The story of my life. Put the work in and watch my stepchildren’s biological mother take credit in any way she can.
Being a stepparent requires you to fill a large role quietly. I stubbornly fought the idea because I wanted to get credit for all the work required in parenting my stepchildren. Accolades for their accomplishments always seemed to be overshadowed by irritation watching their biological mother accept congratulations for a job well done. Anger used to seethe inside of me because I understood the urge to show up for the spotlight and vanish when times got tough.
Being there day in and day out cannot be done for the glory. The price is not worth it. Stepping up and helping your spouse raise their biological children to be the best human beings possible is an example of putting others before yourself and expecting nothing in return. Disappointment sets in if we expect others to recognize the sacrifice that comes with choosing to love another’s child. Resentment will continue to build if the expectation of hero status is desired.
I had to dig deep and be honest with myself about all I did as a stepparent. Many of my actions were to “out-mom” their biological mother. I demanded credit for their accomplishments and felt justified. So much time was spent seeking ways to appear better than their biological mother to others was my intention, though I’d never have admitted it. There were so many times I’d find ways to manipulate situations and secretly feel a shameful sense of pride when they were effective.
My step kids are almost all grown up now. The selfishness and desire for attention has provided them with a sense all my actions were to replace their mother and take credit for all their accomplishments. Intentions are useless when your actions convey a different message than you speak. Explaining to them my regret is a lousy substitute for my historical theatrics.
Immense personal growth was required for me to become the stepparent I needed to be. Forcing myself to be honest about my intention while learning to offer my support and love from an unselfish place was a skill I had to develop. I sucked at it when I started but forced myself to investigate my motives and be honest with myself and my family about my choices. It was humiliating but real.
Mistakes still happen and I still catch myself acting in a way which doesn’t evoke pride for me or them. Selfish pride has been replaced with awe of watching them grow. I make myself available to them for their sake, not mine. Boundaries and responsibility for our own actions are practiced and not just preached. Resentment has taken a backseat and our relationships have begun healing.
Each day seems to provide an invitation to dig deeper into my true intentions. Opportunities always seem to arise to test my willingness to unselfishly support or encourage my stepchildren. I began making the decision to sit down and shut up on a regular basis. Chaos created by my husband’s ex is no longer an issue I care to address. Not caring what others thought of me was a hurdle I was determined to overcome. I learned to force myself to behave according to my values. Excuses were filtered and eliminated if possible.
Boundaries were set within myself as to what my role will be going forward. I had to be honest with myself and my husband as to my willingness to accept responsibility for my behavior. He was forced to assume most of the responsibility he’d given to me when we married. Our situation led to the disconnect between me and his ex. I haven’t spoken to my stepchildren’s mother in years now. I attempt to refrain from discussing her in front of the children. While my stepchildren were in their teens when I made the decision, I can only imagine how peaceful our lives would have been if I would have removed myself from the equation years ago. It shames me to remember my behavior on occasions where her children were present. I justified my behaviors while attempting to insult her with hers.
Learning how to focus on what the person in front of me needed, without consideration of benefit, has provided opportunities to provide the support my stepchildren were lacking. Rather than allowing myself to be a parent in order to gain acknowledgement, I force myself to remember the blessing brought to my life by their presence. Expectations do not linger between us and imperfections are studied for improvement.
The glory comes later, sometimes much later. It is often found in the form of quiet peace, laced with pride. For them. Seeing them succeed in areas you failed. Watching them become successful. Being there to comfort them when they fail. Providing an example of how I think life is best lived is now my focus. Not better than anyone other than who I was yesterday determines my actions. I have learned to intentionally consider the needs of my stepchildren before my own.
Parenting should never be selfish, yet examples come readily to all our minds. We all know someone who goes out of their way to demand attention for any support they provide. Correcting behaviors of others are near impossible and provide an excellent distraction from our own insecurities. Do not allow yourself to be sucked into another’s vie for attention. Take responsibility for yourself and allow others to do the same.
Angela Boggs is an aspiring writer chasing the dream of becoming a writer. She obtained her degree in Adolescent & Developmental Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University in order to become a better parent and stepparent. She works in the finance industry and spends her free time helping others achieve greatness through mentoring and support.