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The Stepmom’s Secret
This one goes out to the stepmoms who have grappled with fear over losing their stepchildren. Since that first moment when you laid eyes on them, and knew they would fill your heart, has there been a lingering worry that divorce or a break-up, alienation or simple geography could take them from you? There may be people in the periphery of your life, or even close to home, who don’t wish you well in your stepmom journey, adding to the pressure you already feel. Nevertheless, you’ve given your love without restraint. That’s big.
And so, what if? What if the worst thing happened, and you and these children were separated? Is there any relief? Is there any consolation?
No one likes to think about such losses, yet sometimes we have to, because steps are at times separated for good or for a while.
Consider the obstacles that can truncate a relationship between stepmom and stepchild.
In general, people are wary of and disrespectful toward stepparents. I was confronted with this reality earlier in the week when a tweeter with the handle @RH2732 taunted a group of stepmoms she doesn’t know, writing that she looked forward to the day when they experienced divorce and all the pain it brings. I also dealt with this on a personal level when a virtual stranger related to Todd’s ex wrote to attack my family, saying, “Let’s pray he [Todd] gets out before it is too late….why he would ever want to marry such a negative, angry, and nasty person such as yourself is beyond me….maybe that’s why you are not married.”
Few moms are in the line of this kind of fire. Who would confront a biological mother with such hate? But for some stepmoms helping raise their husband or boyfriend’s children, it happens. A lot. This kind of opposition can put stepparents on the defensive. Operating from a position of strength helps a family grow, while living in a defensive mode is harmful to communication and the giving and receiving of affection. (Side note: That’s why it is SO important to be surrounded by a supportive community who wants to see your blended family succeed.)
Parental alienation, a more pointed and active force of hate, is even more damaging, because it directly impacts the kids. When one parent cultivates negative views of the other parent and their household, children usually get caught in the middle and often choose the side of the aggressor. Remember, Parental Alienation Awareness Day is April 25th, and if you’d like to learn more about the topic, read this previous post about parental alienation. Parental alienation can trickle down to the stepparent: If the alienated parent is a “bad” parent in his or her ex’s view, then surely they chose a “bad” partner.
As every stepparent knows, in the case of a divorce or break-up, the law offers no protection for stepparent/stepchild relationships. No matter how many years a stepmom has devoted to her stepchildren, and no matter how mutual the affection is, she has no standing and cannot keep that relationship without the support and assistance of the parents. That’s rough, especially when other kids are in the mix: stepsiblings brought into the relationship by the stepmom, or a halfsibling who is the child of the dad and stepmom. Just recently we heard from a mom/stepmom whose son was permanently separated from his halfsiblings when his father died, and his halfsibling’s mother cut ties.
If you’re getting a little bummed out and wondering where on earth I could possibly be going with all of this, I do have a point.
The love that you’ve given lives inside your stepchildren, imprinted upon them like a painless tattoo. Even if some cruel force comes between you, the love you gave cannot be obliterated. As they get older and memories fade, even if they can’t quite pinpoint its origins, love is still there, nurturing them as they live in the world, make their own families and in some small way live out lessons you taught.
Pure, unselfish love is worth giving, even with the risks–and that’s the stepmom’s secret. She doesn’t give for the return, or for any security the giving could bring. She loves because love is real, and it is greater than ourselves. She loves because her stepchildren will know love.
Photo credit: ithinkchaos @Flickr
Sarah Kinbar is co-founder of Big Blended Family, Inc. She’s a proud mom in a blended family, and has two kids and two stepkids. She works at a flower shop and also freelances as a writer and editor.