When asked to write for this blog what I would have done differently in my early years as a Stepmom, I was pleased to discover that there wasn’t much I would change. However, this is only because I sought help from others prior to marrying my husband and his two kids. Even though I had the foolish notion that being a Stepmom would be easy for me because I work with kids, I still knew well enough to seek advice. I saw a therapist who I knew had been a Stepmom to 6 kids, I talked to several mental health professionals who I knew professionally, and I talked to the few step moms I knew. I truly believe that all of this helped me navigate my way through the trials and tribulations of those first years as a Stepmom.
I’ll share some of what I learned from these insightful, intelligent women:
1. Don’t give up your own life to try to fit into your new ready-made family. You had friends and activities before you were married, so be sure you keep the most important ones after. Of course, some will have to drop off as your new family will keep you busier than you were previously. But, your most important friends and activities need to remain a priority.
2. Be sure to find time for you and your new spouse. You most likely never got much of a honeymoon or much alone time as newlyweds, so be sure to plan date nights. Get sitters from time to time. That’s what we had to do. The Stepkids BM would not help us at all in the beginning, so we found a couple good, responsible sitters. The Stepkids grew very fond of one of them and were always excited when they knew she was coming over.
3. Don’t try too hard with your Stepkids. Let them come to you, but somehow, subtly, let them know that you are a safe place for them. Be a neutral, caring adult in their lives. Being a Stepmom is an ambiguous role. You are not “mom”, “aunt”, or “friend”, yet they call you by your first name. It’s very tricky. As step moms we have all the responsibility with none of the authority, so balancing between the two can be challenging.
4. So, with all of that being said, there is still one thing I would have done if given the chance. I would have worked my damnedest to NOT care what BM thought of me. Oh my, did I care way too much! Before every baseball game, every dance recital, every play, I tried so hard to look my best, be my friendliest. It was exhausting, all that worrying about what someone else thought, especially since it was someone who was never going to like me no matter what… Then I remembered the saying, “What someone else thinks of you tells you more about them than you.” and I remembered the statement, “It’s not personal!” Suddenly, both of these powerful statements carried so much more truth and meaning for me, and I was able to start the slow process of letting go…