Belonging isn’t automatically granted except by birth. Even then, in some families, there’s a huge power and control dynamic that keeps some members out and others in.
Belonging is granted after a stepmother has been through the fire. After she’s dipped her hands in the molten rage of a marriage dissolved and walked on the coals of everyone’s grief and longing and leftover anger. Of course, you’d think she’d anticipate this gauntlet but that would be giving her superhuman powers. As far as I know, most stepmothers are mere mortals destined to live as the other mortals do in her extended stepfamily.
Today, I’m thinking of tribes and groups and clubs and PTAs and even gangs. Always there is a period of getting to know one another. Then there’s an initiation act, do something really huge and you’ll be accepted as part of the group. After the initiation, there will be still more observation and waiting to see if it’s really true who you are. Then, after more time goes by, you might get to a place where you realize it feels as if you’ve been in this group forever.
The point is, the process takes time. Years. Likely, it’ll take the 7-12 years that the experts suggest for a stepmother (with or without children of her own) to be integrated into her new family.
What is interesting is that the moment of awareness of that integration isn’t a victory. It isn’t about the stepmother winning and someone else losing, or even about everyone winning. It is simply another phase of the process that is just what it is, not good or bad or negative or positive.
One day you don’t belong.
Another day you do.