I find the experience of being a stepmom at times incredibly isolating. It also can prompt me to harbor quite negative emotions of anger, jealousy and frustration which may be natural but don’t help to develop the step-family unit. It’s important to try to focus on the positive elements of being a stepparent. I am hoping this strategy may help to diminish my feeling of isolation.
Reminders that my stepsons (who I love and care for deeply) have a mother are everywhere. I know logically they have a mom, whom they love. However, I find myself feeling hurt and cut out of the conversation when she is brought up. I find this especially hard when we are in the middle of doing something fun with my stepsons like playing a game. She gets mentioned and I start worrying they’re comparing me to her or I wonder why she has to be brought up then when we’re having a nice moment of feeling like a family. This is my anxiety and has little basis in reality. Children talk about their parents and others close to them and my stepsons are no exception. In all honesty, it’s nice they have positive experiences with their mom that they want to share. I would not want them to have a terrible time with her because that would make them unhappy.
The reminiscing the boys do with Chris is especially hard. They want to discuss nice memories of family holidays before the divorce happened and before I knew them. This feels isolating because it reminds me how much of a life they’ve lived before me. I wish I could have seen them as babies: I wish I could have seen first steps and heard first words. But I cannot change the past so I try to focus on the present and the memories we are all making together. They do also talk about the trips we’ve been on together, the outings to vegetable farms, and the games we play. I hope I’m adding to their store of positive experiences and memories of childhood. It’s also nice they have positive memories of the pre-divorce. A lot of children from divorces could have quite negative memories of fighting and chaos between their biological parents.
School events like plays and concerts are incredibly isolating mainly because Chris’ ex-wife does not want me there and ensures the kids know this is her wish, ultimately their loyalty is to her. I’ve missed birthday parties, lower school graduations and drum recitals. I get angry but what can I say when one of my stepsons says “I just want mommy and daddy there.” To try and deal with this, I continue to express an interest to the children in what they are doing in school and recently the older one has been ok with me attending his plays which feels great. I am trying to be patient with myself if I get frustrated, to be patient with Chris because I know he’d like me there and patient with the children because they don’t need to be caught in the middle between their mom and stepmom.
Other school events such as parent conferences, I just need to come to terms with the fact that it’s impractical for me to attend just as it is with doctors’ appointments. Some things step parents just don’t fit into and forcing the issue would make it about me and not the kids. Chris always tells me detailed accounts of what is said about the children in such meetings and I feel pride when I know I helped them to do well in a specific exam. Chris and I also try to come up with plans when changes and improvements need to be made. We don’t always agree on the need for such plans but when we can it again makes me feel much more included.
Stepmomming can trigger lots of emotions and that’s ok. It’s important to acknowledge them and determine the triggers. Once the triggers are found, it’s possible to adjust your perspective or speak to your partner about how you can feel more included. This is a journey for me but I am making some progress!
Building Stepfamilies, like any family, is a process that involves missteps and joy and patience is key, especially patience with myself.