Motherhood is tricky business. It’s defined differently by different people and cultures; in fact, my daughter was 8 years old before I felt comfortable being acknowledged on Mother’s Day. My path to motherhood came with a prefix: Step. I am a stepmom.
After my sophomore year of college, I decided to stay in Florida for the summer and found a job working at a bakery and cafe. One night I was closing the bakery with another college girl. She was talking about some of our coworkers and mentioned what a great dad our manager, Marco, was. This surprised me. Marco had caught my attention for always being the life of the party. He was outgoing and always had a smile on his face. He was known for keeping things lively and fun around the restaurant. Customers loved him, too. He had that charismatic personality that drew people to him. I couldn’t picture him as a doting father, let alone to a little girl.
A few days later I was working a slow afternoon when Marco came in with his daughter. She was not quite 3 years old and the very spitting image of Marco; all plump cheeks and eyes like hershey’s kisses. I’d always loved kids, and this one just looked precious holding her daddy’s hand and swinging around a little purse. You could feel the pride radiating from Marco; he was positively glowing. I walked over and said hi to Daniela and asked her if she’d like a cookie. What kid doesn’t, right? She nodded her head so I scooped up her tiny body and tickled her on our way over to the display case. We were instant best friends. We sat at a table and she showed me all the goodies in her purse; lollipops, stickers, and the usual, but the best part was when she started pulling out real snails! This girl had a penchant for tiny snails and collected them whenever she found them. It’s was darling. Marco came over a few minutes later and watching him with Daniela was astounding. I’d never seen a dad enjoy spending time with his little daughter the way Marco did. They were joyful.
Two months later, Marco and I eloped. I went from a being a 20 year old college girl to being a 20 year old wife and stepmom. I was young, I was naive, and I was exactly where I was suppose to be. The odds were (and still are) against us, but we’ve never given much ado about statistics.
Daniela is my light and joy. Marco tells me that he fell in love when he saw Daniela and me laying belly down on the floor, chins propped up on open palms and giggling to Shrek. She had just turned 3. She is my best friend and my little munchkinita. She has a pensive, serious side that thinks up questions that I am totally unprepared to answer. It scares me. I’ve never birthed a child, but I can’t imagine that loving a child could get any more intense. It’s a ferocious, protective love that bloomed out of absolutely no where the first time she scraped her knee and ran into my arms.
Eight years later, motherhood is tricky, but stepmotherhood is complex and delicate. Especially when you don’t have any biological children of your own. As Daniela gets older, one of my near constant worries is that she sees me as too much of a mom. She has a wonderful mom with whom she shares that sacred mother/daughter relationship and she certainly doesn’t need another one. However, it’s so easy to fall into that mom character because in our house, that’s my role. I pick her up from school and check her homework and sign her forms and pack her lunches and bathe her and read to her and on (and on!) the mothering list goes. We are a traditional family when she’s at home and I suspect it’s the same at her mom and stepdad’s house.
However, I worry that because she sees me as another mom, I won’t be in that privileged “extra information” group reserved for older friends and cool aunts. I’m afraid I will be kept from all the things that daughters keep from their mothers because my role is so very similar to her mom’s. So far that hasn’t been the case, and I thank God for it. Marco smiles that patient smile of his every time I bring it up and just says “Christi, she adores you. Not because you’re her stepmom, but because you listen and understand her.” He is incredibly supportive. The truth of the matter is, nothing makes my heart leap quite like when Daniela comes to me with questions and says “I was thinking about … and knew you would help” or “I don’t want anyone else to know, but…” That’s when I breathe a sigh of relief. That’s when I know I’ve entered the holy ground of step parenting.
“I was never in your belly, but I was ALWAYS in your heart.” – Daniela, 6 years old.
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Christi Madrid is a Florida based blogger who grew up in Northern Michigan. Together, she and her husband strive to rear their daughter to be a globally-minded citizen; confident and empowered in her world identity. Christi blogs about step parenting and her personal passion of Learning to be the Light at ChristiMadrid.com. You can also catch her on Facebook, full of step parenting resources and random YouTube videos.