I’m about to share a list of 5 things that I think confident, thriving, secure stepmoms don’t waste their time and energy worrying about.
But before I dive into this post, I feel the need to do a little disclaimer.
I am not writing this as someone who has never wasted her time on these things.
I’m not writing this from a place of judgement.
I am writing as someone who HAS BE THERE.
I am someone who DID spend time and energy worrying about some of the things that I am about to list.
A LOT of time. Especially at the beginning.
Every now and again I find myself back in the weeds.
I’m human after all.
I am also writing as someone who very early in my journey in step-motherhood decided that I wasn’t going to get wrapped up in all the bullshit, and spend my time and energy worrying about things that I just can’t control! I’m writing as someone who did A LOT of personal development, and work on myself to get to an entirely different place.
Being a stepmom is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. It rocked me to my core. It’s also been one of the most expansive experiences of my life.
It forced me to look in the mirror. I had to assess the way I was showing up and seeing the world.
I was forced to re-evaluate my expectations in relationships, my insecurities, my childhood wounds, my communication style, co-dependent tendencies and stop being such a control freak.
In episode 108 of The KICK-ASS Stepmom Podcast, Ange Simpson says
Before I dive into this list, I want to say one more thing. Getting to the point where you don’t worry about these things is a process… one where you’ll take two steps forward and three steps back.
Be kind to yourself. Somedays you’ll have it in the bag, and others you’ll find yourself back at square one.
That’s okay! Keep working on it…
Because if you do, one day you’ll realize that even though many of your stressors are still the same, the way you look at them, has completely changed.
1. WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK THAT STEPMOMS SHOULD AND SHOULDN’T DO
Before I became a wife, stepmom, and mom, I worked as a Child Protection Worker at the Children’s Aid Society (for my American friends, that’s our Child Protective Services). As a 24-25 year old, fresh out of school, with no kids, and a very small town/conservative look on the world, I had a lot to learn.
I was on the Intake Team, and my role was to complete initial child protection investigations.
When someone called in with a concern, I would go out, complete the investigation and then decide whether the concern was warranted and a file needed to be opened.
(I still crack up thinking about what people must have thought when they saw me come knocking on their door. A 24-25 year old, with zero experience as a parent, who looked about 17. I can only imagine the comments behind closed doors.)
Anyway, after the investigation I would consult with a manager about our next steps.
I’ll always remember a particular conversation with my manager about a file where the parents were split and the father had remarried. When I told my manager what the stepmom had said, she abruptly interrupted me and said, “well, they aren’t her kids so she doesn’t get an opinion here. She needs to let him handle this.”
At the beginning I agreed. Mostly because my manager said it and well, she was the manager and I wasn’t.
Then I became a stepmom myself and realized just how bullshit that idea is.
When you live with, interact with, potentially parent and influence kids for up to half of their waking hours, yes you have an opinion. And yes, it should be (at the very freakin’ least) considered.
There are so many opinions about the role that a stepmom should or shouldn’t play in parenting their stepkids.
The thing is, a lot of these opinions come from people who have never experienced blended family life first hand.
It’s really easy for stepmoms to get wrapped up in this. You feel stuck in the middle in this damned if you do, damned if you don’t mentality.
If you step up and are involved, then you’re overstepping.
If you hang-out on the sidelines and let your husband take the lead, you’re not taking your role seriously.
You’re clearly not ready for this.
If you’re not involved in the extra-curricular, then “well, where is his stepmom?”
If you dive right in, then the reaction from many is “wow! Well, I wonder what their Mom thinks?”.
The point is, the sooner you stop worrying about what other people (e.g. mother-in-law, mutual friends, busy body hockey mom at the arena) think of you and the role you’re playing, the sooner you’ll truly thrive as a stepmom.
At the end of the day, every family dynamic is different. If it’s working for you, your husband and your stepkids, then that’s all you need to worry about!
2. ENFORCING RULES THAT YOUR PARTNER AND HIS EX AREN’T
One of the biggest challenges that stepmoms have, is that they disagree with the way that their stepkids are being raised.
Rules, consequences, chores, and expectations, what the kids should or should not be provided with are all common areas of discussion.
(Do you know how many emails a week I receive about disagreements over what age kids should be provided with a cell phone? A lot!)
As a stepmom, it’s HARD to come into a home where kids are being raised in ways that you’re not necessarily on board with. REALLY hard and frustrating. Not only because you care about the kids, but because you have to live in the home. Out of sight, out of mind isn’t an option.
BUT trying to enforce rules and consequences that your husband is not on board with is a recipe for turmoil in your blended family.
It causes conflict in your marriage, impacts your relationship with your stepkids and paints you as the bad guy!
I often encourage stepmoms who are experiencing this first hand to STOP and really think … is this worth the turmoil that it’s causing in my marriage? Is this worth the stress?
