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Heartbreaking Words for a Stepmom to Hear

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“I wish my Mommy and Daddy were still together. You and my stepdad could be like my aunt and uncle, but I just wish Mommy and Daddy lived together.”

My heart broke in that moment, but maybe not for the reason you’d expect.

I hugged her a little tighter, and through the tears, I whispered back, “Me too, baby.”

I wish things could be simpler for her. I wish she could have a “normal” family and less stress. She’s just a child, and she feels caught in the middle.


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Understanding my Stepdaughter’s Perspective

It’s all she knows.

With the exception of 1 friend, all of my stepdaughter’s friends’ parents are still married. They live in one happy home together.

Her friends don’t have to figure out whose weekend it is before they can commit to a play date or birthday party. Her friends don’t know the rush of anxiety before a school event when both parents will be attending and there’s potential for drama or awkward tension.

Her friends can’t relate. They have it easier. Why can’t she have it easy too?

She misses and loves her parents.

Try as I might, I can’t fill the void my stepdaughter notices in our home. I am the mom of my home, but I am not her mom. Just like her stepdad doesn’t fill the dad-void she notices at her mom’s house.

Why does she have to choose? Why can’t she see both of her parents and make memories with Mom and Dad at the same time? Why is someone always missing?

Having two homes is hard.

Beyond the emotional stress of having her parents in two separate homes, living between two homes is logistically difficult.

Twice a week, my stepdaughter is adapting to the house rules, expectations, and routines of her other home.

She has to remember that when she’s at Dad’s home, her chores are feeding the fish and taking care of the cats. When she’s at Mom’s home, she has to acclimate to a different bedtime and longer commute to school.

Further, when she gets ready for school, she often gets frustrated because only half of her belongings are in the same place she is at any given time. Those cute shoes that would look perfect with that top? At Dad’s house. The hat she is supposed to wear for spirit week? At Mom’s house.

I’ve just barely scratched the surface of the logistical nightmare that is trading homes twice per week, but I want to share one other frustration she expresses often.

It’s hard for my stepdaughter to remember who she has already told which story. She gets embarrassed if she retells a story she has already told us, but she’s so excited, she wants to be sure she tells both of her families.

Sometimes, she’ll tell me a story for the third time, and others, she’ll start telling me the second part of a saga, and I never heard the first!

She doesn’t understand chosen love.

My stepdaughter was born and grew up loving her mom and dad. She knows how strongly she feels about them, and she knows she’d never want to live her life without them.

She doesn’t understand the chosen love present in a marriage. As a child, you can’t comprehend that kind of relationship, or incompatibility.

A child isn’t incompatible with her parents. She hasn’t “fallen out of love” with her parents. Those are completely foreign feelings to her, and when she can’t understand it, it makes her question everything she thought she knew about love and a family.

What I Said when my Stepdaughter told me she Wishes Mommy and Daddy were Still Together

My stepdaughter doesn’t know how to explain her confusion and feelings of betrayal, heartbreak, and not-good-enoughness to me. But when my parents divorced at 2 and I spent the rest of my childhood as the only kid in class with divorced parents and stepparents, I felt all of the same things my stepdaughter is now experiencing.

So when my stepdaughter told me she wishes Mommy and Daddy were still together, I told her that I completely get it, and I too wish that things could have been easier for her.

But because Mommy and Daddy weren’t right for each other, the answer wasn’t to stay married to each other. They would have fought all of the time, and she would have been very unhappy.

If Mommy and Daddy had been good together, they wouldn’t have divorced, but because they didn’t get along well, they wanted to raise her together but apart.

And then, eventually, her parents found her stepdad and me, and they fell in love again. This time, they knew exactly what kind of people they needed, and they chose forever partners who not only loved them but also loved their little girl.

Because her mom and dad remarried, they could have loving relationships and provide two loving, happy homes for her.

And having two loving homes is always better than one unhappy home.

P.S. It would have been easy to get my feelings hurt when my stepdaughter made this comment. This stepmom gig isn’t easy, and it’s natural to experience your own insecurities and feelings of not-enoughness. If you’re struggling with second wife syndrome, I hope this blog helps!

4 thoughts on “Heartbreaking Words for a Stepmom to Hear”

  1. My name is Katrina Tanner, and I live in the DC area. I am a second wife to my husband John, and second mom to my step-daughter. John and I don’t have other children yet, and Evie’s mom has not remarried nor has other children. Evie’s counselor recommended a book called “Two Homes.” While reading it to Evie last night, she told me her mom’s house is her “home” and she just wishes we all lived in a home together. Then she asked why Mommy and Daddy aren’t married anymore and why Daddy is married to me now. She said “It makes me not want to love you. It makes me not want to get married either.”

    She’s 5 years old. Like you, her parents separated at age 1 and divorced at age 3. She doesn’t remember them being together. But she is always asking to see her baby pictures and baby videos and she doesn’t understand how she was a baby, she lives in one home, with Mommy, Daddy, and Mommy and Daddy were still married and now Daddy is married to me.

    My husband doesn’t understand not being the “first” parent. Evie doesn’t even have a step-dad, so for my husband, he is HER dad and the only dad.

    Evie doesn’t have many friends that are divorced. Schools are really confused on how to convey information about to Evie to ALL parents, and I am my only friend who married someone who is divorced and with a child.

    It’s really hard.

    • Being a stepparent is incredibly difficult. It’s also so hard for children of divorce. Some days it feels like a lose-lose. Hang in there, sweet friend. You are NOT alone on this journey!

  2. That’s heartbreaking, but great job on being patient and understanding! I can’t imagine how other parents would react given the similar situation. I personally wouldn’t know, too. That is if I haven’t read this article. I hope I can also have a smooth conversation with my daughter when the time comes. Anyway, thanks for sharing this post!

    • I appreciate your support, Silvia! It was heartbreaking on a couple of levels, but I’m so glad we could have a conversation about it instead of her letting it bottle up inside.

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