Seven years ago I asked my friend, Jill, what childbirth was really like. Jill is one of the most "real" women I know and since she'd just had a baby I thought she be the perfect person to ask. Her response shocked me. "I'll never tell you that. If I do, you'll never be willing to do it." I couldn't believe it. Whatever happened was so traumatic that she was afraid telling me would turn me off of delivering a baby all together. What happened to the sisterhood, the support, the shared experiences of being female? In Jill's mind and the mind of so many other bio moms I know, she was protecting me. Did I agree with her? No. Did I really need to know all of the personal details of the most personal moment of her life. Nope. Was there an opportunity lost in sharing experiences that would help another woman better decide if she wanted a family? Yes.
Stepmoms do the same thing. We tell each other and the world that we're just fine and that life in our new families is picture perfect. We keep up the facade of picket fences and baked goods so that we can assure world as well as ourselves that we aren't bad parents and we haven't made a mistake. It's high time we as stepmoms start telling one another the truth.
I'm not suggesting we're all lying to one another purposely, although some of us might be. I am suggesting however that glossing over the truth for fear of appearing to be a failure is in fact the very definition of failure. If we tell one another that his kids loved me from day one and we always get along, we're lying. Whether we're lying to protect ourselves, our partners or our children doesn't matter. We're still lying. Same is true if we keep up the picture-perfect facade without being honest with another stepmom when she's struggling too. I'm not suggesting we should broadcast our struggles through in our tweets or status updates. Nor am I suggesting putting yourself in a position that sharing your struggles with others can put your family in any sort of harm. I am suggesting that when someone close is struggling, we need to be honest with one another about the struggles.
So what do we gain by telling each other the truth about stepparenting? First of all, we find relief. There's something to saying "This is hard" out loud that just makes it a little less hard. Second, we let someone else know they're not alone and we realize we're not either. If you're a stepparent, you're the only one with that role in your house and that can be very isolating. Shared experiences create bonds and build people up. Finally, we pave the way for someone else to have a better experience than we did. Each person's journey is different but imagine how much better your journey could have been if you were advised about how to handle the first meeting with bio mom or someone told you 8-year-old girls get jealous of the time Dad spends with Momish. Through sharing our experiences and be willing to look a little less than perfect, we're able to build our community of Momishes up. We set one another up for success, whatever that may look like and create a foundation of trust we can count on.