Three Truths Stepmoms Wish You Knew

Three Things Stepmoms Wish You Knew

by Katie Parsons

I’ve been a stepparent to two gorgeous kids for just over four years and it’s a pretty sweet gig overall. I get to be part of these wonderful kids’ lives and I didn’t even have to suffer months of pregnancy morning sickness or newborn up-all-nights for it to happen. Their mother and I have a good relationship built on the foundation that if the kids see us happy, they will be happy too.

Many times other moms ask me about the difficulty involved in having “another woman” who I have to deal with. In truth, the hardest parts of stepparenting have nothing to do with the kids or their mother; the most hurtful things I’ve heard came from flippant friends, family members and strangers that don’t understand the complexities of a combined family and more specifically, my role in it.

Some of the things I wish people understood about being a stepmom include:

We miss them too

Sometimes when I explain our custody schedule to friends or family I hear this: “Oh, that must be so hard for her. I would miss my kids so much.”

Here’s the thing though: I miss my stepkids too when they aren’t with us. Yet I doubt anyone will ever think to ask me how I’m doing on a day when they are gone, or how I’m “holding up” when they go on a vacation with their mom. Some Friday afternoons when they pull out of my driveway for the weekend I choke up because it’s so hard to see them go. I don’t need a pity party, of course, but implying that missing the kids is an act reserved just for the other mother is offensive and hurtful. We aren’t always happy to see them go – and sometimes the very opposite is true.

The pressure is real

Even the best birth-mom/stepmom relationships come with an inherent looking-over-the-shoulder setup. When you make a mistake, she knows it. If it isn’t obvious, one of the kids will tell her. Every. Time. Imagine if your parenting was being judged at every turn – every decision, every action, every mistake.

The first year of our marriage my stepson contracted pneumonia after an unusual Florida cold spell during the few days he was with us (the guilt!). This past summer I sent them back to their mom after a long vacation and received a text a few hours later from her informing me that they had lice (turns out we all did). Dirty fingernails, tangled hair, expensive stained clothing, missing prized toys, skinned knees – when you’re a stepmom there is always someone there to witness the bulk of your mistakes.

You end up apologizing for not having time to trim the fingernails, or not brushing hair thoroughly enough, or not forcing your stepson to wear a hat, or feeding your stepdaughter blackberries, or not cleaning under the bed that week to find the most interesting toy in the world, or for allowing the kids to all share pillows and hairbrushes on the two-week summer vacation. You have higher accountability. You have to do more to prove that you care. If you’re lucky like me, the kids’ mom assures you that these mistakes happen to every parent. It’s still a pretty big weight to carry and stepparents try really, really hard just to get half the credit real parents get for the same results.

We make life better, not worse, for our kids

The addition of a stepparent can be a difficult transition for kids but with some work, it can lead to some pretty great things. Because of me, my kids have an extra committed adult who is there for the good and bad days. Because of me, my kids have a 33% higher chance that a parent can go on a class field trip, or drop off a forgotten lunch at school, or take them to grab ice cream for a good report card. Because of me, my kids see their dad in a happy, healthy relationship that brings out the best in his parenting, too. I’m not an obstacle in their lives that they need to overcome. They are lucky to have me, just as they are blessed with two dedicated biological parents.

So the next time you see a stepmom, ask her how her kids are doing – all of them. Chances are it will make her day.

Katie Parsons is the creator of Mumbling Mommy, a blog with contributions from parents all over the country. She can also be read on the HypeOrlando blog network, GalTime, ChamberofCommerce.com, and other national sites.

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