"So, is this your aunt?” the teacher asked, looking at me. I was at a parent-teacher conference with my stepson and his mom, and we had just discussed how the year was going for my stepson in her classroom. The teacher knew his mom, but she didn’t know me.
“No, this is his stepmom,” Michelle, my husband’s ex-wife, interjected. The teacher looked at our son, and then at the two of us standing there together. She smiled.
“It’s important what you guys are doing,” she said. “I’m a stepmom too.”
Earlier that afternoon, my husband called from work to say he wasn’t able to join us for the meeting because of an unexpected obligation. We had planned to go together, meeting his ex-wife and our son at the school. When he couldn’t go, I wasn’t sure what to do. My husband understood if I didn’t want to go alone, but he supported me if I did.
I texted Michelle. “Steve can’t go. Do you still want me to come?” Would our son be comfortable going with only a mom and a stepmom—but no dad?
Michelle said yes. She wanted me to come. When we met later in the parking lot, she asked, “Is this going to be awkward?”
“Probably,” I said as we walked toward the front entrance. “But I’m used to it by now.”
The Key to Blended-Family Happiness
Being part of a stepfamily is nothing new to me. My own parents divorced when I was 11, and I’ve had many years of navigating the complicated relationships of a blended family. I have been a stepdaughter, a stepsister, a step-granddaughter, and a step-aunt. But only in the past two years have I been a stepmom. It’s the hardest role of all—but not for the reasons people think.1