An article in this morning's Huffington Post hit home for me. It talked about the difficulty that step-mothers may experience on Mother's Day when the relationship goes unacknowledged by their step-children.The article focused compassionately on the slight that is felt when the day comes and goes without expressed appreciation, affection, or whatever other positive form such expression might take. As is often the case with subjective feature articles, the comments are far more revealing about the vast experiences of step-hood out there in the world than the article itself seeks to explore. I was stunned, however, to read very few responses that made any attempt to empathize with the step-mother who walks in my shoes. The role and experience that already feels lonely to me feels lonelier still.
I write, here, of my own experience as a childless woman who married a man with grown children. I am geographically distant from my own biological family, but I am at a distance in part because that family isn't a particularly cohesive unit. I am close to my mother, loved and respected my father, and with my brothers there is affection but not a great deal of connection. There is no "bosom" of family. I am left to do what I can to foster that connection, sense of belonging, and embrace with the family to which I am connected by marriage.
If you've read this blog for any length of time you know that I have had a good and close relationship with my step-son. The relationship with my step-daughter has seen its challenges and a share of deep pain, though now we are on much firmer ground, and are closer than we have ever been. For better or worse, through good times and bad, they are my family.
I try to keep my desires for them to see me as such in check. Expectations till the soil of our capacity for feeling wounded, and there have been days when those wounds have felt crippling. I am torn between the desire to be honest with them and communicate how I feel and the "wisdom" of letting it be. Grown-ups are supposed to be adept at taking our lumps while at the same time expected to be a model of how to get it right and do it right. too often the line between the two is blurred or moves from day to day.
Last winter when we were anticipating celebrating an early Christmas with Ashely and her family, I mentioned to Ashley that I was hoping to get family pictures while we were together. I mentioned that one picture I wanted was of the two of us. When the day came I was feeling frumpy and unhappy with how I looked: pudgy and bad hair and all. I didn't want a picture of me looking as such, so I had mentally abandoned the desire to get a picture of Ashley and me together. But she remembered, and she prompted the pose that I have included above. Although I hate how I look, I am grateful for what the picture tells me. That I matter, that she is making an effort, and that her affection is genuine.
That's really all I want as a step-mom. I am not their mother and don't seek to be treated as such. I do have a place in this family, and my cup overflows when that is acknowledged.