Discipline – One of the Childless Stepmom’s Biggest Obstacles

I have to be honest. The best part about this blog is not only that it allows me to share my feelings, but it is also helping me grow. As a group, we women really need to reach out to one another and help. What works? What fails? What’s right? What’s wrong? Who cares? When to stick it out? When to call it quits? At least for me, this list of ongoing questions has paralyzed me for a long time. Longer than I’d like to admit actually. But one topic, the biggest topic for me in this situation, is beginning to unfold in an all new light.

Discipline.

I am personally pretty disciplined. I don’t get distracted too easily and am able to begin a project and see it through to the end without too many hiccups. Education? Check. Career? Check. Bills paid on time? Check. I’m far from perfect, but I was raised in a disciplined home, I turned out just fine, and I have STRONG feelings toward children who misbehave and the parents that let the, so naturally, in a parenting role, one of my biggest concerns HAS ALWAYS BEEN discipline.

But, ladies, let’s cut the crap. This is FAR from a NORMAL parenting role. Normal parents have the luxury of disciplining, **generally** in any way they see fit. Yes I call it a luxury because if you’ve ever stepped into this role with a THOUSAND EYES and accusatory opinions burning into you, you know this is different than any disciplining you’ve ever known before.

When I took over this role, my stepson was 3 years old, with a slew of issues. He has 2 half brothers, who he resided with basically full time. They are autistic, he learned these traits early on, it was terrifying, and difficult to undo…I will never forget one day, it was time for biomom to pick him up, my husband had just finished bathing him. There my stepson stood, buck naked in the tub, SCREAMING bloody murder and begging not to go. He did not stop screaming. My husband tried to calm him. He got him dressed. Tried to calm him again. He ran and hid under the kitchen table. He screamed and screamed and screamed. Not normal pouting or child tantrums, he screamed like someone was killing him. I was honestly frozen in shock.

He picked up all of these autistic traits, so much that my husband was becoming convinced (and terrified) that he was autistic. He could barely speak. 3.5 years old and could not form sentences. Then he would break down and scream when you didn’t know what he was saying. He hit EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. He was calling everyone a bitch. Slapping. Kicking. His behavior was TERRIBLE. My husband at the time was just trying to keep him clean and fed, and attempt to read to him and teach him. He did not get a ton of time with him and as hard as he tried to discipline  him, the moment his visits were over, things went right back to bad.

Once I showed up, things changed some. Coming from a highly disciplined background, it was easy for me to swoop in and ‘take over’ in this area.It seemed like we would never undo all the issues he had as long as we had a biomom in the picture who didn’t care to work with us. We couldn’t keep any rules the same because they were all undone when he went back to her. He wasn’t even potty trained until he was 4 and living with us full time where we could FINALLY set a consistent environment for him. I didn’t even know where to start in trying to fix this. I remember the first time I was alone with my stepson. I took him to an apple orchard. It was fall, a beautiful chilly day. I could see it all over his face he had truly never had REAL discipline. I told him no. He was shocked. I simply expected that he behave at a certain standard. He was not to lay a hand on the other kids. If he screamed, it was clear, I didn’t put up with that and he stopped. Suddenly I was able to see something new, from a different set of eyes, if you will. I never took ‘no’ for an answer from him. He did not, and still does not, tell me no. Like all children he will push where he thinks he can get away with it. And because the situation was SO stressful and heavy, with his bioparents, he was getting away with it. It would be a cold day in hell before he hit me, and he knew it, so he tried a time or two, but that ceased years ago. The namecalling, the screaming? With others, he still dabbles where he can get away with it. With me? Nope. I remember he would look at me like he was confused, he pushed back a bit, with all these new ‘rules’, but then seemingly overnight he started behaving to my expected standard while in my care and amazingly, he clung to me.

And I mean clung.

