This is something that was not only hard for me to write, but will probably be hard for you to read, whether you’re a stepmom, mom, stepchild, or just a curious reader. But sometimes we have to talk about the hard stuff and that usually involves getting outside of our comfort zone. And just to warn you: this post isn’t funny or lighthearted, and it may be a little preachy, but I am just going to jump right in here!
I want to talk about something every stepparent feels the underlying tension of but maybe hasn’t consciously confronted yet and that is, the part they play in a little blended family game I call The Loyalty War. As you can probably guess, your stepchild is undoubtedly the main player in this game. But don’t be fooled, we are all active participants, whether we acknowledge it or not. You may even be completely unaware of your participation, but I hope today will be a game-changer. No pun intended.
A week or so ago, I was given the most amazing gift by a long-time friend and fellow stepmom — the sweet gift of fresh perspective was truly so profound it has radically transformed me from the inside out. Let me just preface this by saying, having come from a ‘normal’ or ‘nuclear’ family, the concept of blended families, half siblings, or stepparents was completely foreign to me. It wasn’t until I married my husband that I began to witness the complexities of blended family life up close and personal. Even though I now know the ins and outs of being in a remarriage with children, I am still completely clueless about what its actually like to be a stepchild. I try to put myself in the shoes of my stepdaughter on a daily basis, but that’s hard to do when you have never experienced any of it for yourself. However, my friend, who is now a seasoned stepmom, had a stepmom herself growing up and admitted to me that, even as a young child, she knew her dad and stepmom had it more ‘together’ than her mom, and she knew her mom had made more than a few bad decisions. Yet, she still defaulted to her mother.
There was nothing her mother could have said or done to stop my friend’s unconditional love and preference for her. She also told me how God has placed it on her heart to pray He would not only help her to see her stepchildren’s mother through His eyes, but to also help her see their mother through her stepchildren’s eyes. WOW. Just wow. Really stop and think about that. Don’t you remember being a child and how no matter what your parents did right or wrong, none of it even mattered because you thought they hung the moon? Before I go any farther, can all of us stepmoms just let out one big exhilarating sigh of relief? How freeing to know the reason our stepchildren love and protect their mother first and foremost is not because we are doing something wrong, but because she is THEIR MOM!!! And bio-moms, if you happen to be reading this, can all of you please stop and let out one big exhilarating sigh of relief because there’s nothing you can do to change the love your children have for you?! This is huge people! Am I the only one who just lost 1000 pounds over here?! But I don’t want to stop there, because that really only sets the foundation for where I am going with all of this.
Hey, I’ll be the first to admit there have been many, and I mean many, times in my stepmom journey where I have strongly disagreed with the way things were handled at my stepdaughter’s other home. There have been decisions made and actions taken I still can’t seem to wrap my head around. There have even been situations where my safety was compromised. I don’t tell you any of this with even the slightest intent to make myself look good, or to throw anyone under the bus, because I can promise you, even if I haven’t done any of these things myself, I have probably thought about doing them at some point.
I tell you this because, if I needed a good excuse to taint my stepdaughter’s view of her mother and make myself look like the ‘better person,’ I have a million different ways I could justify it in my own mind. In this conflict-driven world we live in today, no one would blame me. I know I have had more than a few revenge-driven agendas conveniently disguised as ‘concern’ or ‘truth telling,’ and I’m pretty sure I have often even convinced myself my motives were pure. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t been pushed over the edge by the ex and, in my frustration, slipped in ever so subtly a snide remark here and there because honestly, exposing this ‘truth’ to my stepdaughter made me feel vindicated in some twisted way. I SO understand how tempting it can be to cast your stepchild’s mother in a negative light when she has done something you don’t like or agree with. But, the truth is, we aren’t just hurting their mother when we plant that seed in their impressionable minds; we are hurting innocent children who have the God-given right to love and respect both of their parents.
Stepmom, I’m gonna be harsh here – and I am preaching to myself – we DO NOT have the right to strip our stepchildren of that, and we certainly do not have the right to stop them from obeying God when He tells them to HONOR their father and their mother. And let me take it a step further and assure you we are also hurting ourselves when we go there. Every single time, our stepchildren’s respect and love for US is knocked down a notch or two. See, we act like we want our stepchildren to look up to us, yet we fail to show them what it means to have INTEGRITY. And I don’t care how small their brains are, don’t think for a second your stepchildren don’t know the difference between pretending to be a ‘good person’ and true integrity.
Look, our stepchildren didn’t ask to be born, and they certainly weren’t given the option to pick their parents. There’s literally nothing we can do to change that fact they are half of each parent and what we think about their other parent really doesn’t make a hill of beans anyway. We have got to realize for us to reject their parent in any way feels like they are not only themselves being rejected, but are also being subconsciously forced to reject a part of themselves, which is the most dangerous part of all. Okay, so I know we can all agree that for the most part, our Christ-like love for the ex may have been planted but isn’t in full bloom just yet, so doing right by her just isn’t at the top of your moral agenda right now. I get it. I’ve been there. Sometimes I’m still there. All I am trying to say is, if your respect for the ex can’t be your motivating factor at this point, then PLEASE let the love for your stepchildren be.
Yes, it would break any mama’s heart to know someone would make their own flesh and blood think less of them in any way, but no one’s heart is as deeply wounded by this as is that of a child who is wired by biology to see their parent as nothing less than all-loving and all-good. This isn’t just an instinct, y’all. This is a survival mechanism. Children literally cannot handle the notion their parents could be ‘bad.’ Their very existence depends upon the caregiving and love of this parent. Anything that even hints to the fact their parent might be ‘unsafe’ or ‘unstable’ is not just sad, but downright frightening for them on an emotional level. And let us not forget, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and if I had someone out there pointing out to my kid everything I did wrong, well all I can say is they would have a heck of a lot of material.
Stepmom, one of THE greatest gifts we can give our stepchildren is the freedom to love and adore their mother. Not only is this vital to their mental health and development, but it is the only way they will ever be able to truly love and accept themselves for who they are. Stepmom, PLEASE, its time to throw in the towel and throw up that white flag of surrender. Surrender to this war inside your head and inside your home. You have nothing to prove. It’s time to stand up and hand Mom that first place trophy. Smile for her and mean it. Haven’t we all figured out by now that there are no real winners when we play this game? Only losers and innocent prisoners of war. But guess what? You hold the key that can release the prisoners. Set them free and watch how God starts to break chains off of you that you didn’t even know have been keeping you captive all along.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel Dunne, the Spiritual Stepmom. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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