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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Zunter

How To Cope With Jealousy As A Stepmom

‘You’re not their real mom.’

As a stepmother, you know this. In fact, it’s painfully clear more often than not. No matter how many times you’ve made a pact with yourself to let it go, you keep coming back for more.

You keep coming back because you made a commitment to this child or children. You’ve loved them, held them, talked to them, played with them, made meals for them, worried about them, and so on.

In many of my other stepparenting posts, I’ve tried to give hope to the idea that it’s possible to find fulfillment in your relationship with your stepchild or stepchildren, even if it’s not exactly the relationship you originally hoped for.

You have to own what you do have and work from there.

Easier said than done, right?

Despite all of the positive, helpful blogs and stepmom support forums, there’s a nagging issue so many stepmoms still have to deal with no matter how emotionally and mentally strong they are.

It’s dealing with jealousy.

It’s the sadness a stepmom might feel after she’s wiped away her stepchild’s tears, planned birthday parties, packed love notes in lunchboxes, or swelled with pride at awards ceremonies — only to feel like the odd woman out.

It’s a seed of melancholy planted somewhere deep inside that flowers into an acute sinking feeling whenever she’s reminded that this child — whom she loves dearly and has put so much time and effort toward as a stepmother — is not biologically hers and never will be.

It’s the permission slips she can’t sign, doctor visits she can’t attend, and other moms in the school pickup line who act differently once they realize she’s not the ‘real’ parent.

It’s knowing that no matter how hard you try, how deeply you love, or how intensely you support your stepchildren, you’ll often feel like you’re falling short in comparison to what a biological mother can give. It’s that biological bond, you may find yourself thinking.

As a stepmom, this is one of the hardest pills to swallow.

Of course, it’s true that the biological bond between a mother and child is not unbreakable — quite the opposite. It’s not unheard of for those bonds to fracture or break beyond repair. But when they’re healthy, they’re quite strong. And no other relationships are quite like them.

Not all stepmoms experience jealousy. But many do and many will. It can creep in slowly, sometimes over a span of years, as the stepparent/stepchild relationship grows and changes.

Many well-meaning stepmoms struggle to balance loving and co-parenting a child while sharing maternal duties with their stepchild’s biological mother.

Of course they get attached to their stepchildren. Of course they want to be involved. And it doesn’t help that, quite often, a stepmom’s relationship with the child’s biological mom can be far from functional.

Separating the concept of loving a child in a motherly way and doing motherly things for them without being their ‘real’ mom can feel like a minefield.

For most stepmoms, there’s usually a period of time where they don’t see their stepchildren or have any control over what they do. It’s not unusual for feelings of jealousy, resentment, and fear to arise during these periods.

Stepmoms may worry about losing the bonds they’ve worked so hard to build during the time periods their stepchild or stepchildren are gone with the other biological parent.

So, as a stepmom, what can you do about it? What do you do with those raw, heavy emotions that rise to the surface when you’re trying to cope with loving and caring for a child while constantly being reminded that you are not their ‘real’ mom?

There’s no simple answer. This is a part of the stepmom journey. It’s a door you need to go through to get to the other side.

Hundreds of articles offer advice on how to disengage when you feel overwhelmed or left out, but disengaging is only a temporary fix. The feelings will come back at the next school play, doctor’s visit, birthday party, or permission slip.

You need to come to terms with why you feel the way you do, or else you’re looking at potentially feeling this way — and disengaging from your family — for many years to come.

The best thing you can do to overcome jealousy is simply to accept it and feel it. Try not to repress your feelings in an attempt to be strong. Jealousy is normal, and it’s part of being human.

A little humility can help you cope. Realize you’re not going to be a calm, peaceful, centered stepmom all the time. It’s just not possible. You’re human, after all. There will be days when you’re jealous, frustrated, and drained. That’s normal.

You’re allowed to have rough days of emotional uncertainty. You’re allowed to feel like you’re totally screwing up sometimes. You’re allowed to feel — dare I say — just like a ‘real’ mom does.

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