I started therapy for myself alone not long after that day. My therapist was explaining security in children to me. I said, “I simply don’t understand. I’m harder on him that ANYONE else, but he is on me like white on rice. He NEVER lets me out of his sight. He follows me around, and he wouldn’t DARE attempt this swearing, kicking, screaming crap with me, I never EVER allow it.” She replied, “Of course, safety equals security for a child. If he sees people can’t get past you, he will know he is safe. If he sees you expect a certain standard, he will rise to it. Therefore, he will always want to be where there are boundaries, and where he feels most safe, which is with you.”

I took that advice and I ran with it.

And I mean ran.

Looking back on it, while it’s a true statement and one that SHOULD be valued and given a lot of stock, I took that statement SO seriously, that I spent the next 2 years (at least) attempting to rewire my husband. He has the syndrome of most biological parents, especially DADS put through HELL to get much deserved custody of their kids. This is the syndrome of the ‘rose colored glasses’. The boy could do no wrong, and my husband was much more concerned with loving him wholly, making him feel special and looking past any ‘flaws’ he had. Discipline was secondary. Always.

To me, this was unacceptable. You are after all doing your child a disservice by not disciplining them, and I will stand by THAT statement until the day that I take my last breath on earth. Children need boundaries and consequences. I don’t use drugs. I have never been to jail. I am no angel, but when it comes to upstanding citizens, I’m a damn good one, and I’m proud to categorize myself as a good role model. My husband’s past was a bit rocky, perhaps he didn’t feel confident enough to stand as that role model, but byGod I did, and I do.

In a year’s time, that child’s speech was PERFECT. And I mean perfect. HOURS devoted to phonics videos, practice and reading. The kid who couldn’t talk when I met him? He uses sentence structure you may find in a middle schooler. He reads at a ‘late’ first grade level (meaning he is a YEAR ahead of where most of his peers are). He says yes sir, yes ma’am, please and thank you and rudeness is FAR from tolerated in my home.

Many of you are in a position where you can’t discipline because you’re not given the authority, or you have a constantly undermining biomom undoing your work, or worse,  an undermining husband. I didn’t wait for my ship to come in. If I was going to raise that child, I would discipline him as I felt was right, regardless of anyone else’s opinions. In general, I did a great job and had quite a hand in turning this kid around. He was headed nowhere FAST when I showed up, and there was nothing my husband could do about it. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding fathers not being ‘good enough’ is still very much alive. It took him having a ‘wife’ for things to get different.

We’ve been through a lot. Phew.

Anyway, this brings me to a very important point. First and foremost, read this loud and clear. I post this today as if I were giving advice to my very best friend in the world. If YOU are married to a man that does NOT support your efforts, is NOT working WITH you, does NOT make your marriage number 1, and has NO intention of changing that or even entertaining the IDEA that YOU become a person of authority in the home, YOU NEED TO HIT THE ROAD QUICKLY. And I mean quickly. Unless you’re in a rare position where you’ve both agreed you don’t want any of this responsibility or say in raising the child, you’re headed for trouble. And frankly, if you are in that position, you wouldn’t be reading my blogs. I don’t know a single childless stepmom who doesn’t want SOME authoritative role in their home and some PLACE as a parent….isn’t that the POINT of all this trouble?

Indeed.

So that being said, I will gladly share my experience. My husband and I never fight. Yep, that’s right ladies, the two of us, about all the normal marriage stuff? Never once. Here’s where it gets personal. Avert your eyes if it’s too much.

We have NEVER fought about money.

We have NEVER fought about sex.

We have NEVER fought about space, time with friends, or social events.

We HAVE FOUGHT DAILY about his son, my role, and what this is ‘supposed’ to look like. DAILY. When it comes to he and I? We quite literally have the perfect relationship. But when it comes to disciplining this child? We’ve been in constant battle since very early on in our marriage.

I’ve been too tough for too long. I’ve tried it all with my stepson. Yelling, time outs, calm eye to eye conversations, threatening (and implementing) loss of priviledges and even a little attempted reverse psychology. I’ve tried EVERY approach that I’ve learned from these years of individual and family therapy. And yet, we find, he still falls off…..and as of lately, he still sometimes chooses attention seeking, over the top behavior.

