Today, when I googled “I am the worst stepmom,” I came up with some bullshit and then this:
I don’t know why I clicked yet another redundant HuffPo listicle about parenting, but I did, and it ended up speaking to me for some reason even though it’s not that great. I don’t really have a lot to say, but I kind of want to talk about it? Because I’m feeling crappy enough to google “I am the worst stepmom”? So I thought I’d hash some of them out.
1. “You are not their mother”
Oh god, how I’ve hated the term “bonus mom.” I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how it is possible to be a second mom, or just like a “real” mom, or bonus mom, or whatever. That is not to say that it can’t or doesn’t exist? I just cannot fathom it, as I cannot fathom being a man or being 85 years old because those are inaccessible states to me right now. Maybe it is because I am a cold, unfeeling robot in a human skinsuit, but I just cannot. And not only can I not understand being “just like a real mom” to my stepson, I don’t really long for it either. And it makes me feel defective and terrible.
2. “Silence is the best policy”
I struggle with this one because obviously I am not silent. I try to be anonymous, but the fact is that if anyone who knows me even casually finds this blog, they will know whose it is. I sometimes wonder if I am laying this trap for myself intentionally.
4.”It’s ok to take a step back”
I think it’s pretty clear that I live several steps back. I have no trouble doing this because this is what feels comfortable to me as a stepparent and (or because) this is what I wanted and experienced when I was a stepkid. I think the general advice to stepmoms is to give the stepkids space and not overstep, but that’s assuming that you’re talking to a regular, warm human; not a robot human who already lives galaxies away. And what if your stepkid doesn’t want someone who steps back? What if your stepkid (and his father, and probably, even his mother) expected a just-like-a-real-mom who’s right there in the front lines at all times? The house is not crumbling down around us, but I do think the reality in this respect has turned out to be a little different from the expectation for everyone but me.
5. “Protect your marriage at all costs”
Yes. My husband and I are on the same page with this, which is probably one of the few key reasons we are doing so well throughout this challenge.
6. “Don’t compare yourself to other stepparents”
I appreciate and agree with the sentiment, but too late and also impossible. Oh well.
9. “You can’t fix what you didn’t break”
It seems strange, but I do have to keep reminding myself that I’m not the one who broke it. I had nothing to do with it. I think stepparents (or is it just me? or stepmoms as opposed to stepdads?) often feel that they are to blame for all the problems in the family. They’re right there in the middle of it with a role that cannot be performed correctly or even adequately. Everyone except our spouse kind of resents us a little bit. That’s where we live and it’s hard not to think that we deserve at least some of it. But we didn’t break it, at least. We are not the reason the family split apart and kids now have a Mom’s house and a Dad’s house and sometimes things are forgotten in the shuffle and Mom and Dad argue all the time… Not our fault. And nothing we can do about it.
10. “Stick with it and know that you will emerge from this a better person”
I hope so. But my biggest hope right now is to emerge (when does that even happen?) 1) still married to my husband, 2) without causing any lasting complex to my stepson, and 3) without anyone else thinking I am as horrible as I think I am.
Art credit: Kai Samuels-Davis