It seems like having a stepparent is so common in our generation. A recent study has shown that 45% of children in the United States have at least one stepparent. In a few years, this percentage is said to increase. There are many causes as to why this statistic is so high, but are those instances really beyond the immediate denotation or do they actually hold a connotative power?
My parents divorced when I was just 5 years old. And to be completely honest, I’m glad I got to go through this experience at a very young age. I have this theory that the older one gets, the more attached they become to the people they are around, this is because they learn to adapt with their surroundings and the people in it. When my Dad got remarried to my now step mother, I wasn’t much older. I understood what having a step Mom meant, I had watched enough Cinderella to be aware of the evil monster.
Evil monster, that is usually the typical stereotype the everyone perceives when they hear the word “step mom.” As the world keeps evolving every day, this stereotype is slowly losing its horrible interpretation; as it should be. Having a step parent could mean many things. For me, having a step mom meant not only have extra set of hands, but it also meant having a true best friend. I have made many good friends in my lifetime, but my Step Mom will always be my biggest fan, whether I fail or succeed. Whenever I get good news, she’s the first I want to tell. Whenever I get into any trouble, she’s the first I call for help. Whenever I need someone to listen, she’s the first I go to vent. In all, you would basically consider her my person.
Generally, having a step parent basically means that you have more than just 2 people who can provide for you, take care of you, and most importantly, love you unconditionally. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that realistically, this is not always the case for everyone. Sometimes, having a step parent could lead you to create emotional distance away from your family. Regardless, every family is different, and every family member plays a part in making the family distinct.
What people don’t realize is what a woman has to go through when she becomes a “step parent”. It’s important to note that yes, she is aware of her soon to be infamous label and is probably already thinking of ways to overcome the typical cliche. For a woman to commit to an already built family, also means giving up on making her own. Instead, she has to adapt to her new family, which I’m sure, can’t be easy. From winning the hearts of the children to convincing the in laws that she is in indeed capable of keeping the family intact is a huge responsibility. Everyone has these unrealistic expectations for her to fulfill and she is more than likely terrified that she is not going to be able to do so.
Once she becomes a part of the family, she will be facing even more hardships than she probably even imagined. And who can blame her? She transformed from a single, inexperienced woman to a full functioning wife AND mother in a matter of days, compared to the number of years it usually takes. She will put in 110% effort into becoming what is expected of her. From fulfilling the vows she made to her husband to taking good care of his- and now her- children, she will be working hard to make everyone feel comfortable with her presence.
My step Mom has always said, “God made women to be strong”. The strength I have in me is all due to my step Mom’s upbringing. She taught me that your dreams depend on your courage. “You can only attain something, if you are brave enough to fight for it. Nothing will ever be handed to you”, she had said. “That would just be too easy”. And so far, she has been right. Here is what my step Mom has taught me about becoming the person that I am and developing the relationships with those around me:
1. You should never self sacrifice yourself for the sake of love. Part of being in a relationship does involve communication, compromise, and compassion, but once you begin to abandon the essential things and important people in your life in order to love someone else, that is when you have crossed the line. She taught me to recognize when to walk away and move on from a person who deprives me of being who I am. “Love yourself, before you can ever truly love someone else”.
2. You should never let anyone define you. Every day, you are continually evolving. Whoever respects you enough to want you in their life will accept you for who you are. You are your own person. You have your own history. And you make your own list of dreams and desires for your future.
3. Forgive and forget. This is something she has to remind me often, because I always have a hard time in doing so. My step Mom has always been the kind of person to never hate or do harm to anyone. She believes that fate and God have already destined people according to their sins. I guess you can call that karma. She taught me that it is so much easier to let go and forgive instead of wasting time and energy with negative emotions. “Don’t focus on grudges and past mistakes, use them to help you become more aware of the kind of world that you live in and the kind of people that are in it”, she says.
4. It’s okay to fail. Failure is humiliating and it can be especially difficult if you’re anything like me. I can’t stand to quit or disappoint on absolutely anything. My confidence level is already extremely low, so for me, failing would only confirm my beliefs of never being good enough. But my step Mom has taught me that failure in all aspects of life is an important step in growth.
5. This is the one, most important lesson that she has engraved in my mind and soul. BE INDEPENDENT. What if you woke up one morning and everything and everyone that has ever supported you disappeared, and you were left with nothing and no one but yourself, yet you had no idea how to stand on your own 2 feet? Terrible thought huh? Okay, the probability of that happening is slim, but there are many more reasons as to why being independent is extremely important. For example, personal independence can boost your confidence, emotional independence can reduce stress and promote happiness, and financial independence can mean freedom and a sense of accomplishment. Being independent can also broaden your horizons, create personal improvement, increase your self value and self esteem, make better decisions, and rely less on others.
I could have learned these lessons from anyone, I agree. But I did not learn these lessons because I was alerted. I learned because I watched my step Mom face these specific lessons personally since the day she and my Dad got married. I watched her grow and become the best step Mom I could have ever asked for. I truly am lucky to have such an influential, understanding, and caring woman in my life. She has done so much for me, and I could never thank her enough for it. Although she is my step Mom, I have never considered her anything less than being my mother. She fulfilled all the duties that any birth mother would have fulfilled for their child, which I feel gives me every right to be able to call her, “Mom.”