Step Mom. Its the awful terrible term that women get cursed with as they get blessed with the love of a child that did not come from their own womb. Its the term with such a bad reputation that fairy tales often have an easy time coming up with a villain with its mere existence.
But the truth of the matter is that many of us are NOT Cinderella's childhood torture. We love our "bonus child" with all our hearts. When they cry we want to comfort them, when they are happy we want to share in their triumphs, when they struggle we will ourselves to move mountains to help them. But its not always that simple. We can love them as our own, and still struggle with the daily moralities of our situation. We are told by others things like:
-You're not their REAL mom.
-You wouldn't understand, you aren't a real parent.
-How could you know what's best for them?
-You're just trying to replace their real mom when you are the replaceable one.
I've heard all these and more. Been told that its none of my business. You see, my bonus baby still very much has both bio dad AND mom still in her life. In many ways it would seem like I'm the intruder here. But the truth is that I just happened to fall madly in love with a man who already had a beautiful baby girl. Things didn't work out between him and the mother of his child. They still attempt to co-parent the best they can though. What they were NOT prepared for though was co-parenting the best they can with ME. One does not simply schedule love like that.
So just over three years ago when my life changed for the better I met my bonus baby. She was 3 years old and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Truth be told I had a dream 10 years prior of a little girl that I would swear even to this day was her. I knew the moment I saw her that it was fate. In that very same moment I also knew that I would love her fiercely with all my motherly passion till the day I died...no matter what happened. Little did I know however what it was truly going to mean to be in this little girls life in such a permanent capacity.
The first year was hard. Very hard. And I'm not really sure I can say it's gotten any easier. I can't count the number of times I've felt unappreciated or left out. I do my best to be understanding of both my fiancé and my child's mother. Some days this simple goal leaves me exhausted, angry, and ready to put up my middle finger to anyone who so much as glances at me. But for my daughters sake I hold my tongue and temper my actions and reactions the best I can. As a personal engraved trait, I always try to see the best in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. As my guy had been with her for a handful of years and bothered to have a child with her, it could be deemed logical to trust his opinion and advice. But I also know how easily one sided that story could possibly be. I set out at what seemed a painstaking slow but appropriate pace at determining the measure of this woman for myself. I still cant say for certain that I have a well formed opinion. What's worse is that it feels many days as though she has never really bothered to show me the same courtesy. I doubt she knows any more about me than a passing stranger on the street. Of course that thought is absurd though. In one way or another we have been co-parenting for over three years with each other. Obviously she has learned SOME things about me. Right?
As a step parent you want desperately to assure all involved that you have no intentions of replacing ANYONE. A thought that is far easier to simply think than actually achieve or prove. In my case and many others it takes years if not decades to really prove yourself and your intentions to all involved. If your not willing to put in that kind of time, you should probably let the already broken family loose before you cause more damage that your not willing to be there to fix.
Its a title of both pros and cons. Like anything else in life you have to learn to see the good when you can and deal with the bad as often as it feels like rearing its head. Each trouble and triumph both have to be taken a day at a time. Unconditional love is the only key that I've ever found and used with any success. Unconditional love for my daughter, for my fiancé, and yes... even for my daughters mother. Thoughtless words and petty feelings have given me no joy, success, or satisfaction. So instead I approach each day like a new start and a fresh opportunity to show each and every one of them that I have no intention to leave or let up my limitless love. Some days I fail. Some days we are all together for 5 mins and no one ends up mad or crying. I will take my little victories whenever I can get them. And so should you.
I am not alone (though I certainly feel it sometimes.) I always try to open discussions with my fiancé about the well being of our daughter, our separate feelings on co-parenting, and whatever the latest dilemma of our precocious 6 yr old is. These discussions don't always go well, but we both understand how unbelievably necessary they are regardless. He has learned to be more open with me about his thoughts on the subject and has made amazing progress in learning how to support me when my moral takes a heavy dip. He's far from perfect, but who the hell is? I am no saint myself. But the important part is that we both try constantly to remember that our relationship should not suffer irreparably at the hands of a woman who chose NOT to spend the rest of her life with him. While the mother is an inevitable part of our family, she does NOT get to decide the fate of our love for each other. If you are a step parent or in any side of this dynamic I implore you to strive for this understanding as well. The peace it can bring is invaluable.
To dig a little deeper Id like to share something deeply personal. All three of us have troubled pasts with our biological moms. You might think that factor could actually bring us all closer with a common history. It doesn't. I feel as though it makes things even harder. Our shared past with unsatisfactory relationships with our mother are actually wildly varying. Out of respect for them both I wont share details. But I will impress to any reader my desire for anyone struggling to break a negative parenting cycle to get help. Its not something that you should go through alone and I can tell you from experience that handling it yourself can often lead to even worse parenting cycles. My child's mother tries to compensate for what she feels like she didn't get from her own mother. It tends to go to the extreme in my opinion. My fiancé tends to disregard his own emotional pain and suffering in an attempt to prove that he wont ever give up on his daughter like he feels his mom did with him. I struggle with alcohol abuse and always having to be the moderator of issues as a result of my relationship with my own mother. We all have our struggles. We all handle them differently. We all try to put our daughter first. But I wonder often if we, despite our best efforts, only harm her more with our self diagnosis and treatment. I suppose only time will tell for all of us.
I would like to end this piece by wishing ALL the parents out there luck and unconditional love. If you take away nothing else from this piece, I hope you take this...the reminder of the power of unconditional love. Peace be with you all.