Over the last several years, I’ve talked to hundreds of stepmoms. Every stepmom has their own unique story, but there is one common emotion that always seems to show up.
Stepmoms feel guilty.
They feel guilty for how they feel.
They feel guilty about how they’re showing up.
Stepmoms feel guilty.
Just like mom guilt, stepmom guilt needs to stop.
We need to give ourselves grace.
On that note, here are 8 things that stepmoms need to stop feeling guilty about.
1. Not loving your stepkids like your own.
There is a lot of pressure for stepmoms to come in and love their stepchild “like their own”.
Some stepmoms do. They have that parent-like relationship with their stepchildren. Often these stepmoms came into their stepkids’ lives very early on.
This expectation puts a lot of pressure on stepmoms. It’s a lot for stepmoms to feel like they are supposed to have this maternal bond with a child that they didn’t choose.
Love takes time. Sometimes it develops. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Telling a stepmom how they are supposed to feel their stepchild is an unrealistic expectation.
Telling anyone how they are supposed to feel about another person is unrealistic.
There is also a huge double standard. Think about it. No one is asking these children to love their stepmom like their own mom…
In fact, this is another situation where a stepmom is set up for failure.
Think about it this way. A stepmom is supposed to love their stepkid like their own child, but remember that they aren’t the real mom, so they shouldn’t over step.
Society wants you to love them like they’re your own but remember they aren’t your own.
It’s another situation where stemoms are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
I love my stepchildren very much. This love has grown over time as our relationship has developed, but it is different from the love that I have for my daughter.
It just is.
Love looks different based on the relationship and that’s okay.
2. Looking forward to when your stepkids go back to their other house.
This is natural and all stepmoms either have felt it in the past, or feel it regularly. When you start a relationship with someone with kids, you miss out on those early days where it’s just the two of you.
When you have your own child and already have stepkids, you miss out on the days of having one baby and everything revolves around this new little being.
When you start a relationship with someone with kids you don’t get to ease into parenthood, you go from a house with no kids to a house full of kids.
It can be exhausting. It feels overwhelming. It’s natural to crave that alone time with your partner, or peace and quiet away from the hustle bustle of kids.
Moms crave this too.
When a mom says she needs a break, society says she deserves it. When a stepmom craves the same, she’s overwhelmed with guilt.
3. Struggling To Adjust To Life With Kids
Let me ask you this: Did you ever struggle in your life with a move? A new house? A new job? A different roommate?
I bet the answer is yes…
Of course you’re struggling to live with and care for people who are new in your life. If you weren’t struggling to adjust, THAT would be crazy.
Adjustment periods are normal.
4. Doing Something For Yourself When Your Partner Has Their Scheduled Time
I used to think if it was my partner’s time with the kids, I had to be there for every second of it, right?
It is okay to go to meet a friend when the kids are over.
It is okay to go to an exercise class.
It is okay to go do errands or shopping.
In fact, it will help, because you’ll feel good when you return from these outings. When you feel good, you show up as a better stepmom.
Not only does this give your partner alone time with the kiddos, it give you time to take care of yourself.
One of the biggest mistakes that stepmoms make is not taking time for themselves when the kids come.
5. Not Wanting A Relationship With Your Partner’s Ex.
You do not need to be friends with your partner’s ex. In fact, if you don’t want a relationship you don’t have to have a relationship.
Just like any relationship, this one will ebb and flow.
You’re a grown woman, and it is completely up to you how much of the ex you want taking up your energy. If it is a toxic relationship, or one that makes you feel triggered, you get to set boundaries.
Remember: Sometimes the healthiest relationship is no relationship at all.
6. Not Feeling A Connection With Mutual Friends Of Your Partner And Their Ex.
Connections take time to build, so not feeling a connection with your partner’s friends who knew the ex is perfectly normal.
Sometimes these connections build over time, other times, they don’t.
It’s normal to want to create relationships that are fresh and sacred to you and your partner.
When my husband and I first got together, I made it clear that I wasn’t going to be slotted into a role. I needed friendships to develop over time.
Some did, some didn’t. That’s okay.
Over time, you and your partner will make new couple friends.
And don’t take it personally if you don’t connect with the friends from his past relationship or marriage.
It’s not about you. Chances are, they struggle with it too.
7. Wanting To Create New Traditions
It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you should leave everything as is. But why?
Life isn’t a museum.
Life evolves, and so do traditions.
You don’t want to come in and change everything right away. But it’s okay to want to share some of the things that you’re used to as well.
Continue to do some of the old traditions that are important to your stepkids and partner, while sharing some thing that you love too.
As time goes on, your traditions will evolve, especially if old ones start to feel awkward or forced.
Blending a family is about compromise and evolution.
8. Redecorating Or Changing The Place They’ve Lived In.
If you’ve moved into a house or apartment where your partner lived with their ex, you might feel tepid and guilty about changing anything.
Remember: It isn’t only stepmoms who want to renovate/paint/decorate their space—non blended families do this too!
Life changes, trends change, relationships change. It’s okay for your space to evolve.
Personally, I moved into the house where my partner lived during his first marriage. Over time we have changed the space to reflect our relationship and our family. I rarely think about it being the home they had before.
Throw pillows, a can of paint or a new rug can make a huge difference in a space.
Next time you feel guilty for something… pause, and think “do I really feel guilty about this, or do I just THINK I should feel guilty about this?”
Dive into this a bit more.
Why do I think I should feel guilty about this?
Is this an unrealistic expectation that I have put on myself?
It is based on an unrealistic expectation that society has put?
Am I sacrificing my own needs for the needs of others?
Is this a natural human emotion?
Challenge your guilt.
Be kind to yourself.