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What is a Stepmom?



In my life, I have called two women, “stepmom”, and I still cannot define the boundaries of that role. The territory is as unique as a fingerprint, as cringe-worthy as a first crush, and cliche as... well, a cliche. I immediately think of “in addition to,” or “not really related, but something similar,” and “not originally a part of, but now we’re in this for the long haul so let's figure it out...”.


My experience has been a mixed bag. My first stepmom married my dad when I was 15, and we (me and my little sister) were living with him full time. She had 3 children, two of which were daughters that were very close in age to us. There was the usual awkwardness one expects from blending families & households, especially when there are kids on both sides of the equation. I felt very deep hope and excitement at first, only to be followed by quite a bit of distance and disconnect, as well as full-on confusion. They divorced about four or five years later.


My present stepmom is sweet as can be, loves my father deeply, and got married about two years ago. As an adult stepchild not living in their home, their happiness is really all that matters. Up until now, I have explored this relationship from the stepchild’s perspective, but now as I grow older, and my friends take on the role of stepmom, I get a fuller picture.


My friend Gloria is a stepmom, and isn’t your average gal. She has this insane ability to create families, and nurture those she loves. I am positive we do not share many of the same political beliefs, but that is never a problem with Gloria, even in this climate. She respects our differences, and focuses on the commonality.


Do you need a kind ear to listen to your woes? Gloria’s got you. Do you wonder where that new little plant on your doorstep came from? Oh, that was just Gloria, showing you that she loves you and was in the neighborhood. So it didn’t surprise me that she cultivated a lasting bond with her beautiful, 16 year-old stepdaughter.


If we are being honest, I was torture on wheels as a 16 year-old. It was a door slamming, you-don’t-understand-what-it’s-like-dad, belly-button-piercing good time… on the good days. So throwing “step” relationships into the mix, was like planting a garden in arid soil. I didn’t know what the boundaries were with my new step sisters, and I definitely (albeit naively and unintentionally) crossed a few. There was no communication or trust established, and I desperately wanted to be cool with my new family. Ultimately, that never materialized.


Gloria's relationship experience with her stepdaughter was, and is, entirely different. It is hardly a cake walk, but healthy nonetheless. She writes, “I look at where our relationship started, and with so many mountains we have moved as a family, her and I have climbed our own. We have a bond of friendship, a bond of family, and a bond of mother and daughter. I love that she will never share DNA with me. I love that out of that, we have our own special jokes, and traits that compliment each other. She is more of an “in the box” thinker, where I am out of the box. She likes rules and regulations, and I am so, “Let’s ask for forgiveness later.” Ironically, my least favorite part of being a stepmom is that she isn't mine. I will never hear her say the word, “Mom” when referring to me. I do not like that when I look at her, we don't share any of the same features. I also do not like when we start to get close, something will happen, and back into the turtle shell she goes.”


Ahhhh, the teenage turtle shell. I remember it well... and here we are, trying to draw a heart-shaped enclosure around a concept as big as the sea.

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Conclusion: I still do not have a solidified answer as to what a stepmom is, and should be. But what I am learning upon reflection (and with being a mother myself), is that there is no right or wrong path when it comes to parenting, and step-parenting. There are only different directions you can take, with different outcomes to expect. All you can do is your best with what you have at the moment. Maybe your best is doing nothing at all. Maybe your best is losing your cool, then learning from the regret. Maybe it will all work out, and maybe it won’t. What it really boils down to is commitment. Commitment to love, commitment to understand, commitment to forgive, commitment to each other, and the strength to let go when it's time.

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Do you have a stepmom? Are you a stepmom? I would be honored to learn from your perspective. If you feel comfortable and ready, please share your thoughts here, or in a personal message to me. Love to you!




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