Since the beginning of time, stepmothers have had a bad rap. We’re not trying to poison our stepchildren with apples, or send them off into the woods to starve or stand in the way of them finding true love. I’m kind of sick of all this bad press, so I’m here to set the record straight about stepmothering. I give you my Top Ten Stepmothering Realities.
1. You love your own children differently than your stepchildren
This is the elephant in the room, so let’s start with it. This is a natural feeling. The biological bond between a mother and a child is among the strongest. What we need to remember is that love is not a feeling. Love is something you need to put into action every day. We choose to love. We choose to nurture. John 15:13 says that “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for your friends”. Replace the word friends with stepchild and you will see the miraculous happen. Your love (agape) for your stepchild will become greater than your love for your own child.
2. Even though you feel alone, you’re not alone
1300 new stepfamilies are formed every day. Don’t let anything stop you from reaching out to other people who can help you. There are times when you need to get help from a professional, such as a counselor, but other times, all you need is someone who will listen without judgment.
3. “Wicked” has two meanings
There are times when we feel “wicked awesome” and other times when we feel like “evil personified”. Of course we aim for the first one, but don’t beat yourself up if “Mrs. Hyde” rears her head occasionally. In my personal experience, this happens when something else is out of balance. Be honest with yourself about the way you’re feeling and try to work things out. Remember, Mr. Hyde eventually poisoned Dr. Jekyl…
4. You went into this with your eyes open
We might have started out wearing rose-colored glasses, envisioning the sweetness of the Brady Bunch but reality set in and things aren’t always so rosy. It might be tempting to shift blame, badmouth the ex, or lose your temper with an unruly child, but remember you chose this path. That said, each family is unique with their own dynamic and challenges, give yourself time for everyone to adjust. Embrace your choice as one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.
5. There will always be another woman in your husband’s life
…who happens to be the mother of his children. She’s not going anywhere, so suck it up and get over it.
6. Marriage is a lot of work. Remarriage is even harder
This is especially true for the children who have been displaced. Not only do they miss their home, friends, family members and pets they have to adjust to a whole new set of rules and traditions. It’s also harder for the couple. The odds of breaking up increase with each marriage. Don’t become a statistic.
7. Your stepchild might not want your marriage to succeed
In fact, they may even fantasize about their parents reuniting. This is especially heartbreaking because it is totally understandable. Kids don’t often understand why their parents broke up in the first place. As the stepmother, you are the one who is standing in the way of this reunion. Expect a lot of anger aimed directly at you but just don’t take it personally. Again, this is one of those simple, but not easy feats to achieve.
8. If you want your marriage to succeed, you need to fight for it
Love each other. Respect each other. Communicate constantly. Laugh a lot. Play together. Get frisky often. These strategies are all simple, but they’re not always easy when the stress of daily life comes at you. Make a conscious effort to commit to these behaviors on a consistent basis. Don’t expect them to just happen.
9. Life sometimes feels like a rollercoaster ride
A lack of clear expectations, ambivalent emotions and feelings of alienation can make you feel like you’re going crazy. One day you and your stepchild adore each other, the next day you’re mortal enemies. This is normal and given time, the ride becomes less bumpy. Remember though, you can stay on the ride or you can get off at the next turn. The choice is yours.
10. You can do this
You are stronger than you think you. You are more equipped than you believe yourself to be. Enjoy each day for what it is – a new opportunity to love each other and grow together as a family.
This can be your reality.
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