I stepmom’ed so hard the first year of my marriage that it almost broke me.
There is definitely a hard way to stepmom-ing and an easy way. I chose the hard way. I jumped right in and tried to be everything for everyone. My stepdaughter and I had always had a close bond. We had a trust and an emotional connection. However, when her father and I were married I started noticing little changes in her behavior. My sweet stepdaughter was becoming more temperamental. There were a lot of tears and sleepless nights on my end. The more I tried to bond and repair whatever had broken in our relationship, the more fractured it became.
My husband and I sat down with the kids at the end of a very trying day and held a family meeting. We told them that while I am not their biological mother, I am their stepmother. Respect needed to be afforded. Love would come with time. We asked them how they truly felt about me. My stepdaughter told me that she loved me and thought I was really nice. She apologized and told me that she sometimes felt that she was betraying her mom by being nice to me.
My stepson told me that while he knew I wasn’t trying to be his mom, it didn’t always feel that way. Having been a single mom for six years prior to my re-marriage, I was used to being the primary emotional support and caretaker to my biological child. What I didn’t realize was regardless of how many times I told my stepchildren I wasn’t their mom and wasn’t trying to take her place, by taking on the motherly duties in our home, I was doing just that. Their strong biological connection to their mother had put them in a bind. They felt torn between their affection for me and their tie to their mother.
Their mom and my husband have a very high conflict relationship which I had absorbed and become entangled in long before we said “I do”. I was painfully aware that the only thing I was going to be able to control in the situation was myself and my behavior. I wasn’t going to let anything effect me or the relationship I was building with my stepchildren. I would continue to love them and support them all the while encouraging them to have a positive relationship with their biological mother.
I realized I needed to take a step back and let my husband take the reins. I had been trying so hard to help my stepchildren go through the healing process of divorce, re-marriage, new siblings, split homes and a new stepmom that I didn’t realize I had jumped into the motherly role way too quickly. Regardless of whether or not I felt my step kids were getting their needs met by their biological mom, it wasn’t my job to fill the void imagined or real. My job was to love them and be the bonus person in their lives. The place they could always land on and feel safe. The person they could come to if they wanted to talk or needed help. Since taking a step back, a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. The hurt has dissipated for all of us. My sweet stepdaughter has returned and our relationship is better than ever.
If you’re finding yourself exhausted emotionally from being everything to everyone, try taking a step back from what you’ve deemed your “step-mom duties.” It’s worked for my family. Our bond grows stronger every day and we are all so much happier for it.
Pictured: Sara Lords + Avy
Photo Cred: D. Selbak Photography
Location: Archer Vineyard, Newberg OR