Feature: Michelle Stockton-Traylor
PLAY THE LONG GAME
There’s none more affirming that this stepmom community! It’s a space I feel championed and understood, even when our stories are all so different. For those who might think the grass is greener on the other side of a custody win, here’s my story.
My husband and I have 6 kids together, who we have custody of, FULL TIME. Two exes walked out of the picture and along with the typical aftermath of divorce, personal healing, financial strain, etc we have been left standing, hugging 6 souls who struggle with abandonment, anger and loss.
We both worked our tails off to heal from our previous relationships and were able to celebrate a beautiful union of second chances two years ago in June. He’s my gift! And while God did some amazing work in us, we had no idea the work ahead of us, caring for these kids whose hearts were broken.
My bio kids will never see their father, who landed himself in jail with 3 felonies and on the sex offender registry. He had been living a secret double life that exploded all over the news in my city. My daughter recently tore up an old photo of her biological father, telling me she doesn’t ever want him in her life after what he did. (He’s not allowed to see her, but this was her way of expressing her anger at the time.)
I’ve found that each kid has their own healing journey, a timeline not mirrored by the others. Some are working through anger and shout a lot or act mean, some are still in grief and cry at night, some have moved into acceptance of this new life, making friends, planting roots and starting to move forward.
My husband and I began to realize this work takes TIME and we were gonna need to play the long game. Just when one kid seems to make progress, another one pops up with some issues that need attention. I used to say, “Every day there is someone hurting in our house.” Then I was convicted and decided to change my phrase. “Every day someone is healing in our house.” My husband and I committed to each other and to our tribe, to think with the end in mind and help them pursue their healing. We’re raising someone’s husband, someone’s wife, someone’s dad, someone’s mom. There is a legacy in all of this and we want it to be filled with hope and a future. These elementary, middle and high school years are the history they will remember. We get one chance, and that’s humbling.
(Step)Mamas, our own healing is so imperative in order for us to lead our kids through their own journey. We can’t take them where we haven’t been ourselves. Keep up the incredible work, the unseen work, the extra hugs at night, the ice cream trips, the driving lessons, the moments that help you connect. Their healing is worth it.
Written by: Michelle Stockton-Traylor