I’m a mother. I have four kids. Those seemingly innocent words are the start of the double-edged sword of life as a stepmom. To be politically correct, I have given birth to two kids, and my husband’s first marriage has blessed me with two more. If I just call them my kids, some get upset and feel I’m crossing a line. If I call them my stepkids, I might also be accused of not loving them enough. I live life searching for the right words, trying to please those around me.
That’s the life of a stepmother. It’s always a double-edged sword.
If I give the two older children in my life all I can: my love, my attention, and everything I can offer a child, I’m overstepping some unseen boundary. The children of course don’t care. Children love attention, affection, and someone to spend time with them as they grow. I’m spending the three hours on the science fair project. I’m reading a bedtime story to them at night. But somehow the adults around us are looking on and judging me. I’m trying too hard. Some even say I’m trying to take their mom’s place. As I feel the glares from “real moms” as I walk the school halls, my stepdaughter hears from friends, “why did you bring her and not your “real mom” to Mother-Daughter night?” as if I’m trying to creep in Velveteen Rabbit style and pretend I’m “real.”
If I pull away, deciding the scrutiny is too much, then I’m on the other side of the sword. I’m a terrible person. I’ve become the evil stepmother who doesn’t love unconditionally; and what kind of woman would I be if I didn’t love children unconditionally? If their mother is combative and I decide to take a back seat, the whispers begin about how dreadful I am not to give those children my all. After all, when they are at my house I am the mother figure.
To be a stepmother is to constantly be teetering between the sides of this double-edged sword; never able to please, and always at fault. All along I’ve been set up to fail. Whoever heard anyone say, “I just love that stepmom.” People think it’s simple: you love a child. But no, it’s far from that. Adults have made it far more complicated for the stepmothers of this world. Maybe at some point I will find the delicate balance between loving too much and pulling away for self-preservation. Until then I live a life where I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.
Sarah Peterson is the “Victory Mom” of her blended family. With 4 children, this teacher turned stay-at-home mom writes about life with four kids including: recipes, budgeting, parenting, and occasionally even struggles of the stepmom.