Wow! Ever feel like your stepchild doesn’t like you? This can be a constant feeling. A feeling that creeps up then leaves as quick as it came. Or if you are lucky, something you hardly, if ever, have to deal with. Me, I’m in the middle. One day I feel like I’m on top of my ‘Stepmom Game’, and then the next day, I feel like I lost my last life in an epic Mario Brothers game.
I can’t help but to wonder: is it them? Is it me? Is it both of us? No matter what the answer, I am left feeling like I am trying to figure out my place with my stepchildren.
I have been in my stepchildren’s lives for many years. I have loved, cooked, and played taxi. I have fixed and kissed numerous boo-boos. But, even with all of my efforts, sometimes I’m left feeling insignificant. Lately, though, I have been wondering if these feelings have anything to do with the kids at all. Could it be my own insecurities?
Not only do I have two beautiful stepchildren that I love and adore, but I also have two biological boys of my own. With my own two, I know that I am their mother and there is so much unconditional love that comes with that maternal bond. I can tell my boys to clean their rooms, take a shower, and be respectful and appreciative without any feelings of repercussions. I know that they love me no matter what. There is no competition. With my stepchildren, it’s not the same. It’s the constant efforts and desires of wanting to earn their trust and their respect, and ultimately developing an unwavering love for me. I know, I know, I’m not naïve enough to think that they will love me with the same level of love that they have for their mom. I’m also not naïve to think that they will hold me to the same standard as their mom. But it leaves me wondering, why on earth am I holding them to the same standard as my own biological children?
Case in point, this whole week, I have been making healthy breakfasts and driving my stepson to and from his volleyball tryouts. Every day. Not a problem. Right? But, why has the gratification and communication been nearly nonexistent? I sit, stew, and second-guess the conversation starters that I try to have with him. Why? Because I love him and I can’t for the life of me figure out this weird disconnect that we are having. So I asked myself, “If it were one of my biological sons would I be upset?” The answer, “no.”
I’ve driven my other teenage son to school many times with barely two words said between us. I don’t get upset. I’ve just accepted that sometimes he’s a grumpy teenager and obviously not a morning person. I’ve made him the very same breakfasts, drove him to numerous places, and kissed a trillion booboos, with barely a thank you. What’s the difference? The monster in my head creeping in to remind me that the love I receive from my stepson is conditional. It’s me unintentionally holding my stepson to a higher standard than my biological kids. It’s me who feels as though they should put me on some high pedestal because I didn’t carry them in my womb, but yet I give them the world. It’s me who fights for their love and fights my own insecurities at the same time. It’s me that needs to remember that he is a teenage boy just like my son, a sometimes-grumpy-teenager.
With all of that being said, I need to be conscious and aware of not putting my assumptions ahead of my primary goal. They need to feel loved and feel a part of our family. I need to remember to just be me and be the best stepmom that I could ever be to my stepchildren. I need to remember that I am here to guide them and love them. I need to remember that I am the adult and these adorable kids didn’t ask for their parents to be divorced and have the difficulties of being raised in a blended family home. I need to remember that more than likely it’s not them, it’s me.
Carrie Ellis-Berg has been an elementary school teacher for ten years. Together as a blended family, she and her husband have four children. After realizing the need for children’s books on blending, she felt called to share fun and exciting stories that would help parents and children learn, grow and adapt to their new family structure. She hopes that her stories will foster and strengthen relationships within the home.