‘Did I ever think you were mean and not like you?’ I knew she was leading up to something.’: Stepmom blames movies for giving stepmoms ‘a bad rap,’ ‘Come on, Hollywood, help some sisters out!’

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“Parenting can be a rollercoaster. Parenting in a blended family comes with even more adventures. Every phase of life brings different challenges and new beginnings. Getting married, possibly having more children, the children get older–these all change the family dynamic.

My stepdaughter has recently started to become very curious about her blended family and asking questions of anything that comes to her mind. I’m so grateful she feels safe enough to ask us anything; it was just something I wasn’t used to or prepared for. My stepdaughter has only known her parents being apart because they split when she was only one. I assumed she didn’t have any issues or questions about living in two homes.

Courtesy of Karyn Liebler

However, as I said, things change as our children do. We were on our way to school one morning when she started to tell me about a movie she watched. The little girl in the movie didn’t like her stepmom. I had a feeling we were headed for a much bigger conversation, so I listened to her explain further. She said the girl was sad her parents weren’t together, and the stepmom was really mean. I told her it can happen that way. Stepmoms get a bad rap in the movies, to which she agreed. She even brought up ‘Cinderella’ and how the stepmom was mean in that too. I went on to tell her most of the stepmoms I know are very nice and loving so while it makes a good story for the movies, it’s not usually how it goes in real life. Then there was a short pause, so I knew she was leading up to something. After sitting for a second, she asked, ‘Did I ever think you were mean and not like you?’

Of all the things she could have asked, this was an easy one for me. I told her we never went through anything like that and we bonded very quickly. She will tell you a lot of things make me cry, like movies or when she does something that makes me so proud, so she was not surprised when her response made me tear up. She said, ‘Yeah, I think we are really special. It’s different with us.’

Courtesy of Karyn Liebler

It’s not a secret being a stepmom is hard, super, extremely, big time hard. So when a moment like that happens, you realize they hear you and feel the connection too, it makes it all worth it. The connection I have with my stepdaughter could be attributed to a lot of things. She was very young when I came into her life, so we’ve had years to bond. She was only 2, so to her, I was just someone new in her life that loved her. I know it’s not as easy for all blended families.

Courtesy of Karyn Liebler

The bond between stepparents and children may not happen as quickly or God forbid, at all. I have stepmoms reach out to me about their individual situations and if there’s one thing that’s consistent, it’s the difference in all of them. I don’t think there is one blended family story that is the same, so I hope the message is heard. What my family and relationships look like does not mean it will or should look like that for another family.

When someone is looking to create or strengthen a bond with their stepchildren, I pass along some stepmom essentials. I think there are certain things that can be done to cultivate positive relationships in a blended family, no matter what it looks like. Being confident in and having a strong marriage is always key. If you don’t have a great foundation with your partner, everything else falls apart.

Courtesy of Karyn Liebler

The other crucial piece is to have, at the very least, a cordial relationship with their mother. I know it can’t always be that way, but it’s something to try to build. If tensions are high with the other home, it can make building a bond with your stepchildren very difficult, not to mention all the other issues that come along with that.

I’m so grateful to have the relationship that I do with my stepdaughter. I hope she always feels like we’re special. I’ll be there for her no matter what. In the meantime, maybe we could get some better representation in the movies. Come on, Hollywood, help some sisters out!”

Photo by Stephanie Kern

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Karyn Liebler of Missouri. You can follow her journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read Karyn’s backstory of becoming a stepmom, and the jealousy she felt:

‘I was okay with him having a daughter. NOT an ex. When I met her, she said ‘hi’ and walked away. Hi? That’s it? She hates me!’: Stepmom recalls jealousy, insecurity over husband’s ex-wife

‘Why did my parents break up anyway?’ It took me by surprise. I wanted to be honest.’: Stepmom caught off guard by stepdaughter’s ‘tough questions’ over dad’s relationship with ex

‘If you do that one more time, you’re going in TIME OUT.’ As soon as that door shut, she ran over to the couch. I thought, ‘Please get down. Don’t you know I’m the fun parent?! I do books, not time out!’

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