Jamie is a 20-year-old college student who has been attending college in the same town we live so it was convenient (and less expensive) for her to live at home. But today she moved into an apartment with a college girlfriend.
I think it is a healthy move but I was overcome with emotions as her bed was carried out of our house. I wasn’t prepared for the tears that wouldn’t stop rolling down my face as I watched my daughter pack her belongings from her room into her car. I suddenly began reflecting on 20 years of parenting my baby girl.
And then I began wondering why I wasn’t as emotional when my stepson moved out a few months ago. He is also a 20-year-old college student who lived at home his first two years of college and moved out the first part of the summer. But his move didn’t evoke the tears and emotions I felt today.
I have a good relationship with my stepson but it is not the same kind of relationship I have with my daughter. He has never called me Mom and has made it clear to me that he has another Mom who is very important to him. I have walked lightly in my relationship with him and have never felt the love from him I feel from my daughter.
So, why have I put so much pressure on myself for the last 15 years as his stepmom to believe I had to have the same feelings for him I have for my birth children? Why have I berated myself for not being the perfect stepmom?
I carried my birth children in my womb for 9 months, nursed them for a year, and performed the role of Mom for them that no one else has. My children only have one mother.
But my stepchildren have another mother whom they love dearly (and think of fondly since her unexpected passing). I don’t want to compete with their feelings for her; but, I must admit that their relationship with her affects the kind of relationship they have with me.
I know I can make a difference and have meaningful relationships with my stepchildren when I offer them my love and affection. However, it may not replicate the love I carry for my birth children.
Stepparenting is a hard role. We make it even harder when we create expectations of ourselves we can never meet.