Dear Stepmother: You Are Not a Mom

pic3Last week I published an article on HuffPost that was also shared on various parenting sites and blogs. If you haven’t read it, you can do so here: “I Am a Wicked Stepmother.” It’s a short and positive piece about my stepdaughter and my experience as a stepmom. I was overwhelmed by the response this article received. I enjoyed reading the comments and emails from fellow stepparents. I loved seeing the photos shared and I especially loved the comments from stepchildren, thanking their stepmom or stepdad for a job well done.

Amidst the positive comments and emails, a stream of negativity started trickling in. There was one opinion in particular that several individuals wanted to let me know: You are not her mom. You aren’t a mom. You will never be her mom. 

Mom is a title that women hold closely, and I understand that. Mom is your title and yours alone. I didn’t plan on being a stepmom, nor did I pick the title. It is not something that I worked for, yet it is something that I am working on. I’m here to love and care for my stepdaughter as best I can and put her needs and wants first. Being a stepmom is a separate relationship from being mom, and one does not threaten or replace the other.

My response to the emails and comments telling me I am not “Mom” is simple: I don’t want to be her mom! Did you read my article? I really like being a stepmom. Why would I want to change this wonderful relationship we have? And being stepmom (not mom) is part of the reason why our relationship is great.

A bit of advice I forgot to include in my previous article is, have a sense of humor. I think having a sense of humor is important in life and it’s particularly important for stepparents (and probably parents, but I wouldn’t know, right?).

So for all the “not-moms” out there, here are just a few of the benefits of being a stepmom:

  • In case you have memory problems you will constantly be reminded that YOU AREN’T HER MOTHER! Contrary to what people believe, this news will never catch you off guard. You didn’t give birth to this child, there’s another woman (Mom) who did all that work.
  • As one reader pointed out last week, being a stepmom means you are free of stretch marks, heartburn, and your new child (for me, age 5) sleeps through the night!
  • As a stepmother you have free rein to brag and boast about your stepchild. I justify this by telling myself that I didn’t create her so it’s not obnoxious to post every single accomplishment, big or small.
  • In that same manner, when your stepchild is behaving badly you can easily get away with, “Don’t look at me, I didn’t make her.”
  • Everyone has heard the phrase, parenting is a joy. I’m here to tell you the real phrase is, part-time parenting is a joy.

On a serious note, the response I received from the previous article made me realize there is a need for positive stepparenting material. The truth is, we are parents and we play an important role in these children’s lives. For many of us it’s a role that we weren’t prepared for and we are here looking for support and advice. Often, when we get online what we find is a lot of negativity. As stepparents, we are helping to shape future citizens of our world, let’s remove the ego and the negativity and focus on what is important – the children.

My goal with this ongoing series is to be a voice of positivity in the stepparenting community. Please comment or contact me with your stories and questions, or suggest topics you would like to see covered. Based on the response of my last article, we’ve all got a lot to say!

I Am A Wicked Stepmother

Evil, withholding love, despising children and being equally despised by all. Stepmothers in fairy tales are never depicted nicely. I joined this infamous and complicated club ten years ago.

2015-08-25-1440546752-1318415-pic1.jpegThe first time I met my stepdaughter she was wearing Hello Kitty sunglasses and a fluffy pink coat. She marched up to me, held out her arms for a hug, and complimented me on my shoes. This first meeting set the tone for our upcoming relationship, loving and open, full of fun and style tips. After we met we had breakfast at a nearby cafe and we go back to this same restaurant every year for our anniversary. At our wedding in 2008, my stepdaughter, then 7 years old, was my flower girl and Maid of Honor. We had an ongoing joke where she would ask, “Guess what?” and I would respond with silly answers. On our wedding day when I started crying, she looked up at me and said, “Guess what? You’re my stepmom now!” This made me cry even harder. For Mother’s Day one year she gave me a t-shirt that said, My Stepmom is Wicked Cool. As she has grown older our relationship has changed and I’ve found myself shifting more to friend and confidante. One of my favorite things about her is her humor and how much we laugh together. She makes my life better, every day.

My stepdaughter and I have a fairy tale relationship, and thankfully not the wicked stepmother version.

There are many articles on how hard it is to be a stepmom and horror stories about bratty stepchildren. Often, just telling someone you are a stepmom or have a stepchild is met with a grimace. Add to that being a “childless” stepmom and the negativity multiplies. There are numerous books on how hard and lonely it will be. In one article the author writes: “The reality is this: If you are a childless woman partnered with someone with children, you are an ‘outsider’.”

Thankfully this has not been my experience. Being a stepmom has been easy, because my stepdaughter makes it easy to love her. When people compliment me on being a great stepmom I think, How could I not be? My stepdaughter is the most amazing human I know!

I realize I’m lucky. I hit the stepdaughter jackpot. Even still, the journey has come with its share of judgement and difficulties. Thanks to my supportive husband and family I have done a decent job ignoring the naysayers.

My advice to new or struggling stepmoms would be:

Don’t read the negative articles and certainly don’t join the forums filled with complaints. The complaining and comparing fuels the negativity fire. (There are wonderful books and resources available for stepfamilies. I will share all of my favorites in an upcoming post, or you can send me an email for a short list.)

Create your own rituals. Creating rituals was an important part of uniting us as a family. The rituals and traditions we started early on are some of our favorite memories.

Ignore the gossip. Being a stepmom made me a target for gossip, especially during the elementary and middle school years. Every time I felt like I was being dragged down by negativity or pulled into the gossip I would tell myself that the only thing that mattered was my relationship with my family. What people were saying had no effect on us. I often wanted to set the story straight or confront the gossip but my husband would jokingly remind me, “If you play with the pigs you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”

Don’t compare households, don’t compete with the other household, and don’t criticize the other household. Take the high road, always. Your stepchild will thank you, your husband will thank you, and your heart will thank you!

This week we are celebrating my stepdaughter’s 15th birthday. It’s the tenth birthday I’ve celebrated with her. Looking back at photos it’s hard not to long for the younger days. But just as much as I miss the early years, I am looking forward to the next decade of being her stepmom. Her Hello Kitty sunglasses are now Jackie O’s and her fluffy pink coat is army green, but the love and laughter remain the same. The fairy tale continues.

To my stepdaughter and my husband, thank you for making me a stepmom. Wicked or not, it’s a title I wear proudly.