Being a stepmom is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs I have ever undertaken. But what happens to a stepmom when the birth dad and stepmom divorce?
This is a topic that is very rarely spoken of. But with approximately 67% of second marriages ending in divorce, and some studies say that bringing children in from a previous marriage increases the chance of divorce by 15%, it is a reality for many. What happens when the Stepmom stops being a stepmom?
As stepparents, we are told to treat our step kids no different than birth kids. As a stepmom we are to love and be a "mom" to our step kids. Stepmom duties may seem very familiar to moms. I make breakfast, lunch and dinner. I take my kids to doctors appointments and play dates. I help with homework and drive kids to Girl Scouts, tennis or baseball practice. I am there cheering at plays or rugby games.
We are "mom" to our kids but do not get the credit of being the child's mom. Now, when I became a stepmom I kind of knew this would be the case but I embraced my role anyway.
But nobody ever seems to talk about the "after". I guess to be honest, nobody really wants to think about divorce or believes it will never happen to them. They say blood is thicker than water. That statement is very powerful to the divorced stepmom.
I was once told by a long time stepmom, that even during the toughest times of her marriage, she knew she could never walk away because if she did, she would never see her kids (two of them legally step kids) again. To me that was such a shocking admission but all too true.
Stepparents have the job and responsibilities of a mom, but have no legal rights like a birth parent, unless they have legally adopted the stepchild. For those of us who live and die for our kids, no matter if they were born to us or not, this is the hardest part of being a stepparent. And I caution those who are going to become a stepparent, be aware of this truth but don't let it hold you hostage.
Years after my divorce, I learned that some states are trying to bring some rights to stepparents, even in divorce. Those states have enacted laws that grant grandparents visitation rights, and stepparents are fighting for those same privileges.
Many lawyers will encourage just dealing with this outside of the divorce documents, but think long and hard about what is best for your family. But even if your state has rights, I believe the real question should be what is best for each member of the family.
After the divorce papers are signed, it is really up to the ex-spouse if visitations are permitted with the step kids, if it is not clearly stated in legal documents. Remember every divorce is different. Some ex-spouses don't want the ex-stepparent to have contact with their children. They want to start a new life, and really I can't blame them. After all, they are trying to protect their kids from any pain and disappointment.
My advice, keep your door open. If you want to continue to be a part of your step kids lives', make sure they know they are always welcome. Whether that is sending cards, emails, texts or phone calls, let them know you love them and will always be there. Sometimes the results will not be in your favor and sometimes they will. Just know that you were the best stepmom you could be and hopefully they are better people for it.
One day, I hope my step kids from my first marriage will want to be a part of my life, but no matter what, I will always love them. They will always have a piece of my heart. And I am so thankful, that even for a short time, I got to be a part of their life.