My third Mother’s Day as a stepmom has officially come and gone. This holiday always brings certain feelings to the surface that I don’t love facing.
Being a stepmom is a great honor and because of healthy co-parenting relationships in our family, I’m able to have influence in Sam’s life. Not every family is so lucky. There is another side, though, that I’m afraid to talk about sometimes because it exposes insecurity and I absolutely hate feeling weak. However, I’m human and I do have feelings and lately I’ve been trying to live and share from a place of freedom instead of fear. So here we go…
4 years ago when my husband and I began dating, I knew from the very start that dating a guy with a 9-year old boy would have its challenges and things would for sure never be boring! I myself grew up with a stepdad and so I felt more prepared than normal for this type of family dynamic. I thought to myself, “No worries! I got this!”
Fast forward to marriage and becoming a family…
In a more traditional setting where you get to grow into parenting starting with your child in the womb, step-parenting is more like someone pushing you off the diving board into the deep end. You saw it coming, but you still get startled when you land in the water. There are times that feel refreshing because you had a special bonding moment or you had a breakthrough in the relationship. Other times can feel like you need someone to throw a giant life raft your way because you’re drowning in frustration, inadequecy, or emotions that you don’t know how to process.
For me, my biggest struggles are feeling like I’m not good enough and that I’m not valuable in his life. I will make special note that these are my own feelings and Sam is not at fault by any means. These struggles and feelings just come with the territory. And even though it’s been a few years, Sam and I still have much more trust that needs to be built. I know our relationship will always be different than with his other parents. As time goes on and we grow closer, I know the feelings of doubt and insecurity will fade. Until then, I know these feelings will continue to bubble up.
Here’s what I have to remind myself…
Sam has had 13 years knowing his two parents and their love for him. They each have their unique connections and relationships with him. Not to mention they all love music and are super talented in that area. Even his stepdad is a music professor! They all have so much to talk about and bond over. I’m over here like… how was school today?? And the other generic questions that can quickly run out. I try my hardest to learn about the things he loves and bring them up, but there’s just always that feeling of lack. That I’m just not good enough or fun enough. Not to mention, Sam has a pretty amazing mom already and they are super close. I try not to compare and just be me, but it’s so hard not to. I know he will never love me the way he loves her. And he shouldn’t, but I often wonder if we will have our own inside jokes and when awkward silence won’t be so awkward anymore. If he will ever trust me enough to come to me with a problem or a hurt he’s facing.
I know one day we will have a stronger and closer relationship, but for now this is our journey and it’s a good one. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a stepmom it’s that I have to be patient with myself, Sam, and the other parents as we journey together. There’s an endless amount of grace I have to give myself and him. I sure as heck didn’t know how to express my feelings as a teenager to my stepdad, so I can’t expect Sam to know either. It was terribly uncomfortable for me and so I know he’s going through his own feelings and how to process them.
I have to take things one day at a time and focus on the times we do connect, like when we go to a movie together and eat dinner just the two of us; when he asks me questions about cooking; when I embarrass him at the pool or in front of his friends; when we teach him about the 80’s. All those moments will add up and feel so rewarding when he comes home to visit from college one day and we’re able to remember those times and laugh.
I may not have birthed him, but I hope he knows just how much I do love him as my own. That he is the best kid anyone could’ve gotten and he’s growing up to be a kind, courageous, and compassionate young man.
To all you stepparents out there… keep pushing through those hard feelings and love the way you would want to be loved. Cut yourself some slack and trust that you’re doing the best you can. You are appreciated and loved.
Photos by Anjeanette Illustration