Dear Step-moms the world over,
Oh, how I respect you. Because I know it’s not easy. I know step-motherhood is a blessing that some days leaves your jaw dropped, your arms full and your heart heavy with a rare recipe of love and acceptance that comes from taking the scraps, from settling for the smallest unit of love and feeling unspeakable joy in its holding.
One minute I have the step-mother thing down pat- the unknowable complexities, the hand-crafted algorithm of your kids and my kids and our kids, the rotating 4-D spread sheet of distribution of attention, of rules of expectations. There are moments when all of this is in order, and I’m on top of the step-mother world! The next minute, I am tumbling into the abyss of loyalty, worry, disappointment and second best- step-mother oblivion. In some ways it’s different from plain old motherhood, in other ways it’s the same. It’s an earned love, however bumpy at times, it’s often fragile, but deeply rooted in its foundation of choice.
This is what I know for sure: My job as a mom is to make your job easier, Step-mom, and the benefits shinier and bigger. So often there is an underground war between us—and largely unnecessarily. Game over, move on. The only important thing is the happiness, security and well-being of the kids, and their ability to learn about loving, healthy relationships from watching us all interact with one another, and ‘til death do us part.
I’m not perfect at all this, mind you. I’ve had my moments, ugly ones and embarrassing ones. But, I figured out early on that the best thing I could do was to give my children permission to love their step-mother- to enjoy her company, learn from her, laugh at her jokes and hug her. When I did that, they exhaled, and relaxed into what has been nothing short of a wonderful relationship for all of them. There is only net gain when our children are well loved by more and more people.
So, moms, give that permission today. It’s never too late.
And Step-moms, hang tough, be you and know that the bar is high, really high. Sometimes I can’t even see the bar, not even with my blinged out cheaters. But, a high bar just gives us more room to run through it, limbs flailing with the effort, heart pounding and arms wide open saying, “I’m here! I’m here!” Sometimes we’ll fall on our faces, and sometimes we won’t, but let that high bar be a beacon, a reminder, that we have a critical role, and are important. We ARE here, and we will love our step-children even without that permission, but if they are free to love us back, then what we can co-create with them is the kind of family that only nurtures, that only serves their well-being. And, the extra hugs never hurt either.
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This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.