Filling Your Niche

Victory. I think. A little bit.

My hardest part of being a stepmama is never feeling like I win. Not in a self-martyring woe-is-me kind of way, but in the sense that victories aren’t really victories. Or they are, but they’re shaded in unexpected tones and tricky to make out– not as brightly victorious as I’d like. And not the way I’d have defined ‘victory’ a year ago– five years ago– six months ago.

The girls came home after several days with their (respective) other families yesterday.

“Mama, we need girl talk. Like, NOW,” says Miss G. Miss L nods agreement.

“Uh oh. Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Me and Miss L just need to talk about things with you.”

The girls exchange meaningful looks and eyebrow waggles. Serious business.

Dan wisely leaves the house, and the girls collapse in the family room with joint sighs of utter disgust. Disgust at the world, I guess, or parents everywhere or maybe just at Dan. Who can say.

Miss G goes on a rant about this and that while Miss L chimes in here and there, and I murmur and/or exclaim in (apparently) all the right places. Everyone feels better, and I feel all popular and stuff, and the girls disperse with lighter hearts.

A little later, Miss G finds me alone in the kitchen and gives me a big hug.

“I love you, Mama!”

“Aww, I love you too.”

“I think Miss L loves you too. A little bit.”

It’s kind of funny and heartbreaking and touching all at once. Just like everything else about being a stepmama.

And I feel– well, semi-victorious. Not because my stepdaughter loves me (We think. A little bit.) but because she no longer leaves a room if I enter. She asks me for help with art projects. She hovers in the kitchen while I make dinner.

On the other hand– she doesn’t give me hugs. She responds to my “Good night, girls! Love you!” with silence, or sometimes a delayed “…. ’night!”

I’m finding my way. I’m moving forward even if the scenery doesn’t match the job description, and it doesn’t wreck me any more. The news that she might love me (a little bit) doesn’t devastate me by falling short of what I want for us like it would have a couple years ago. But neither is it the desperate lifeline tied to the family I always wanted, not like it would have been a couple years before that.

So it’s kind of a victory. I think. A little bit.

It isn’t that I don’t care, because of course I do. But there’s a significant difference between regular caring and caring so much that your whole life, your future happiness, and maybe even your sanity depend on it.

I’ve learned to let Miss L be Miss L, and let me be me, let this family be whatever it is instead of insisting it become something it’s not. She’s changed, and I’ve changed and we’ve traveled from miserable through tolerance all the way up to mutual– something. Respect? Friendship? Tentative affection?


We think. A little bit.


Maarit • 08/15/2011

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  1. Julianna 08/16/2011 - 5:10 am

    I love your writing. You put me to shame. Such a gift. 🙂

  2. maarit 08/29/2011 - 5:23 am

    @Julianna Aw, shucks. *blush*

  3. Josh 08/29/2011 - 5:48 pm

    Can’t imagine what a challenge being a step parent would be. Especially a step mom, given the Disneyesque psychological beating step moms have taken over time…

  4. maarit 08/30/2011 - 2:36 pm

    @Josh“Challenge” is probably the most polite word for it… 😉

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