We’re back with another round of “Mom Talk”, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life, to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Shanna Jones fills readers in on her continuous journey toward becoming a better stepmom. -JKM
No one taught me how to be a stepmother. There was no official “Top Ten Things to Know to be a Great Stepmom” pamphlet or some five-step program guide. As a matter of fact, my experience growing up in a blended family wasn’t a great example at all. I was too young to understand why my mother never fostered a relationship with her own stepdaughter, but I do understand now that the nonexistence of that relationship played an important role in my life. One thing was for certain: I had a really good idea of what type of stepmother I did not want to be. But, breaking that cycle was only the beginning. This was strike one against me as a stepmom.
The “baby mama” drama began way before my husband and I even walked down the aisle. Clearly the idea of a bonus mom wasn’t as exciting and highly anticipated as I would have liked it to be. And, not having a child of my own (at the time) may have been the culprit of my naive thoughts. How was I to succeed when my stepdaughter’s mother was creating an environment where I was destined to fail? This was strike two.
My husband seemed to remain on the sidelines, and never wanted to be in the middle. I understood that. I guess a lot of men are that way; they would much rather referee a basketball game than a cat fight. He didn’t do anything to hinder my progress, but at times I didn’t feel like he understood how much I was struggling with my new role, both inside and out. I almost felt like he abandoned me to figure it out on my own, which in turn, left me feeling alienated and left out of many situations. Strike three.
After three strikes against me as a stepmother, I was failing miserably. I didn’t go to school functions, so I wouldn’t run into my stepdaughter’s mother. I didn’t go to soccer games because I didn’t want to be in her mother’s presence. And, ultimately, it was my stepdaughter who suffered. I was slowly becoming that nonexistence stepmom I had always feared. And, unfortunately it was I who allowed her to push me out. I was forgetting about the person who really mattered the most.
It was one day when my stepdaughter’s mother reached out to apologize that things began to change. A formal apology in the form of a letter would be the major turning point. I was now invited to family functions and holiday gatherings, and even received special gifts from my stepdaughter and her mom on Mother’s Day. It was the start of kindling a bond. Fast forward to now, and that relationship gets better with each passing day. It’s not perfect by any means, but we are both a work-in-progress; we’re trying.
Throughout my entire journey as a stepmom, I learned that there is no secret recipe to being one, and there is no guarantee that your blended family will blend beautifully, if at all. What is important, however, is that you take in the amazing opportunity you have in front of you: to be a bonus mother to a child. If you’re staring down the road to step-parenthood, don’t less this opportunity pass you by. With a bit of added effort, being a stepmom has become more natural for me, and I have the support I need from my husband to ensure that I always have a fighting chance.
My lessons learned throughout this journey are vast and continuously changing, but allow me to share a few in hopes that those facing a similar path might find hope. First, it’s okay to seek advice from someone that is in the same boat as you. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have helped me navigate through the crazy whirlwind that is step-parenting. Trust me: you are not as alone as you may think. Also, don’t make it about you; it’s okay to be the bigger person. The relationship you have with your stepchild depends on it. Finally, leave the lines of communication open with your partner. They probably have no idea how you’re feeling, as it’s an incredibly difficult point of view to understand, unless you’ve lived it yourself. Allow them to help you help yourself. It will be better off for everyone in the end if you do.
So, no, I will not be writing the go-to article on “Five Ways to Know You’re a Stepmom Rock Star”, but I will say that I have learned how my world fits inside a universe where there are three parents orbiting. If you focus on the end goal and what really matters, you find it becomes a hell of a lot easier to work together as a team.
In the end, we are defined by our experiences and should grow from them. Make the changes that are necessary to become a better you, so you can be better for someone else. In my case, I became a better me, so that I could be a better parental addition to my beautiful stepdaughter.
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