I was going to write about Mother’s day and the discomfort that can come with it when you’re part of a blended family, but then I remembered a unexpected comment someone made to me one Mother’s Day about how I could never love my twin step-sons as I love my own child (we don’t have to wonder why that relationship doesn’t flourish). It’s a false statement said more to serve whatever is lacking in the other person than a genuine curiosity about life within a blended family. If they had said your step-children must hurt your feelings more than your bio-child I would readily agree.
So today I say, “Happy Step-Mother’s Day” because it is possible to love your step-kids as much as your own children. The kicker is that it depends on how willing you are to open yourself up to loving them and, most likely, never being loved as deeply back.
It is said that being a mother is a selfless job. Very true. However, I say being a Step-mother is an even moreselfless job. I believe that stepmothers must put in more love and more effort all year for their step-kids than any mother in a bio-family.
Now before you get all bent out of shape and start comparing workloads, I want to clarify that it’s the emotional effort that I am speaking about. Everything that comes naturally and is easily taken for granted by a bio-mom must have more effort and thought behind it for a stepmom. How to make my stepchild happy? What would they appreciate my help with? Bio-moms know thousands of ways because bio-moms got to be there at the start. I know the difference as I have lived first as stepmom for four years and now as both a stepmom and a bio-mom for four years. Bio-moms grow with the child and the bio-family built years of knowledge about each other that is instinctive to them and mystifying to a stepmom.
A bio-parent immediately recognizes a pouty face versus an upset face. They know the difference between sullen silences and too-tired-to-talk. Bio-parents have luxury of understanding their children’s behavior nuances. Stepmoms don’t. Stepmom’s have to spend time thinking about things bio-moms unconsciously know.
And a basic human need is to feel a belonging to a group. Feeling sincerely accepted and liked (and, I dare say, loved) by your family is partially how we feel secure in the world. Everyone wants feel sure about belonging somewhere. Stepmom’s don’t have that assurance of returned affection from their stepchildren, but to cut-it as a Stepmom you need to act as if you’re Mom when it comes to being caring (andnot with discipline).
Acting as if you’re bio-mom starts Stepmom acting like a bio-mom in all the soft, fuzzy, helpful bio-mom ways. This then changes Stepmom’s perspective about her stepchildren because taking time to understand another person and meet their emotional and tangible needs builds compassion for that child. A key part of being a stepmom is meeting the needs of your stepchildren – regardless of your feelings about them. In assuming the household role of bio-mom, a stepmom gets all the daily drudgery and also gets the accompanying feelings that come with being a bio-mom without the luxury of love and history to smooth over hurtful interactions.
It takes a lot more effort to keep moving forward and build a relationship with stepchildren when there isn’t a clear pathway to mutual understanding or to heal hurt feelings.
However, maintaining this extra-open heart is how a stepmom can end up loving “someone else’s” children as ifthey were her bio-children. This doesn’t mean you canexpress your love to them in the same way you express your love to your own children and perhaps that’s the difference the bio-parent was trying to point out. If so, I say, who cares – love is expressed and received in many different ways.
To assume a stepmom can’t grow to love her stepchildren as much as her own children would be like stating that married couples can never really love each other because they’re not blood-related. Short-sighted, self-serving and illogical – oh, and typical.
In the end, Stepmoms live with emotional ambiguity – and that’s the bravest thing of all – to dive in and walk a life next to someone and love them without them ever having to promise that love back. Cheers Step-Mothers! Have a happy day.