I saw these words on a Bio Mom/Stepmom’s blog and although I didn’t fully agree with a lot that she said, some of the points are definitely pivotal to a healthy wife/stepmom relationship.
Some of it will be ‘hard to swallow’ for some of you, some of you it will resonate with. But I can assure you that if you look deep inside a lot, if not all, will ring true and most of all is the best way to conduct yourself in your “position” in the children’s lives as well as ensuring that you put yourself AND your husband first. Your marriage IS the most important thing between you. The children have their Mother and their Father…and the important adult figure…YOU.
See the below for her 10 Crucial Steps for stepmoms:
1. You are not their mother. Even if your husband has primary custody of the kids. Even if their biological mother rarely sees them. Even if they CALL you mom. Do not make the mistake of believing in your heart that you have all the same rights and privileges as the woman who gave birth to them– because you don’t. You can have a meaningful, loving, influential relationship with your stepchildren, but it will be different from that between a mother and child. That’s okay. Embrace it, and make the most of it.
2. Silence is the best policy. We live in a world where everyone loves to vent, whether it’s on Facebook, over the phone, or during a Girls Night Out, but take it from me– No one likes to hear a stepmother vent about her husband’s ex or her step-kids. Divorce is one of the most devastating things a person will ever go through, and no one needs to hear from you how the ex-wife is handling it, or how her kids are acting out in the aftermath. One of the hardest parts about being a stepmom is the need to keep quiet about the tough stuff, and how it’s affecting you. If you’ve got to let it out, limit your thoughts to a very close, trusted friend, or even better- tell it to your counselor or therapist. Which brings us to number three.
3. Find a counselor or therapist, even if you don’t think you need one. My husband and I didn’t visit a counselor until we’d been married eight years- HUGE MISTAKE. I went into the first session thinking I was a horrible stepmom and that our problems raising the girls were unique to us and insurmountable, and do you know what the counselor told us? “You guys are doing great! Do you know that I hear your exact same problems from nearly every blended family that comes in this room? Do you realize that 70% of blended family marriages fail? You’ve almost made it through! YOU’RE DOING GREAT!” I really, really, really needed to hear that. Going to see a counselor helped me stop beating myself up and allowed me to realize that what we were experiencing was actually NORMAL. For me, that changed everything. Also? You might need to visit a few counselors/therapists before you find the one that’s right for you. Be prepared to shop around until you find someone you and your husband are both comfortable with.
4. It’s okay to take a step back. This was initially a tough one for me, because I thought my girls needed me to act just like I was their mom. WRONG. Remember number one? I’m not their mom, and acting like I was probably caused some resentment and confusion on both ends. I now believe that a good stepmom is physically/emotionally available when her step-kids need and want her to be– and she backs off and becomes a behind-the-scenes supporter to her husband’s parenting when they don’t.
5. Protect your marriage at all costs. You and your husband need to be each others refuge, particularly when you’re having issues with your children or stepchildren. If child-rearing issues are pulling you apart, pinpoint exactly what’s hurting your marriage and protect your relationship in this area immediately and relentlessly. A counselor can be WONDERFUL at helping you do this. Ultimately, zealously protecting your marriage benefits everyone- Your stepchildren need to see you and your husband stay together and fight for your relationship, even when times are tough. It will teach them to do the same some day.
6. Don’t compare yourself to other stepparents. You will come across other stepmoms who can’t stop raving about how WONDERFUL their relationships are with their stepchildren. “They tell me ALL their secrets!” they’ll gush. “They told me they think of me as their REAL MOM!” “They convinced the city to hold a parade in my honor!” Etc. Don’t let it get you down. Remember what I said earlier? More than 70% of blended family marriages fail. Girl, you don’t need a parade. You’re keeping it together. You’re doing great.
7. Don’t play the blame game. Maybe you, like me, have spent too much time beating yourself up about your shortcomings as a stepmother. Or maybe you think your marital problems are all your step-kids’ fault. Maybe you even think your husband is to blame, because he always seems to take their side. Realistically, you’re probably ALL partially to blame for the problems in your relationships. You can’t change everyone else, but you can change yourself. Work on that, and hope that your efforts inspire others in your family to try harder, too.
8. Forgive yourself. Stepmom, let’s just get something straight right now. You are going to make a lot of mistakes. Like, a LOT lot. Please don’t do what I did and spend years convincing yourself that something is very wrong with you because you seem to screw everything up. Forgive yourself. Over and over and over again. Forgive yourself. And move on.
9. You can’t fix what you didn’t break. My own stepfather said this to me a few years ago. I wish I had heard it a lot sooner, because I spent years trying to do a whole lot of fixing. I really thought I could solve everything and everyone if I just tried hard enough. What a waste of energy. So many issues a blended family faces come from the divorce, which the stepmother (hopefully) had nothing to do with. As wonderful as I’m sure you are, you can’t fix that.
10. Stick with it and know that you will emerge from this a better person. Now that I have raised my stepdaughters and had time to look back on the experience, I feel like I ran a gauntlet of tremendous emotional challenges and came across the finish line truly changed. I am wiser. I am gentler with myself. I am more reluctant to judge others. I am a far better wife and mother than I would have been without my stepdaughters. Our family is still a work in progress, but the worst is behind us. We made it through. And the experience actually ended up being a huge bonding point for my husband and me.
I certainly don’t want to make being a stepmother seem all gloom and doom, because it isn’t. We’ve had many, many wonderful times together. I would change a lot of things I did as a stepmother if I could go back in time, but I wouldn’t give up my blended family. I still believe I’m here for a reason. We are all imperfect. We all have the potential to be amazing. We are all working toward that potential, in our own time and in our own way. We are learning more about each other as we go. We are all messed up, but you know what? We are family.
We are family.
And in the end, that’s what matters.