Growing up to be a mother was never a priority for me. Growing up and getting married wasn’t really either. But one thing I can tell you for sure is that I certainly never thought for even one split second that I would become a stepmother when I grew up.
My parents are still together. I never thought about divorce or about parents breaking up when I was young. I can’t think of many friends I had growing who had a step-parent. Maybe there was the rare stepdad, but that was about the extent of it and I didn’t much pay attention to the details of what that role even meant. It didn’t affect me.
Well, now the world of step-parenting is my everything. I live it, I write about it, and it’s one of the most phenomenally life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. It’s altered my perception of parenting, relationships, and also of myself.
Being a stepmom has opened up wounds I didn’t even know I had. My ego has bled extensively as my confidence has been sorely tested. My patience has expanded to spaces and places I never thought possible. My compassion for what others go through has evolved in ways it may not have otherwise.
Being a stepmom has changed me in different ways than being a “mother” has. It’s changed the way I view children. It’s opened my eyes to how children cope, how they grow emotionally, and it’s also taught me a lot about how adults often treat children as if they are ignorant.
They’re not ignorant. They see us. They hear us. They absorb everything. Every word, gesture, and action gets taken in, recorded, and categorized.
I’ve often said that not every woman is capable of being a stepmom or at least functioning well at it. I know now that’s because it can take so much out of you personally.
It’s not just about feeding, clothing, and sheltering a human being. Being a stepmom requires personal sacrifice, diplomacy, and a level of maturity that can only be gained after years of making mistakes and learning from them.
Regular parenting requires a lot, as well, but with step-parenting, you’ve always got to be more mindful, careful, and aware of your words because most of the time it’s not just about you. Step-parenting often includes at least 1 or 2 other parents or spouses with their own agendas, wants, and needs. Then you’ve got siblings, extended family, friends, and so on.
Making a decision in a blended family can affect so many other people, which is why planning and scheduling can be so complicated for stepmoms. Much of the time, no one feels like they’re winning or getting what they want.
Most of my friends who are women have no idea how I get through being a stepmom sometimes. Most of them wouldn’t put up with half of the chaos that can come with this role. It’s certainly not anyone’s dream job or coveted position.
While none of us sat around as little girls dreaming of becoming someone’s stepmom, I think that plenty of little girls grow up to be women who are needed as stepmoms. There are some children in this world who need an extra guide, teacher, and protector. It’s not a role that’s necessarily chosen but, in fact, it chooses us.
There are things in this world we aspire to, and then there are things that we are meant to do. The things we are meant to do aren’t always ideal. They aren’t always happy. But they are so very, very important.
Being a stepmom was never a garden I intended to cultivate in my life — but here I am, helping to grow and raise a child who needs me.