Two years ago, I read a blog of a UK woman who was sharing her story about being a stepmother. She was so earnest about her feelings about her stepchildren as well as not being a mother herself. Her emotions were raw and unapologetic. It was a relief to see someone who expressed what I felt. I didn’t feel so guilty. But I also had a feeling of tremendous sadness of seeing my feelings written in black and white.
She wrote about the disappointment when the kids were there with her and their father. The kids were stealing time away from her that she should be spending with her husband. She also explained she did not mind when they left to be with their mother. She admitted to herself that she not only did not but could not love these kids as her own because she didn’t give birth to them. There was a fondness for the children but not the agape love a mother would have. The difficulty of acceptance especially from her stepdaughter was especially trying. At the end of the article, she did not ask for forgiveness for what she had written.
Being a stepmother is not easy especially when you don’t have kids of your own. The “type” of stepmother you decide to be is a choice. You can either act like you are not involved or you can act like you actually give a shit about the kids you are helping to raise. The difficult part of when you care is how the kids (and their mother) see you. In my case, I’m the stranger/odd woman out/intruder/destroyer of relationships. The maid/cook OR just someone not important enough to engage in conversation beyond the forced “Hellos” and “Good-byes”. Sometimes I feel like I’m shut out of the kids lives completely. Whatever that is going on with them is their business yet includes their mom and dad. I may walk into a situation where there is something brewing and not know what the hell is going on. Totally caught off guard.
The other part of being a stepmother is that you won’t get the love from your stepchildren that their father and mother receives. Maybe it will happen with time. I don’t know. Not having a child of your own, in my opinion, adds to that weight and hurt. Is just being nice and talking sweetly enough to grow that love?
First let me say, the kids are good kids. I met them when they were 7 and 11. Generally, they have manners (although that often required reorientation with me) and behave well around others. We didn’t have to worry about yelling “get down” or “don’t do that” when out in public. Not surprising, I wasn’t readily accepted by the kids when I first entered my husband’s life. I was seen as stealing their father and, worse for his daughter, I was stealing her “DADDY’. His son liked me well enough and often hugged me when I first came around. His daughter was and still continues to be a struggle. My husband, thankfully, made sure the kids knew I was going to be a part of his and their lives. He would also rectify the moment he noted any disrespect. But what can I say these are kids. Their emotions run anywhere and everywhere. I tried to put myself in an understanding mode and wonder what their thoughts were:
- Mom and dad are no longer together. Their questions would be: why? and why can’t you get back together? what did we do? I was question #4 – is she the reason you can’t get back together?
- Who is this new woman in your life? Do we have to like her?
- Why are we moving between 2 households?
- How does mommy feel about your new woman? (more about this later….)
AAANNNNNDDDD now they are teenagers! So there is much more to deal with.
THE ROLE OF THE BIOLOGICAL MOTHER
When dating my husband in 2011, a woman at my church spoke to me about her experience with being a stepmother to her husband’s children. They were, in her words, difficult. They did not like her and would not speak to her. Despite everything their father did, the kids would not bend. Enter their mother: she spoke to them about how she and their father would no longer be together and they had both moved on. In addition, she demanded her kids respect their father’s new wife. It was after the kids became more accepting of their stepmother. The woman at my church explained there must be a level of maturity with the biological mother to allow for this.
Jada Pinkett-Smith, wife of Will Smith, wrote an open letter on Facebook about “Blended Families” in 2013. Essentially she mentioned that when three parents are involved in raising children, everyone has to put their differences aside to do what’s best for the kids. Once again maturity was discussed.
The takeaway from all of this is that your life as a stepmother is incumbent upon the biological mother and her level of maturity. There are definitely other factors but I can only speak on what I know and experienced. I’ve NEVER formally met the children’s mother. She’s never introduced herself. When our paths cross, I say a quick “Hi” for which the response is an eye-roll and turned up lip. I would expect a woman would want to know who is else is involved with raising her kids. NOPE I got nothing!
Things were already strained between my husband and his ex when we were in the dating stage. The lingering idea of us getting married just made things worse. There were accusations of taking the kids away from her although the kids were more with my husband prior to me entering the picture. The kids would leave one week and come back two weeks later looking at me as if I had done something wrong. All types of eye-rolling and fake smiles. The interactions were different. If I built a great repertoire in a short period of time I was with them, I had to start from scratch when they came back. Worse yet, the kids were coming over less and less and my husband would not see his kids for days or even months. When I read the article from Jada Pinkett-Smith, it had been two years that my husband and I were dating and were making plans to get married in 2015. I already knew to get to “Blended Family” status was not an easy road and would take years to achieve.
Its 2018…. it’s getting worse.
For whatever reason, the children’s mom are not allowing their father to take an active role in their lives. She is secretive about what the children are doing. When she no longer has any control that’s when she calls for my husband’s involvement. But then the secrets start again. The children are in the middle. Lying because they don’t know what to say or not to say. Trying to keep everything quiet as instructed. Dropping comments that only an adult would say. Its like psychological warfare on the kids. It’s indirect baby mama drama.
As a stepmother, you have to take a step back and realize your role. I must play the good parent throughout the lying, disrespect and falsehoods being imprinted in the children’s minds. I’ve had to bite my tongue more times than I can count. And honestly, I never speak a word of evil of the children’s mother in front of them or to them. I encourage respect, responsibility and discipline because that was how I raised. My role also includes supporting my husband. My feelings aside, this is a man and father who is not allowed to take a role he desperately wants to fill. I have to help uplift him when he is tore down.
So this is an unraveling story. Only time will tell what happens next.