I have been a stepmother to two amazing teenage boys for the past 23.5 months. Having had a stepmother of my own for the past 20 years, I already knew that it was a thankless, terrible job with few to no benefits and a lot of stress. Although my stepsons and I had a great relationship before my husband and I got married, I still worried that something might change once I married their dad. The chances of their parents getting back together, for example, would diminish even further once he had a new wife.
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about with the kids. They have been a parent’s, much less stepparent’s, dream. My son and I moved from our home into theirs, and he had to transition to sharing a room for the first time. Likewise, my younger stepson had to go from having his own room to sharing with someone else. I worried about the adjustment, but the boys made it work without fuss. I was so proud of all three of them.
My stepsons live with my husband and I full-time. A little over three years ago, he was awarded custody in his divorce, and the boys’ mother declined her visitation time with them (every other weekend and every Wednesday). The boys were crushed by the abandonment, and it got worse when she and her boyfriend announced that she was pregnant. They felt as though she had chosen her new family over them.
She did come to sporting events (as long as they took place in our town). Aside from that, however, the boys didn’t see her. They told us it was what they wanted, and that they were happier this way, but I knew they still loved their mom.
Again and again throughout that time, the boys amazed me with their resiliency. It was a tough spot as a stepmother to be in, but they were so easy to love I just tried to do the best I could to make sure they realized that they would always have a stable home environment with me and their dad.
Then I wrote the paper.
For a Communication Research course I was taking in college, our project was to research a topic and write a 20-30 page paper about it. Because the topic was near and dear to my heart, I chose stepmothers. It was a great choice, because it led me to several stepmother support groups online. Reading their stories, and subsequently interviewing them, led me to realize all over again how blessed my family was. But one topic that came up time and time again was the relationship with the biological mother.
I completed the paper three months later and, at the urging of my new stepmother friends, posted it online in my Facebook notes to avoid the hassle of emailing it to so many different people (I had surveyed 100 stepmothers). I wasn’t worried about the boys’ mother at this point for two reasons: first, other than a couple of sentences in the intro identifying my situation as a stepmother, she was not a part of the paper. Second, she had told the boys time and time again that she had blocked me on Facebook, in her phone, and in her email so that she would never have to communicate with me in any way.
I was wrong to have believed that. She did block me, yes, but then accessed my account through other means. She read the paper, and everything changed.
She reacted badly, and said a lot of negative things to all of us.
All of that was standard with her personality type. But then something unexpected happened: she actually started trying to be involved with the boys’ lives.
She started traveling to out of town games and tournaments. She stopped cropping them out of her Facebook pictures. She started contacting them and actually talking to them. They started to rekindle their relationship. They became more receptive to her. They actually started seeing her for an hour or two here and there.
At first, my younger stepson didn’t know how to handle it. He felt that he had to hate one of us at all times.
Once I sat him down and explained to him that we would both love him no matter what, and that he could love both of us without upsetting us (I hoped I was speaking for her, too), he got better.
My purpose in writing this is because I know there are so many more stepmothers like me out there: stepmothers whose major obstacle in their journey isn’t their relationship with their stepchildren, but instead dealing with the biological mother of those stepchildren.
While it is still a long road ahead of us, the important thing, to me, is that she has a relationship with the boys again. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want to scream, but I keep reminding myself to breathe and let it go.
Maybe someday she will, too.