My husband, tends to favor the gentler (too gentle) approaches. We will ‘talk’ it out…He needs to know his ‘feelings’ or his ‘intent’. Or the kid will go so far that my husband will FINALLY (takes a while folks) raise his voice and his son will lose his priviledges. And all the while, the kid’s learned how to get right in between us and play us against each other. Only recently, and I mean VERY recently has something become clear as crystal to us. The child is not anyone but himself. He shares genes of 2 people. He is influenced daily by someone he shares no genes with (me). He also goes to school all day with TONS of people he is learning from. Mash all that up along with the fact that he is simply his own person, and you cannot FORCE a thing out of this child or any other child!

We’ve wanted for so long to impress our values upon him. We attend church every week. We eat dinner together every night. We want to teach good wholesome lessons and be a family of strong, responsible, kind and humble Christians. We can TEACH by example, but we can’t MAKE him do anything. Especially if he doesn’t learn to do the ‘right’ thing for the right reasons. He has frankly been told what to do too much. I’ve been on him too much, my husband’s been on him too little and it’s created the perfect storm.We’ve also let him become the center of all our concerns, and more damagingly, the center of our marriage.

His very worst fear is that he won’t be with us anymore. Everytime he gets in trouble, he tends to have some kind of regression and vocal fear about having to go back to live with biomom. The therapists say this is his way of testing to see how far he can go before we ‘kick him out’ which of course won’t happen but a 6 year old doesn’t know that.  This week was a ROUGH week. My husband and I for once, literally put the swords we’ve held against each other down, and created one powerful, meaningful sword, TOGETHER. What if we let him be who he is supposed to be? What if instead of forcing him, OR looking the other way, we do this calmly and simply? We teach him to make the right choice on his own, without expecting him to do anything? And we do this AS HUSBAND AND WIFE, a UNIFIED FRONT, that CANNOT be taken down?

In therapy they’re called ‘well behaved robots’. Children with no real feelings or ideals, they simply follow the flow as they’re told. They stay out of trouble and they are often very successful, but emotionally, they are lacking. We don’t want this for him. So, we finally decided it was time we come together and get it done the right way. Raising children is an ongoing process. Sometimes it seems dark, scary, useless. Are they even LISTENING?!

Now I hear what you’re saying….great story and all but we are fighting with an unreasonable biomom who won’t help, who won’t work with us and who literally undoes everything we do out of spite. Yes. I hear you. I’ve been there. And yes it’s incredibly hard. But imagine something harder. Something far more damaging. She is expected not to be on your ‘team’ in many ways, isn’t she? What happens when the ONE who is SUPPOSED to be on YOUR team is not? A battle of power in your OWN HOME with your spouse? That makes any bioparent struggle look easy in my opinion.

I used to hear the key to making this work starts in your home, between you and your husband. If you two aren’t a team, it will never ever work. And I used to just roll my eyes. Of COURSE we’re a team. We’re MARRIED. We’re putting up with this crap day in and day out aren’t we?! WE are ONE!

But we weren’t.

And believe me, when the kid(s) see that, it’s over. It’s all over. They’re parents split once, so you are already at a disadvantage disciplining them. They also often understand in a strange way even if they’re young, that you don’t have any of your own kids. Who are YOU to tell them what to do?

And all their classmates moms? Are thinking the same.

And your neighbors?  Might just be thinking the same.

Biomom? She’s DEFINITELY thinking the same. Try picking your stepson up after visitation and suddenly hearing that they don’t love you they only love their mommy (insert her first name that she forced down their throat a hundred times to make sure it was loud and clear WHO was mom, here).

And your in-laws? Thinking the same.

But what if you and your husband TRULY become a team? What if you do what you KNOW is right? The opinions of others slowly fades out.

Their classmate’s moms and your neighbors? Have troubles with their own kids.

Biomom? Might just find herself being called ONLY by her first name since she chose NOT to take the high road so long ago. (Check.) And your in-laws? Are not your spouse.

He and your relationship are paramount to making ANY home function in a healthy manner and CERTAINLY any discipline stick.

