The thing about being a stepmom. It’s hard. It sucks. Being a parent is hard. Period. You second guess everything you do. Constantly wonder what impact your everyday actions will have your children’s future. You sleep never. Your favorite foods are no longer sacred. You’re a glorified taxi driver. Essentially nothing is simple and the risk is vast. Add to that the fact that these tiny human’s, you now play a role in molding, are not yours biologically. Yes, being a step-mom is hard.
In the eyes of the law nothing, you do matters, unless you harm them. This means look at them funny, punch them in the face, or withhold food. All the things you could do to your own children, you can’t even think about doing without ruining the life of your spouse and the tiny humans too. You experience all the same insane emotions and stressors that parents of biological children experience, yet it’s even more stressful because they’re not yours. And the law doesn’t recognize you- unless you fuck up.
Being a step-mom is also incredibly isolating. Which is funny because there are millions of us. But I think what’s so isolating is that it’s easy to think your situation is unique. And it’s also really easy to often feel like you’re seconds away from fucking up everything, all the time. That’s how I feel anyways. To a degree, I do think my situation is unique. My husband has full physical custody of his children, in which they live with us more than 85% of the time and their biological mother lives more than 16 hours away.
People often say, “you’re really lucky, this is so rare.” I know this to be true and I do recognize how lucky we are, but it’s still really fucking hard. What I’ve come to realize over what’s been a particularly challenging period is that I think any step-parent could say their situation is unique. Because they all are. But what I do think is the same is that it’s all hard and it can feel really isolating.
Even now that I have my own biological daughter, I still feel isolated. I can’t exactly lean on her for support. Could you imagine what her therapy bill would be like someday? My Dad is great, but he’s not a step-mom (weird right?) A lot of my friends from college or pre-marriage have fizzled off for various reasons. And of all the mom-friends I’ve made along the way, not one is a step-mom. I have great friends. A great family. I mean honestly, I hit the jackpot in this realm, but still I never quite feel like anyone can relate.
When we got pregnant my husband had this hope, at least I think, that this would all get easier for me to navigate. Instead, it got harder. Now not only do I know what exactly it is my kids’ biological mother gave up, what kind of person it takes to do that, I also have to protect my baby from all the bullshit. Instead of 3 tiny humans, I’m mama bearing, there are 4 and one of them is my blood. Before my baby, I knew what it meant to believe you’d jump in front of a truck for your kids. I vowed that I’d sell everything I ever owned simply to follow them around the world if it meant being their mom. Then I experienced the actual biology behind these feelings and this all increased times 4.
Under the best circumstances navigating the emotions of parenthood is hard. Being a step-mom you don’t really know where you stand, ever. It’s so lonely. Are you enriching your kids’ lives, are they going to eventually resent you, are you making your spouse’s life more difficult, are you helping? And through all of that who do you really talk to, to sort it out? Could anyone possibly understand? How do you manage these emotions and figure out a way to cope free of constant fear and anxiety?
Unfortunately, this post isn’t one offering a solution. I honestly don’t know what it is I’m offering here. I think that’s sort of the point? This is hard, being a step-mom. I’m scared that I’m doing it wrong all the time. I am consistently anxious. I can’t really work these things out with anyone because the truth is just living it is exhausting never mind rehashing it all all the time. And more than that I think I make it worse for my spouse, the one other person who could understand, when I do voice these concerns. But I think, if you can tell, what I need is solidarity.
I hope that through these words here, this expression of fear and angst, that you feel better reading it. Not because my words are uplifting, they’re not. No matter what your situation looks like. No matter what category of parent you fall in (IE: step-mom, biological mom, etc), you know it’s really fucking hard for all of us. Most importantly I hope you know that that feeling of isolation is, in fact, that thing the unites us and that you are not alone. Being a step-mom is hard. It’s isolating. But it doesn’t have to feel so hard and we don’t have to feel isolated, alone.