The Nature versus Nurture debate is age-old. My experience as a Childless Stepmom puts a big point in the Nature column. I love my stepchildren, and I tell their father that all the time. So, I was always very confused and hurt by his reaction when I made a suggestion about their behavior. Suddenly, I had it in for his kids, and I was attacking not only them but him as well. It took some time, though, and tears, but I finally realized what I was missing in my ability to relate to my husband: Unconditional Love.
My husband has loved his children since before they were born. He knew that a part of him was coming into this world, and he was going to shape and grow that young life. The first time he met each of his children, his heart grew by leaps and bounds, and the meaning of the word Love took on a whole new meaning. He had a new world in his arms, and he was going to hold onto it forever. Many of us have heard parents describe these emotions, but until we have that experience for ourselves, it is only an idea.
I learned that as a step-parent, our stepkids’ actions can affect our like or dislike of them, even if we do love them. We might not love them when they make us angry, or misbehave in some way. Our spouse, however, does not have this separation. For him or her, the love for the child is always first, before any other emotion. No matter how much a child misbehaves, the parent will love him.
When a stepparent wants to talk to the parent about the child, the stepparent must learn to communicate from a love first point of view. To get into this mind frame, it helps to rearrange your own self-talk. Instead of wondering why the parent just hugged the child after the child misbehaved, think about how it felt when your own parents comforted you, even when you were in trouble. Remember that your spouse’s experience as a parent is part of what attracted you to him or her. Remind yourself that the children are lucky to have a parent that loves them so much. Keep in mind that children are supposed to misbehave as a matter of learning and that the parent is not going to catch or discipline every single infraction.
Take some time to make a list of all the things you truly like or love about your stepchildren. Do you pay them compliments on a regular basis, show them affection, or otherwise communicate to them that you enjoy them? Decide that you are going to appreciate the blessing of having these young people in your life, who you get to watch grow up into adults. No matter what they think of you while they are children, do you want them to look back one day and know that you loved them?
You don’t have to be in love with your stepchildren to be conscious of how your spouse feels about them. Being mindful of this very important fact of nature, unconditional love will help you allow yourself to let go of some of the tension in your household, and it will enable you to enjoy a greater appreciation of your stepchildren and your spouse.