Had I written this blog 2 weeks ago, it would have been much different. It would have been abount how much I can’t stand these bratty kids with their lazy parents who don’t care enough to even correct them when they’re doing wrong.

UGH! YUCK!

But today, my perspective has changed. It starts with my husband and I. We need to come together, firmly keep the boundaries consistently enforced but perhaps open them up a bit so the kid can be a kid. I’ve come to realize that I have no right to judge any other mother, because I don’t know what their struggle looks like. Adversely, that means they don’t have a CLUE what we’re doing either, so their judgement is not welcome.

We ALWAYS stick to our guns when a punishment is laid down. It is addressed quickly, and when we say something, we MEAN it. There is no wiggle room when it comes to what mom and dad have said, because if we make a move, a request, or a command, we’ve chosen our battles such that it’s IMPORTANT and we stick to it. But the other stuff….we’ve learned to let go. If it won’t hurt him or others, damage his character, and doesn’t go strictly against what we believe in as a family…..it’s probably not that big of a deal…and should be treated as such.

My therapist used to use the idea of the child ‘smearing poop on the walls’ when we discussed his misbehavior. She had a client who’s child was doing this for attention. On top of all the other nonsense that comes with trying to discipline a strong willed child, this kid was actually smearing his own poop on the wall.

I have high expectations for my stepson. He is to be educated and keep his behind out of trouble. But today I wish to guide him toward that rather than force him. And he has yet to smear poop on the walls. All in all, I guess we’re doing okay 🙂

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You’re NOT Their Mom…..And That’s Okay!

I’m always heartbroken when I read or hear of stories where women in our position feel shunned. They aren’t good enough. They aren’t “mom”. Their new mother in law doesn’t accept them. The kids don’t accept them. The neighbors don’t accept them. In some cases, a stepmother is faced with everyone who knew the ‘old’ family as they were, sometimes just being a ‘stepmother’ in general brings about such a bad stigma they aren’t accepted by teachers, doctors….etc…etc….etc. I read one recently where the woman had to hear…like a dagger in the back….”Those are my grand kids….but THAT’S not their mother….she’s just his new wife”.


Just his new wife?

I assure you, more likely than not, you are FAR more than just his ‘new wife.’ I know I certainly am. But that brings us to a fine line then…..one of muddy definition at best….if you are MORE than his new wife…..but you are not technically their mom…..then what ARE you?

To be honest, I HATE the term “stepmother”. I mean I hate it. With a passion. I’d use the word LOATHE in fact. I use the word ‘stepmom’ as a descriptor if I must. I use “stepson” as well….if I must. The reason I dislike ‘step’ so much is not because I’m trying to FORCE my position as a REAL MOM that I’m not, it’s because it sounds so ugly. We’ve gotten to a point where it’s just ugly. It’s no longer used as a descriptor….it’s used as a scarlet letter….a dirty word. I equate myself with none of those things.

I am a vibrant caring woman. I am well educated, loving, nurturing, and I pride myself on being a good wife and caregiver. I’ve also bore no children of my own. Which technically makes me unable to claim the title of ‘mother’.

This used to really bother me. It stopped me in my tracks actually on more than one occasion. Trying to find your place can be debilitating, but again, I’ve found, it’s all about perspective. My son is playing tball these days. It’s a love hate relationship. I love baseball, my husband hates baseball…our little guy is somewhere in the middle. When the action is high, he is into it…..otherwise….he’s out on the field staring off into space….making sand castles….often doing anything BUT paying attention or being engaged. I’m irritated by this. Where is his head? How can he NOT know they’re calling to him, is he just not listening? Why is he not following directions? Why is he not moving with a quickness, come on it’s BASEBALL!

My husband is virtually the opposite….several rounds of ‘good try buddy!’ and seemingly looking the other way when his son is not doing what he should do (by my standard)….my husband sits and chats with the other parents as he is very friendly. Encouraging his boy at every turn, whether or not he’s done anything ‘monumental’….again…by my standard. While I sit, an anxious mess, engrossed in the game. Yes, folks, I’m THAT parent. At Tball. Sigh.

