Motherhood and Step-Motherhood, while there are so much overlap in the roles, from my experience being a stepmom is a hell of a lot more challenging.
Almost 9 years into step-motherhood and 7 years into motherhood, the challenges that go hand-in-hand with step-motherhood, are what have kept me up at night.
That being said, there are strategies that stepmoms can implement to set them up for healthier relationships, less anxiety and more confidence.
Here are the top 7.
It can be so easy to get caught up in your own struggles and experiences, BUT the ability to see the world from their other peoples lens will not only do wonders for your relationships, but will help you navigate your way through the really tough stuff.
As a stepmom you feel often feel:
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Good enough until you’re not
Like you’re not viewed as a “real parent”
A lack of control over the day-to-day happenings in your family
If you’re reading this you get what I’m saying
It’s important that you ALSO consider the experience of your stepkids, your husband’s ex-wife, your kids and your husband!
Your stepkids may be
struggling with loyalty issues to their mom
feel like they are never settled, always going back and forth between two houses
confused with two sets of rules and expectations between houses
feel like their Dad is moving on and starting a new life without them
feel like a new woman has come into their life and completely taken over
Your husband’s ex-wife may
find it hard to see her ex start a new life with another woman.
be grieving the life that she thought she would/should have had
struggle seeing another woman have a motherly role in her kids life
be unhappy with how her life has turned out post divorce
feel insecure, jealous, lost
Your husband may:
feel torn between keeping you appeased, his ex content and the kids happy
stressed about financial responsibilities that come with divorce
struggle with having less time with his kids
worry about whether kids feel like they are on the outside looking in on the “new family dynamic”
worry about how the divorce affects the kids in the long run
experience major dad guilt
not advocate for “whats right” solely to keep the peace with the ex
(FULL DISCLOSURE: these stressors came right from my husband)
Considering everyone else’s point of view can make a huge difference in your stepfamily life. You don’t need to agree with their perceptive, but simply empathizing it can help everyone move forward
2. CONTINUE TO DO YOU
Self care is important for all moms, but if you ask me it’s even more important for stepmoms.
Extra stress, muddy relationships, uncertainty with when to step up and when to step back, the fact that an outside person (the ex) can affect your life at any moment in time can be DRAINING AF.
When you continue to do things that fill your cup, naturally you’re in a better mental state.
Straight up, you need to be mentally strong to thrive amongst the extra stress that comes with being a stepmom.
That’s not my opinion. That’s a fact.
3. A PROACTIVE MINDSET
When you’re a stepmom, you need to be proactive. Think ahead so that you can prevent problems a head of time.
Plan your reactions to stressful situation before they happen (because let’s be serious, you know what’s going to trigger the ex/stepkids. Your stepfamily stressors are cyclical and oh so predicable)
Not only does being proactive prevent some stressors from happening, but it prevents the stressors that are out of your control from eliciting an emotional reaction.
You knew it was going to happen, you planned for it. No surprise. No emotional response. You aren’t going to let it derail your day!
A thriving stepmom accepts that:
their second family is not going to function like a first family
that the ex will will probably continue to act the way she does (good or bad)
the ex will continue to perceive the situation the way she does (even if it’s completely offside and opposite to yours)
that the way she is treated is more about them than it is about her
that their life is going to be dictated by a divorce decree or custody agreement
A thriving stepmom knows that everyone has their challenges in life. This is theirs.
5. MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE THE PRIORITY
Your husband is the reason why you’re a stepmom in the first place. Your role is to support your husband in raising his kids. If your relationship isn’t strong, everything in your stepfamily life will fall apart. It won’t seem worth it.
When you’re not on the same page with your husband about your stepkids or the ex, it’s important to ask yourself “is this disagreement wroth the turmoil it is causing in my marriage?”
5 years from now will it ACTUALLY matter?
6. PLAY THE LONG GAME
On that same note, it’s important to play the long game. Try not to sweat the small stuff.
Kids WILL forget belongings at their moms – it will be a major inconvenience to you
Miscommunications will happen (intentionally or not)
You’re probably going to have different parenting values than the kids mom
Transition day will probably be chaotic
Your husband’s ex may make last minute schedule changes that derail your plans.
You’re probably going to fall victim to an unfair legal system
Is it always fair? No probably not!
is it frustrating AF. You bet
In the long run does it REALLY matter? Most of the time no!
Practice the 5/5/5 rule.
Will this matter in 5 days?
Will this matter in 5 months?
Will this matter in 5 years?
The kids WILL grow up.
Child support WILL end.
Your involvement with the ex will become minimal to non-existent
If you need to count down the days, count down the days. Just play the long game!
7. FIND STEPMOM FRIENDS
I’ve said this 100 times but you can’t understand what it’s like to be a stepmom, unless you’re a stepmom. Sure you can empathize but you can’t truly get it
(Just like you can’t understand what it is like to be a single parent unless you’ve walked in those shoes)
It’s important that you have at lease one stepmom friend who you connect with and confide in.
People often ask me how I found my crew of stepmom friends – truth is, it’s through this platform! I didn’t have the support, so I created it.
Through my Instagram Account and now through The KICK-ASS Stepmom Community, I have a community of like-minded stepmoms in my life who get it and who get me.
It’s amazing how much having that connection can make things easier!
Most of the time I think stepmoms simply want to know they aren’t alone!