Each of these jobs comes with its own unique challenges. While it may be impossible to compare the two, one thing is certain: it is not easy to take care of someone else’s child like they are your own.
My son’s stepmom does so much for him and us. It took me becoming a stepmom myself to understand what a thankless, hard, and exhausting job it really is.
Full disclosure: I haven’t always been easy to get along with. 6 years ago, I was still figuring out how to navigate life as a newly-divorced mom, and the frustrating (and often soul crushing) world of co-parenting. It was hard enough dealing with the hurt feelings between myself and my son’s father, but then he met his now-wife and it became an entirely different world. Accepting that someone else was stepping in to my son’s life as a mother figure threatened me at first. I didn’t like the idea of another woman getting “my” holidays, birthdays, special moments, etc.
It took time, but I started to realize that we actually had a really great opportunity. Why would I ever want to deprive my son of another human being in his life that is there to love him? I don’t think I fully understood, though, until I met my husband and became a stepmom myself.
It is actually so incredibly hard. Anyone who says “you knew what you signed up for,” has no idea. I had no clue what I was signing up for. In my head, I pictured a seamlessly blended family enjoying Christmas around the fire, family dinners where everyone shared about their week, and laughing over board games and hot chocolate.
I learned that it’s actually a lot of sleepless nights wondering if the kids are ok with everything, explosive disagreements between households and even sometimes your own spouse, and a LOT of hurt feelings. It’s a lot of feeling left out, misunderstood, unappreciated, and overlooked.
I spend so much time wondering, was I was too hard on my step-kids or too easy on them? Am I showing them too little affection or too much? How do I get to know these kids better when I came into their lives so late? Did I say or do something that’s going to upset their mother? Do they hate me? Am I being fair and making everything equal for my bio-son and step-kids? Do I show favoritism to my biological son?
These are strangers that came into my life – all of the sudden I was supposed to just slide into a motherly role when I knew very little about these tiny humans, and they barely knew me. I wasn’t there for the early years, so I don’t know their backstories and their fears and feelings. I don’t know what drives them, what motivates them, what scares them. I don’t know what their favorite stuffed animal was when they were 5. I wasn’t there for the Little League games, the first day of school, the first steps and first words.
Once I began to see the situation from both sides, I put my pride aside and realized that life is so much easier for everyone when we all work together and consider what’s best for the kids, not what’s best for our egos. Now, I get along well with my ex-husband and his wife. We coordinate schedules and work together to make sure everything gets done. We all pick up the slack when the others can’t. Because in the long run, it’s about our son.
We still have moments of frustration, but we work it out. I fully embrace my son’s stepmother and appreciate everything she brings into our lives. I try to make a point to let her know as often as I can how much we appreciate her.
Step-mommas, we see you. Thank you for every drop off, every pick up, every meal provided, every time you’ve intervened and diffused an argument between the bio-parents. It is a thankless job, and you are all-too-often unseen and unappreciated. You deserve more. Thank you.