Insecure. Jealous. Uncertain. Alone.
At different points in my first few years stepmomming, I felt them all. How could I avoid it? The stepmom role is simply unnatural; you’re choosing to love another’s child and stepping into a very intimate role as an outsider, a stranger. As if that wasn’t terrifying enough, society is skeptical of you, Mom is terrified of you, and Husband has no idea how to support you or the emotions you’re experiencing.
Misunderstood. Inferior. Unsupported. Overwhelmed.
The Unnatural Part of the Stepmom Role
Sometimes, being a stepmom can feel unnatural. You have a lot of uncertainty. It can be especially rough if the kids don’t like you, and even worse if they blame you for their father’s breakup with their mother. Even in a relatively painless divorce, children can have deep wounds, and the stepmom often becomes the scapegoat. It is realistic to expect that you may want to shrink away from filling the stepmom role right away, especially if you are made to feel guilty.
However, it’s not just the guilt. Becoming a stepmom is a complex relationship. You have this great marriage with a guy you adore. You have all the excitement of the honeymoon period; maybe you are buying a house together or making plans for travel. Perhaps you are expecting a child with your new husband, and you are eager to celebrate your baby’s birth. But despite the celebratory mood surrounding your new marriage, there’s still the stepmom role to navigate.
That part can be tricky. You may feel jealous of the bond he has with his kids, or with their mother. It can be challenging to see someone we love interacting with someone that they were in a relationship with. You may wonder if there might still be something there.
You may feel insecure, especially if you are not a mother yourself. While babies don’t come with an instruction manual, usually when you become a new mom, you have plenty of advice from eager grandparents. There’s help readily available, and there are a ton of books for parents of newborns. As a stepmom, you may not have the overwhelming love and support that a new mom receives. It is natural to feel insecure in your mothering abilities.
However, those are not the only reasons that you may feel unnatural assuming your role as a stepmom. The truth that no one is going to tell you is that you are stepping into the middle of a very intimate relationship. The family dynamic is one that is very profound. Mom and dad have shared special moments as their children have grown. First steps celebrated with grainy video; that first birthday party surrounded by family and friends. The miracle of childbirth, where both parents are at their strongest and their most vulnerable. Those moments were shared together, helping to strengthen the bond. And you weren’t a part of that.
Unnatural? Awkward? Devastatingly, completely so.
The thing is, though, that you are there now. While you may never experience the depth of closeness that your stepchildren have with their mother and father, you have an opportunity to be someone remarkable for them.
I watched a friend of mine navigate being a stepmom for years. Those first few years were rough. There were clashes and arguments, and awkwardness abounded. However, she stood firm in her devotion to those children through many years. Eventually, they grew to trust and love her. Recently, the oldest of those children got married. My friend was there, supporting her stepdaughter, in all of the family pictures, and sharing in this blessed day, even though she was no longer married to her father. Even though they had a rough start, she built a healthy, stable relationship with her stepchildren that lasted longer than her marriage to their father had.
It may not be easy. Wait. Scratch that. It will not be easy, especially in the beginning. As an outsider stepping into such an intimate relationship, you will have to accept that you will be distrusted. You will be the one to catch the blame. You will have to be the bigger person more often than you want to be. But your hard work and effort will pay off in the end.
You are a lucky woman. My friend that I talked about earlier often referred to her stepchildren as her ‘bonus children.’ She did not birth them, didn’t have to deal with the pain and fatigue of being pregnant. However, she got to enjoy the benefits of building a sound relationship with them, even though it took time and effort. I can only be happy that you also have such a unique opportunity.
PS: Can you relate? This is exactly why I don’t want my daughter to grow up to be a stepmom.