On Being a Stepmom
Being a stepmom is hard. Really hard. I have been in this role for 23 years and have only begun to figure it out a bit. This is not an advice post. This is simply a part of our story. Every blended family has a different experience, and I will not pretend that there is a one-size-fits all “right” way to successfully blend. There isn’t. It’s hard. It’s messy. For us it was also very beautiful….eventually.
I was 22 years old when I became stepmom to 8 and 10-year-old boys. Obviously, I had no idea what I was doing. I was determined to be the best stepmom on the planet. Since I was young they thought I was cool, inviting me to school functions. I thought that it was totally normal for me to be there. I attended field trips and volunteered to be hall monitor. It never occurred to me that I was overstepping my bounds. The mixture of youth, immaturity, and a jealousy issue, proved to cause more misery than needed to everyone involved.
Michael, the oldest, and I began to have conflict shortly after I married his dad. On a trip to Disneyworld, he and I argued over who was going to ride roller coasters with his dad. I felt completely justified in my behavior. I was extremely controlling. My husband was mine. I did not realize that is not the case when I chose to marry someone with children. He was a dad first. Their relationship deserved more respect than I was giving. It was never my intention to wedge myself between father and son, yet that is exactly what my actions spoke. Words weren’t even necessary.
Having children of my own opened my eyes. Unfortunately, the years before discovering the error of my ways caused much damage. Some proved almost irreparable. I spent years filled with so much frustration, trying to figure out the “right” way to step-parent. In all of my striving, I eventually determined that “right” is undefinable in this role. I realized that my behavior was driven by jealousy and the need for control pretty early on and corrected that, but there were many things that took years of personal evolution and freedom for me to release the need to be “right.”
My stepsons are now 32 and almost 34. Over the years I have spent time making amends for the foolish things I did when they were young. We are now best of friends. No, really, we are. The kind of friendship that isn’t afraid to call each other out when necessary. It would have served me well to recognize that friendship is what I had to offer them 23 years ago. I never needed to fill a mom role because they already had a wonderful mom.
I have learned to let go of attachments to the outcomes of those boys, now, men and let them be who they are. They are amazing people that do not need my advice or approval, yet benefit from my love. This has been, for me, the secret to step-parenting “right.” I look forward to spending many years in loving relationship with Michael and Jason. Becoming their stepmom has proven to be one of the greatest gifts imaginable to me. Working through the difficulty of step-parenting has caused more personal growth than anything in my life. I once doubted this but now can say, yes, I would do it all over again. The struggle has been worth every minute.