Now and then, I somehow manage to lose my temper with a beautiful five-year-old who resembles Rapunzel. Her face looks nothing like my face. We don’t have the same quirks nor do we share the bond of blood.

She is my stepdaughter, and I love her with every inch of my being.

But whenever I start to lose my temper because she pushes my respect button or doesn’t want her Rapunzel hair brushed, or when I feel like an outsider to the family that existed before me, I can hear a voice that says, in a snide tone, “You are not a real mom.”

On days when rooms are clean, vegetables negotiated, outfits laid out, and lullabies sung, it hits me like a ton of bricks. All of the sudden I can’t breathe. The voice speaks again, “You did not birth her. Everyone knows you are illegitimate and inadequate. Real moms don’t lose it like you do. Also, guess what? You will never be her mother.”

This is dedicated to the women who have silenced that voice.

I didn’t realize how much it mattered until I received an e-mail from one of our church coordinators with an invite to the Mother’s Prayer Breakfast, and I burst into tears. I sobbed like a baby over the fact that somebody acknowledged that I was also a mother.  Then I realized that many of mama friends did the same thing, and that it was holding me together like glue.

Anyone who is considering the difficult journey of stepmotherhood, the best piece of advice I can give is this: find your people.

This article is dedicated to Ali, who sent me a text on Mother’s Day, when my stepdaughter wasn’t with us.

And Amy, who endured many dramatic text messages about HAIR THAT WAS FINALLY BRUSHED AND BRAIDED, AND NOONE CRIED.

To Millie, who didn’t judge me when as I told her I was dying for a glass of wine while I whined about being sick of hearing ‘why?’ ”from a tiny human.

For Emily, who encouraged me the first time that my stepdaughter got in a fight with another child, her child.

This piece is for Gayla, who has adopted little ones and reassured me that choosing to love is hard but good and part of our creation.

And for Lisa, who told me the vital role her stepmother played in introducing her to Jesus. Tears rolling down my cheeks alone in my car, I felt a twinge of hope.

This is dedicated to my mother who patiently says over and over again, “She is a kind and beautiful child. Keep loving her, keep loving her, keep loving her.”

All of these words allow me to just. keep. going. because being a step mama is damn hard and I have been doing it for exactly four months.

In the book of Genesis, another desperate woman says, “You are the God who sees me.” These women remind me of that Truth. When the voice that is not His says, you are not enough, He Sees me. He Sees me in all the chaos and heartbreak and confusion. He is after all, Emmanuel, God with us.

Step mamas and step mamas-to-be, find your people.