I have been a stepmom for four years now. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and there are definitely things I am still trying to work through. As dynamics change and my stepkids’ ages change, it seems like our relationship is always evolving. The first year was one of the toughest; I sought advice from reading books, blogs, and talking with other stepmoms. And in that first year, I learned a lot. Here is what I wish I would have know my first year as a stepmom:
It’s okay to love your stepkids differently.
As stepparents we hear the saying, “Love them as if they are your own,” all the time. But, if you have children of your own, it’s okay to love them in a much different way than you love your stepkids. You don’t need to feel guilty about that. I’m sure they love you in a much different way than they love their mom, and that’s okay too. Just focus on building a strong and healthy relationship with your stepkids that best suits you and them.
Just as you should talk finances before marriage, you should specifically talk finances in relation to your stepkids. What costs do you split, what costs do you feel should be in the hands of your husband, and even what costs do you think should be between him and his ex? The two of you may have very different perspectives on this topic, and it is best to discuss it early on in the relationship to avoid any confusion.
Don’t try to be their Mom.
Don’t look at your relationship with your stepkids as trying to mimic their relationship with their mom, because that may not be what they need. Build your own special bond, and let them help guide what that is. Just as in any relationship, it takes two people, so don’t let your feelings get hurt or feel pressure if it isn’t the relationship you were hoping for. Give your stepkids time if they need it, and let them know you will be there in whatever way they need you when they are ready. No kid can have too many people who love them. So in the time they spend with you, keep them happy, healthy and safe.
Take time for yourself.
There are really tough days for many different reasons. On these days you need to take time for yourself. If you start to get frustrated, are feeling lonely, or just simply need a break, do it. Go shopping, find a quiet place to read a book, go to a movie, or see a friend. Whatever helps you clear your mind and go back home feeling refreshed. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, because the happier you are, the happier your family will be.
It’s okay to walk away sometimes.
There are times you will argue about screen time, allowances, homework, and bedtime. As a stepparent we often get out ruled by our partner, so, if you feel like it’s a battle not worth having, walk away. You can only try so hard so many times. Just make your argument as logically as possible, and if you aren’t being heard, let your partner figure it out. Sometimes when you walk away, removing yourself from the situation is what it takes for your partner to really see the value you contribute.
Get along with the Ex.
The distress of an unhealthy relationship between two co-parenting families only hurts the kids. If it helps them to see your two families get along, which it does, then that is what you should do. Don’t get me wrong–you don’t have to like the ex, but don’t let the kids see that. Let them talk about their mom when they are at your house, talk nicely about her around them, and be friendly to her when you are all together.
Leave the tough stuff to your spouse.
I don’t like disciplining my stepkids, and I don’t like getting involved in decisions that I know I feel very differently than my husband and/or his ex about. These are what I consider my “tough stuff”, and I leave those things to him. If there are certain parenting responsibilities that you just don’t feel comfortable with when it comes to your stepkids, let your partner take care of it. It’s okay to sit on the sidelines sometimes.