Amelia’s here to share her stepmotherhood story with you all! I’m so grateful for the honesty and care she was willing to share in this piece about her beautiful little family. (Also get ready for some of the sweetest pics of all time! Serious heart-eye emojis, y’all. <3)
(Would you like to be part of the project? Fill out this Google form and I’ll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)
And without further ado, here is Amelia’s story…
-What is your name and general location?
Amelia – originally from New England and we’ve now been living in DC for almost three years.
-How many stepchildren do you have? (And what age and gender, if you’re comfortable sharing) If you have biological children, feel free to let us know about them here, too!
One step-daughter who will be ten next month (where have the years gone?!).
-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
When Jeremy picked me up for our first date, he said he had two things to tell me: 1) he smokes (we both quit years ago now) and 2) he has a daughter. Once we got to the bar, he pulled up pictures of this tiny little girl with long blonde hair hanging out in a tree. His love for her was beyond apparent and it was incredibly endearing. We pretended our dating was casual for the first couple months so meeting Chloe was not on the table, but once we acknowledged that we were both serious about the relationship, I met her almost immediately.
The arrangement at the time was that Jeremy had limited visitations a few times a week and they steadily increased to include alternating overnight weekend visits, but we were never 50/50.
A few years ago we made the difficult choice to move about 6 hours away. Everything about the move has been exactly what we hoped for (better jobs, great city, beautiful home, closer to both our hometowns), but that does not take away how difficult it is having such limited time with Chloe. That is balanced by how much we are able to provide her, teach her, and show her as a result of living in the Capitol. DC is packed with museums, festivals, concerts, sports, and so much more that we both believe are important for her to see and experience as she grows up.
As I write this, we are only a few days away from her next visit to kick off summer break and I could not be more excited to cook together, pick veggies fresh from the garden, visit the zoo, play in the sprinkler, and snuggle up for movie marathons.
-What does your stepchild call you?
Chloe asked me once if she could call me mom. I told her no because she already has a mom, but that we could come up with something else for her to call me. It took some time, but eventually we fell into the rhythm of her calling me ‘Meal-Meal’ and me calling her ‘Chlo-lo’ or ‘Lo-lo’. They’re our special names for each other and I think it’s a perfect balance for the two of us.
-How/When did you first meet your now stepchild(ren)? Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
Jeremy invited me to come over after work on one of his days with Chloe – a short visit that would give us a chance to meet without too much going on or a lot of pressure. I remember driving over there that night with horrible butterflies in my tummy. I loved this guy… what would happen if his daughter didn’t like me?
Chloe was four and I was 21; after being shy for about ten whole minutes, we hit it off beautifully. I had pink, purple, and blue in my hair, I had piercings, I had tattoos (like Daddy!) – I was a different kind of adult and I think she liked that. I’d never really spent that much time around children so I wasn’t quite sure what to do, and I stumbled a couple times, especially in the first few months, but I got the hang of it.
I started joining them on their trips to the park, going out to dinner, visiting the beach. Then I started attending the soccer practices, T-ball games, and school concerts where I met Chloe’s mother. After about a year, I moved in with Jeremy and we started having overnight weekend visitations. I have been very fortunate to have such a positive relationship with Chloe from day one.
Over the years, Chloe has learned she can count on me, but there are some things she just wants Daddy for. They have a very close relationship, but are not able to see each other as often as any of us would like, so sometimes I need to step aside and let their bond take priority. This has been painful sometimes when my immediate reaction was something along the lines of “but I can fix the boo-boo too! I want to nurture and comfort you to show you how much I love you.” But I’ve also learned to try to see those opportunities as a break. I don’t need to do it all, it’s okay to let Jeremy handle those things solo sometimes, and he deserves those moments for just the two of them as father and daughter.
Selfishly, this is one of the biggest things I lost in my relationship with Chloe when we moved away: there are very few opportunities for the two of us to have solo time anymore. I am making a point this weekend to take her away for an hour or so right after she gets up to DC so that the two of us can pick out a present for Father’s Day, but moments like that are rare now. Most of the time it’s more important for the three of us to stick together as a family whenever possible.
-How do you and your partner handle discipline/rules within your family? (Is it 50/50?) How do you and your partner make sure you are both respected by the child?
