Becoming "Stepmom"

Stepmotherhood is never something I aspired to.

Though I guess it’s not something to which anyone particularly aspires. Still many women make the transition seamlessly, or so it appears to an outsider. I am still trying to navigate my way through all the intricacies of this role, and I’ve latched on to any advice and all support that has come my way.

Divorce and all its repercussions just weren’t part of my upbringing.  Call me sheltered or call me lucky, but the idea of being a stepmom was rather foreign to me growing up. So, when I met my future husband and learned he was divorced with a young son, I was sure the relationship would last about as long as our first coffee date.

I liked him. I liked him a lot, even with just the one date, but this situation was unprecedented. Being a second wife and a stepmother wasn’t something I had ever considered. But then, all of a sudden, I was considering it.

What I eventually realized was that it wasn’t about his divorce, it wasn’t about me being second, it wasn’t about “step” anything. It was about being willing to take a chance on something that didn’t conform to my preconceived notions of what it means to be a family, or how I thought love was supposed to happen.

And this realization allowed me to open my heart to this man and his alarmingly intelligent and affectionate little boy. I quickly fell in love with them both. Three years later we married and I officially became a stepmother.

I had already begun taking a mothering role, little by little, so when we did marry there were only two big changes:

  1. There was a child living in the same house as me.
  2. That child referred to me as “stepmom.”

Wait…WHAT?? How was that transition so seamless for him and yet I’m still floundering to figure this out? Yes, I was aware that I would become a stepmom when we married but I had no idea how to actually DO that!

Even as we were dating and especially since we’ve been married, I’ve searched for resources where I could learn more and that might help me retain my sanity. Two local resources that were helpful to me were The Parenting Center and FTW Stepmoms (a support group). Through these resources I have taken a stepfamily class and found stepmoms with whom I could share advice, commiserate, and share laughs. I have also read stepmom books and blogs. And sometimes I’ve crossed my fingers and trusted my own intuition.

Though I’m still figuring this out and making mistakes, here’s what I’ve learned so far about stepmotherhood…and about myself:

  1. Life isn’t fair. As I write this I realize the spellchecker doesn’t recognize words like “stepmotherhood” and “stepmom.” I will use them anyway and call Webster’s later.
  2. I am a stepmother and I have to figure it out as I go despite the fact that I missed the first 3 years of the kid’s life.
  3. I’m trying to learn how to do motherly things, like cleaning up early morning vomit. I like to pretend that had I been “broken-in” with explosive poopy diapers and projectile spit-up I would have been better suited to handle these duties. My mom-friends assure me otherwise.
  4. I can love my stepson all I want, help raise him, treat him as my own and yet I have no legal rights in his life. I cannot sign off on emergency healthcare decisions and if my husband dies there is a chance I will no longer be part of my stepson’s life. Again, life isn’t fair.
  5. I am figuring out the delicate balance of being a full-time mom in thought and a part-time mom in action.
  6. I have to try my best to get along with his mother, a woman I may not always agree with but who, just like me, has this kid’s best intentions at heart.

The most important thing that we’ve all learned is to cherish our time together. We spend time as a family on special “family dates”: breakfast and a flick at Ridgmar Movie Tavern, game nights at home, walking to a favorite Magnolia Avenue restaurant for dinner.

We also spend time developing each individual relationship: stepmom/stepson date to the Museum of Science and History; papa/son time building a bird house; and of course husband/wife time drinking wine on the couch, relishing our time as newlyweds.

Together, we’re working to shape our own meaning of family.

 

Are you a stepmom? What advice would you add? 

 

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Sara MorianSara is a new wife, stepmother, and a speech-language pathologist. She graduated from TCU with her master’s in 2009 and met her husband soon after. They married in October 2012 and enjoy the rewards and challenges of their new family while juggling full-time jobs, DIY rehab of their “new” old house, and a brewery start-up (socialbeers.com). She has one 7 year old stepson who loves to read (Captain Underpants, currently) and narrate his way through movies. Sara, his dad (“papa”), and their 2 dogs live and love in Fairmount, where stepson also lives half time.

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Do not get caught up in the drama of what you can not change and focus on what you can. You can’t control or change what happens when they aren’t with you.

  2. Wow, at times I think I am the only one in this situation and then I read this and remember I’m not alone. I was exactly like you and then I met my husband. Three months into our relationship, we found out that a woman whom he casually dated before me was pregnant. We both decided to stay together and now I have a wonderful husband and a precious stepdaughter that I am in love with. The road definitely isn’t easy, but like you said “we’re working to shape our own meaning of family.” Thank you so much for posting this.

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