Being a Stepmom: 5 Things I've Learned Along the Way
A Little Background
I started this journey a year ago, almost exactly one year ago today. Before I became a step-mom, life was pretty relaxed.
I have two biological children. One daughter, who is now a teenager and has been pretty independent. I have one son, who spends about half of his time with his father. Then there was me. That was my life for years before I met my boyfriend.
It was chill. If I didn't want to cook dinner, one frozen pizza would do. The house was hardly ever a mess, and it really only needed to be cleaned once a day. I never assigned chores because we cleaned everything together. We were more than just a family, we were a team.
But Then I Met Someone Special...
Then, I met my now boyfriend. When I found out he had more than a couple of kids (five to be exact) I wasn't phased. I used to work in a daycare and help care for fourteen two years olds at a time. How hard could seven kids be? Looking back, I understand that was completely ridiculous, but I had never been a step-mom before, and it made sense at the time.
I met the kids, and they were pretty cool. My daughter got along with a couple of them, but there will always be children that don't get along.
As the relationship moved along, we talked about moving in together. It was fast, but we couldn't stand the thought of not living together. So, we found a house, and my little team grew pretty quick.
You're going to need to relax if you can relate to that subtitle
And Then It Was Hell For A Little Bit
At first, there was a honeymoon phase, but that quickly ended and I got a reality check. I thought that our families would perfectly blend. I thought we would all get along great like we did on the weekends, but we didn't.
My daughter hated sharing a home with so many people. (Right now, two of his kids live with us full time, bringing the household total from 3 to six.) The kids argued. We couldn't have family cleaning time without someone arguing over dishes.
Deep down, we all had a problem with all of us living together at first. His kids had to move to a new city and switch schools. I had more stress to deal with than ever before. For awhile, it felt like life was falling apart.
A year later, all of the children have pushed together air mattresses and couch cushions to form a giant bed in the middle of the living room floor. I find myself smiling when I know the children we get on the weekends are coming over, and I can't wait to see the baby (she's three now) and get her adorable baby hugs.
At one point, I used to think about what my life was like before i threw myself into the step-mom role, and I would miss it. Now, when I look back, I can't stand the thought of not having my boyfriend and our amazing children in my life.
I didn't think that we would make it at times, and other times I thought that we all just had to keep working through things and someday we would be a happy family. I had never been a step-mom, and now all the sudden I was supposed to be the best step-mom in the world. I held myself to unreasonably high standards, and was devastated when I failed.
Through it all, I read one step-parent blog after another in an attempt to determine whether I should discipline the kids, whether I should parent them at all, and so on. (It turns out, that's different for every family.)
Those blogs were comforting though. It always helped to know that I wasn't the only one going through certain things, and there was always something in them that helped me get my family to where it is today.
I hope this one helps you out the same way that those helped me, and I hope you can learn a few things that I didn't know in the beginning.
1. Don't Move Too Fast
When we moved in together, it was after we had been dating for four months. I had no idea how chores worked at his house, where his kids were at in school, or even how many step-moms there had been before me.
All of those things play a key role in how things will work out when you move in together. It's going to be a lot easier if you spend more time at each other's home during the week to see how things work out, or to at least discuss them before you move in together.
If it's moving fast, that's okay, but take the time to discuss how things will be when you all move in together, and include the kids in that conversation. It will makes things a little less hellish after you move in.
2. You Won't Love Them Like They're Your Own, and That's Okay
It's true. If you have your own biological children, you will not love your step-kids the same way that you love your own. You don't forgive as easily, and you don't look at them the same way as you do your own children.
That may sound a bit harsh, but it is the truth, and IT'S OKAY. When you have your own children, you bond with them as they grow in your stomach. You learn to forgive them easily as you bond with them and take care of them. Love grows with every single bottle.
You don't have that experience with step-children, so it's normal that you don't feel the same way about them. It doesn't mean that you're cold or heartless. It means that you are normal.
That type of bond and that type of love takes time to develop, and it's going to take time for you to love your step-children like you do your own. Take some time to bond with them, and let it come naturally.
3. You Are An Intruder
I thought my step-kids and my bio kids were screwing up my happy family. It sounds childish, but that's how I felt a long time ago.
In reality, I was the one messing up THEIR family. My step-kids had a home. They had a school they were used to, a playground down the street they used to go to, and friends around the corner. Their mom only lived a short drive away.
My kids were used to the way things were. They weren't used to lines to get dinner off the stove and chore lists. They were used to always having hot water to take a shower and occasional pancakes at three in the morning.
While I was thinking that they were intruding on my happy family fantasy, I was the one intruding on their lives too, and they didn't have a choice about it.
The kids never asked me to be their step-mom, and here I was. It's an adjustment for everyone, and keeping that one single though in mind will help you realize that you may need to give it some time, and cut them some slack too.
4. You Won't Know Everything About Them Like You Do Your Kids
I used to beat myself up a lot for not remembering when a birthday is or forgetting that one kid hates glitter and bright colors. The thing is, you have had your kid's entire life to get to know them. Of course you remember their birthday and their likes and dislikes.
It's not realistic to expect yourself to remember every single thing about every single kid in a matter of months. I try to make mental notes, like "this one doesn't like barbeque sauce" but I still forget a lot. Instead of beating myself up for not knowing what to get them for Christmas, I asked them all to make lists and asked them what they like. Cut yourself some slack too, and just ask them when you don't know.
5. Your Partner Needs to Back You Up
Whether parents realize it or not, respect is earned. You teach your children who is boss when they are toddlers. You are the one that corrects them from the time they are born, and that is simply the way it is.
Now, try intruding on a fifteen year old's life and doing that same thing. It's not going to turn out well. Instead, step-moms may need to fall back a little bit and let their partner deal with the discipline, and give it some time.
While you're giving it some time, your partner needs to back you up. You should both be on the same page when it comes to expectations of the children. If a child disrespects you, they can correct them, but make sure that it is consistent.
Eventually, it will all balance out to the point that you can both talk to everyone's kids. In the meantime, having a partner that backs you up will help you get to that point. It's also a great support system.
When your partner isn't with you emotionally, it can wind up feeling like the entire household is against you, and then you wind up being another step-mom that hides in the bedroom, is scared to say something to the kids and one that resents what could be a happy family. That's no way to live, or have a relationship.
This book was amazing
Being a step-mom is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I thought that because I was a single mom for basically nine years, I would be fine. This, however, was uncharted territory.
I've learned a lot along the way, and I still am. If you're in the beginning stages, it'll get better. Instead of thinking about how much easier life was before I became a step-mom, now I think about the good things, like those adorable baby hugs. Trust me, you'll get there too. It just takes time.