Chloe has always been a very mature and well-behaved kid so discipline isn’t a huge issue for us. Simple corrections when she’s being too loud or rambunctious are usually all she needs. Meeting her at such a young age, she had no issue beginning to take direction from me as she does any other adult guardian (coach, teacher, etc.) when I needed to ask her to calm down, pick up her toys, or get her booty in the shower.
I tend to feel like I’m more observant of messes she leaves or things she might’ve forgotten to do, but if I mention something, Jeremy always has my back with making sure she knows that we share our expectations of her, not that I’m the lone authoritarian.
Jeremy usually takes the lead on important non-disciplinary related conversations – checking in on how life is at mom’s, discussing her relationships with her peers and friends, introducing her to the larger world around her. When I am around during these conversations, I take my cues on whether to join in or not depending on the tone of the discussion. Sometimes J and I will discuss later on and we may revisit a topic again if we find other important points to examine with her.
-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchild’s other biological parent? (Not your partner) If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
Chloe’s mother, thankfully, never made me feel unwelcome in Chloe’s life and I am forever grateful for that. We are polite when we’re in proximity to each other, I know I can text her and ask what size Miss Growth-Spurt is wearing now, she sends us pictures occasionally, and I have a lot of respect for her, but we are not friends. And I think that’s okay. A neighbor once let it slip to me that Chloe’s mom is glad I’m in her daughter’s life, so I think our respect for each other is mutual.
-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the child (when the child is with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the child with you?
Visits with Chloe are special now because they’re more limited due to our distance from each other. We take time off work, we plan little adventures, we check to see what concerts or games might be happening during her visit. This time we will be going to a comic convention so we can geek out over Doctor Who, Star Wars, and everything else.
That being said, one of the things Chloe loves about time with us is being lazy; she has a lot of activities and playdates and parties when she’s at her mom’s so I think she enjoys having some time that is not so scheduled when she is with us. We are happy to provide a space to decompress, stay in our PJ’s all day, try a new video game, watch a movie, and just spend time together.
-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
As many other stepmothers know, Mother’s Day is painful for an array of reasons.
I struggled a bit early on with feeling like I was pushed to the back burner anytime Chloe was with us – some of that was based in reality and some of it was my own insecurities, both of which improved with time and effort. I love Grady’s thoughts on this here and what an earlier SMCS feature, Courtney, said here – specifically the “Knowing what you know now, would you still do it” question). I believe keeping our relationship healthy makes caring for the kid easier, acts as a positive example of a healthy relationship for Chloe, and offers stability in what could otherwise feel overwhelmingly unstable.
Also, not one solid memory, but more a series of unpleasant moments revolve around our interactions with other parents. Birthday parties, sports practices and games, school events. While the fathers generally seemed welcoming to everyone, some of the other mothers did little to hide their distaste for Jeremy, and subsequently me once I joined the picture. This was compounded by the fact that I am a fair bit younger than J and his ex-wife, which seems to make these types of situations even worse, evoking the image of a younger woman sweeping in for a trivial or superficial relationship with an older man, which could not be further from our reality. (And I am grateful that Chloe’s mother has never given me reason to believe she viewed me in that light.) I’ve heard other stepparents lament about similar experiences and I’ve seen this repeat itself when another child’s parents divorced and the father was similarly ostracized. It is not overt or malevolent, but it is perceptible and unfortunate. I try to focus on the simple fact that we’re all there for the kids, whether its bio parents, step-parents, extended family, or family friends.
-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
Chloe can be a sassy little beast and sometimes a quip rolls right off her tongue that will have her father and I in stitches.
Not exactly a specific memory, but I’ve always seen the ways Chloe reflects her father, both physically and in personality, so it was heartwarming to notice as she began adopting things from me as well. It started small, copying a way I tease her father or talk trash when I’m losing at Mario Kart, and grew from there. She’s picking up my love of dogs, her favorite color shifted from pink to turquoise, she loves to put her hair up in a messy bun the same way I always wear mine, and she recently begged to dye the tips of her hair bright blue, reminiscent of the style I wore when we first met.
