I Refuse to Wear the Label
“You’re not perfect!”
Those were the words my future Stepdaughter said after I confronted her for being rude and disrespectful to me.
“You’re not my mother,” Stepdaughter then said.
Such a curious thing to say. Birth Mother preferred the bottle to her own children. Did Stepdaughter think Birth Mother was more deserving of basic human respect than me?
Fiance blatantly favored Stepdaughter over Stepson. I never understood why. Stepdaughter was pretty and outgoing, always smiling. She consistently pulled in a 4.0 at the prestigious college she attended on a sports scholarship. On the surface, it appeared she had it all together. But I saw past the mask. I noted the irrational outbursts and name-calling aimed at Fiance and Stepson behind closed doors, away from public adoring eyes. I felt the passive-aggressive resentment toward me demonstrated by displays of dominant behavior designed to teach me that she was in charge. I saw an angry and fearful 20-year-old little girl demanding to be recognized as a responsible adult who had no clue what it really meant to be one.
It wasn’t her fault. When your own mother discards you for a beer it tends to shape your sense of self-worth. I would know. There was a time in my childhood when both my parents abandoned me for a drink and romantic relationships. I have boundless compassion for both Stepchildren.
“You’re not perfect!”
Those were the words Fiance spoke to me when I told him it was unacceptable to allow Stepdaughter to disrespect me without consequence.
“She’s just a kid,” he then said.
Another curious thing to say. If she was just a kid, wasn’t it his responsibility as the parent to teach his child how to manage her fear and anger, and to appropriately discipline her when she’s out of line?
Stepdaughter and Fiance were both correct. I’m not perfect. I’m impatient. I have a short temper. I wield my honesty like a blunt object.
But I’m also generous. I’m creative. I’m sensitive and empathetic. I love deeply. I learn from my mistakes. I strive to do the right thing.
Stepmothers across the globe are forced to wear a label that doesn’t fit. Too often, we’re branded with words we didn’t earn. We aren’t wicked and cruel. We don’t want to inflict more pain on the children than their parents’ divorce and abandonment already has. We don’t want to shove the children to the side so we can have their fathers all to ourselves.
No, we want to help. We want to provide and protect. We want to be accepted as another person in a network of support, someone our stepchildren can turn to in their time of need.
I refuse to wear the ‘Stepmother’ connotation. I refuse to tolerate my good deeds being spat on. I refuse to marry a man who can’t honor me by holding his children accountable when they’re abusive. I approached Fiance and Stepdaughter with loving intentions. Had they shown an ounce of regret for their repeated offenses, I would have stayed.
I’m not perfect, but I deserve to be treated with basic human respect. I deserve to be in relationship with those who have healed the hurts of their past. I don’t deserve to be punished for wounds I didn’t inflict.
It’s time fathers and stepchildren had their own warning label.