Becoming a stepmom is not for the faint of heart. It can be a roller coaster ride of emotion, full of highs and lows. No two blended families are the same but there are some things to remember to make your journey easier.
Here Are 6 Things You Need to Know to Be a Great Stepmom
1. Patience is a virtue.
Your journey to finding your stepmom role and balance will be unique but the one constant theme is that it takes time. Studies show that nearly all stepfamilies have a honeymoon period and then struggle when settling in as a family. You will have bad days/weeks/months. You will have days that you want to give up and times when you feel lost, but know that it will get better. Have patience with yourself and your family as you all adjust to your new roles. Remember that every stepfamily is facing complex situations and that it does get easier with time.
2. You are a parent but not their mom.
This is a hard position to find because it is full of contradictions. It’s the dance of – treat them like your own, but not too much like your own. There is no easy way to reach the happy place of perfection because there is no perfection in family life. Your boundaries will flex as they age and with different situations that arise. You and your spouse will have to agree on what it means to fill this parental role based on the needs of your own home. You will make mistakes and there will be times when you unintentionally overstep. It’s tricky to find where the lines are and it will take trial and error; it may also differ from child to child. Hang on to patience and kindness in this journey.
3. It’s easier to assume positive intent then repair damage from lashing out.
Create a habit of being generous with forgiveness and careful with criticism. When two homes are involved, you will never have all of the information and it is always best to pause when angry or upset. A stepfamily by nature has more opportunity for strife because of the extra people, personalities, and schedules that are involved. Create an environment of working together instead of tearing each other down.
Remember that people tend to judge their own actions based exclusively on intent and others based solely on outcome. This will always cause a conflict and can create a ‘he said, she said’ situation. Translation: no one wins and the relationship takes two steps back. Taking the time to be curious and ask nonjudgmental questions is always a better approach then to respond in righteous indignation. Whether it is with your stepchildren or their other parent, the goal should always be peace. It creates a healthier environment for you, your marriage and the children.
4. The ability to step back is a strength, not a weakness.
You have to learn when to step back before you reach your breaking point. Depending on the level of conflict, stress, and obstacles in your stepfamily, you will have times when you have to take a step back. You can’t fix everything and even if you could, it’s not always your job. This goes in line with finding your place as a parent, not mom. Your husband has the right to take the reins in his relationship with his kids and his ex-wife. And you do not need to carry the burden of every fight, disagreement or conflict. Take a step back when you feel
Take a step back when you feel yourself caught in the middle, hanging onto stress and trying to do too much. You can play your role more easily with an objective eye and that can’t happen if you are in the thick of things all of the time. You need rest and peace and you cannot be the savior in your stepfamily.
5. Not everything is about you.
Try not to take things personally and understand what your stepchildren are facing. They have lived through their parents’ divorce and they didn’t necessarily ask for you to be in their life. Maybe they were happy for dad or mom to remarry, but regardless, they are dealing with a lot, like new family, new parents, maybe even new siblings and a new home. That is a lot of change in anyone’s life, let alone a child’s.
If conflict exists between their parents they are also carrying guilt, anger, sadness and emotional baggage that children aren’t equipped to handle. They may act out, lie, sabotage or withdraw. You do not have to excuse poor behavior but you do have to be aware of possible reasons for it. It will never feel good when a child you love calls you names or acts against you, but it can help to lessen the blow when you understand the complex world they live in. You will always be the easy target and the one that they can push away.
Loyalty, history and a never-ending bond tie your stepchildren to their parents and they instinctively do not want to threaten those relationships. When they are overwhelmed with their emotions, you will be the one standing out. It stinks, but it also stinks a whole heck of a lot to be in that child’s place too. Have patience, step back and practice forgiveness.
6. Your stepchildren have to be a priority, but your marriage is number one.
Your family is connected through your marriage. Your marriage is the sole reason you are there! I have never heard a person say that they got married to become a stepmom. And I have never heard someone say that they got married to force a stepmom on their kids. You got married because of the love, friendship, and vision that you share with your spouse. Your marriage, for both of you, has to be the top priority if you want it to remain strong in the face of stepfamily adversity.
The kids will always need your time and love, but your marriage has to be tended to. You have to support your husband even during those times you don’t agree. You have to be each other’s loudest cheerleader. As the stepmom, you have to respect the decisions made after your input is given and your spouse has to protect you from the backlash. Be a team. Place your energy in the things that matter and let go of pettiness, competition or anger. They are poisons in your marriage and home; your family and marriage deserve more.