On October 5, Jackie’s daughter will officially be an adult. That means he will have two adult children and I will have two adult stepchildren. For me, this has stirred up a lot of emotions that I don’t feel comfortable talking about to anyone but myself (hence, this blog post).
I turned 14 the summer I received a stepmother. I knew who she was, but I didn’t know that she and my Daddy were in a serious relationship, so the fact that they had gotten married while I was in my mother’s custody, 1000 miles away, really hurt me on a level that I am not even sure I knew of until I became an adult. At the age of 14, the “normal” I knew was destroyed and I was given an entire new set of issues to sort through – moving out of our home and into hers, having to share a room with my younger sister, losing out on time with Daddy and my Aunt Sharon (because we spent LOTS of time with her when Daddy was single), starting high school with new stepsiblings and also not having a mother myself, and I was heartbroken.
And because of that, my stepmother and I never had a good relationship. She listened in on our phone calls when she was home, and when she wasn’t, she locked the phones in the pantry, along with whatever food was in the house. She competed with us for Daddy’s attention, and she almost always won. She put my sister and I on diets when we were teenagers, so that I developed an eating disorder at the age of 17. She ruined my graduation night.
Granted, she treated my sister and I very poorly, but in all fairness, we were not given the chance to become close, because the development of her relationship with Daddy was kept a secret until they “surprised” us by telling us they’d gotten married and a wedding ring was shoved in my face.
However, after more than three straight years with my current therapist, I can say that I have forgiven my stepmother for what we went through. While she probably did those awful things because she was jealous of Daddy’s relationship with his girls, it is also possible that she was doing the best she could do with the hand she was dealt as well.
And now that I’m a stepmother, I can say that it used to be the hardest job I’d ever had. Harder than being a wife, harder than being a mother, and much harder than my actual full-time job.
Mason and Cassie are grown now, like I said, and they do not need or really want a relationship with me. I’m honestly no more to them than their dad’s current wife, a bother and the occasional checkbook. They do not love me. And for a while, that really hurt me, because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.
What I have figured out over time, though, is that I don’t have to do anything wrong. The odds are against me regardless. First of all, their mother HATES me, and she pushes that hate onto her kids. She’s their mother, and they really aren’t old enough or independent enough to question what she says, so they just take her word for it – that I am a sorry excuse for a human being. A fat, stupid skank who does not care about them at all (yes, she has literally said these things to her kids). Secondly, they have their own lives and their own friends, and I’m not their “type.” And finally, I could never and would never try to replace their actual mother, and even if she is a huge piece of shit, I’ll never be her, as children idolize their moms.
So I cannot win, no matter what I do. I can spend hundreds of dollars, offer advice, cook and clean, reach out over and over, and I still lose. So at this point, the question in my mind is, “Why bother?”
To me it’s no different than any other relationship. If I try and try and try and get shit on over and over again, why should I continue to put myself out there to get hurt? How is that fair to me? And how is it fair to Mason and Cassie, who don’t want me around in the first place?
I used to think being a stepmother was a thankless job, and when I tried to keep track of all of the times I got hurt just for putting myself out there, a relationship with these people wasn’t worth it.
But I don’t do it for them. I don’t even do it for me. I do it for their dad. Jack has been hurt even more by his own kids, and yet somehow still seems to find forgiveness in his heart for each of them. His big heart has been stomped on even more than mine, but they’re his kids, so he lets it go.
My job as a stepmother is not to develop my own relationship with Mason and Cassie. It is not to replace their mother or become an “extra” mother. It is not to demand their affection or attention at any cost. It is not to stalk them on Facebook or Twitter or blow up their cell phones until they respond to me. It is not to buy them things or take them to movies or feed them at restaurants. It is not to hug them or kiss them or take them to the doctor when they’re sick. It’s not to drive them around or fork over money whenever they say they want something.
My job as a stepmother is to support Jackie’s relationship with his kids. Period. I love Mason and Cassie, not because they’re my kids, but because they’re related to someone I love very much. Who cares if they hate me? Who cares if they want nothing to do with me? They’re grown. That’s like beating a dead horse – what’s the point? My support comes from behind the curtain, when I’m encouraging get-togethers, checking to see if Jack has talked to them lately, or letting Jack vent when he’s been hurt by them again. Those are the things I wish my own stepmother had done for my Daddy.
And when you strip away all of the bullshit, being a stepmother isn’t a hard job at all. Yes, it still hurts when they want nothing to do with me. But it’s certainly not something new to me. I can deal with it. My focus is on loving MY family and being a good wife and mother. And when I transfer that love from Jackie onto his kids, all that means is that I support Jackie in his quest to keep those lines of communication alive.
Today I would encourage all stepmothers to be themselves, even if that means you’re rejected by your stepchildren. Focus on the good, and don’t beat yourselves up about the bad. Love your spouse, because that means you’ll love his children by default. At the end of the day, all you can do is try your best, and your best will always be good enough for those who REALLY care.
Meg / cC