Stepmoms– and even some biological moms– will tell you this: they aren’t “allowed” to get upset at their stepchildren. 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.
And 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. And 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.
You can get mad at yourself for getting mad. But, remember, she does the same thing. 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. You just aren’t there to see them.
So, regardless of what is happening to you, please forgive yourself. Trust me, she’s probably not only forgiving herself, she’s not even acknowledging she did anything wrong. Why should you beat yourself up daily, while she skates?
And most importantly, accept the kids’ forgiveness. Because they want to like you. Every time I want to respond petulantly, but I choose to step up and be an adult? The kids reward the heck out of me! They let my past go, all the bad bits and let me focus on the good bits, because I guide how the conversations go. I’m the adult. I set the tone. And they happily follow when it means a warm, happy relationship between us (because after all, they mess up, too!).
Plus, kids are just as much of little sh*ts at times towards their own parents as their stepparents. Yeah, they say mean things to me sometimes. But they’ve never told me I ruined their life ON MY BIRTHDAY. Yeah, a certain bio mother I know can’t say the same about her kids. And that doesn’t mean they love her any less than they love me– but they don’t exactly act like little angels with her, either. Let’s not fool ourselves.