I have had the fortune (or misfortune depending on how you look at it) of being a full-time working mom, a working mom who’s off during the summer, a single mom, a stay-at-home mom, and a full-time working mom who’s also simultaneously taking a full load of graduate school courses. Just writing all of that makes me tired. Of all the mom roles I have fulfilled, the hardest one has been that of step-mom.
Before I go any further, I want to be absolutely clear. My step-daughters are amazing children. They are smart and funny and helpful. They are incredible sisters and daughters. I met their dad when they were five-years-old and three-years old. Neither one of them really remembers a time before I was in their life. Likewise, my own children can’t remember the time before we became a family. As in most situations involving blended families, it’s not the children that make life difficult. Adults are the ones that introduce pain, conflict, and discord.
Anyone who has adopted children or step-children knows that biology is not what determines love. I love my step-children as much as I love my biological children. My role in the lives of my step-daughters is the same as the role I play in the lives of my own children. Throughout their lives I have been there to: kiss boo-boos, sing lullabies, pray with them, cook for them, teach them how to cook, take them to museums and parks, clean up their messes, wash their clothes, take their temperature, and give them medicine when they are sick. The list is endless, but the point is that there’s really nothing I would do for my biological children that I wouldn’t do for my step-daughters and vice versa.
The difference with parenting step-children versus biological children comes from the relationship (or lack thereof) with the biological mother. I frequently read stories about how blended families work together for the benefit of the children. Unfortunately, that’s never been the case in our situation. With my own children, I never have to worry about being criticized for the type of hair products I select. No one accuses me of trying to pack too many activities into a weekend. Outside of my role as step-mom, no one is stalking my social media accounts in order to find ammunition to use against me. In short, it’s the adults in the scenario who make step-motherhood stressful in a manner that biological mothers can’t comprehend.
As Mother’s Day approaches each year, I reflect on my role and experiences as a step-mom. Mother’s Day is difficult because I have never had the chance to spend the day with all of the people who call me “Mom.” Just as with all children, my step-daughters will never know how hard I work to provide for their wants and their needs until they become mothers themselves. While my husband is incredibly supportive and appreciative of all that I do for our children, there is still a lot of stress in knowing that there’s another person in my step-daughters’ lives who not only doesn’t appreciate me but who wishes I didn’t exist.
My message is to all of my fellow step-moms. Movies may depict you as evil. The court system may not legally recognize you as a mother. Your step-children’s other family members may fill your life with unnecessary strain and anxiety. You may have the best husband in the world, but even he may not be able to understand your pain. You may feel like step-motherhood is the hardest job with the least amount of appreciation.
To all of you unsung heroes, I say you are a mother. You may not have birthed the children you are raising, but you are no less important. Together with your husband, you are providing an incredibly important service to your children. Not only are you looking after their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, but you are also modeling the example of what love in a marriage looks like. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day with all the children in your life, you are loved, and you are important. Happy Mother’s Day, Mamas!