It’s HARD to turn the other way, especially when you care so much. But often, it’s a battle that is just not worth it!
Letting go may be hard, but trust me when you finally do it, you’ll be so glad you did!
For more on this check out:
My biggest lesson came from a lunch box brownie
Podcast Episode 001: What the first year of our marriage was really like
3. YOUR PARTNER’S MARRIAGE TO THEIR EX
Everyone has a past; most people have relationships before they find their life partner.
BUT no matter what that relationship looked like, it really has NOTHING to do with the current one.
As stepmoms we like to think of our partners’s marriage to their first wife was horrible. It makes us feel better to assume that it was unhappy, and that she was a b*tch to him and they have now found the person they were truly meant to be with. It fits many stepmom’s storyline to villainize the ex.
In trying to find a story that fits our current narrative (the dynamics of the current co-parenting relationship) we often ask questions about their relationship… sometimes the answers to those questions make us feel insecure.
Here’s the cold hard truth.
There is a really good chance that your partner had great times with their first wife.
Even if their marriage was bad at times, there were great nights or great vacations.
There was a time when they truly felt like he was with their life partner.
Personally, I know my husband and his first wife had a lot of fun together. I know they had great vacations. I know they brought three amazing kids into the world together. I know they have 9 years of memories.
Even though their marriage didn’t work out, there WERE good times.
These memories have NOTHING to do with me and NOTHING to do with our relationship. The fact that they had great times together doesn’t make our relationship any less important or any less special.
The fact that he experienced child birth with her, didn’t make the birth of our daughter any less important to him.
The fact that he had a wedding with her, doesn’t mean our wedding was any less meaningful.
Their past is their past! Fixating on it or feeling insecure about it, will only impact your likelihood of having a KICK-ASS future.
For more on this check out: How to stop feeling insecure about being the second wife
4. THAT MUTUAL FRIENDS AND FAMILY OF YOUR PARTNER AND THEIR EX AREN’T EMBRACING YOU
One of my biggest stressors when I first married my husband was hanging out with his friends who were also friends of the ex.
Man, some of the things that people said to me.
I had someone say “it’s nice to meet you but we really like [insert ex-wife’s name here].”
I had so many comments about my age. “You’re like the same age as your stepdaughter.”
Others would share memories about what they did with them as a couple.
I even had people accidentally call me her name
This rattles so many stepmoms and rightfully so. It’s hard to develop relationships when people are hung up on the past.
But it’s so important to get to a point where you don’t let this get you down.
It is entirely possible to respect your husband’s friends and his need to continue those relationships, while making new friends of your own.
I was very clear at the beginning that I was NOT going to be slotted into a role. I wasn’t going to be friends with someone just because he and ex were friends with them… I was going to forge my own way.
It took some time for my husband to understand why this was so hard for me, but soon, as time passed, not only did we make our own friends, friendships with their old friends developed naturally.
In time, I didn’t feel like his new wife. Or the replacement. Or like I was on the outside.
I became one of the gang.
It’s so important to remember that friends (and family) who were in their lives prior to the divorce also struggled. They may feel torn. They are essentially mourning the loss of a couple who was a big part of their lives.
This didn’t really hit home for me until one of our couple friends went to splitsville and my husband asked me to go out for dinner with the husband and his new girlfriend. Even though we weren’t close, I was reluctant. I felt this unnecessary loyalty to the wife. I wasn’t sure I wanted to… and then I quickly realized that THIS is how a lot of my husband’s friends’ wives felt when I came into the picture. I think it’s really helpful for stepmoms to be empathetic to that!
5. RULES AND EXPECTATIONS AT THE OTHER HOUSE
It can be so easy to get wrapped up In rules and expectations at the other house, especially if you and the kid’s mom don’t have the same parenting style or values.
But don’t let yourself get caught in those weeds!
It’s natural for your mind to go to that place. You care for your stepkids, and therefore you care about what happens to them wherever they are. But it’s not healthy for you to dwell on how they are being parented, because there is NOTHING you can do. And honestly they are her kids… so she can parent them however she wants.
Unless there is a LEGITIMATE child protection concern, accept it and let it go… because you’ll drive yourself completely bonkers.
Focus on things that you can control – which is what is going on in your own home!!
While it is ideal for kids to have similar styles of parenting at each house, in MANY situations it’s not possible. And that’s okay. There are SO many children with two homes that have two different parenting styles.
Kids are resilient. They will adapt. They will be fine.
If your stepkids’ mom has different values and styles of parenting than you, it’s likely that you have different strengths in parenting as well. So, things that you excel at, maybe she lacks. But maybe there are things that you aren’t so great at, that she is.
You’re providing the kids with different life experiences at each house (even if it is simply resiliency) and chances are they will be better for it.