There has been no more complicated or unnatural role in my whole life than being a stepmom. Don’t get me wrong– I actually have the two most wonderful stepdaughters anyone could DREAM of. They are smart, kind, respectful, awesome young women– and I’ve had the privilege of being in their lives since they were just 2 and 4. No, they are no trouble at all. If ever there’s a problem or sticky place in our home life– it’s because of me. After more than a decade as a blended family, I still don’t know how to “step-mother” well. And I constantly wonder if it’s just me?
How does a woman, designed at her core to mother, take a backseat without a desperate inner struggle?
How does a family with young children truly bond and develop deep ties when they only see each other like a part-time family?
How do parents raise up children in the way they should go… every other weekend?
If anyone ever believes divorce is a good thing, they should try step-parenting for a while. It’s guaranteed to change their mind.
But in today’s world, this is a common dynamic, and therefore I believe in open discussion and offering solutions to one another.
From the very beginning, there have been 2 critically important tenets I have labored to uphold in my relationship with my stepdaughters: #1) Their mom is their mom– not because I don’t want to be- but because she deserves to be, and #2) When we get to spend time with them, the emphasis should always be on their relationship with their dad.
While these goals have always been resolute in my mind, they never quite made it to my heart– until I became a Mommy myself.
Now that I’ve had a baby from my own body, it has caused me to reflect a great deal about my role as a step-mom. I find myself having a better understanding of my husband and how he must feel seeing so little of his daughters. I’m developing a long-desired understanding for their mom– and how she must think about what they’re experiencing away from her, and miss them desperately when they are with us. If she’s anything like me, her inner turmoil must only be pacified by the sheer relief of momentarily sharing the work it takes to parent.
It wasn’t that I had no compassion before—- I had loads of it—- but I couldn’t understand the deep and penetrating wounds of a broken family because I didn’t know what it felt like to have a child of my own. It gives me greater perspective about how and why God values family so highly, and it reinforces my commitment to my husband. Watching my 3 sweet daughters all together, I am reminded to protect our family vigilantly and steadfastly.
I can’t help but wonder what my stepdaughters feel watching their dad and even me with a new baby. Their tender exteriors offer love and fun and joy. But is there also heartache in there somewhere? Like many of us, do they dream of their younger years when life was simpler and the world appeared more beautiful? Do they miss their original nuclear family? How could they not…
My heart aches for the complexity and inner conflict it must create for them.
It makes me want to connect with them more deeply. To reassure them how much we love them… I want to reach right into the awkwardness and sting of it all and tell them we’re just as much theirs even though we’re not always together. That even though they define family differently than some, the brokenness doesn’t define them. I want them to know that they are precious and irreplaceable. That their roles as Lorelai’s big sisters are significant and that I could hand pick no better big sisters for her in this vast world.
I want them to know they are needed and wanted. That our family is incomplete without them. And perhaps most importantly, I want them to know that even though I don’t want to replace their mother– I honor her and bless her– I still love them fiercely and they are my daughters, too.
Lord, I pray for all of the blending families out there today and I ask that you would help each of them see one another through your eyes. Expand their love and understanding for each member exponentially and empower them to cling to one another. May we all learn to love one another as You have loved us first… Amen.