One of the most complex situations I have dealt with has been becoming a stepparent. I remember being so in love with my husband that I thought I could take on anything needed to keep us together. Once we were married and living as a family, my anxiety kicked in. Life became real, really fast. Through it all, I have learned that being a mom doesn’t stop at my front door.
I have two boys of my own, and my soon to be husband had custody of his two kids. In the beginning, we were concerned about how well all the kids would get along. We spent many weekends watching how things naturally unfolded between the four. It seemed at the time that we had a clear indication of success because they all loved each other. Once the wedding was coming together, we still felt strongly about it all working out. Here I was a single mom, and he was a single dad. All that our kids needed was the two-parent household that they were lacking; how could it not work?
So, there we were, a blended family living in bliss. People would often call us the Black Brady Bunch. In the beginning, it seemed picture perfect like a scripted show. However, things would arise that would shake the foundation we were trying to build. The kid’s other parents felt like we were taking them away. They made their presence known, but it was all about their egos. They were birth parents, but had refused to show up the way they were expected to since birth.
I vividly remember the day my stepdaughter started her period and came to me. It was my moment to be her mom, I was “on”. I walked her through the process and felt so confident about welcoming her to womanhood until her mom found out that her daughter had chosen me for the moment and not her. Her mom called and yelled about her daughter, not telling her. In that moment the reality of being a stepparent set in.
The Hard Side of Things
I was the one who was at parent-teacher conferences and doctor’s appointments. I was the mother these kids saw first thing in the morning and who kissed them goodnight. Yet there was always a presence that was naturally held higher than my rank. I had no choice but to accept that. For years I watched this woman fall short, and I would pick up the pieces without hesitation. And no matter how many times I did that, I was always second. The bittersweet side of being a stepparent was so clear. However, if I protested, it would be an ongoing battle where I would never come out victorious. It was the most heartbreaking thing I ever experienced.
It took time for the disappointment to go away, for there to be a balance in my heart and mind. Two of our kids are both teenagers now, and they need all the support they can get. So, being a bonus mom will help provide that extra cushion when life becomes so real that they come to me in tears needing answers. They are my bonus babies that I love like they are my own, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
A Bigger Lesson
Throughout this journey, I learned that being a mom doesn’t stop at my front door. This has helped me in my professional career as I work with students who come from broken homes or hard circumstances. I am able to sense who these kids are and naturally gravitate to them and give them more of my attention. Throughout my years in education, I have noticed that once a child learns to have a positive relationship with an adult, they tend to thrive more. The world can be a scary place, and having someone guide you through the obstacles is such an underrated role.
Many parents are unsure of how to parent, leaving kids in an uncertain place in the world. I enjoy being that safe person that youth can turn to. School should always be a safe place for children. I like watching them blossom into young men and women who are comfortable in their journey. Often, they need someone to show up for them, notice them, understand what they are saying without words. Every child longs for encouragement. My classroom provides an environment for me to reinforce for every child from a hard place or in foster care that “I believe in them.” I remind them that they are powerful. Watching them blossom in the classroom helps to fuel my soul and is so rewarding. It is a beautiful lesson I have learned from being a mom.