Living in the Shadow

Pensive Stepmum

You are going to have good days and you are going to have bad days. It’s part of being human.

In your stepfamily, you may feel more of the extremes than anywhere else in your life. Some days you will feel like you are the queen of the world and everything is aligned and in order. You can tend to have that “bring it on” attitude because ain’t nothing taking you down. Other days you will feel like you are out in the middle of the ocean with 20 foot swells battering you around in your little boat. You likely feel that the closest rock to hide under is the perfect escape for you. The work we have as stepmothers is finding the balance of all the other days that fall in the spectrum between these two extremes, as this is where daily life happens.

Perhaps some of the days that the rock may look pretty good to take a rest under are Mother’s Day, Birthdays and the Holidays. These days can feel alienating to a stepmom as they are a reminder of the life that was created before you joined the family. A whole intimate family system was intact. Children were conceived. Celebrations were had. Memories were made and will be talked about now and it can make you feel melancholy about not experiencing it yourself.

You will never have the role of bio mom. You will go through phases of feeling like you’re living in the shadow of her. You will be more concerned about her than she ever will be with you. Remember you stepped onto the train that was in motion, a few people have gotten off, and a few people have gotten on – one of them being you.

There is no forcing of anything in a blended family. Nothing. It’s like learning a new language.

chrysta horwedel

I’ve been in my blended family for over a decade. I can tell you that time does help to heal. And when I say time, I mean it could take years. Sure there can be exceptions, but this balance takes more than a couple of months. There is a dance of integration, patience, and acceptance. There is no forcing of anything in a blended family. Nothing. It’s like learning a new language. It takes time, it takes work, it takes being kind and patient with yourself. It takes courage to weave a new life thread together. As I am writing this a mourning dove has flown into the bird feeder outside my office. I wasn’t going to share, but I decided to look up what the meaning of this feathered friend is. What I found was: “the symbolism of mourning doves gives us optimism with its spirituality. Beyond their sorrowful song is a message of life, hope, renewal and peace.”

As stepmothers, I feel we embody the mourning dove. Even its name. There is a place in us that mourns having not created these children with our partner, but gratitude to their mother that she did. We strive to bring peace to the family unit and are hopeful for what we can create. We don’t share DNA, but we can share what we’ve learned in our lives, how we process it, and how differences are ok. We offer a valuable and likely, different perspective than their parents do. Which I like to think is pretty lucky.

In my work with other stepmothers, I’ve learned that collectively as women we have to continue to look for the good in others, particularly right at home in our blended families. We are the divine feminine and embodying that means showing love, compassion, patience, acceptance, and kindness. You may feel insignificant on some days, but remember you are the weaver of the connections. Own this role in a gentle and accessible way. This is yours to define and continue to redefine. I’m on that same path with you, sister, and we can do it.