Let me be clear: I love my step kids very much. They add much joy and light to my life and I can’t imagine where I’d be without them.
However, I don’t love them like they’re my kids and I’m their mother. I’m NOT their mother. I actually have a daughter of my own who would be right pissed (and with good reason) if I loved my husband’s kids just the same as I love her. I love them a lot, but it’s not the same and none of us expect it to be.
My advice on this topic is not the advice you typically read on social media, where women take swipes at each other for not being able to generate what they think are the perfect kind of warm fuzzies for their partner’s kids.
Here’s why I think those stepmoms have it all wrong:
1. When you love a child like your own, there’s an unconscious expectation of being loved back. It puts a lot of pressure on that child to love you in a way that feels good for you without respecting what they need. If you think you can love a child like a mother does, but without any need for them to reciprocate, talk to me in a few years about how that’s working out for you.
2. If you actually have children of your own, you’re setting them up for a nightmare of sibling rivalry. Even bio-siblings suffer from feeling like they are not getting all the love they deserve because of an older brother or sister, or because of a new baby. Kids would have zero sense of security if they actually believed their mom could pick up a couple of random kids from the playground, and bring them home to love.
3. You risk activating a loyalty bind in the child. Kids are not wired to have two mothers at the same time (no reference to same-sex parents here). In order to love you as a mother, they have to kick their own mother out of the nest and more often than not it makes them hate themselves. That’s the source of a ton of inexplicable behaviours from step children; they punish themselves for loving you too much or for wishing that you were their real mom.
4. You’re either putting unrealistic expectations on yourself, or you’re feeling pressure from outside to make this relationship “perfect” in some way. Some kids are much more naturally lovable than others, and so are adults. You don’t fall in love with everyone you meet, and it’s even hard to produce genuine lovingkindness towards everyone. It’s pretty easy to love preschoolers who are cute and behave well, and exponentially harder to love surly, aggressive teenagers. I have a free download on this exact topic, you can find a link at the end of the post.
5. You’re missing out on the beautiful, authentic relationship you could be having for them and that they could have for you as an important, caring adult in their lives. They can love you they way they do an auntie, or their best friends’ mom, or the next door mom, or a coach, teacher or mentor. I love my husband’s kids very much. I feel close to them each in their own way so that they can come near or hold me away when according to what they need.
It actually takes a lot of love to do that.
Here’s a link to my free download:
Playing Hard To Like: 10 Challenging Step Kid Personalities And How To Win Them Over