Step Is Not a Dirty Word

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word stepmother? More than likely, it’s wicked. As a new stepmom, you can imagine I am less than thrilled about this.

STEP IS NOT A DIRTYWORD

Becoming a stepmom was not my first foray into the world of wicked steps – far from it. From a young age, my life was full of family members who weren’t related to me by blood. I had divorced and remarried parents; married to, you guessed it, my stepparents. I grew up with stepsiblings. I have step-aunts and uncles and cousins, even. And actually, I had a step-grandfather long before any of these jokers came on the scene. It’s always funny to think of him as such, because though it was never a secret, it was never a fact of any consequence to me. I referred to my grandparents as my Nana and my Jim. It didn’t matter what name I called him. He was the one making silly faces at me across the dinner table, and the one crouching on the black-and-white tiled floor to feign delight as I played with the Fisher Price Castle for the one-trillionth hour straight. He was mine. And that was that.

As I grew up, though, I began to really hate the word step. Maybe it was one too many sitcoms where an angst-ridden teen yelled YOU’RE NOT MY REAL DAD before slamming her door that gave me a complex. That’s how I worried the world viewed my family: not real. The word step didn’t feel like a descriptor to me so much as it did a qualifier – evidence to the masses that my family wasn’t, quite. But that was just the thing. My step-people were as real as any others. My stepfamily loved me… like family. My stepparents took care of me… like parents. My stepsiblings fought with me… like siblings. At some point along the line, I stopped using the term altogether. I got tired of being on the defensive. I stopped saying step-anything because it felt like a dirty word, an insult, a qualifier to people who did not deserve any qualification. So I quit. I used it when I had to, to explain things, or when asked. I didn’t lie – because I didn’t have to. They were and still are just my family.

I wonder, how did we get here – to this vilification of the steps? Cinderella, sure. Probably a good amount of historical steps who were kind of wicked, too. As with anything, I know some of you will read this having had an entirely different experience than I had. Hear me say that not all step-people are the best people; but not all regular people are either, for that matter. There is something genuinely exquisite about someone choosing to love you regardless of your biological origins. It is, my friends, as real as it comes. Regardless of the circumstances that bring you to your steps, if you’re like me you’ll look back, grateful, and know that your life would have never been the same without them.

So imagine my surprise when I meet my handsome now-husband and his angel-faced daughter, and just like that (a couple years and a lot of fun later), I am a full-time, bonafide stepmom. Not only working it out for myself, this time, but with a tiny person looking to me to show her what’s up. I listened to her, all of 6 and sweet as can be, as I heard her say stepmom for the first time. To describe me. She said it tentatively at first, looking to me for approval. Inside, I cringed – horrified – insulted, even – before realizing, quickly and quietly, how completely insane that is. This is not something hurtful coming out of her tiny face. It comes with no qualification. She is just like me, on that black and white tiled floor, loving someone who loves her and giving not one thought to their title. I am hers, and she knows it. If I do my job right, she always will.

I am hers

Many years post-adolescence (can I get a hallelujah?!), my defenses are down, and I like that I’m an adult who is confident that my people are mine. I don’t always have to spell it out for everyone. My parents, siblings, cousins, are just what they are. And this little sidekick I’ve happily married into is, and always will be, my daughter. I love those things and they are true, with or without the word step. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that being her any kind of mom is the greatest gift of my life thus far – that calling me her stepmom is the greatest honor she could possibly bestow upon me. I will bear the term proudly, and let my relationship with my daughter speak for itself.

And then, maybe someday, there will be no assumption of wickedness – step won’t be a dirty word. Clarifying a person as your step-someone won’t be construed as an insult, or a qualifier.

It will tell only the lovely story of how they came to be yours.

14 Responses to Step Is Not a Dirty Word

  1. Kelley May 13, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    Hi all. I was hoping/wondering if anyone knew of a Denver stepmom support group OR would like to start one. Thanks!

