**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.
Hate is a strong word. But many of us still use it.
I did too. I have used it many times in my role as a stepmother in regard to my stepchild’s biological mother.
I felt righteous in my use of this word. I felt victimized by the situation I was in. I felt powerless in my role. I felt angry.
For years, I seethed in the dark swamp of resentment.
Until one day, I reached the end of my rope — with myself.
I had made myself so weary from hate — so torn apart with angst that I was essentially eating away at myself. Every piece of joy that tried to make its way into my soul was devoured by my own misery.
The truth was that I was hiding behind that misery. I was using it as a shield with which to repel any sense of happiness that came my way.
Sometimes it really does just feel easier to remain unhappy rather than admit that you need to stand up and shake it off.
It can feel overwhelming to let go of the darkness you have been hanging onto for a very long time.
Did I have good reasons to be mad at my stepchild’s biological mother? Yes, absolutely.
As a full-time stepmom raising a young teenager without the support of his biological mother after many tumultuous years of her weaving in and out of his life — I had a terrific case for full-blown resentment. All my friends agreed. Most people who knew the story agreed.
The problem was that feeling furious all of the time wasn’t getting me anywhere. The validation that my stepchild had been wronged, my spouse had been wronged, or that I had been wronged wasn’t enough of a reason to stop living life in a meaningful way — a life free of rage, bitterness, and scorn.
It took me many years to realize that there was so much more to life than hating my stepchild’s biological mother for not living up to my expectations of what I thought a mother should be, do, and say.
I had to let that go — as much as I wanted to maintain my tight grip on it. And by letting it go, I also had to release my own ego. I had to realize that my part in my stepchild’s journey wasn’t about finding vindication for his biological mother’s wrongdoings. My part was and still IS about finding a path of acceptance and healing rather than waging a mental and emotional war every time things don’t go the way I think they should go.
As a stepparent, I cannot fix everything. I cannot stay mad at everything. I cannot allow myself to lose my identity to the swamp of anger. Once you enter that swamp it’s incredibly hard to get out.
I know there are many stepmoms out there who are on various mile markers of their own journeys right now. Some feel OK. Some feel confused. Some feel anger. And some are finally finding their own voices.
I thought I would never get to the point in my stepmom journey where I didn’t hate anymore. I never thought the poison of resentment would ever seep away.
But it did.
It didn’t happen overnight. It happened gradually. With every smile that I allowed to come. With every good thought that I allowed to show up. With the knowledge that I have always done my best. With the realization that it’s OK to allow myself to truly live in peace.