Stepmothers never have your best interest in mind, and they don’t really love you. They love your dad. They battle you for his attention. They have a running commentary of snarky comments that they occasionally filter, but not very much. They can’t wait until its time to bring you back to your mother. They can’t believe they signed up to deal with you all the time.
Only, it’s not true. At least not for me.
I am a stepmother, and have been for almost ten years. Unlike the stereotype, I actually adore my my girls and I’ve always tried to treat them like I would my own children. I’ve tried to help mold them into classy, intelligent, kind, strong, beautiful women. Not to replace their mother in any way, just to be an additional influence in their lives. And I have to say – they are incredible girls.
When they were little, I read them books, I sang them songs at night during a ridiculously elaborate bedtime ritual. I tucked them into bed and laid down with them until their breathing deepened and slowed. I tried to remain calm when arms were broken or fingers were burned. I cleaned up vomit and even had them fall asleep on my lap next to the toilet. I attended as many soccer, softball, basketball games, recitals, ceremonies and performances as I could. I cheered them on and took a million pictures, videotaped, scrapbooked and blogged. I’ve met many of their teachers, volunteered at their school one summer, took them on field trips, made countless lunches, helped with homework, and occasionally scrambled late into the night to finish a forgotten project.
As they became preteens, I giggled with them when they told me stories that “you can’t tell dad, because he’s a not a girl” and I listened to their excitement over their discovery that boys are actually kind of cute. I offered up the best advice I could when friends were fair-weathered, or someone felt left out. I hugged them when things went wrong or when they were sad. I made popcorn for our movie nights and plan fun things like GNI (girls-night-in) when their daddy was out of town. We sang at the top of our lungs into spatulas (aka our microphones) and danced our hearts out at Justin Bieber’s concert. I painted their toes and shared clothes with them. I braided, straightened and curled their hair. I made them yummy meals and laughed when they said… “next time… can we not have it the healthy way?” I tried to think of fun things to take them and their friends to do and laughed at them when their sleepover turned into an all-nighter.
Now they are teenagers- impressionable, independent, and lucky for me, still sweet and amazing. I may not be as cool now, but they know I would do anything for them. I think about them, individually. I worry about their hearts getting broken and about the pressures they face. I try to rein in their daddy when he wants to kill the boys they hang out with. I encourage them to get good grades and we talk about the colleges they want to go to. I adore their father- in front of them, and talk about him when he is away. I want them to have a great example of a healthy, happy marriage. I want them to learn how to communicate, to see how to keep having fun together, to be assertive, to be forgiving, to be united and to be in love.
I really love my girls- not because that’s what I’m supposed to say, but because I really do.
The part of being a step mother that people never talk about is that even with all the things you may do, it doesn’t always count or get recognized. I’ve still had my feelings hurt over the years. I’ve had to let go of being involved in certain decisions. What their mom thinks will always trump what I think. And that’s ok- that’s how it should be. But knowing that didn’t always make it easy. But I always made a point to never badmouth their mom. That’s the last thing kids need.
A few years ago my dad remarried, so in addition to being a stepmother, I now have one. It was kind of an interesting paradigm shift because it let me experience it from both sides. Instead of thinking of her as replacing some area that in my mind was reserved for my mom, I just viewed her as another person to be a positive influence in my life. And she’s been nothing short of amazing.
I am so lucky to have my step-daughters, who I consider my daughters, in my life. I’m honored to be a part of theirs. Hopefully more step-moms will step up to change the sour tone of what goes along with being a stepmother. I love what I do and wouldn’t change anything.
I am a stepmother. And proud of it.