I don’t like to share. Ask anyone and they will confirm that. I consider myself generous but try to take one of my Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs and you might think differently. One thing I never imagined sharing with another woman was my son. When I brought K home from the hospital, I thought I would be the only woman in his life until he started dating. God must have smiled at my dreams because He knew there was a lesson coming for me.
Divorce was also something I didn’t see happening to me. But like many people, it did and I survived probably the most painful time in my life. Not once during that time did I consider that my ex-husband would have a new wife…someone who would be a step-mom to my only child. It was enough to get through the days without adding another level of pain and confusion, I guess. When he let me know he was getting re-married, it put me into another tailspin I didn’t imagine. Even though I had put the relationship behind me and knew we were better off apart, it was more agonizing than I could have imagined. With the help of my faith, family and friends, I lived through a couple of really dark weeks.
But now there was something else. K had another “mom”. That was NOT ok with me. I was his mother and it was my job to care for him and teach him about life and be the one he came to for advice. What I didn’t see at the time is that this woman wasn’t trying to replace me. She didn’t want my job. She was graceful enough to see the bond between K and me was nothing that needed supplemented. She could see her husband and I were good parents. We worked together to make decisions and supported what the other parent decided. Her husband demanded K treat me with respect, as well as her. Her role was not to be another mother for K. What she knew from the very start took me a long time and lots of nudges from God to figure out.
I am the first to say that being the mom is hard work. It is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done, along with being my greatest joy. It is a role that requires 24 hours a day for the rest of my life and there is nothing I value more. But as you moms know, it can tear your heart out. It can make you a screaming monster you don’t recognize. It finds you on your knees praying more than ever before. But it is the most glorious thing…no wonder God loves us like He does. The power of our feelings as moms is just a tiny glimpse at how God feels about us. He thinks being our Father is the coolest gig ever. So while I was beating my chest about how hard it was to be the mom…I never considered the even more difficult job of being the step-mom.
A simple story will illustrate how I finally figured it out. K’s step-mom ordered a ring for a special occasion. It was a very cool piece of jewelry that featured a skinny sliver band with all her children’s and grandchildren’s names for a stack that proudly displayed her love for her children. Cool, right? Until I saw that one band had K’s name on it. “She is not his mother.” I may have said some other choice words and shed some tears because how dare she think she should wear a ring with my child’s name on it. I lived in that angry place for a couple of days…stewing in the bitterness of my situation…thinking mean thoughts. And then God tapped me on the shoulder and as clear as day I heard him say, “But what if K wasn’t on the ring?” My momma bear instinct fired up and I thought, “What, he isn’t good enough to be on the ring? Even though he lives with you 50% of the time you don’t consider him part of your family?” And I paused…she couldn’t win. I was mad either way. I felt wronged about either situation.
That’s when I knew how hard it was to be the step-mom. You can’t win. Your job is to love someone else’s child as much as your own but God forbid you cross any lines that would indicate you are the parent. You were supposed to support your husband and his son but not so much so that you went outside a boundary. I had given no thought to how she must be feeling. No thought to how hard it would be to enforce rules she might not agree with. No thought to how to discipline a child who might be a brat to you because you weren’t his mom. No thought to her experience…how it would be a challenge.
The ring was a blessing to me. It allowed me to see that being a mom is ridiculously hard but being the step-mom isn’t much fun either. It requires a woman of grace, a woman who has to learn to mother in a way she never anticipated. She must be strong and soft. She must be flexible yet maintain a routine she didn’t decide on. I think there will be a special place in heaven for women who succeed in this role. And I know I will never be able to express my gratitude to K’s step-mom. She might not ever know how much I appreciate the way she has navigated the waters and made K a priority in her world. She won’t understand how grateful I am to have a woman in his life to care for him when I can’t be there, to cheer for him, to cater to his finicky eating, to provide grandparents and siblings who love him and to be a positive influence in his life. But I hope God blesses her in a special way. I hope she feels my prayers. My son loves her in a way he could never love me. And as it turns out, it is a blessing to all of us.
Director of Development