Posted: Jun 20, 2014 8:00 AM
Blending families can be tricky for everyone involved. We often think of the children, the ex-wife, the extended family. But there’s a lot to being a stepmother as well. Stepmoms share the {loving} truth about being in their shoes: what it’s like to love someone else’s child.
Photo credit: Eric Audras/ ONOKY/ Getty Images

When a couple with children divorces and remarries the conversation that swirls around them can be messy. Between scheduling details and the feelings of the birth parents and their children, there's often a silent voice that gets lost in the mix: the stepmom. Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, is a psychotherapist and relationship coach and she speaks to the logistics of how forming a positive step-relationship fits into all of the other relationships at play. She says, "Many stepmothers have the desire and capacity to form loving bonds with their stepchildren, while respecting and supporting the role of the biological mother in their lives. Recognizing that kids need nurturing, kindness, support, structure and reasonable limits is key." In other words, stepmothers need to mother. But the often undiscussed factor within this is the love that stepmothers feel for the children in their new lives. We spoke with stepmothers about what matters most in any mother-child relationship, especially this one: the love.

Stepmoms- Brenda WattersonPhoto credit: Brenda Watterson

Brenda Watterson is a stay-at-home mom and aspiring writer from Algonquin, Illinois.

About loving as a stepmom, Watterson says, "Becoming a step parent is like jumping on a treadmill that is already running full speed. Routines and traditions have already been established and you just have to jump in! My treadmill experience began 10 years ago when I had no children. I certainly stumbled a few times in the beginning but it has been the best run of my life. I now have four children, two that grew in my womb and two that grew in my heart but you could never tell the difference because they have all taken root in my soul. I've learned through this experience that the only difference between bonding with a child and bonding with an infant is the point in which you begin. Love is organic. It grows where it is nurtured."

Stepmoms- Debra Amador DeLaRosa
Photo credit: Debra Amador DeLaRosa

Debra Amador DeLaRosa is a stepmom of one living in Petaluma, California.

About loving as a stepmom, DeLaRosa says, "I love him: his sleepy little body, padding up to me some mornings, climbing onto my lap... until he realizes... he’s almost 10; his innocent voice asking, 'Do you think I’m growing up too fast?' after seeing his sick grandpa prompts him to wonder how long his own life will be; his mischievous smile when pleading for popcorn on movie night — as he says only I know how to make; and his beautiful hair, that he lets me untangle after a bath. These are my precious, mommy moments. Not tied to birth or blood. Just, simply, to our own home, sweet, home."

Stepmoms- Rachel Kowitz
Photo credit: Rachel Kowitz

Rachel Kowitz owns Back To Basics Organizing, LLC and is a wife, daughter, sister, friend and a happy stepmother of two.

About loving as a stepmom Kowitz, says, "No little girl says ‘I want to be a stepmother when I grow up.’ So, what did I do when I met the love of my life and his two daughters four years ago? My goal was simple. I decided to create a loving environment for our children (step or other) to grow up in. It seemed like a no brainer. Of course everyone had advice and warnings to give about how hard and emotionally draining marrying someone with children was going to be. Like the addition of children to any family, there was an adjustment period. However, I never let other people’s predominantly negative views of my situation dictate the way I felt about my life. I simply lived my life with my husband and two children, treating my stepdaughters like they should be treated — like any other children. After all, where is it written that there should be a limit on how many people can love and take care of a child? As far as I’m concerned you can’t go wrong with caring for, providing structure for and loving your children — step, adopted or other! Today, my stepdaughters are the most well-adjusted, happy kids I know. They love and respect me and they accept the fact they have three parents instead of two. Because no matter which house they happen to be staying in, who is loving them or what name they are calling each of us, there is one constant: They are always guaranteed to have everything they need, all the attention they can handle and enough love to go around.”

Stepmoms- Lori Helmstetter
Photo credit: Lori Helmstetter

Lori Helmstetter tries hard to juggle her roles as speech-language pathologist, partner, stepmom, momma and friend. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

About loving as a stepmom, Helmstetter says, "I had a group of children to fall in love with. The falling in love wasn't so hard. They were little and adorable, verbal and energetic. They thought I was funny. When it got real, when we also had to figure out the harder things like how to count on each other, how to fight, how to tell that we were all in it for the long haul, whatever that would look like. That's when it became exquisite. It is a love with very little pretense. We have to be patient. We have to remember that there's enough room for each of us and that the family needs all of us as individuals to be present."

More on love

Single parenting: Open your heart to love
Operation Love Reunited: Photos of military families
One photo: What does motherhood really look like?