You’re not their “real” mom.
As a stepmother, you know this. In fact, it’s painfully clear more often than not.
No matter how many times you’ve made a pact with yourself to “let it go,” you keep coming back for more. You keep coming back because you made a commitment to this child or children who call you “stepmom”. You’ve loved them, held them, talked to them, played with them, made meals for them, worried about them, and so on.
I wrote a post a while ago called, “Why It’s OK To Love Your Stepchildren Like Your Own And What That Really Means.” What I tried to convey with that piece is that you need to think about what loving a stepchild like they are your own means to you personally. I tried to give hope to the idea that it’s still possible to find fulfillment in your relationship with your stepchild or stepchildren even if it’s not the relationship you hoped for. You have to own what you do have and work from there.
As much as people really seemed to respond to that post in a positive way, there’s still a nagging issue that I think so many stepmoms will go through that is somewhat difficult to articulate.
It’s something I refer to as, “biological jealousy”. It’s that sadness a stepmom can feel after she’s wiped away her stepchild’s tears, planned birthday parties, packed love notes in lunchboxes, or swelled with pride at awards ceremonies. It’s a seed of melancholy planted somewhere deep inside you that flowers into an acute sinking feeling when you focus on the fact that this child is not biologically yours and never will be.
It’s knowing that no matter how hard you try, how deeply you love, or how intensely you support, you’re often falling short in comparison to what a biological mother can give your stepchild. It’s that biological bond. It’s one of the hardest pills to swallow as a stepmom.
Of course, it’s true that sometimes a biological bond between a mother and child has been broken beyond repair, but usually, it’s quite strong.
Not all stepmoms go through this experience of biological jealousy. But many do and will. It creeps in slowly, sometimes over a span of years as the stepparent/stepchild relationship grows.
But what can you do about it? What do you do with those raw, heavy emotions that rise to the surface when you’re trying to cope with loving and caring for a child while constantly being reminded that you are not their “real” mom?
Not all stepmoms go through this experience of biological jealousy. But many do and will.
Such is the stepmom journey…
And what does it matter anyway? You’re never going to be their mom so just deal with it. Some of you may be thinking these thoughts as you read this.
It matters to a lot of stepmoms because many of us have a hard time loving a child so completely while having to share maternal duties with the biological mother. You get attached. You get involved.
You can read hundreds of stepmom articles about how to “disengage” when you’re overwhelmed, but that’s only a temporary fix. You need to come to terms with why you feel the way you do because you’re potentially going to be feeling this way for many years to come if you don’t find a way to make sense of it.
Separating the concept of loving a child in a motherly way and doing motherly things for them without being their “real” mom is pretty confusing for a lot of stepmoms. Many of us live our lives raising our stepchildren just like we raise our biological children — if we have them.
In most stepmom roles, there’s usually an endpoint or a period of time where you don’t see your stepchild or have any control over them when they go to stay with their biological mother. This is often difficult to endure — especially for new stepmoms. These situations often cause jealousy, resentment, and fear. Stepmoms might worry about losing that bond they worked so hard to build.
The best thing a stepmom can do to try and overcome biological jealousy is simply to recognize it. Admit it. Feel it.
Try not to repress your feelings in an attempt to be strong. It’s normal and it’s part of being human.
Is there a cure for these feelings? Nope. A little humility can help you cope. Realize that you’re not going to be a calm, peaceful, centered stepmom all the time. You’re going to have days where you’re jealous, frustrated, and drained.
Dare I say, just like a “real” mom.
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.