I’ve had the joy of being a Stepmom for the last five years. If you count the years before I gained the official title, it’s going on eight. I’m finally at the point that I can call it “joy.”
Here are some of the lessons I have learned in this process:
1.Step-parenting is one of the hardest jobs life can offer. I don’t have to tell any stepparent out there this fact. To be a step parent requires a lot of patience, a lot of selflessness, and the ability to bite your tongue… a lot. You may find you have the same role as a regular parent with a lot less perks and a lot less pull.
2. Step-parenting has a bad wrap. You say you are their stepmom and faces turn sour, like you just handed over a lemon. Maybe we can thank Cinderella for that one, but stepmoms get a bad wrap. It’s like you were destined to be mean before you even have a chance. And then there’s the ‘step’ parent. What step? A step down? My berries all know I hate that name. They actually gave me a different name ~ Victory Mom. Chase made it up when he was five because he said I help him learn math. Whatever the reason, I’ll take that over stepmom and the stigma associated with it. I’m just another parent in their life. Period.
3. Step-parenting takes time. A book I read on step-parenting said that it takes 4 to 7 years for a step family to get to a good place. I’ll admit there were times I didn’t want to see it through to that. I thought this blended thing was a mess and there are definitely times in the first few years of marriage I thought, “What did I get myself into!” Flash forward to now eight years with my husband and I realize the research was correct. It took time for people to adjust to a new person (me) and me to adjust to life where the past is still present.
4. Good step-parenting requires a strong marital foundation. We have had times we are on the same page and times our marriage wasn’t. When my husband and I are working together, the children benefit. When we work together, we stay happy. Early on, it felt more like a your life-my life pattern. That didn’t work. I’m blessed to have a husband who wants to include me in decision making. He doesn’t act in the interest of anyone, without us first reaching agreement. That’s key to our marriage staying strong and our family staying strong. Even though he has to make decisions with his ex-wife, he knows that our marriage is the foundation and so he doesn’t make choices which compromise that. Period.
5. Being a stepmom is easier with faith. There have been many, many times I wanted to quit. There have been times I questioned how we were going to help my stepchildren without buy in from the other side of their life. There were more times I thought, “the energy/money/time/etc I’m putting in these kids lives isn’t worth it.” I’m happy that in those times I can turn to my faith. I can pray for patience in how I deal with kids who are “not mine.” I can pray for grace in how I treat their mother. I can ask for lots of forgiveness. Being part of a blended family has made my faith stronger. There are times I’ve worried about the kids or been upset about choices that were made, but I’ve learned that God is looking out for everyone and that it is HE who is in control. When I give it to God, everything seems to work out. I have my husband to thank for that important message. He never gets worked up because he has true faith that it will work as planned.
6. Being a stepmom will make you cry… and make you laugh. Just as in “real parenting,” step-parenting has it’s ups and downs. Being able to bond with a child in general will give you happy moments and sad ones. You will smile when you hear them come through the door and ask “Where’s Sari” as they search to tell you about something they have done while away. You will cry when you realize there are certain things you can’t help them with or when you feel forgotten in their lives. I can think back to the past as I laid awake worried about Avery’s happiness. I can remember crying myself to sleep knowing I couldn’t ease her pain. As with all parenting, if you embrace it, there will be ups and downs.
7. Step-parenting gives you more children to love, sans the stretch marks. This one was perfect for me. As a teacher, I LOVE kids. I love playing with them and watching them grow. I saw this as an immediate win. At early points in our relationship, I joked with my husband that I stuck around for the kids. Watching these two young people grow and mature in the world, while frustrating at times, is overall a joy. It’s a joy that you might not have otherwise experienced. For me, I call that a win. Who doesn’t love to laugh or being hugged by a little one…. or as they age, an older one. If you ask me, you get to step in and reap the benefits of children without the pain of pregnancy and labor. And if nothing else, who doesn’t love a good excuse to join in kids activities…Disney, movies, parks, etc. Having more kids means more fun you get to be having!
8. Step-parenting also gives you more children to provide for, and children who may not immediately accept or respect you. I’ve been fortunate enough not to encounter this. My older berries were younger (2 and 5) when I came into the picture. They didn’t immediately love me, but it was more that they didn’t want to see their parents separated. I know that for some blended families this can be more trying. All I can say is keep working on it, keep praying, and make sure your relationship is the first focus. Kids eventually come around when they realize there is stability in the relationship and they realize you love them. We made it to a point a few years into our marriage where Avery actually said to me, “I don’t wish my parents were divorced anymore because then we wouldn’t have you.” If you give it time, you will find your place!
9. Being a stepmom requires a fine balance of when to advocate for your children and when to step back in the shadows. I learned this the hard way. Being in education and just passionate about children in general, I entered this relationship and made both kids a huge focus. With that, I had ideas on how they should be raised. I wanted them to have the education and experiences I was given as a child. I have had to learn when I need to advocate for them and when I need to bite my tongue and realize they have two “real parents” who in the end, get the decisions. This is one of the hardest parts of step-parenting. There have been times when I have felt so strongly about something, but have no control. It’s a delicate balance of wanting the best for the children and not stepping on anyone’s toes. I’ll admit, I still step on toes and make bio-mom mad. I’m a work in progress on this one.
In general, I try to offer up incentive based experiences to keep them motivated, in exchange for some non-negotiables on education. I’m lucky to have a husband who sees value in the same things and who will support me, even when I over step my boundaries.
10. No matter what they say about being a step-parent, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences. If I take all the ups and downs and mash them together….and then look back, step-parenting has been a very rewarding experience. I for one know, if I had not been a stepparent, I would not have considered becoming a biological mom to two of my own. It has helped make me less selfish, it has taught me some patience, and I’m still learning along the way. But one thing I know is that it has been rewarding. After eight years with the older berries, I look back and realize how many memories we have created together. I see the elements I have brought to their lives and how that has helped shaped who they are.
Overall, this Victory Mom is proud of her role as step-parent and honored that Chase and Avery allow me to have such a large role at that!