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I have been reading a lot of articles and social media posts recently about stepmom’s who feel that they are in a losing battle. That their step-children don’t appreciate them, and in some cases feel that their step-kids just plain don’t like them. It makes me sad, and the truth is, I know exactly how you feel. I was you 8 years ago. There were many times that I felt rejected, frustrated, and at times out of place in my own home.
As I said, that was many years ago. Today my step-daughter is 21-years-old and one of the closest friends that I have. We don’t live in the same city but talk every chance we get and text often. I’m telling you this, because I want you to know that there is hope. Even though there are times you feel that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, I am telling you there is! You just have to be patient, and at times look really hard for it. But I promise, it’s there.
A little bit about us
My step-daughter just turned 3 when my husband and I started dating. Less than one year into our relationship, she was asking to call me ‘mom’. I clearly did not feel comfortable with this, but once we got engaged, and she asked again, of course my answer was yes! From that point on she called me ‘mom’ and I thought, ‘This step-mom thing is going to be pretty easy.’
As she got older, and her mother became more involved in her life, she became conflicted. These feelings of conflict were directed at me, because who else was she going to direct them to? I also took it very personally. It is personal, of course, but she would have done the same to any other woman in my position. It wasn’t direct at me, but at who I was to her. For the record, I didn’t recognize this until recently. I wish that in those moments I would have been able to remove myself from the emotions of it and see it for what it was.
She never really said things like, ‘You’re not my mom’ (well, maybe a few times), but there was a period of time that she stopped calling me mom. It was her way of saying it without actually saying it. That period was a difficult time for me. We had 2 small children at the time and a volatile preteen that was finding any way she could to disrespect me in my own home. I was so worried about the example that she would be setting for her little brothers.
As she became a teenager, there were moments that we were close, and other moments that we couldn’t stand to be in the same room. At this point, looking back, many of her outbursts were just her being a teenager, trying to find her way. As step-moms we tend to internalize the behavior of our step-children thinking it’s directed as us because we aren’t their ‘real moms’. The reality is, that they are dealing with so many emotions that we could not even imagine. Their immature-selves have to deal with some very mature situations.
Will you love your step-child like your own?
I remember when I told my grandmother that I was going to marry a man with a daughter, she asked me, ‘Will you be able to love her like your own?’ My instant, and knee jerk response, was, ‘Yes, of course.’ Looking back, my answer to her should have been ‘I will give her all the love she could ever hope for from a mother.’
The truth is, I don’t love any of my children the same! Each of my children hold a special unique place in my heart that is all theirs. I connect with each of them differently and on different topics. It is not fair to think that we should love our children the same, whether we gave birth to them or not. Loving our children uniquely is the best gift we can give them. It may be conceived by others that the unique love is not equal, but that can’t be farther from the truth in my situation.
For many years as a young wife and mom I carried around the thought that I should love my children the same. When it was just my step-daughter, I thought, ‘This is what it feels like to be a mom.’ Then, I had my oldest son, and I felt differently about him and loved him differently. I thought, at this point, that there must be something wrong with me because I loved him differently then her. Then my youngest son was born and I loved him differently than I loved the other two. It was at this point that I discovered is that the way I love all my children is unique. It’s not based on who gave birth to them, but based on who they were as people.
When it comes down to it, I believe that she was meant to be my daughter, just as much as my sons were meant to be mine. She is EXACTLY LIKE ME, which is why we struggled to get along at times, especially as she got older. She’s stubborn and hard-headed like me, but loves with her whole heart and takes every moment personal, just like me….
What can you do now?
While your story is different than mine, and every relationship has their own path, below are some ways to nurture the long-term growth of your relationship with your step-child:
- Be yourself – don’t try to change who you are to be accepted by your step-child. Even though they may lead you to believe that they don’t like ‘you’, stay true to who you are.
- It’s not personal – As much as you feel it is, it’s not. Try to remove your emotions from the situation. (I know, I am asking the impossible!)
- Get support from your spouse – It’s vital to let your spouse know how you are feeling. Whether is frustration, rejection, love, or anything else, it’s important that they know what you are feeling.
- Stand your ground – Don’t give in to requests in hopes that they will ‘like’ you. Not only is it not helpful for their growth as a person, they will respect you more as they get older for not caving
- Give them space – there are times that they just don’t want you involved. Remember that they have a lot of their own emotions about having to juggle two families that sometimes, they just need to figure it out for themselves with their birth parents. You should allow them the space to do that without feeling rejected.
- Get support from other step-moms – I never did this, and wish I had. No one can understand your situation and offer support as much as another step-mom can. I remember feeling isolated at times because there was no one in my world who truly understood what I was going through.
- Don’t give up – on yourself or your step-child – as much as there is push back, as much as you may feel like your failing – YOU’RE NOT! Don’t give up on yourself!
I’m not saying that I did all of these. I’m not even saying it was easy. Actually, in those moments it was extremely hard! Looking back there are so many things and moments that I would change as a step-mom, but as we know that is not possible. The best I can do is take what I have learned and pass it on to other who might appreciate it.