I'm helping to raise a teenage girl and it's equal parts difficult and amazing. I've always wanted to be a mother. I never imagined my experience of motherhood would look quite like this, but here we are.

When I came into G's life she was 9. Truth be told, I first met her as an infant and she spit up in my hair at my best friend's bridal shower. A sign of things to come, who knows? When I started dating G's dad years later, I was super excited to be a part of her life. I had fantasies of us going shopping, getting our nails done and just doing girly things together. Spoiler alert...none of those things happened, at least not right away.

Being a stepmom is hard, messy, gut-wrenching, rewarding, inspiring, beautiful and filled with all the ups and downs you'd expect. There are days when I feel like an outsider, an observer of this young girl's life. More often, I know down to my marrow that I'm meant to be here. I love G! Truly! And yet, finding my place in her life has been a delicate balance. Sometimes I'm great at it, and other times I fail. I can't tell you how many times I've asked, "what's my role?"

It's hard not to overstep, take things personally, second guess myself or feel left out of important moments in her life. For instance, she recently went shopping with her mama to find a dress for the 8th grade formal and I wasn't there. In fact, I wasn't even invited. When I saw photos of her in the dress of choice, I felt a pang...of what I'm not sure. Sadness, disappointment, envy. I suppose it's not important in the end because last night we picked out the perfect dress for her upcoming awards ceremony. Just the two of us. Laughing together and having fun. I'm leaving my mark, even when I don't always recognize it.

I do my best to avoid dwelling on the missed opportunities and have learned to give myself grace for the missteps. Our relationship isn't always easy. However, my #1 priority is to be as present, responsible and engaged as I can - trusting my presence in her life matters.

G and I couldn't be more different. We look nothing alike, our personal styles are night and day, she could care less about designer clothes and our view of the world doesn't always align. And that's okay! What I can tell you is that we both love Taylor Swift, working out & true crime podcasts. We can have hours-long conversations when given the chance, enjoy baking, gardening and have a mutual adoration for our three dogs. As she's grown, she has come to rely on me, opening up about how she's feeling and she appreciates my input. Those connections mean the world to me.

Motherhood, in all its glory and sorrow, is a trip. Hat's off to all the amazing caretakers who are raising little (and not so little) humans. I'm grateful for G and the trust both her and her dad have in me to "mother" in my own unique way.

I love you, G. Thank you for making me a mama. It's my greatest accomplishment.