When I first decided to marry my husband Darren, there was so much that I didn’t know. When my family and friends said I had no idea what I was getting myself into, they were right.
The only thing that I knew for sure is that he felt like home. I had no idea the kind of challenges, lessons and growth I was in for. Stepmom life was about to rock me in ways I could have never predicted.
I’ve said before that if I knew what I was getting myself into, I am not sure I would have gone through with it. But as LeAnn Rimes said on our podcast episode “you can’t control your heart”.
(You can listen to my episode on her podcast here.)
Looking back, there are so many things I wish I knew when I first became a stepmom. Here are just a few.
1. THERE IS NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL APPROACH TO STEPMOM LIFE
Some stepmoms have zero communication with the ex. Some stepmoms meet the ex for wine.
Some stepmoms are totally disengaged. Some are all in on the discipline. Some go to parent-teacher meetings. Some have nothing to do with the school. Many find themselves somewhere in the middle.
What works for one stepfamily, may not work for another – take the hard and fast rules that stepmoms should follow with a grain of salt.
2. MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY STEPKIDS WILL BE DIFFERENT – AND THAT’S OKAY
I have three stepkids and my relationship with them is all different. This is based on personalities, the age I came into their life and their relationship with their mom.
My relationship with my daughter is also different than my relationship with my stepkids.
Four kids, four different relationships. This is normal.
3. OUR FAMILY WON’T FUNCTION THE WAY A FIRST FAMILY FUNCTIONS. TRYING TO FIGHT THAT ONLY MAKES A HARD SITUATION EVEN HARDER
This can be hard to wrap your head around, but you have to wrap your head around it. Your partner had children with someone else. They are the parents. You’re coming into the story half way through. When you’re in a blended family, EVERYTHING is more complicated. Even the simplest things aren’t simple.
4. COMMUNICATION IS KEY. YOU CAN’T ASSUME ANYONE KNOWS WHAT YOU WANT AND HOW YOU’RE FEELING
Your partner doesn’t know whats going on in your head. They don’t know what you want, they don’t know what you need. They aren’t mind readers. You have to communicate what you’re going through and the sooner the better. Keeping this inside is recipe for stepmom resentment and that’s a hard place to crawl out of.
5. YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A STEPMOM UNLESS YOU’RE A STEPMOM
Expecting otherwise will only set yourself up for disappointment.
6. FIND STEPMOM/MOM FRIENDS
This is especially important if you’re a childless stepmom. Talking to other moms/stepmoms about raising kids normalizes the experience. It helps you realize what’s age appropriate and that it’s not just your stepkids leaving granola bar wrappers in the living room and their shoes all over the entrance.
7. SOMETIMES IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT WHAT YOU REPRESENT
If the ex can’t stand you for no reason, or your stepkids won’t give you the time of day, it’s often not about you. It’s about what you represent. For the ex, you may represent what she wanted for her life. For the stepkids, you may represent that their parents won’t get back together.
Even though it feels very very personal, it’s not.
8. STOP EXPECTING ANY DIFFERENT
Stepfamily stressors are pretty predictable. As time goes on you know what will trigger the ex, or cause issues with your stepkids. You know the areas you and your partner clash. Instead of being surprised when the same stressor arises, plan for it. Predict it. Stop being surprised and decide how you’re going to react ahead of time .
9. STOP FEELING SO GUILTY
As stepmoms, we often feel guilty for feeling the way we feel. We feel guilty for over stepping, for not doing enough. We feel guilty if we wish the kids were our own, we feel guilty for looking forward to them going back to their moms. I’ve heard stepmoms feel guilty for almost everything.
This is normal. The ups and downs of step-motherhood aren’t talked about in Society. As a result, stepmoms feel like they are the only ones feeling the way they are.
Trust me when I said you’re not alone. What you’re feeling is normal. There is nothing to feel guilty about.
The expectations that society places on stepmoms are unrealistic.
Every stepfamily dynamic is different. You’re entitled to feel the way you feel.
10. STEPFAMILY LIFE WILL EBB AND FLOW
Most things are just a phase. Ride them out, play the long game and focus on your marriage. Remember your partner is the reason why you’re a stepmom in the first place. When your relationship doesn’t feel solid, the extra stress doesn’t feel worth it.