When my children are at their father's house they are mothered by his wife. I have always been grateful for this. She is kind. She is nurturing.
She loves my children differently than I do. Hers is not the love that grew from their hearts beating beneath hers, from fluttery (and not so fluttery) kicks, from 2:00am feedings, or from first smiles and first steps. But her love is just as strong. Her love was not at first sight. But her love is just as unconditional. I know this to be true because I know this kind of love.
I officially became a stepmother two years ago tomorrow. These two sweet girls quickly claimed a piece of my heart even before I married their father. On our wedding day, I vowed to them to always keep their hearts safe, to provide them the strength of family and the security of a happy, loving home.
What has been the most powerful and most special is that I have watched the love between my step-daughters and I grow over time. My own children loved me at first because they needed me. My step-daughters liked me first, then they trusted me, then they loved me. They didn't have to. They chose to. And I did too.
Their developmental milestones are precious stories shared in reminiscent tones. I treasure them like I do memories of my own children. Third person. First person. The perspective is the only difference. They are children of my heart, though not of my womb.