But what this finally illustrated to me the other night was something so beautiful. It felt like a weight of a thousand concrete blocks were lifted off my shoulders. While that child will learn by my example, as I believe whole heartedly we are a product of our environment….he is his OWN person and I cannot FORCE him to be like me any more than I can force him to be like anyone else. NOR should I.

No, we are NOT their mom, and that is OKAY! Why? Think about it like this. For me at least, the hardest part of raising someone else’s children is the IMMENSE pressure we place on ourselves that everything they do is a reflection of US. After all, we are already under the microscope aren’t we? We aren’t their MOM and we are already doing it WRONG by most standards right? Ever feel this way? I certainly do. He isn’t listening? My fault. He is rude? My fault. Ever feel like you can read the other mother’s minds? “Of COURSE he’s misbehaving, his MOTHER would do a better job, she is just his STEPMOTHER”. Sadly for many of us this isn’t just an absurd paranoid idea. Not only does this actually happen, it happens often. Women, especially women who AREN’T in our position judge heavily, often without even noticing they’re doing it, and if WE don’t have any of our OWN kids of COURSE we’re doing it wrong, right??

But what if we came to accept the idea that not a STRAND of DNA in that child belongs to us? Of COURSE they won’t behave exactly as we do. They won’t like everything we like. They aren’t us! Our own biological children that we may or may not carry someday will not be EXACTLY LIKE US! How liberating!! What if we stopped caring about the ‘catty chatty’ from the other mothers and started implementing this truth into our days?

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve spent a great deal of time judging other mothers myself, mothers in all circumstances. If their kid’s a brat, it’s their fault. Where are the parents at anyway? Why is their involvement so low? Why are they so lazy? NO WONDER their kids are on the path to a destructive lifestyle would you just LOOK at their lack of parenting?! That is until it hit me. It is a balance, as with anything else.

Read this example and I guarantee you can place SOMEONE you know into a similar category. 2 kids are raised in the same home. The same set of circumstances, the same luxuries or lack thereof, the same discipline or lack thereof, the same amount of love, attention, devotion, or sadly, abuse, belittlement, etc. Why is it that one became a doctor and the other is in jail?? (I’m exaggerating here but you get the point). Because they are their OWN person. YES I believe with all that I am that kids need discipline and high standards, ABSOLUTELY. That is a very long thorough blog that will be coming soon 🙂 But what if you are trying your hardest, giving all that you can, and your kid STILL gets in trouble at school, or STILL has ZERO interest in making the big play in their elementary school rec & ed tball game? Gasp!

I still get embarrassed when my little guy makes a wrong move, a rude comment, etc., but I’m guessing that’s the case with all parents. I’m slowly beginning to learn and accept that the only thing I can do for this child is be the best example I can be and not be too hard on myself if he chooses not to follow suit.

It’s also time for us stepmoms to stop being so concerned with what everyone else thinks. I spent the first 2 1/2 years of my marriage literally obsessed with it. What are his teachers saying? What are the other parents saying? What is biomom saying? What does my family think? It’s PARALYZING and it keeps you from doing well in this role.

In my particular circumstance, my little guy needed a solid mother role….and he needed it fast. While his mother did the best she could with what she had, she was unfortunately not given the tools, nor took the initiative to really strive in her own life, so my stepson was left with the short end of the stick as it applies here. Once I came along, I become mom literally overnight. Literally. After yet another court case my husband became primary caregiver…..though I should clarify that….my husband was forced to night shift, a shock to us both….so there I was a newlywed….and for all intents and purposes, a single mother. I had to learn to cook REAL meals, get him to school, get him his baths, get him to bed, teach him, play with him, and get him up and ready for all his activities, and daily life. Alone. Looking back on it, I wouldn’t have had it any other way, honestly. It forced us to get to know each other quickly, and the trust he now has for me was built immediately over those few months. The only trick however, was the label “mommy” came into play during this time too. At first it was probably an accident, just calling me mommy, like he sometimes calls me daddy or by his friend’s names. I never said a word and I never encouraged it. By the time we were married 3 months, my little guy was calling me Mommy Emily…..and about 6 months in, I was full blown Mommy.

