She was indeed, but she really wasn’t at the same time. She was to me, but not in most other people’s eyes. You see, my first child was my step daughter. Aside from occasional babysitting, she was the first baby I fed and changed diapers for. The first that I I rocked to sleep in my arms. The first boo-boos I kissed, the first tears I dried, the first that I had livingroom dance parties with. She was the first child that I loved and the first child that loved me. She loved me. She needed me. Only sometimes, but feeling needed fulfills one of the the deepest desires of the human heart. She taught me how to be a mother. I needed her.
I have been in her life since she was very young, so all she really has ever experienced is a reality where her parents are not together and I am in her life. As a toddler, of course she loved me - I fixed her favorite foods, tickled her like crazy and memorized all the Barney songs. All. The. Songs. Dora was my homegirl and we rocked out to the Wiggles on the daily. She even had a special name for me - Nana. (I know, I know… it means Grandma in many cultures. When she was first trying to learn how to say my name (which is NOT easy for toddlers, people!) her first attempts came out sounding something similar to “Nana”, so we just kind of went with it). We have always had 50/50 custody so she was with us half of every week. We really had a special relationship, her and I.
I am so, so lucky. That is not lost on me. I realize that so many blended family situations can be difficult and stressful for all parties involved. We certainly had our moments, but all-in-all, I have been super blessed to be in the situation that I am in.
With that being said, and aside from the obvious ups & downs of coparenting in general, being a stepparent is hard. For the most part, she respects me and I have never heard her utter the dreaded words “You’re not my mother!” - so I’ve got that goin’ for me. The hard part is, I’m the last on the totem pole. Sometimes, invisible. She even started calling me by my first name when she was a tween. First name, people! Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents - they all had their own special titles! I was being referred to like she had just met me on the street. Oooooh, BURN. I had been Nana for more than 10 years and now didn’t even know how to sign her birthday cards. I would actually freeze after writing the first letter of my name. It just felt so foreign to write that. That one stung hard and I had to choose to let it go. I tried to fight it, as a respect issue, but didn’t want to drive a huge wedge in our relationship as she was coasting into teenage years.
Maybe the wedge was inevitable.
My step daughter is now 16 and I have not even received so much as a text from her on Mother’s Day for the past two years. Her mom even sends me ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ texts. I know she’s a teenager and she is in a stage in her life where she’s identifying with her mother more. She may feel like she’ll hurt her mom if she acknowledges me on that special day, but it still hurts my heart bad. It cuts me deep. The bigger slap in the face is that I’ve even gotten Mother’s Day cards from other people that have said “Thank you for being a great mom to Daphne & Jude!”. Soooo…. Is my role as stepmom completely invisible or is it just that it’s not good enough?
I hope I don’t sound whiny. I’m really not looking for sympathy, either. I have specifically instructed my husband to never tell her to do things like text me on Mother’s Day. If she does, I want it to come from her because she wanted to do it, not because she was told she should do it. I write this to just be real with you. To let you know that it’s not always hearts and smiles like our perfect holiday cards. Maybe you’re a stepparent who has stumbled on this blog and need to know that you’re not alone. I wish I had more advice for you, I’m still trying to navigate this myself.
I am holding on to the hope that one day, she will be grown woman and look back to realize that she likes me just a little bit. Maybe she’ll be a mother or stepmother herself. Maybe she’ll realize she loves me again. She probably does, but I miss hearing it.
Maybe one day, I'll get a text on Mother's Day.