I think it can be universally agreed that most girls don’t dream about becoming a stepmother when they grow up. I didn’t even know what a real-life stepmom was until I stayed at a friend’s family home over the holidays when I was 19. This was an eye-opening experience for me.
Outside of stories like Cinderella and Snow White, I had no concept of what a functioning, real-world stepmom would look like until I met my friend’s stepmother. My friend’s stepmom was a “cool stepmom.” She was a free-spirit. She made a mouth-watering vegetarian soup that I still remember today. She let her grey, curly hair tumble free without vanity. She was kind, welcoming and intelligent. She was a therapist. I idolized her.
Looking back now, I would never have guessed that I would also become a stepmom some 15 years later. I doubt I even entertained the thought of something like that when I was 19. Words like divorce or stepparents were not a part of my daily narrative back then.
My own parents stayed together while I was growing up and they are still together today. Most kids I grew up with in my small, Canadian town had the same type of parent dynamic as I did. If there was a marriage break-up there was usually a boyfriend or stepdad who eventually came around — but not a stepmom.
These days, things are quite different. The abundance of blended families and stepmoms who have their stepchildren half of the time or even full time is quite staggering.
Now that I am a stepmom, I’ve discovered this growing culture of fiercely dedicated, determined, and passionate stepmoms who wear their hearts on their sleeves and put their walk where their talk is.
But there are three words that will visit a stepmom at one point or another. Some of us may never actually say it — but we will think it.
Stepparents are a special breed of parent. A hybrid of strength, bravery, patience and compassion.
I’m not enough.
Those three words have rattled around in my brain plenty of times. I bet they even made an appearance in the thoughts of that super cool and confident stepmom I met when I was 19.
When your stepchild misses their biological parent you may feel like you’re not enough. When you show up to a school event in the place of a biological parent you may think I’m not enough. When you go out of your way to impress or entertain your stepchild and they don’t react the way you’d hoped — you may hear yourself whisper I’m not enough.
The truth is — it’s never enough. Even for biological parents. Sometimes you can never give enough hugs, enough encouragement, or enough time. It will never be enough. But everything you are giving matters.
As a stepmom, I know it’s hard to feel as though nothing you do is enough. This feeling will come and go with the tides. Just remember that it’s not only stepmoms who feel this way. Every parent feels this way at one time or another (or even every day).
So let those three words pass through your mind or even your lips. Feel the words. Acknowledge the words. Then send those words on their way.
One day you may also be remembered as that super cool stepmom who wanted to be enough for her stepchild and tried her very best to give them a wonderful life. How amazing is that?
One day, you’ll realize that you were enough (and then some).
Michelle Zunter is a Canadian-turned-American living, loving, & writing in California. You can read Michelle’s lifestyle blogs about love, sex, relationships, marriage, divorce, parenting, step-parenting & much more at The Pondering Nook. You can also listen to Michelle co-hosting at The Broad’s Way Podcast discussing similar topics.