I always thought the term stepparent comes from the fact that you as ‘step-in’ as parent. The word actually comes from the 8th century word ‘steop-’, which means orphan.
Our kids have never been orphans and I like my interpretation of the word a lot more. I hate the word stepmom, mostly because of all the negative connotations that the word have. In our house we talk about the Other Mom. If I have to speak to someone I always refer to myself as the ‘Other Mom.’ So much so that The Littlest Mouse used to ask why she only has one mom. ‘Other Mom’ or ‘Stepmom’, we are all just doing the best we can.
If I could go back in time and tell my naive, younger self what to expect there is a few things I would warn her about being a stepmom. I love being a mom and I love all my children but there is some things about being a stepmom that you never even think about before it applies to you.
1) Disney hates you
Cinderella’s stepmother is abusive and jealous of her beauty. The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tries to murder Snow White. Mother Gothel in Tangled keeps Rapunzel locked away to steal her youth by using her magical hair.
According to Disney as a Stepmother I will either poison you, use you as a slave or lock you in a tower. These are the stereotypes our little girls get poisoned with and we have to fight constantly.
2) There is no place for you in the school system
Even though I supervise most of the homework and organise the schedules of our five kids and drive them to their activities, I will not be the one that receives the notes or speak to the teacher. Notes on sport days and parent teacher conferences will be send to mom or arranged with mom and dad. I will always be playing catch-up with the information. Any problems or information has to be shared with the parent and even though you have all the responsibilities as a parent you will have none of the rights.
3) People say really stupid things
I’ve have heard a whole range of stupid things that people said to me when they hear that I’m a stepparent like
– “Which kids are yours?”-
They are all mine. Do you think I stole some of them at the supermarket?
– “You are not suppose to discipline your stepchildren.”-
So I should just let them run around doing whatever they like till their father is there to do the discipline, even when they are putting themselves in danger? Should I just wait around while they play with matches and burn the house down?
– “You must love your own kids more.”-
I love ALL of my children. With five children there is always one you love more at a particular time, usually it is the one that is giving you the least amount of trouble at that moment.
4) You will never be the Mother that gets the ‘Thank You’ and burned toast on Mothers Day
You will do all the things a mother does for none of the recognition.
You will wipe butts, noses, faces, kiss them goodnight, read them stories, help with homework and even wipe tears away but you will never be the mom that gets the burned toast on Mothers Day. You will probably not even see them on Mothers Day as this is the special day that they will spend with their real mom. 40 % of married couples with children in the US are stepparents. If Hallmark really wants to make money they should invent a special holiday for stepparents.
5) You will never be their ‘Real Mom’.
What makes a mother real?
Is it the fact that you gave birth to the children or is it that you raise your children with care and affection? Is a real mom someone who loves, provide and protect her children?
I have never had the words ‘You are not my real mom’ thrown in my face but as my girls are still on their way to puberty, I’m sure that day will come. As a stepparent you always feel that you have to work a bit harder to be loved. Sometimes when your kid is angry with one of the other parents the anger will be directed at you. Sometimes you will have to keep quiet to keep the peace. The fact that I came into my children’s lives a little bit later does not mean that I love them any less. According to the book The Velveteen Rabbit you are real when you are loved. This makes me a very real mother indeed.
6) Balance is a really hard thing to master
And I fail all the time.
A stepmom don’t just walk into a marriage, you walk into a whole new life with lots of people in it. Sometimes this can be difficult to navigate. Sometimes you will think that you are being supportive but you might be overstepping boundaries that you did not even know exist. Sometimes it is necessary to give yourself a little bit of space before you get upset. You have to be flexible if there is three different family schedules that have to be balanced.
To quote Einstein, ‘ Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.’ If you fail and someone is upset just let it go and move on. You can try again tomorrow. As parents we can only do the best we can with the information we have at that moment.
7) All children are Angels
Every single mother knows that kids are definitely not Angels. As a stepmom you can never, ever, ever complain about your kids. You cannot say the kids are driving me nuts today. You will hear the famous words; ‘You knew what you were getting yourself into’. Every mother knows that sometimes you just need to let of steam and know that you are not the only one whose children are ungrateful little monsters. As a stepmom you better be very careful to whom you say this too as this will be taken as proof that you do not love your stepchildren. Or that you do not treat them well.
The littlest mouse once asked me; ‘how do you have enough love for everybody – there is so many of us?’ I explained that a mother grows a new heart for every child she has. All my kids may not have grown in my womb but I have grown a separate heart for every one and if you asks me which one do I love the most my answer would be:
I care about the child that needs me more that day, but I love every single one.
Even though I wish I could have warned my younger self just how hard it would be somedays, I would also say it is worth it.
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