“The holidays are ruined.” This is the title Amy Poehler would choose for her self-help book on divorce and custody in her hilarious memoir, Yes Please. While I love Poehler for her candor, moving forward from the end of a relationship is way more complicated than this, especially when it involves kids. Stepchildren often live between two households, which can mean having two different sets of rules, two separate holiday agendas, and two contrasting parenting techniques.
Stepparents have starring roles in blended families, and unfortunately stepmothers often earn a stereotypical shadow of being wicked. Thanks to Hollywood and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, stepmoms are not always viewed in the best light. However, the reality is that blended families are common and putting a child first is an important duty for all of the involved parental units.
Being a mother is hard work, so it takes guts for an individual to tackle the responsibility of loving a child who calls someone else mom. I think a woman has to be very strong in order to enter into a relationship that includes the title of stepmother. How does a person parent kids that spend part of their days at another household? Does it require going above and beyond the call of motherhood? This post includes insightful answers to these questions; thanks to some wonderful people who were willing to let me invade their privacy and learn that many stepmoms can defy the Cinderella stereotypes and come out looking much more like fairy godmothers.
My friend Cancy is married to a great guy, named Shane, who has two sons from a prior marriage. Cancy met her husband when his boys were young, so they have always known her as their stepmother. Becoming part of an instant family gave Cancy some hesitation, but only because she was worried about being a good enough stepparent to the boys. Cancy and Shane wanted to make sure they were committed to each other long-term before she met his sons, so they dated for a few months before making introductions with the children.
“The fact that Shane had kids, made us evaluate our relationship differently. And, once I did meet the boys, I was very conscious of making sure Shane still spent a lot of time with them and we did things together, because I didn’t want them (the boys) to view me as this person that came in and stole their dad from them,” explained Cancy who just celebrated her seventh wedding anniversary with Shane.
Cancy is a fantastic stepmom because she is a true mother at heart, and from the very beginning, (before even ever meeting them) was putting her stepsons first. She also gives a lot of credit to her spouse, because Shane has always treated her like an equal with parenting duties, discipline, household matters, and more. Shane and Cancy have a great parenting partnership which is beneficial for their sons to see and understand.
“Shane has explained to the boys, since day one, that I have just as much say as he does,” said Cancy.
My cousin Veronica is another amazing stepmom. Her husband, Reuben, had a baby girl named Catie when they got married. Veronica said entering into a committed relationship with Reuben was pretty natural.
“I loved the idea that I was able to see the kind of dad Reuben was because then I knew he would be a good dad to our future children,” explained Veronica who felt confident, from the beginning, in accepting a mothering role for her stepdaughter. “I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I married Reuben and that vow was passed to his daughter.”
Veronica and her husband will celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary in the Fall, and in that time they have added three boys and another daughter to their loving household. Veronica emphasized that she parents Catie the exact same way as the younger kids, and from that she has her stepdaughter’s respect and trust.
“Catie has always viewed me as her mom because I have always treated her as my daughter,” said Veronica. “Catie has taught me that I could love somebody else’s child as my own and not think twice about it.”
Veronica and Cancy are two examples of great moms putting their hearts out there for their stepdaughter and stepsons, in what can be a complicated scenario. It would be hard to have outside circumstances and prior relationships dictating a family’s schedule and day to day interactions. However, instead of complaining both Cancy and Veronica focused on what was best for the children. They both emphasized the need to have good communication between all involved parents when it comes to sorting out everyday issues, the holidays, growing pains and after-school plans. (Amy Poehler and all of Disney’s Fairy Godmothers would be proud!)
Both of these stepmothers mentioned to me that while they are not often in the middle between their step-kids and their husbands, they do find themselves being a go-between for their spouse and their spouse’s ex. This showcases that there are stepmoms out there willing to do ABSOLUTELY anything for the benefit of their stepchildren. I constantly hear Cancy discuss texting and talking with Shane’s ex-wife regarding the kids, their activities, and their schedules. Veronica has also found herself being the middle-person between her husband and Catie’s biological mother for the greater good of their family.
“I remember thinking that I should stay out of it, but I did it for Catie’s sake,” explained Veronica.
Imagine having to establish an amicable (and consistent) relationship with someone your spouse dated? It would not ever be on my preferred to-do list, but Cancy, Veronica, and others in their situation embrace this challenge because they know it is important for the well-being of the kids.
Supportive stepparents mean a lot to children of divorce or separation, and probably do more than they know when it comes to raising great kids. Growing up, I was fortunate to get to know my friend Lindsay’s stepmom Michelle, who is an excellent mother. Michelle helped raise Lindsay and her brother through their formative years of youth, early adulthood, and even now as we all knock on the door of middle-age (gulp!). I remember Michelle being at our soccer games, volleyball matches, proms, and homecomings. Michelle loves Lindsay and her brother, in the exact same way my parents love me.
My friend gave Michelle a shout-out this past May on Facebook saying, “Happy Mother’s Day to someone amazing enough to love me like her own. So grateful for you!!” This post shows that Michelle is a great stepmom and she is reaping the rewards of raising a beautiful stepdaughter in my friend Lindsay.
Cancy and Veronica have also found being a stepmother to be very rewarding. Cancy has a medical condition that meant getting pregnant was probably not a viable option for her.
“I am blessed that I met a man with two children and I get to be another person in their life to love them and help guide them,” she explained.
Veronica also could not imagine her life without her stepdaughter, and Catie often echoes those sentiments right back to her stepmom.
“Catie has told me that she wouldn’t be the woman she is today if I hadn’t been there for her and shown her unconditional love,” explained Veronica who recently said a teary-eyed, good-bye to her stepdaughter who had to leave home for Air Force Basic Training.
Family life is messy, so it is inspiring to hear about moms -especially stepmoms- that are taking complicated situations and doing more than just making the best of it. They are putting the needs of their little ones way ahead of themselves, and their hard work should be applauded. Thank you sincerely to Cancy, Veronica, and Lindsay for sharing many personal stories with me and not holding back on anything. We are ready to give you your fairy godmother wings!
Do you know a wonderful stepparent that deserves recognition? Tag them and share this post!