Wicked (Awesome) Stepmom!
Stepmomming is so hard, but so rewarding. It’s like having all the perks of being an aunt and all the complications of parenting…but with your hands tied behind your back. I love them like I would love my own children but feel like I’ve had to maintain this invisible boundary that says I’m not their parent. Heavy on the STEP, light on the MOM. You feel awkward at events where people assume you’re the mom. When someone in public compliments the kids, do you say “thanks!” and move on or do you go into an explanation that you’re not actually their mother but you’ll pass on the compliment? When you meet new people, you don’t want to jump into the “I’m actually their stepmom” conversation right away, but you also don’t want to make the kids uncomfortable or feel like an imposter. It’s a delicate balance of wanting to be an involved stepmom (sans the wart on the nose), and also wanting to avoid looking like the creepy nanny in the movie “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.”
I’m so fortunate to have a wonderful husband who supports my relationship with his kids in whatever manner the kids and I find comfortable. There is so much joy in sharing a life with them. Their laughter, creativity, and kindness leave me in awe on a weekly basis. I love watching them succeed at school and activities. We share our own traditions, like making fairy gardens each spring. They absolutely have changed my heart for the better. I’m a better person because I know and love them, and I think I’ll be an even better mother because of them.
Then there’s the heartache that comes with it. This week I reminded my stepson that it was Mother’s Day this weekend and asked if he’d made his mom a card or present at school. He looked at me and said he didn’t know it was this week. Then with a puzzled look asked “wait, does Mother’s Day include you?” My heart soared just knowing he considered me at all, but I also never want him to feel uncomfortable or take away from his mom. I told him “it doesn’t have to include me, but that is your decision to make.”
I can say with certainty that I’ve been a wicked awesome stepmom to these kids – most days anyway! But I can also say, I’ve had a really hard time building a relationship with their mom. Meeting each other in the beginning was so awkward…for both of us I’m sure. We share kids now and at some point both loved and married the same man. I suppose it can either give you a common ground to stand on, or it can become a breeding ground for insecurity, jealousy, and negativity. In this case, I’m sad to say it created the latter in me.
When I picked up the kids from school yesterday, my stepson handed me his backpack and his Mother’s Day gifts for his mom as he ran to the car. I looked down at his carefully drawn hearts and inscription “Mommy+Me=Love” and it softened my heart. For years, there’s been so much tension between his mom and me. Like it’s somehow become some sort of competition between us…either her or me. But why haven’t I considered our mutual love for these kids to be common ground? Then the answer hit me as I looked back down at that card. She has what I long for most which caused jealousy to build up in my heart. Beautiful children with the man I love. Handwritten Mother’s Day cards. A love for her kids and from her kids that knows no limits.
All the bad blood and toxic feelings flooded out of my pores. When I saw her later at a baseball game, I prayed that God would soften my heart and give me a way to repair all the damage and hurt between us. And without me even realizing what I was saying, I asked if she wanted to join us for dinner after the game.
We all enjoyed a pizza dinner on a patio and got to enjoy a beautiful night with our wonderful kids. Later, we exchanged some text messages apologizing for hard feelings and how events, words, and misunderstandings created a huge complicated knot we didn’t know how to unravel. And just like that, we’ve started working on unraveling it together. The best gift that I never expected to receive has turned my first and worst Mother’s Day into a pretty awesome one. Wicked awesome.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32