Confessions From a Stepmother’s Heart
By Lisa Grey
As a child, I loved playing “mommy” to my dolls. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own children. Years later, my dreams of being a mom became tarnished. It happened when I realized that I found my eldest stepchild to be, well, challenging to love. This may conjure up mental pictures of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. But it wasn’t like that at all.
When Chad and I met, he was raising three children alone; their mother had left two years before. Due to everything that Chad and the kids had been through, we agreed to see where our relationship was headed before I met his children.
Once it became clear that we would marry, I couldn’t wait to meet Chad’s kids. I had anticipated a bit of resistance from them at our first meeting, realizing how much they might still miss their mother. But I sensed something much deeper than resistance from my fiancé’s thirteen-year-old son Justin. It seemed as if he could not even stand the sight of me.
I tried to overlook this, given the circumstances. But I wasn’t crazy about Justin, either. That day, I watched Justin behave in ways that made me wonder if he had ever learned anything about Christianity. He spoke rudely to his father. He let doors slam rather than holding them for others. His trash landed wherever he dropped it, and any suggestion to pick it up was met with a glare.
I held my breath that day. Surely it had to get better. But the closer I got to Chad, the worse his son behaved. In fact, Justin scowled defiantly in every one of our wedding photos. Somehow, I smiled through all of it.
Things went smoothly with the two younger children. They regularly hugged me and told me they loved me. Sadly, the more the younger kids accepted me, the further Justin distanced himself from me.
Determined to be a super stepmom, I tried to bond with Justin in a variety of ways. I attempted chatting with him after school. I bought him little gifts. I cooked his favorite meals. But he just wasn’t ready to accept me.
In fact, Justin was more than “not ready.” He blatantly refused to acknowledge me as a member of the family, particularly when his father wasn’t around to see or hear it. Rude comments and defiance of house rules became the norm for him.
As the days went on, I found myself avoiding his company at all hours of the day, dreading the moment he arrived home from school. I knew the boy had been through a lot. I really wanted to feel motherly love for him. But I only felt dread and annoyance.
I tried to bury my negative feelings. Why didn’t I feel a nurturing love for Chad’s son? I feared I was plagued with some type of defect in my womanhood or my spirituality. So I didn’t talk to Chad about it. I didn’t even pray about it. I just squeezed my emotional eyes shut, hoping the problem of Justin’s behavior would go away and wished for the day I could feel motherly love for him.
But there is danger in keeping feelings inside. Instead of getting better, inevitably the problem grows. Fortunately, God helped me realize this. As I was praying one morning about safe, non-Justin-related topics, God reminded me that even Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was human. Like any other mother, Mary likely had her good days and her frustrating days. Each new morning, Mary needed to depend on God to reveal the parenting path she should take.