I used to know all the lingo, but I’m slipping. When I overheard someone insult her stepmother by calling her a “try-hard” the other day, I was lost. What could be wrong with someone who tries hard?
According to my fave Urban Dictionary, a try-hard is “a person who puts a large amount of effort into achieving a certain image, or counter-image, to the point where it is obviously contrived. Rather than achieving an image through genuine personality, the try-hard consciously attempts to fit a certain style through deliberate imitation, forced style, or scripted behavior. That is to say, he/she is trying hard to create an image.”
So now I know.
Once I took in this definition and sloshed it around a bit, my heart went out to the stepmother, who I don’t know and will never meet. Her stepdaughter thinks she is totally fake, and putting on an act. Thing is, the woman is probably totally for real. She really wants to connect. She really wants to have an official place in the stepdaughter’s life. She really wants to be an insider. She wants to be seen as legit–understood, accepted and respected.
This reminds me of a woman I HAVE met, who has been trying hard to appeal to her three stepsons for decades now, and hasn’t made any progress. She so desperately wants to love and be loved, but just never made her way into the inner circle. How awful, and how unfair.
As a bio-mom comfortably ensconced in my children’s lives and happily wearing the crown of motherhood–and gladly taking on the pressures, burdens and joys that come with my role–I never thought of the stepmother’s plight. I could not have cared less, until I became one.
My stepmotherhood is unofficial because I’m as-yet unmarried, but my role is clear as day nonetheless: give hugs, brush hair, plan playdates, cook meals, read books, have talks, think of their future…all tasks that are strikingly similar to those I do for my bio-kids. The big difference is that my efforts as a bio-mom are fully accepted and welcomed by any and all, and when I do the exact same things as a stepmom, I run the risk of being rejected or even called out. How crazy is that?
Oh, it be crazy.
Last month, I was talking to another blended family mom who lives in Atlanta. She was telling me how perceptions of her range wildly depending on whether people meet her as a mother or stepmother. Early on, this was shocking to her, because despite perceptions, she is the same person all the time. Whatever others may think, she is the mother of her home, and trying hard.
For all you try-hard stepmoms out there, I send my love and admiration. You are amazing, strong, tenacious and fabulous. You have redefined the term “try-hard.”
Author Info: Sarah Kinbar was sco-founder of Big Blended Family, Inc. She’s a proud mom in a blended family, and has two kids and two stepkids. She works at a flower shop and also freelances as a writer and editor.