Why I love Wednesday Martin

10 May

A few months back, I read Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin.  One phrase has stuck in my mind.  Martin calls it “the ugly, unsentimental truth of stepmothering, a truth at once liberating and brutal…”

“…many of us do not –cannot– feel maternal toward them. While we did indeed choose a man with children, it would be disingenuous (for most of us) to pretend we chose the kids.  We chose him, and they came on the side.” P 68.

That one sentence alone liberated a lot of women.  Many stepmoms have an outward struggle with their relationship with their stepchildren.  But there are so many more that have an internal struggle that they don’t articulate for fear of being judged.

Here’s a perfect example of why they don’t talk: a stepmom friend of mine asked for some support in dealing with her relationship (or lack of one) with her stepchildren on her Facebook wall. Another stepmom friend replied with, “Recently, I came to terms with the fact that I many never have a relationship with his kids.  But then I remembered, I married him not his children.”  I know for a fact that she had read “Stepmonster” and felt good about being able to say that out loud without feeling guilty. Within a few minutes a soon-to-be stepfather wrote, “That’s horrible!  My fiancé has a daughter and I love her just as much as I love her mom.  They came as a package deal.”  And therein lies the problem:  if you don’t have maternal feelings for your stepchildren, if you don’t love them like they were your own, if you know deep in your heart that you’ll never love them as much as your own kids and you’re genuine about the way you feel, you get slammed to the mat.  Not just by soon-to-be stepdads but by your in-laws, other stepmoms, other mothers, BioMoms and maybe even your own husband.

Your internal dialogue may sound like this:  How can I not love them?  Why don’t I feel maternal towards them?  I’m a mother and a woman—that’s what we do!  Am I that much of a heartless shrew? Am I completely defective as a woman?

I remember the day I told DH, “I don’t think I’m ever going to love your kids as much as I love my own.”  The eternal optimist replied, “It might take some time.”  And I came back with, “It may never happen and that’s okay too. But that doesn’t mean I won’t do my best for them.”  It felt weird to say it out loud, but it’s the truth.

This is why I love Wednesday Martin.  Her book Stepmonster puts into words what so many stepmothers cannot for fear of being thought of unmaternal and defective.  She takes a refreshingly realistic look at what it’s like to be a stepmother.  I read several things in the book that I was personally struggling with, because I felt like I was the only woman on the planet with these issues. But somehow, reading other women’s stories made it okay for me to feel the way I do.  Stepmonster made thousands of women breathe a sigh of relief as they finally felt like it was okay not to love or even like their stepchildren.  And yet, so many of us are still quiet about it. 

How about you?  Do you feel conflicted about your relationship with your stepchildren?  Do you keep it to yourself? How do you feel about stepmothers who publicly admit that they don’t like their stepkids?

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3 Responses to “Why I love Wednesday Martin”

  1. ella May 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    When I met DH I did fall in love with my stepkids my cute little adorable stepdaughter especially. I always thought I loved them like I would my own… then I had kids. I then realized that it was totally different. Life with my stepkids has been downhill ever since due to some PAS, issues with parenting styles, house rules, treatment of the different kids, etc. I now know and have only begun to be able to admit that while I do have a place in my heart for these kids that it is so different and the love isn’t unconditional and that there are things that I can’t just let go of like with my own. It just simply isn’t the same. I don’t feel I can share this with anyone other then other stepmothers and certainly not my DH he is angry at me enough these days for trying to step back in my relationship with them to gain some sense of self and well let’s be honest a backbone. There’s few others I could share that with without either. I respect those that can outwardly admit it… I hope to get to a point where I can and I won’t feel completely persecuted for it.

  2. Jamie Murray May 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    As a Christian, I cant agree with Wendy on this. “Love”, as the bible teaches it, is not an emotion, its an action.The most comprehensive description of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. Paul explains to us the practical side of “agape” love. That is the love that God shows to us. It is a love that is shown in how it responds to life’s challenges and more importantly how we live our lives day by day. The passage does not focus so much upon what love is, but upon what love does and does not do.

    When I started dating my ( now) husband, on the very first date, he showed me a picture of his three children and very clearly told me “Behind God, this is my priority. If you would like to be a part of that, then we have a chance. If you’re not interested in that, I can understand that too, but you wont be a part of my life”.

    Hard words to hear? Yep. Truthful? Yep. It seemed to me that he had his priorities right. We were married less then a year later.

    Do I love his children? Absolutely, because “love” isn’t something I only chose to do when I feel like it, or when its convienent for me, its in the actions I take, in the things I do for them, in my ability and desire to put their priorities at the top of the list.

    Love is active, not abstract or passive. It does not simply “feel patient.” It is patient! It practices patience. It does not simply have kind feelings. It does kind things.

    I think any soon-to-be remarried Dad should be darn careful about marrying someone who doesnt think they can love his children.

  3. Seattle Mom May 11, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    While I am not a “stepmom,” I am a mother who knows it is difficult at times for one to really “like” and want to be with her own teenage children at times. (: Certainly as a biomother we love our children no matter how many buttons they may push; but I cannot imagine the requirement of automatically “loving” other children “just because” one loves their father.

    I find your blogs interesting from a different perspective – as I am with someone who I know finds it difficult at times to “love” my children – the sometimes surly teenagers who also sometimes are disrespectful to me. What keeps me with him is. despite I know my kids sometimes make him crazy, he is always supportive of me and respectful to my children. Honestly, if he acted differently (i.e. that their behavior didn’t bug him at times), I would think it was disingenuous and probably question his feelings for me.

    Finally, personally I think it is even more difficult for women to have those “maternal” feelings for children that are not their own than for men to have fatherly feelings for someone else’s child.

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