Truth? Dealing with biomom’s jealousy battles made the new found ‘mommy’ label feel good for me. She wanted to go rounds undercutting me, which backfired, as not taking the high road always does. I got real sick of trying to defend myself or defend him referring to me as the role I was CLEARLY taking on. Damnit I was mommy. I did everything a mommy SHOULD be doing, why shouldn’t I get any of the credit? And this is how we think ladies. Why don’t we get the credit? Why don’t we get the labels? Blah Blah Blah. So I accepted him calling me Mommy without stopping him. Looking back on it though, ironically, I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready to be anybody’s mommy. He had a mommy and a daddy, I was just a friend of daddy’s who enjoyed spending time with him and cared for him when it was my time to do so. Honestly, I didn’t even think about being his mommy, because he had one. But things changed quickly and I was put into that role before I even knew it was really happening. I loved him to death, and I loved my husband to death. And I loved our little family so cute, quaint, fit perfectly together. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle responsibility, I’ve always handled responsibility a great deal better than most of my peers. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to take this on and be there, it was all just a new pressure I never knew anything about. And I will never be disrespected by someone with the nerve to act as though I wasn’t doing everything she should have been. Even so, it was all so backwards. Living your life backwards causes resentment.

And early on, I found myself torn. See, there was no going back. Once he started calling me mommy it just stuck. I was mom. The end. There was no changing that. There were lots of times I felt it may be inappropriate especially after the confusing times he shared with biomom, and it seemed every time I tried to pull back on it he’d scratch and claw and beg me to ‘be his mommy’. It was too traumatizing to him at this point to say I WASN’T mom (even though he knew I was not his biological creator). My husband and I discussed the fact that this put a lot of pressure on me and I wasn’t sure I was ready and was tired of the petty competition from biomom, but we agreed to leave it as it was, because it was what our little guy chose and still holds onto today.

As time went on, I questioned my role hard. I tend to live my life in an all or nothing fashion….’balance’ is not really in my vocabulary, let alone a part of my lifestyle. Which meant either I WAS his mom or I WASN’T in my mind. If he wants me to be ‘mom’ what does that mean? How do I choose what actions to take or how to behave? How do I know what’s right? And the sad truth was it always came back to me that deep down I was not his mom as biology goes and I never would be. I couldn’t force that idea on myself no matter how hard I tried. This brought about guilt, pressure, guilt, and more guilt. Who am I? What am I doing here? And the anxiety grew. In desperate search of what I should BE, what my ROLE was, I found myself suffocating. The fact remains, he knows and understands he has ‘2 Moms’ technically and I encourage that in it’s entirety. But that doesn’t always make this search for who I AM any easier. I’ve searched endlessly. Not knowing the tools and answers were in my hands and in front of me the whole way.

A very dear friend of mine from years past invited me to see he and his band play last month. My husband and I never go out let alone to a bar late at night. But this friend is someone special and his upbringing closely mirrors my current circumstance. So, we got the only safe babysitter I’ll use for the little guy (I’m slightly picky lol) and we had a very rare night on the town. The one thing I loved so much about seeing this friend of mine was that he had a very happy life put together for himself. A great band, good friends, a bride to be, a relationship with his biomom that he once didn’t have and the kicker…..a stronger bond with his stepmother than I ever imagined. See, when we were growing up, it was his stepmom who was ‘mom’. He called her mom, he loved her like his own and here we are pushing 30, and she was there to support him. He had the deepest respect for this woman, it just radiated. She insisted on the high road ALWAYS while we grew up, she never pushed him or spoke poorly of his ‘real’ mom, she never interrupted the relationship with his ‘real’ mom and wouldn’t you know it, he grew up to have a relationship with her that I can only dream about having with my son. And that’s when it hit me. Like an avalanche of happy. Oh. My. Gosh. I’m NOT his mom. And that’s okay! I CAN be a mother figure, the one he goes to when he needs me, guide him, love him, show him right from wrong, let him be who he wants to be and when he’s a man, yes he MAY very well choose to seek out a relationship with biomom but I haven’t the least bit to be threatened about because in the end he will always come home to me as long as I remain neutral and the one who’s consistent and honorable. And if he CHOOSES to have a relationship with her, as long as it’s a healthy one, why shouldn’t I encourage him? He is entitled to have as many loving relationships as possible.

