Once upon a time, an evil stepmother spent her days thinking of ways to make her stepkids miserable. Oh wait, that's not right. She actually spent her days thinking of ways to bond with them, engage with them, and not step on anyone's toes. Being a stepmom is seriously hard. Sometimes harder than being a mom, and society has some serious preconceived notions about what I'm like, only because I married a man with kids. There are so many ways you don't realize you're shaming stepmoms and, honestly, it hurts.
My husband and I have worked hard to build a family with each other and his, my, and our children. Being a stepmom is one of the most challenging things I've ever done, and it has taken a lot of patience, creativity, and occasionally locking myself in the bathroom to cry, to get through the hard days. To be perfectly honest, you don't instantly fall in love with your stepkids and they don't instantly fall in love with you. To make matters worse, stepmoms are rarely the heroes in fairy tales, often finding themselves the object of other characters' hatred and fear.
In the end, I am often the scapegoat and whatever is going on, it's all my fault. Seriously, the list of things that are my fault goes on forever. Psychologists theorize that we blame and stigmatize stepmothers in our culture as a way to deflect bad feelings away from our mothers. However, it's 2017, and so many parents divorce and remarry and have to find ways to blend their families. It's time to give stepmoms a break and stop shaming them, because it's already hard enough. Trust me.
When You Make Comments About Our Family Size
Our blended family has five kids, ages newborn to tween. I don't go a day without someone commenting about our family size, from sarcastic comments about me not knowing "how those things are made," to questioning how many times I've been pregnant given that my "body doesn't look like I've had five kids." I know it's supposed to be a compliment, but it's gross. Please don't.
When You Forget We're Stepmoms
While I don't mind when you assume I am their mom, my stepkids do. They have a mother. I get to be their bonus mom. It's hurtful to have to explain that I am their stepmom, or worse, to hear them quickly correct you, by saying, "She's not our mother."
When You Ask Which Ones Are Our "Real" Kids
None of them. I'm pretty sure they are all robots, specially designed to wake up early on Saturday mornings, make annoying sounds, and interrupt their parents having sex. Seriously, though, love doesn't require biology.
When You Assume We Hate Our Stepkids' Mother
Like it or not, I am always going to have their mother in my life. It's seriously hard to have to plan your life around another person's schedule and disagree with their parenting choices. However, for the most part, things work better when we get along, so I try really hard to do so for our kids' sake.
When You Make Jokes About Evil Stepmothers
Disney has seriously given stepmoms a bad reputation. It's not funny, and it's so not true. I love my stepkids, and I try really hard to treat my stepkids and my bio kids the same. Of course, that makes them think I am "evil" when I do things like enforce bedtime and make them clean up after themselves.
When You Assume We All Have The Same Last Name
This one is subtle. My husband and I don't have the same last name, and neither do our children. So, things get complicated at school, work, and the doctor's office, and we regularly have to explain how our family works to strangers. Awkward.
When You Don't Include Them When Asking About Our Kids
Our family is one team. When you ask me how my biological kids are doing, but forget to ask about, or worse, deliberately exclude my stepkids, you send a subtle message that you don't approve of my family, or don't consider them to be important enough to mention. That's not OK.
When You Don't Include Us When Talking About Our Stepkids' Family
It's totally awkward to be at a parent-teacher meeting, school concert, or family event, and get treated like the elephant in the room. You can include me. It's OK. I wouldn't show up if I wasn't a part of their lives, and while I'm not their mother, I do matter.
When You Assume We Hate Being Stepmoms
It definitely has its difficult moments, but being a stepmom is one of the best (and the hardest) things I've ever done, and there have been so many wonderful moments I will never forget. I still remember the first time each of them hugged me. Moments like running a race with my stepdaughter, watching her hold her baby brother for the first time, hearing my stepson excitedly describe his newest Pokémon card, and watching him play in the yard with his sisters and brother, make it all worth it.
When You Assume Our Stepkids Hate Us
Over the past couple of years, we've had our share of ups and downs, and definitely some eye rolls and tantrums, but please don't assume you know anything about how our relationship works. I love my stepkids, and I hope that someday they'll love me. However, and always, I'm not trying to be their mom.
A little known secret about blended families: stepkids get to have more than two parents to help them navigate the world. While I am sometimes still the scapegoat, and occasionally still hear, "You're not my mom," I'm learning to be a major source of good in their lives, too, even if that means being "evil" and making them do their homework. If that makes me an evil stepmother, I totally want a crown.