“She can’t love him like we do.” Most stepmoms have heard some version of these famous last words. Not just from the ex-wife; our family, friends, and even our husbands struggle to understand how a woman could love her stepkids “like her own.” My stepson’s mom said these very words to my husband after a weekend visitation. I was immediately indignant: I loved her son just as much as she did, as much as I would my own child! But now, more than a few years (and gray hairs!) later, I believe she was right. But not for the reason you think.
I see this question all the time in stepmom forums: “What if I don’t love my stepkids?” To those stepmoms, I see you. I believe love is one of the biggest struggles in stepfamilies and blended families. Specifically, degrees of love. You see, the alternate struggle to not loving your stepkids is loving them “more” than they love you. Or feeling guilty for loving your biological kids differently than your stepkids. For childless stepmoms (like me), we will never know the difference – but does it matter? What if we stopped measuring love by our own standards, by competing or comparing, and measured it by the perfect standard: God’s love.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The kind of love that Paul is describing is agape, the unconditional love that God has for us. We often recite this passage at weddings, but I’m asking you to read it again through a different lens: the lens of a stepmom. Could you learn to love your stepkids just as Christ loves us? He loves us when we’re difficult, self-centered, obstinate, and hurtful. In fact, He loved us first and loves us still.
A few weeks ago, I was exchanging text messages with my stepson’s mom about holiday schedules, and I received this: “Thanks for loving [him] as ferociously as you do. He’s a blessed kid to have you.” I was so humbled for her to say that, for her to see that. I do love my stepkids, not as my own, but hopefully as Christ does: with patience and kindness, faithfulness and grace.