Jeremy has a house on the coast in Massachusetts that is shared among his extended family. A few years ago we were finally able to convince Chloe’s mom to let us take her up there for a week. It was our first vacation away with all three of us, and Chloe’s first time since right after she was born that she was able to visit the house that holds such an important place in J’s heart. We had a week of gorgeous weather, visiting with friends, and family time – I cannot wait until we’re able to do it again. (This may or may not just be an excuse to look through and share a couple pictures from that week. 🙂 )
-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
I’ve never really sought out resources like this but once Grady began speaking openly about the topic, I found it incredibly comforting. I still don’t really pursue other resources, but I thoroughly enjoy reading the SMCS each time a new one comes out and keeping an eye on the #StepmomClub Facebook page.
-What advice would you give your former self if you could send a letter back in time? Please write a short version of that letter here.
Get ready girl.
Basically, nothing is going to go according to plan so you might as well throw your expectations out the window and get ready for a helluva ride. This relationship will not be what you expect. The next few years will not be what you expect. This guy’s proposal (*spoilers*) is going to be the last thing you expect. Becoming a step-mother will be nothing like you expect.
Things are going to change, sometimes instantly and sometimes imperceptibly over a long while. Some of these next steps are going to be painful, but they will be balanced by contagious laughter, personal growth and successes, the love of your family, and unexpected adventures and experiences.
Check in with yourself as you go, don’t be afraid to to ask for what you need, be honest about your feelings and struggles, take a moment to be proud of yourself sometimes, and do your best not to take trivial things too seriously or trivialize the things that matter.
You got this.
-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
No…not of the biological part. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could see myself mirrored in her the way I see her mother’s freckles or her dad’s eyes, but my initial jealousy over that waned as I began to see her picking up her own pieces of who I am.
There is some jealousy because our time with her is limited and likely always will be, but I think anyone who shares a child with another household has that to a degree, no matter the arrangement. It would be amazing if we could have her full time and not need to split her with a whole other family, but in reality that would strip away the important ways her mom (and stepdad and their entire side of the family) has helped shape her into such an amazing little human.
And I admire the relationship she has with her father. But I cherish my unique role as something different in her life. As she continues to grow and inches ever closer to her teen years, I expect being the matriarch of our home will change our relationship, but I am optimistic that it will be for the better given the solid foundation we’ve created so far.
-What do you say when people ask if you have kids?
“I have a step-daughter.” I often feel compelled to give further explanation of our situation but I am realizing that is not necessary; I do not need to downplay my role in her life.
-What do you say when a stranger (waitress or something like that) refers to you and your spouse as mom and dad? (ie “Ask your mom and dad”)
Chloe has never shown any discomfort with this so we just let it go. Chloe calls Jeremy and I her parents when telling stories about us, just like she calls her mom and stepdad her parents when telling stories about them.
-How are you preparing for when the child might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
This is hard for me to pin down a clear answer in my own mind. Chloe is a very gentle soul and works hard to avoid hurting people’s feelings so this is difficult for me to imagine. It is hard to know what to expect from her teen years, but should these words ever be directed at me, I hope I will be able to let it roll off my back – I remember the angst of my teen years and I know sometimes immaturity can lead to saying hurtful things you do not mean.
If an adult was ever rude enough to say something like that to me, that tells me all I need to know about the quality of their character; they can take their judgments of my family and stick them where the sun don’t shine.
-Was your now partner having a child or children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
Chloe has been nothing but a pro. She has been the greatest surprise life has ever given me. I certainly never expected to become a stepparent but I have loved it so much. I count myself incredibly lucky to be a part of her life. Our family feels complete when she is with us.
-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
As if you have to ask.
-Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering.
-My dream is to be able to adopt **all the dogs** and give them a home and love and snuggles. For now it’s just our two mutts and a fat cat though.
-I love food and I love to cook – it’s one of the things that brought Jeremy and I together when we first started dating. And yes, I am one of those obnoxious people who posts pictures of ingredients, meals, and our vegetable garden on social media. Not sorry.
-I’m an intersectional feminist hippie striving to crush the kyriarchy and save the planet. ✊
Thanks again, Amelia, for sharing your stepmotherhood story today! I’m so grateful for the honesty and grace you have, both within your interview, and in your life as a stepmom!
Did you like reading Amelia’s interview? Want to read more in this series? Check them all out here!
(Don’t forget that if you’re interested in sharing your own stepmotherhood story just out this Google form and I’ll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)