One of the most emotional moments for Meghan King Edmonds during the last season of The Real Housewives of Orange County was when Vicki Gunvalson and Tamra Judge told her that being a stepmom to hubby Jim Edmonds' four kids is not the same as being their biological mother. Meghan broke down into tears during the conversation, saying how deeply she loved her stepchildren.
That's definitely easy to see in a recent cover story with Meghan appearing in this month's StepMom Magazine. Meghan opened up about her life as a stepmom to Jim's four children from previous relationships, Lauren, 22, Hayley, 18, Landon, 10, and Sutton, 7.
Though Meghan knew Jim had four kids when they started dating, her first meeting with his eldest child came as a bit of a surprise. "The first time I met Lauren I didn’t even know I was meeting her!" Meghan revealed to StepMom Magazine. "Jimmy and I were taking his boat out for a ride in Lake Havasu and we docked it next to some of his friends’ boats. Lauren was 19. I remember meeting her and having to ask Jimmy later, 'Which one was your daughter?'"
But things went smoothly with Lauren from there on out. "At the time I met Lauren, she was already very comfortable in her role as a college student and as a girlfriend to her wonderful boyfriend," Meghan said. "She was very independent, sure of herself and probably viewed me as 'dad’s nice friend.' Nothing more. Nothing less."
Meghan wasn't sure how things would go when she met Jim's daughter Hayley for the first time. "The first time I met Hayley, I was so nervous. She was 15 and I was thinking she would be extremely hateful and/or judgmental toward me," she said. "She was neither. She was welcoming and open to me, but I don’t think she was thinking about a long-term relationship at the time. If she had been, I wonder if she would’ve been so accepting."
Meghan didn't initially think that things would get so serious so fast with Jim either, especially since he was a father of four. "We’ve been inseparable ever since our first date. But there’s much more to weigh than our love for each other, since he has children," Meghan explained. "I had to ask myself if my love for him was strong enough to take on the challenge of becoming a stepmom—because I knew there would be tough times."
And there definitely were tough times ahead. Meghan recalled one day after she and Jim had just started dating when the couple had to look after Landon and Sutton, then 7 and 4 years old, respectively, for a few days. "At that point, I didn’t have any friends in California and I felt holed-up in a secluded house. The kids were at needy ages and it just felt like way too much," she said. "I turned to Jimmy while I was in the kitchen preparing something for one of the kids, and—with tears in my eyes—said, 'I can’t do this! I love you but I can’t handle this. Please change my plane ticket to leave tomorrow.'"
But what Jim said next convinced Meghan to stay. "His response was the only reason I stayed: 'I can’t do this either. And I’m the parent! Take a glass of wine, go upstairs, close the door and watch a movie,'" Meghan said. "I remember thinking, 'Wow! Biological parents feel this, too?!'"
Now Meghan says that she has grown particularly close with Jim's youngest children. "I am especially bonded with the little ones because they are always around and need Jimmy or me for almost everything they do," she said. "This is special because they really do feel like my children and I love them as if they are my children. I miss them terribly when they are gone and I have anxiety about leaving them for so long, while I spend weeks at a time in California."
However, it's been challenging for Meghan to form the same bonds with Jim's eldest daughters, though she's making progress. "Lauren has slowly accepted me, in my role as her dad’s wife, and I think she knows I have her best interests in mind," Meghan said. "I don’t think she sees me as her stepmom; I think that makes her uncomfortable."
It's also been challenging for Meghan to parent Hayley, especially after the passing of her mother LeAnn Edmonds last July. "It was easier for me before Hayley’s mom, LeAnn, passed away—because we had a great relationship and I could call LeAnn and she would help guide me through my tough time or talk to Hayley, so that we could connect better," Meghan said. "LeAnn was such a guiding light for me, even though we sometimes disagreed, and I miss her terribly. People say that a death gets harder as time goes on and I understand this now. I wish more than anything that she was still with us, especially for the sake of her daughters."
Meghan is still not happy about her RHOC castmates' opinions on being a stepmom. "For my housewife friends to tell me what they think my place, as a stepmom, should be would be like me talking about their place as an accountant. I don’t know what being an accountant is like, but I do know basic accounting principles. Does that mean I should weigh in on the profession and try to change the course of an accountant’s career because of my basic knowledge? No!" Meghan said. "It’s not only unfair—it’s unfounded."
In fact, Meghan is going to continue to love and be involved in her stepkids' lives as any parent would. "I am shocked by the amount of indifference some stepmoms demonstrate. I sometimes find myself being jealous of how they can remove themselves from their stepkid and carry on with their lives as wives," she said. "But, then, I think it is a defense mechanism. The role I have chosen to play, which is a choice, is one of much more heartache and turmoil. But, for me, it’s so much more rewarding."
See Meghan and Jim's wedding photos, below.
And watch Meghan dish on her life as a wife and stepmom from last season of RHOC.