Struggling With Emotions

My first born child moved out today.

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.

More Mother’s Day Thoughts

I couldn’t resist sharing this picture of Momma Bear and her cubs. Motherhood seems so simple in the “wild,” compared to the complications we’ve created in society.

I want to offer an additional suggestion today for celebrating Mother’s Day. Perhaps instead of insisting the focus be on us, we can turn the focus to another well-deserved mother. Here’s an example:

My stepchildren lost their mother over five years ago after a year-long battle with cancer. Both of the children had been living with her during her illness and were there when she passed away. It was a very difficult time and my husband and I could offer little help or support as we lived over 300 miles away.

During their mom’s illness and after her passing, a nearby neighbor offered the children constant love, nurturing and support. It was an incredible act of kindness and selfless devotion. This lady is a working mother of two boys herself but she offered her heart and committed her time to take care of the needs of my stepchildren during this difficult time.

Earlier this week as I was thinking about Mother’s Day, I sent this kind woman (who has since become a good friend) a note to thank her for her “mothering.” It was short and sweet without any grandiose words, but a simple note of appreciation for her time, love, and acts of service that filled a gap for my stepchildren during a tumultuous period. I wanted her to know her Christ-like actions would always be remembered, particularly as we celebrate Mother’s Day.

She sent a note back, simply expressing it “touched her heart” to know she made a difference. She has little contact with the children now, but is thankful for the chance she had to meet a special need as an additional mother when one mother could no longer meet the needs.

Do you know a mom who could use an extra dose of appreciation on Mother’s Day? Maybe it’s another stepmom or a mom of a special needs child. Today would be a great day to reach out and recognize her, offering your thanks for her acts that may go unnoticed by her children.