I'm a mom. I'm a stepmom. My kids have a stepmom. I think this puts me on all sides of the stepmom issue.
Though our all-American blended family can be confusing, it's a giant family filled with people who love all of the children involved. Through the years of being on one side or the other or both, I've learned several valuable lessons.
1. No one can ever nor should they ever try to replace the mother/child relationship.
This is the most important lesson there is. In my situation, my daughters' stepmom has no biological children. My stepdaughter's biological mom has two other kids from another relationship, but my stepdaughter is her only daughter.
I have three daughters, so my stepdaughter is a bonus daughter. She currently loves all things girly, so I finally get to put my braiding skills to good use! Just because I love the time I spend with her dressing as princesses, doing manicures, and doing her hair doesn't mean I'm trying to take over as her mom. It means I thoroughly enjoy our time together and want to make the most of it.
With that said, if she ever feels uncomfortable, she tells me. She has said that she wants her mom to do her nails for big holidays, and that is just fine with me. Just as I want my daughters' wishes respected by their stepmom, I respect my stepdaughter's wishes. No one can replace me as their mom and I certainly would never want to replace my stepdaughter's mom.
2. Being a stepmom is a huge undertaking.
Try watching Cinderella with your child once and not catch the evil stepmother plot line. It doesn't just exist in Cinderella, either. There's a stigma associated with being a stepmom. Many people think you're trying to take over the biological mom's role, especially the biological mom (see lesson 3).
Many believe that no child loves their stepparent. Though that isn't reality in many, many cases, it is still a huge transition for all involved and the stepmom's feelings through that transition are last on the list -- as it should be. The transition needs to work for the children involved, not the stepmom involved.
We're there to love and support our stepchildren as much as the biological parents. We're not there to take over, but we are there to offer additional love and support. Being a mom is hard enough because we handle a lot of the emotional needs of the family. When you're a stepmom, it's a thin line between overstepping bounds and being what the kids need you to be: loving, unconditional support.
3. There is enough love to go around.
Moms are very protective of their children. My daughters will tell you that they can see me starting to go "Mama Bear" on anyone who messes with them (it's not pretty). When another woman comes into the lives of our children, it's hard not to feel that twang of jealousy and anxiety about whether or not the kids will like her more, not to mention worrying about how they'll be treated. That's part of what makes us the incredible, emotional beings that we are.
This lesson is the hardest to learn. There is enough love for moms, stepmoms, stepdads, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and everyone else. Just as our hearts grow when we have more children, our children's hearts grow when they gain bonus parents. It's not always quick or easy, but it can happen with the right support.
Though bringing a stepparent into the picture is a huge transition, one of the benefits is that it can show the kids that they are loved by many and in many different ways. Everyone in the family will have different strengths and those strengths can all come in handy to help raise the children involved. Embracing a new stepparent can be a long process for all involved, but can also result in some of the most rewarding relationships for these kids.