I took my son to a family gathering this week. Family from far and away came to visit. This is my HALF brother’s kids. My HALF brother. When they showed up, my little guy kept saying how he looked just like his mommy and daddy (my husband and I) and my family looked just like him and they were family 🙂 Notice the emphasis on half brother. Not because I view him as any less family than anyone else, I love my brother to death. But because there was not a SINGLE piece of biology that linked my son to anyone there that day, in fact, even LESS than a ‘normal’ gathering, but he felt it did and he decided it did. He decided that was HIS family, biology LITERALLY had NOTHING to do with it.

When this role seems impossible, and biomom and the rest of the world are out to remind you what you’re NOT,  remember what we are and what THEY’RE not. They have the ‘biology card’, the worthless biology card I mentioned in a previous blog, but we have their choice. You cannot CHOOSE who your parents are. Unless you are a stepchild. He chose me to be “mom” all on his own. For my fellow Christ followers, the relationship with God is a powerful one because He gives us free will. We do not HAVE to love Him. We do not HAVE to follow Him. We do because it’s a relationship built on trust, respect, honor, and true love. He loves me because he wants to. Not because biology tells him to.

Being a childless stepmom is TOUGH. There are days where you can cut the tension in the air in my house with a knife. The choices. The confusion. The questions. No baby experiences to draw from. The irritation. The back and forth. The resentment. It’s all real. Don’t let anyone tell you you KNEW what you were getting into or that you aren’t allowed to be inundated with emotions from time to time. But it has to start with the pressure. REMOVING it. Children have enough room in their hearts for plenty of people. Our child therapist used to tell me that and it went right over my head. Because I was selfish. I don’t have to be his ‘only mom’ by any circumstance or by anyone’s standard. I am just a woman, doing her best, taking the high road, and trying to care about a child.

Yes, I may be “the new wife”. But I’m also the wife that was meant to be here, the chosen mother figure in my circumstance covering as many facets of that position as required of me. I’m far from perfect, but I’m okay with who I am. I’m proud of where we are. And I know I’m building a bond with that child that is TRULY unbreakable, unique, and unlike any other. Not because of ‘biology’ not because it ‘sounds good’, not because it’s ‘convenient’.  In fact, if anything, it’s arguably the hardest relationship for any to create and thrive in. It’s amazing because like all relationships that TRULY weather the storm, we chose each other. Not a biomom on the planet can say that.

My husband has desperately tried to get me to accept this for a long long time. I’ve fought him every step of the way because it just felt like words. Until I saw it in action…..spend less time analyzing your relationship and more time cultivating it. We reap what we sow. In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s name is on the birth certificate, who got called ‘mommy’ or what the labels were. What matters is who they look for when they need guidance from someone they truly respect. Where they go for family holidays. Who was a part of their most positive and uplifting memories. Who made them who they are when they’re adults. Make sure that’s you. Nothing and NO ONE else matters.

Today I happily accept hearing ‘mommy’ and I’m proud to fill the role. I’m still finding my place in this family, and my responsibilities and expectations in this role, but it’s all about time. We’ve all been together for 3 years now and have seen a LOT in those 3 years. When I question my role here I think of this….I was once told you can make a quilt many ways. Either the pieces are cut perfectly, piece by piece, perfectly placed together with meticulous stitching, and color choices. Or, you can have jagged pieces, mismatched, hodgepodge, sometimes done backwards, the colors don’t match, the stitching is rough, but both quilts are strong, beautiful, and serve the same purpose.

Our quilt may not be perfect, but it’s ours, and we all fit together in our own place, and I’m okay with that 🙂