  2. Myra May 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    I just loved this article!!! I was raised by a step-father and I call him dad. Yes our relationship was not perfect but would not like it any other way.
    Now I am a step mother of three amazing kids! With Mother’s Day around the corner I got invited from our youngest (stepdaughter) to Mother’s Day program.For the first time ever. After being 4 years together. I was super happy and honored. But one weekend to her mother’s it was all turned around.
    It’s sad to say kids emotions, feelings get twisted with situations like this. The fact is that I love her. And I will never position myself first than her mother. I will never be in competition to get her replaced. Ever.
    Think that her mother needs to respect the fact I am going to be in her daughters life and it’s obvious her daughter wants me in hers.
    I will not be attending the program to avoid my stepdaughter in an awkward situation with her mother.
    Being a mother is a hard job but being a Step-mother is even tougher.

  3. Michelle May 4, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    I grew up with in a home with a very abusive stepparent, so I can certainly appreciate the importance of a healthy, nurturing child-stepparent relationship. I have unfortunately found myself in the position where my son will grow up,with stepparents. I am engaged to a wonderful man who adores my son as his own, but would never try to take his father’s place. As frequently as my ex and I may not see eye-to-eye, he will always be my son’s father and I would expect anyone involved in our lives to respect that relationship. I found it a little disconcerting how the author (while seemingly well intentioned) referred to this child as her own. It is my humble opinion that while stepparents play a vital role in a child’s life a a friend and mentor, they are definitely not a replacement for the child’s biological parent. These lines are, of course, blurred if the biological parent is, for whatever reason, not a part of the child’s life. Until that happens, however, I believe the step parent should respect those boundaries and remain just that – a step parent…

  4. Jennifer Roder April 20, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    Terrific article! I have stepparents, but I don’t like to differentiate between “real” and “step.” They are all real parents to me and played a real role in my life…whether or not there is a biological connection. My daughter doesn’t know that there is any difference. She just knows there are a whole bunch of grandparents, just excited to love her. I think it’s wonderful that Megan has chosen to love her daughter whole-heartedly, and I would hope that the girl’s biological mother is relieved that there is another loving presence in her life.

  5. Abi T April 17, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    Such a beautiful, well-written, sweet piece. Both your husband + daughter have to know they’re lucky to have you in their life!!

  6. Marie smith April 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    What about the girls real mother? The feelings of the real mother need to be considered. Step moms need not act as a mother if the child already has one. There should be a respect factor for the child’s real mother. More than likely she did not desire for her child to ever have a step anything. Think about the real mom before your try and fill a role that may not need filled

    • Denver Metro Moms Blog
      Denver Metro Moms Blog April 19, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback! The writer {and all of us at DMMB} don’t ever want to discredit biological parents or “take” a parenting role from anyone. The post was intended to communicate that all family and mothers are important, real, and wonderful because they love and care for the children in their lives — regardless of whether or not there’s a “step”, “adoptive”, “foster”, or even “grand” involved. As the author said, “There is something genuinely exquisite about someone choosing to love you regardless of your biological origins.”

  7. Frances Foster April 17, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    Beautiful article Megan! I have had the privilege to get to know some of your family, and be a step mom as well…would have loved your piece anyway, although knowing some of your family adds to it! Best!!!

  8. Jessica K April 17, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Yes! Go Megan! Made me a little emoshe, actually. Great article.

  9. Sarah Sobek April 17, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Love love love!! I love your perspective

  10. Melissa M April 17, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    Such a beautifully written piece. Love is love, no matter the title. Thank you for this!

  11. Allison April 17, 2015 at 8:58 am #

    Brought tears to my eyes. You are a beautiful mother. E is blessed to have you.

  12. NollieB April 17, 2015 at 8:13 am #

    This was written beautifully! I’m apart of a step everything! I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thanks for sharing Megan!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. So You're Blending a Family | Denver Metro Moms Blog - November 2, 2015

    […] I’ve written before, “step” is NOT a dirty word. Something I didn’t understand until I was much older was that it really didn’t matter […]

Leave a Reply