the mom-role. Each time my stepdaughters give me a hug or tell me they love me, I say a prayer of thanks that I get to witness their lives moving forward. I will continue to show up for my girls the best way that I can because, at the end of the day, I know they are worth all of the strife. And isn’t that what step-motherhood (and even motherhood) is all about? We show up, regardless of how hard it is because that’s what we do.