Everyone knows that it takes a village to raise a child.
One thing that we stepmoms know is that despite needing a village, society loves to point out to us “You’re not your stepchild’s mom.” As if it’s some big secret…
Every once in a while, we have experiences where this sentiment is thrust in our faces. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, there’s a hidden lesson to be learned (or remembered) when it’s implied that a stepmom isn’t as good as a mom.
One of those moments for me was when a total stranger commented on my stepdaughter’s similarities in appearance to me.
In reality, it’s not too hard to imagine that we’re related. We both have dark hair and brown eyes; it’s an easy enough assumption to make. I was even told once by my sister-in-law that I reminded her of my stepdaughter’s mom because we shared a few features. Somehow, that didn’t rattle me as much as being told my stepdaughter looked like me.
If you’re like me, you get a pit in your stomach anytime you feel like you’re “overstepping.” Even if it’s such an innocent thing as looking similar to your stepchild, and even though we all know it takes a village.
Stepmom Insecurities: It Takes a Village
It was 7:30 a.m., and we were at a gas station filling up the tank and picking up some road snacks the first time it happened.
“Wow, it’s crazy how much she looks just like you.”
Cue the deer in headlights look coming across my face accompanied by a stunned silence.
Looking back, I should have just gone with it and thanked the attendant. There was no way he could have known she was my stepdaughter. Instead, I looked like an inconsiderate idiot who couldn’t talk.
My husband, stepdaughter, and I paid for our snacks and walked out the door. We were driving two hours to drop my stepdaughter off after a weekend with us. I didn’t talk the whole way.
All I did was replay that exchange in my head and imagine what I should have said. I was obsessively thinking about it for the entirety of our drive until we dropped off my stepdaughter at her mom’s house.
That’s when the real kicker happened. Upon seeing my stepdaughter hug her mom, my brain made a crazy (albeit untrue!) connection…
If people thought I look like my stepdaughter, that must mean I look like her mom. To those strangers, I was her mom. In a way that only other stepmoms will understand, I felt as if I had somehow replaced my stepdaughter’s mom.
That thought induced a pang of guilt.
Brainwaves and Insecurity
I had never sought out to replace her mom. On the contrary, I tried impossibly hard to fall into the stepmom role: I never did punishments, I never made promises or decisions about parenting time, and I held back saying “I love you” for a very long time.
I was careful to not overstep my bounds as “just a stepmom.” All that consideration got thrown to the wayside when I heard someone tell me my stepdaughter looks like me.
I took it personally in the worst way possible – I took it as a negative comment on how the world perceives me as a stepmom. I took it as someone saying, “You’re not her mom, so stop acting like you are.”
When this happened, it was just a few months after my husband and I got married and consequently a very short time with the official title of “stepmom.” I was (and still am) a little terrified of this responsibility.
When I felt like I overstepped and acted more like a “mom” than a “stepmom,” I was overwhelmed with self-doubt and self-criticism.
It Takes a Village
The entire day, I thought about what happened until I remembered: it takes a village to raise a child. We may have the titles of mom, dad, and stepmom, but really ,we’re just the innermost part of the village. The village is made up of family, friends, teachers, and others.
Each of the three of us has an impact on the child we’re raising. In fact, we likely will leave her with the biggest impacts.
Given my reaction to the gas station incident, you’re probably thinking I had some kind of emotional crisis after this realization. You’ll be glad to hear that’s not the case.
All I realized is, in the grand scheme of things, none of us will ever replace any of the others. Instead, we’ll work together with the rest of our village to impart our own pieces of wisdom and advice on this little mind.
We’ll all have the opportunity to pass along a bit of our personality to her. We are all pieces of the puzzle.
I also realized that it’s not the worst thing in the world someone could say. If you’re ever in a similar situation, just know that you’ve got this and roll with it!
Now every time someone says, “She looks so much like you,” I have the same response.
P.S. The stepmom role can feel extra challenging, mostly because it’s an unnatural role.