When I became a full-time custodial stepmom back in 2015, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. However, I was sure of one thing: I never wanted my stepchildren to feel like I was taking their father away from them.
I made it clear to my now-husband that I viewed him as a package deal, and the kids were part of that package. Little did I know how much things would change in four short years…
Beginning my Stepmom Journey
It goes without saying that my journey into motherhood has been anything but smooth. After all, that is how many stepmoms’ journeys are.
Coming into an established family is already hard, but it is even harder following a loss of any kind. I was not as worried about connecting with the younger two as I was with the older, and there are a few reasons for that.
- My oldest stepchild is a girl
- The age difference between us isn’t particularly large
- I was a new face
You might be wondering how and even why any of those factors are significant.
Well, there is much to be said about Daddy’s girls. As a matter of fact, I am one, so, I know how to play the game.
I spent much of my time as the new kid on the block trying to get to know my stepdaughter, showing her that I am not a threat, and making sure she knew I cared about her.
This approach worked well for a while, but then things started to change. She became withdrawn and clearly began drawing the line in the sand.
As more time went on, that line in the sand got farther away from me. I knew there had to be many reasons for the change, but it did not hurt any less. After all, I gave blood, sweat, and tears to be the maternal figure I knew she needed.
A New Beginning
As more time went on, things went from uncomfortable to just plain disappointing.
Not only did she feel like she did not need to listen to me, but it became painstakingly clear that I really held no value to her—just convenience. I took this personally for a long time until I saw that she viewed her father and her siblings the same way.
When she decided to live with her mom full-time, it created some interesting dynamics in our home: loss, hurt, betrayal, and more.
All good things must come to an end, right? Wrong!
See, this change was not the end. Rather, it signified a new beginning. Did it hurt? Of course it did!
Being treated as dispensable is not enjoyable; however, it taught me a lot about us as a family unit.
They say a quiet woman is a blessed woman, but I beg to differ. Watching the way this betrayal affected my family unit incited a fire in me that I could not extinguish.
I have always prided myself on being the fixer or cleaner-upper, and this was my time to walk confidently in my calling.
The Key to Progress
It really boiled down to being an active listener. When people experience a loss of any kind, it is important to practice empathy. I had no idea what it felt like to be betrayed by a biological child, but I knew what betrayal felt like, and it did not feel good.
So, I made it a point to be empathetic. This new journey was not about me, but it did include me. So, I made sure to always present myself as a listening ear and a sounding board. When asked my opinion about the situation, I gave it.
There is no way I can ever comprehend how my husband and my stepdaughter’s siblings feel about her untimely departure. But, that does not give me a green light to gaslight the situation. No matter how tempting, this was not the time nor place to say, “I told you so.”
Instead, I sprang into support mode. I held our youngest a little longer and tighter, I joked more with our middle, and I gave hubby a little extra TLC. We were all experiencing this loss differently, and it required a different approach for each person.
Here we are a few months later, and the dust has finally settled. My husband and I still do not hear from my stepdaughter at all, but the absence of the pressure to perform has positioned me to become a better stepmom and better mom overall.
I am trying new things, being more assertive, and finding that I am more comfortable with being me. So, while all good things must come to an end, that ending can really be a new beginning.
P.S. It’s true for so many of us that being a stepmom is not what we expected…