Mama, Not the Mama
Updated: Jan 10, 2020
You are the Mom, and that should be honored. You're not the Mom, and that's okay.
Being on both sides myself, I'd like to take a moment in time and just acknowledge each side of the parent/step-parent coin. Both are equally beautiful, equally important, equally challenging, equally difficult and equally rewarding. When the children flip the coin, each side tries to land itself upward in importance and recognition. Both would be right to want to do so. Mom and step mom alike yearn for understanding, acceptance, honor, respect and most importantly love.
Divorced motherhood, for my children, myself and even my ex, was the lesser of two evils (the alternative would have been raising our kids up in a toxic home with a very poor example of what marriage is for them to learn from and one day follow, staying married would have been to no one's advantage nor have been good for any of our well-beings). Having said that, divorced motherhood in it of itself was beyond beautiful for me until another woman entered the picture. I loved being the only woman in my children's lives. When that happened, when the step mom entered the picture, everything suddenly felt foreign and unstable. My confidence wavered as I began to question my children's alliance to me. Sounds awful huh; yep! I began to become jealous and insecure (not a good look on anyone may I add). I had to wrestle with accepting that my children would grow up with another woman's influence and that she would be making memories with them that I would never have. If I am being honest, it took years of swallowing sand and throwing many an internal tantrum before I was ready to let go and embrace reality. I was raised an only child, so sharing really isn't my thing.
Something my Mom always told me was that love is infinite; you can't have too much of it. I really held onto this in my early years sharing my kids. I had to talk myself down off of many a cliff with reminders that my children getting loved on is only good for them; it will only make them happier and more well-adjusted. I had to completely take myself out of the equation and keep the spotlight on the kids. And that is what I still do each and every day, because sharing them doesn't get easier. I had to widen my perspective and champion that the life experiences that they get with their other family will be different from that which they get in our home, and that is so cool! They get to camp a lot and do 4-H, for example, with their Dad and Step Mom. Only being in our household, they would probably have missed out on those and both things my kids completely love! The same goes in reverse, what they do with us while in our care is unlike their other home. I choose to see this as a blessing for the kids, who will grow up well-rounded and exposed to more life than if they had only a single family childhood. The other thing that lessens the sting (well, did over time), is that my kids truly love their step mom. After I got out of my own way, it ended up melting my heart and I began to feel gratitude for her. I'd rather them love her than cry every time it was time for drop-off, I'd rather them feel comfortable with her than hearing horror stories about a situation that I have zero control over. I learned that my problems about her, were just that, MY OWN. *gasp*
For the Moms out there struggling like I did, don't beat yourself up. Know that what you are feeling is normal, because sharing your kids with another woman is completely unnatural. We are mama bears and we are wired to be front and center for every part of our kids lives to comfort, protect and cheer on. One of the other hardest realizations I've had with all of this too is that no only do parents get their kids for 18 short years, but when you share custody that number gets cut in half. I have always had a very hard time with this. Time is on hyper-speed over here and it’s going way too fast.
So now I plea to the step moms, the exes and the spouses of bio moms. Help them through their struggles (insecurity, anxiety, jealously, sadness, etc.). Reassure them, extend them grace, be encouraging, and most importantly just honor that they are the MOM. Let the moms have that; let them be the mom. Before anyone starts yelling at the screen, honoring a mom does not mean dishonoring the step mom; receive that. This only means acknowledging and respecting her position in regard to her children. Just like the old saying, "happy wife happy life", having a well adjusted bio mom helps both families have an easier ride blending.
Now onto step moms, because I am also that too. You are not the mom, and guess what....that's perfectly okay. Just because you are not biologically attached to your steps, that does not diminish your influence or importance you have in their lives. A lot of step moms get hurt and offended because they are not considered the actual "mom". If that is you, please move on and get over that giant hurdle of disappointment, because the reality is that you are, in fact, not the actual parent. And so what?! It is what it is. Please don't waste your time on something that you can not change nor do you have an power over. Your efforts are much better spent focusing on your presence in the family and what good and help you can bring to all. You are a support, and your family is very blessed to have you as that!
The biggest struggle I see with blended families is the power struggle that exists between steps and bios; it's completely unnecessary and useless. Blended families are hard enough without entering into such a fruitless war. I can't tell you the number of times I have had to bite my tongue, step aside, and accept my place when it has come to my step children. I have learned and championed that my husband has the final say in our home when it comes to his children, and his real parental teammate is their Mom; they make the decisions. Not that my opinions aren't wanted, because they are, and not that I am without an influence, because I so have influence, but when the rubber hits the road, I have to respect both bios are making choices they feel together is in the best interest of THEIR children. They have every right to do so, and the truth is, I have zero rights at all. That is the reality of most every step parenting situation I know. I am truly okay with all that, because that is what I feel is righteous.
So the plea for step moms is this; bio moms, exes and spouses, please honor the step mom by acknowledging her importance in your family. Show and speak gratitude, because more often than not, being a step parent is a thankless job. Step moms choose to show up, to be involved and to care when they don't have to and when they don't even want to. Every day they put their hearts and feelings on the line with little return on their investment. They are expected to be a parent but have zero power to actually parent as they see fit; it's not an easy job. Caring and having no say is something most people can just remove themselves from, but step parents choose to walk and stand in that every day of their lives. Bio moms, reach out and do everything you can to bridge any gap between you and the step mom...for the kids. Your kids step mom can be your greatest foe or your greatest ally; which do you think is best for the kids?
Women who love on children in their blended family, step or bio, are all wonder women. No matter the title or the role, these women endure and show up. May these women be valued, honored, respected and may they be loved.