Being a step-mom is hard. And there are very few good role models in this space. No young girl has read Cinderella or Snow White and thought, "you know what, that step-mom is really a lovely character full of vibrancy, independence and spirit." No way. From an early age step-mothers are made out to be nothing short of witches or specifically an "Evil Queen" in the case of Snow White, with unruly gray hair and a bad attitude about the family they just inherited. We don't know much about their husbands, but very quickly we get the gist that this was not the gig they signed on for.
I never dreamed of being a step-mom. As a young child, I didn't carry around my baby doll pretending I was its second mother. It wasn't something I thought I would ever experience, not something I would have said that I wanted. But here I am. Grateful to be a step-mom by design.
You see, we don't dream of being a step-mom in the same way we dream of being moms. When we dream of being a mom some day we think of those children first as our own, being the mom that they first know. Being the only mom that they would ever come to love. Their first female role model. We don't dream of being second. Being a step-mom means that someone's first dream has ended in heartache.
In my own story, I swore a) I would never marry again, b) wouldn't date a man with children, c) certainly if I did date and marry, not marry a man with children from a prior relationship. I did not want to be a step-mom.
Then God laughed, and almost one week after my grandmother told me that she had been praying for a good man to come into my life, my future husband reached out to me. A man with two little girls. A family who had experienced the loss of their first fairy tale.
Almost instantly my own dreams started to change. Very quickly I began to love the idea of being a step-mom to two girls I hadn't met and partner to this incredible man I was beginning to know again. I began to dream about what it would be like to raise three kids together; my own little boy and two new little girls. I began to dream about what it would be like to have daughters. I began to dream about what it would be like to raise more than one child, something I had desired for a long time.
For me, I very gratefully became the step-mom to two darling little girls, who thankfully share the same open heart and loving spirit as their father. I met these two beautiful, smart and funny girls and almost instantly they were willing to allow me to be a part of their inner circle. Not only that, but they lovingly welcomed my little boy as their friend and future brother without objection. I truly couldn't be more fortunate.
But with all of that good - and there is so, SO much of it - this is still a difficult space.
We fall in love just like all good stories start, but instead of starting fresh, we start with a family somewhere in the middle. A family that's already begun without us. And that is just not something anyone has taught us how to deal with. There are few role models in this space.
We have husbands who in the best of cases love us, and signed on for this too. But I'm sure being step-dads and dads who are the husbands of step-moms is also not an easy space. It's uncharted territory for the whole family. Each set of circumstances is different.
I'm learning to parent again. And with someone new. I'm learning when to lean in, and when to step back. I'm learning to listen in new ways. I'm learning how to build bridges between the grief that children feel when their first family falls apart to the other side of acceptance, healing and hopefulness. I'm learning how to put in ponytails and braid hair. I'm learning when to break up quarrels between the kids, and when to let them sort it out on their own. I'm learning every day how to be a step-mom. A dream that I honestly didn't choose until recently, but one that I welcome. I'm a step-mom by design.
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