Last year, when I wrote this post on Stepmother’s Day, I was not in the best place. Obviously. Reading it, immediately you’ll know I was struggling. My husband was about two weeks from finishing his career in the military and I was grieving over it. I was staring down a move to the south, leaving behind my colleagues and physical office to work remotely and I was leaving a city I adore. It all hit me pretty hard. I was scared; scared of moving, scared of Arkansas, scared of messing up as a stepmother. Truth is it was kind of easier being a stepparent from 1,500 miles away. But it wasn’t easier for my husband to be a dad and that’s why I knew we had to move. Even though I’m not a biological parent, I know that there is no greater love than a parent’s love for a child. The fact of the matter is I can never fully understand it or even fully feel it; but I know it. And I know that being nearby I have grown into more Love with my husband’s kids than I ever could if we had stayed in San Diego. I understand and feel things now I couldn’t have before…
K is ten now. She’s into shoes, dresses and nail polish. Her mom texted me photos of her all dressed up for the daddy/daughter dance and I’m thinking, “Uhhh what happened to that little six year old I heard running for the phone yelling daaaaaddddy!!!!” and I want to slow time down a little. Ten going on twenty-five ACK! M is sixteen and she is busy with sports and has a boyfriend. I admire her so much for being a strong young woman. She has such a good head on her shoulders. I feel like we’ll blink our eyes and she’ll be off to college and it makes me sad. I cannot imagine what that’s like for her mom. L is 19 and expecting. Never in a million years did I think I’d be a [step]grandma at 40! I remember when she was 16 and getting ready to graduate high school. I cherish how much closer she and I have gotten over some really great conversations on the living room sofa.
I always knew being a parent is not easy, but until I lived it I never knew being a stepparent is really not easy. You may think to yourself, “I get a lot of responsibility and very little recognition.” Of course, becoming a stepparent, that isn’t the goal. You don’t take your vows and add on, “Oh yeah and I want your ex(es) and kids to respect me and give me a little gratitude for everything I do,” but you do go into it with the sometimes unrealistic expectation that it will be that way because you had nothing to do with what happened between them in the past. That isn’t always reality, though. Human emotions aren’t that simple (ahhh if only they were) and you have a lot to do with what is going on in the present, even if you don’t see it that way.
We’ve been in Arkansas for just over ten months. I’ve come a long way since that post a year ago. I’m not going to tell you I still don’t have my days. I do. Don’t we all? I’m still learning and laughing at myself, too (why would I send a 4th grader to school in brand-new white capri pants knowing she actually plays at recess?).
I’ve never seen myself as a “mother” yet I really don’t like the term “step” – I use bonus a lot because having the kids in my life is a bonus, yet I don’t want to liken my relationship with them to receiving a fat check at the office (unless they want to take care of me in my old age. Totally kidding).
Is Stepmother’s Day Legit?
So Stepmother’s Day. I don’t know whether or not there should be a “Stepmother’s Day”. I don’t know whether it steps on Mother’s Day’s toes (no pun intended) and I don’t know if stepmothers should be recognized on Mother’s Day or not either. What I do know is that regardless, stepmoms want some gratitude and recognition and it has nothing to do with the biological mother. I also know it has nothing to do with stepmoms trying to be as significant to the child (we know we’re not); but in the long run most people want to be acknowledged because it feels good. Well, I am here to acknowledge you. Today and every single day, I know you’re trying. I know that despite all the trying in the world sometimes it can feel like you’re invisible…but you’re not. Know how I know?
I started writing this post before Mother’s Day. And guess what? I was acknowledged and IT FELT GOOD. Really, really good. I may or may not have bawled like a baby receiving my first Mother’s Day card with the words THANK YOU written inside. Okay, I totally bawled. It took some time, but it happened. I got text messages, too. And those texts mean more to me than any words I could try to come up with.
When it comes down to it, I think we just want to be accepted. So remember this: it’s a two way street. To be accepted, you have to do some accepting of your own…
Happy Stepmother’s Day to all of you out there doing your best.