As Darren and I come up on our seventh wedding anniversary, I find myself looking back on my last 7 years as a stepmom. Somedays I love being a stepmom. There are times I feel like everything is aligned. My relationship with my stepkids feels natural and easy. I feel like I belong and am a parent in this home.
This is not that time. I do not feel like that right now.
I’m constantly reminded that I am “not a parent” by the response I get to any and all things from one of my stepkids.
Different parenting styles and values make us feel like we are failing. We can’t (effectively) implement the type of parenting style that we believe in.
Things I never thought would be part of our stepfamily equation, have reared their ugly face.
When you’re trying to raise children to be a successful, kind, hard working, respectful contributing adults in society – it’s a really hard thing to manage.
Lately I have been thinking back to a conversation I had with Brenda, the Publisher of Stepmom Magazine when I first became a stepmom.
I was two years into step-motherhood.
I was in that hearts and sparkles, love my stepkids like they are my own, everything is great and always will be, secretly feeling pressure to be the perfect stepmom, phase of stepmom life.
“Jamie it’s great that you feel this way about step-parenting but this is not how all stepmoms feel”
When I really think about this exchange, she was saying “girl you’re just getting started, brace yourself”
I should have braced.
Being a stepmom is hard.
It tests you in ways you never predicted.
The emotions you feel can suck the life out of you.
The lack of control over so many things that impact your life and the people you care about, can make you questions a lot of things
I have gone through many stages of stepmom life.
All in, disengaged, wine with the ex, awkward silences at the arena, pushing for positive co-parenting relationship, drafting notes for the lawyers. I’ve done it all. I’ve tried it all.
I’ve had to pivot based on circumstances outside of my control.
To say it’s been an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement.
What phase am I in now?
I’m in the “I am my husband’s wife” phase.
He has three kids. They are my stepkids but right now, I am not their parent. My role ranges from “cool aunt” to “evil stepmom” – depending on what kid you ask.
They have a mom and they have a dad – I am a bonus on the side (or not, again, depending on who you ask)
My job right now is to support my husband.
My job is to be there for our little girl.
My job (literally) is to share my experiences with you.
As I type, I question whether I share this on my blog or if it’s better suited it for my private community. It’s pretty vulnerable. I may get backlash. Can I actually say this out loud?
While moms are encouraged to keep it real, stepmoms are not. Which is the reason I started that community in the first place.
The hardest part for me, especially right now, is grieving the loss of the family I thought I would have.
I went into this with the best of intentions. Going all in. Doing all the things.
I wanted our stepfamily to function like a first family – at least on our “weeks on”.
Sometimes it has felt like that – but more and more it does not.
Maybe that’s how it goes with teenagers?
Maybe I’ve had my head up my ass this whole time. I don’t know?
Either way I’m learning to be okay with it.
This is what my family needs right now. This is the phase we are in.
If you’re reading this with the same judgement I use to have when I read articles from stepmoms who were in a similar place – I get it. I was there too. I never thought I would be here.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO REMEMBER
1. There is no one size fits all approach to stepfamily life. What works for one stepfamily may not work for another.
2. What work for your stepfamily right now, may not work three years from now. Things can change, really quickly. You don’t know what you don’t know.
3. There are so many contributing factors and so many things that are outside of your control – the only thing you can count on is that you will have curve balls thrown your way. Lots of them.
When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s not? Buckle Up