It is my wish that the word "favoritism" never be used in a family ... especially a blended family of step and biological children. I personally find this term to be so offensive and guilt-producing that I cant bear to hear it. Just look at how it's defined:
1: an inclination to favor some person or group
2: unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice [syn: discrimination]
When I married my husband, there was an expectation (both on his part as well as my own) that I would love my stepdaughter as much as any other child created from our union. And why would we not believe that to be the case? After all, my own stepmother has always told me that she loved my brother and I as if we were her own children. Loving us came naturally to her. She loved us both unconditionally. So, of course I would want to model myself after her and firmly believed that my love for my stepdaughter would come with the same ease as her love for me.
There is one flaw with this theory, however... my stepmom never had any children of her own. She had nothing else with which to compare the love she felt for us; it was the only parent/child love she ever knew.
I became aware of this glaring difference when I was expecting my first child. While going over last minute details with my hubby, I expressed my desire for some alone time after the baby was born -- this meant discouraging visits from friends, extended family, and... my step-daughter (with whom he shares 50/50 custody). My request seemed innocent enough: if we were to come home from the hospital on one of his custodial days I wanted his ex to keep my stepdaughter for a few extra days allowing us some quiet time to get settled.
My husband was instantly hurt by my request. He had always suspected that I did not love his daughter the same as he did and that I would treat her differently than our own children, and BY GOLLY now here I was verifiying his suspicions by wanting some alone time with our soon-to-be newborn son. I, of course, felt incredibly guilty for having had the GAUL to suggest such a thing and tried to explain my way out of it and denied the offensive allegations entirely.
However, I soon discovered that there is absolutely no bond as strong as that between a parent and their bio-children. This is especially true for mothers... for, if we're lucky, we had an actual physical connection with our children for 9 incredible months. (This, I feel, may provide mothers with an even stronger bond than fathers for whom, without a uterus, could not possibly know what it's like to have another living creature growing inside of you -- no matter how many times they may have watched Alien. But I digress.)
The difference between being a mis-guided vs. an effective stepparent is being honest about the "unique" feelings you have towards your stepchildren, instead of trying to deny them. I will not feel guilty having different feelings towards my stepdaughter than my own child(ren). A stepparent/stepchild bond is socially, not biologically, created. It is not automatic but it can grow over time.
The reality is, my feelings towards my stepdaughter were not the same as my husbands, and they are not the same as my feelings towards my own child(ren). But does this mean that I do NOT care about her? Noooo. I want what's best for her. I want her to be happy. I want her to feel safe and secure and loved and special. And I want to beat the living snot out of anyone who makes her feel less than that.
What matters most is that I love all my children in their own special way. I love each of them differently... but with the same intensity that only a mother can.