I don’t know what it is like for you. My children are grown and don’t have a stepmother. Your children are still young, and they have me for a stepmom. You don’t know me. We’ve never met. Yes, we’ve been in each others presence, but we have never spoken. I don’t know what you think of me, but I can only assume that you wonder if I am a good parent. Are your children in safe hands when they are with me? You don’t know what kind of person I am or if you can trust me, a stranger, with your children’s lives. It must be difficult for you to send them off to our home when it’s our weekend or holiday.
What I can tell you is this:
I love your children. They are absolutely wonderful. You’ve done an amazing job raising them. Sure, they can be a handful at times, but all children are. I love them as I love my own. I cook for them. I like to make their favorite meals and cater to their (at times) picky needs. I help them rinse all the conditioner out of their hair and I give them toys to play with in the bathtub. I tuck them in bed at night and kiss their foreheads. I hold their hands when we cross the street. I kiss their ouchies when they are hurt and I comfort them when they need comfort. I plan fun activities for their stay and listen to their every word. I encourage them and praise them. I throw the football with your son and I polish your daughters’ nails.
Do you want to know what I don’t do? I don’t discipline them. I let their father do that, as I feel it is not my place. I don’t ignore them and I am never mean to them. I don’t belittle or embarrass them. I don’t undermine your authority or try to step on your toes. I don’t do anything that I know you wouldn’t want me to do.
Your children love me. I know because they tell me and show me. They tell their dad they love me. But you know what? You are never far from their minds. When we are at the flea market, your youngest will point out a tchotchke she thinks you would love. When I make chicken fried steak, they will tell me they love it, but it’s not as good as yours. When we are at the park, your son will see a woman who has the same coat as you do. They tell me they love you and miss you. Sometimes when we have them for a week or more, they get homesick.
I know things aren’t always easy between you and their dad, but you did love him once. You saw all the wonderful things in him that I see. You valued him enough to have children with him. (And I must say, you make beautiful babies together!) I think sometimes after a divorce, it is easy to remember the faults of a person while forgetting their positive attributes. He is a wonderful, loving father. He gets giddy in anticipation of their arrival and is sad when we return them to you. Every day, he excitedly tells me a story about at least one of your children. He hugs them and kisses them and tells them he loves them every chance he gets. His life would be incomplete without them. He tells them it is okay to love me. That doesn’t mean they love you any less. He knows they love your husband and that doesn’t mean they love him any less. How lucky these kids are to have four parents that care so much about them when some children don’t even have one.
So, please, don’t worry when they are in my care. I promise you I will protect them with my life. I promise you I will treat them the way I would want my children to be treated. I promise you will I love them — not like you do because a mother’s love can never be compared — but I will love them like a stepmother. And that is pretty big love.