I read this quote that said,
“When a mom has a bad day, she’s allowed to vent. If a stepmom does the same, she’s stereotyped.”
Of course feelings don’t listen to any of that. Of course stepmoms do get upset. But, you see, what they really mean isn’t that they aren’t allowed to show that upset feeling—and if they do, then they get punished in ways that a biological parent would not. A biological parent, they say, can get mad, display that anger, and get “away” with it. A stepparent cannot.
Fortunately, neither the quote or the sentiment is true.
Sure, I will be judged harshly by many if I get upset. And I happen to be a stepmom. It’s true the same people who will judge me won’t judge my munchkins’ biological mother. As their biological caregiver, she gets certain privileges with them.
But, you see, people like to judge. And they like to support. It’s not about you, it’s about them. So, yeah, these people will judge me. Because they are her people. But, you see, mine will support me and judge her. Only I don’t surround myself with sycophants, like she does. And, hey, maybe most bio mothers will surround themselves with “yes” friends, whereas stepmoms will surround themselves with all types—and maybe that’s why stepmoms feel extra judged. I have no idea. But I do know this.
Let’s not forget whose opinion truly matters when it comes to you and your stepkids.
Even if it were true that society likes to condemn stepmothers over biological mothers? I’d personally argue against it– don’t feel like getting into it here and now–, but I’ll allow it for a thought experiment. Let’s say that I get judged for displaying anger and frustration, but she does not. It’s okay, because, quite frankly, I don’t care about their opinion. I do care about the munchkins’ feelings toward me.
The truth is, my kids accept a goddamn lot from anyone in their life—including me. I haven’t been perfect, anymore than their mother. They forgive her, yes, but they also forgive me. They just want me to be better than I was yesterday. They want me to apologize and say thank you and recognize what they do. I think I do mostly good and very little bad these days, but I have messed up. Fairly severely sometimes. I’ve never crossed the line with them. That line varies from person to person, but I’ve never crossed theirs. I hope to God that I never do.
And when I wake up the next day and I treat them well and I try their best, they respond to me. They understand I mess up. I can see it in their faces when they help me celebrate my birthday and they are so excited and anxious that I like what they did for me. Did I like the cake? It was pretty good, huh, special buttercream frosting. Did you like the frosting? The big fancy balloon, that was so you, right? Did I do a good job distracting you with games while everyone else got your birthday stuff ready?
And consider this: Maybe you aren’t judged more than she is, but, rather, you beat yourself up more over every loss of emotional control.
The more you focus on your wrongdoings, the more you’re likely to repeat those wrongdoings. Inevitably this turns into a never ending downward spiral. Why let that happen? Instead remember you and she are both human. You can think you are the only one that gets flak, but trust me, you don’t see everything in her life anymore than she sees everything in yours. She gets judgement, flak, cruel comments, and snide looks, too.
However, she’s probably not only forgiving herself, but refusing to acknowledge she did anything wrong. Why should you beat yourself up daily, while she skates?
Besides, sometimes kids are just little sh*ts at times. Towards any of their parents. You’re not special, they’ll get just as mad at you! Still, I can say that they’ve never told me I ruined their life ON MY BIRTHDAY. Which their mother is no longer able to do. Doesn’t mean they love her any less than they love me-I think- but they don’t exactly act like little angels with her, either.
Let it go. Accept the kids’ forgiveness. Guide how the conversations go. I’m the adult. I set the tone. And the kids (more or less) happily follow when it means a warm, happy household. After all, the mess up, too. It’s nice when they know the expectation is to forgive and be gentle.