Being a stepmom is hard. It’s a lot of unknown and frustration with no one really knowing how to navigate it.
I found lots of support groups for stepmoms! Some were focused on bashing the bio-moms but plenty of them were incredibly helpful and supportive.
Now I’m finding myself in an entirely new and different category. The Ex-Stepmom.
What role does this title hold?
How did I go from wanting to love this child as my own with all of my heart that it was a constant and primary concern in my life to now being severed completely?
How do you go from growing to love a child and then suddenly be expected to just shut that love off like a faucet?
Let me tell you… you can’t!
Your heart grows with every child you invite into your life. Your heart doesn’t “ungrow.” It will never go back to the way it was.
There is a lot of heartache and tears that come from having a child ripped out of your life.
It’s impossible to describe the adjustment from goodnight stories and “I love you’s” to a single awkward hug in 6 months.
Now I get it, he’s grieving too. It’s a lot for a kid to take on when a family crumbles and falls apart.
There little crumbs of moments where I get to see him again.
Because his dad and I share a child, his half-sister, there will always be a window open to watch him grow, to hear and know about his latest endeavors and accomplishments.
Yes, it might be easier if we didn’t have a child together and we could just sever ties and never be in a position to confront each other again.
But there is no way you can shut off years of trying to love a child.
The same goes the other way around with the Ex-stepdad.
My oldest (from my first marriage) wasn’t even 2 years old when I remarried. She immediately attached to her new big brother and adored him with all her heart.
Even though her father is involved in her life, there is an undeniable attachment to her other dad that she has never really known life without.
When a blended family breaks, there is no visitation rights or custody with non-biological family members.
With a shared child there is still a toe-in-the-door to each other’s life’s, and in some ways that leaves the wounds open and fresh.
My oldest child can’t seem to comprehend why her little sister still has a brother and gets to go over for visitations but she doesn’t anymore.
“Mommy, can I still call him my brother?” she asked one day.
“Of course you can.” My heart shattered.
With a huge sigh of relief and holding back tears she said: “Thank you mommy!”
And my heart shattered even more.
An example of such tender accouters through the little windows in each other’s lives can be easily told over a holiday story.
Both sisters had been taking dance classes and involved in a Christmas Dance Recital. Because the youngest child is from the blended family, of course, her father and brother were invited and got tickets to the show.
This leaves my oldest (and the blended family middle child) a rare chance to see her now Ex-Stepdad and former brother as well.
Because her biological father couldn’t make the recital due to military obligations and the nature of not wanting to hand the youngest flowers and not the other, her Ex-Stepdad still brought both girls flowers.
There were the rare opportunities for hugs which soothes the aching a little. But it’s short-lived because it is soon a cruel reminder of how real the divorce is.
In the days that follow there are fits of anger, crying and questions that are impossible to answer.
When the dust settles a little, there are tons of pictures drawn stored in a safe place waiting for the next small change to see former family members again.
After awkward exchanges, my oldest falls apart and cannot comprehend why her sister gets to visit her father, brother and our old house but she can’t.
All I can do is hold her while she cries and assure her I know how she feels because there are things even ice-cream and Nutella can’t fix.
So how on Earth do you navigate the world of the Ex-Stepmom?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you get to make this up as you go and do whatever fits your family situation.
Maybe it’s just a card on Christmas and Birthdays. Maybe it’s still playdates and “off-the-record” visitations. I’ve even heard of stories where the Ex-Stepmom had adopted the kids later.
Whatever your family situation, you will always be able to hold on to those years of fostering and nurturing love for your former stepchild.
Your heart grew! And there will always be that place in your heart for them.