I’ve been a stepmom for years. My stepdaughter has been in my life for 12 years, and over 5 of those have been with the official “stepmom” title. What does that even mean? It means we’ve both learned A LOT.
Being a stepparent is extremely different than being a biological parent in so many ways, I can’t even tell you. I will try to describe the world of being a part of a family that isn’t yours, being a parent to a daughter that isn’t yours and feeling the feels that aren’t yours.
Alas, here we are! I’m going to compile the various ways I have learned, loved and completely bombed at being a stepmom.
What I’ve learned
This whole blog post could be about what I’ve truly learned as a stepmom, to be honest. We’re going to hit the big ones, the home runs that every stepparent needs to know in order to have a fruitful relationship with their step kid.
I’ve learned that you need to clearly define the line between friend and authority. Often with being a stepparent, that line gets muddled because you aren’t mom or dad. If you have the chance to be in the child’s life early on, you are the lucky one. Take that time to build a definitive line between a friend and an authoritarian.
It’s quite tricky because the child will most likely view you as both. There are times when you are cool, kickin’ it as friends (as you should) and then there are the times when you have to be a disciplinarian (not my favorite).
The way that I figured out how to define this line is to provide a balance between fun things and not so fun things. Ask about their life but don’t pry. If they don’t want to share, that’s cool! If they break the rules, it’s not time to be friend-zoned though – the authority figure takes precedence over friendship at that time. Friends can’t help guide and teach, you have to separate it out and be ready to flip between the two within minutes.
I’ve also learned (and this is a big one, Moms!) that it’s not about me. In your stepkid’s world, it’s about THEM. You need to know that if words cut like knives, or feelings get hurt – it’s because they aren’t thinking like your older, wiser brain. They’re thinking about their own little world and can’t quite see beyond even that hour of the day. Don’t take offense if they say something off the cuff that doesn’t make any sense or is hurtful. 99.99% of the time, it’s not about you.
As a stepmom, the biggest thing I’ve learned is – it’s not about me! Being there for THEM is the most important. #lifelessons #stepmomforlife by @CBCInkedTweet
What I’ve loved
As you may have guessed, I willingly got into my relationship with my husband in the early years, knowing that he had a child from a previous marriage. I was lucky enough to meet Ivy when she was 2 years old, which gave us a lot of time to build a solid foundation. And we needed it!
I have loved a lot of things about being a stepmom, some of which have surprised me! My husband and I were on the non-plan plan when it came to having children and mostly chose not to, due to the fact that he already had one! I’ve loved that I have had the chance to be a role model for a “daughter” even though I didn’t have her on my own.
I love that I have a girl in the house to commiserate with! This one is pure old-fashioned girly girl fun, however, you forget how important that is when you live with a man 100% of the time. Ivy has turned into a sweet and funny teenager that brings a lot to the conversation whenever she’s around. She sees the world through a very positive lens (I’d like to think that she got that from me) and she laughs easily. Thank GOD she has a sense of humor!
I love that I’m “forced” to be a better person because I know she’s observing my behavior. I changed soooo many habits when I became a full time stepmom, because they were immature, irresponsible and would not have been good role model material. She, even though she doesn’t really know it, has made me a better person, simply because she is learning from me.
Last one. I am a natural born teacher (thanks, Mom!) I absolutely LOVE teaching Ivy things. We have this awesome white board in her room where she gets to earn things for positive behavior. Ivy has come so far because we are able to communicate through this board with good and bad reinforcement – and it satisfies my teacherly instinct to help her to be a better person. I think it’s working.
What I’ve bombed
As you probably have already read, I’m not perfect. Is any parent, really?
I have bombed it so hard core sometimes as a stepparent that I wake up the next day like WHAT HAPPENED and who was that person?? So, just know that you aren’t alone out there in your failures, parents.
The biggest bomb that comes to mind is my anger at outside forces interfering with our relationship. Ivy and I have been through a few really big life changes and it was hard to keep my emotions in check! We all felt the strain and pull of things happening outside of our family circle, and often times I would crumble! I wanted to be this strong, wonder-woman type of figure for Ivy all the time and there were days where I just failed hard.
I also have high expectations. I know the background from which Ivy comes from and I took it upon myself to help “fix” or “change” that behavior into something positive. With that comes this constant checklist of ways that she can improve and it may have come across as “you have to be perfect” when that was not my intention at all. I only want to shield or guard her from the evils of the past and future as any parent would. I had to remember to weave in positivity and gratitude into the mix – it isn’t always about the negative!
Lastly, I made it about me. I often would feel like the “outsider” in my husband and daughter’s relationship no matter how much they included me. It’s natural to feel like the third wheel when you are the only non-blood relative in the house! I focused my attention on my feelings instead of theirs and I learned from that.
With each of these bombings, I learned so much and hopefully have corrected my behavior so she doesn’t resent me when she’s older. Fingers crossed!
CBCInked Wrap Up: Stepmom for Life
If you’re a stepparent and reading this, good luck! I didn’t chose this life, it chose me. It is what you make it.
You are going to love some moments, cry others and sometimes hate everything! That’s okay. At the end of the day, you have someone who is looking up to you, learning from you and loving you – and that makes you a better person.
Make sure you treat your relationship right! Be there for them, no matter what it is. Be present, be accountable and above all else BE COOl. Don’t be “cringy”, as Ivy would say. 😉
There is a place for all stepparents everywhere. Find yours and own it.