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Stepparenting 101

6 things I didn't know before becoming a stepmom.

I never dated men with kids, as I had no desire to become an instant-mom. That all changed when I met my now husband and his adorable 5-year-old boy. As they both welcomed me into their life, I fell in love and am now happy and proud to call them my family.

As I've already shared, being a stepmom is not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, there are some really hard times. But honestly, the good outweighs the bad. Maybe if I was more prepared for what challenges laid ahead, I could have been more emotionally prepared. Hindsight is of course 20/20, but perhaps my learnings can help other women who are about to embark on this journey.

Every blended family is different, but here are a few things I have learned that can translate to most stepparenting situations:

  1. The bio mom will (likely) always be in the picture. I naively thought I only had to see my husband's ex-wife at big events like birthdays and graduations. I was very wrong. I see her all the time - at drop offs, baseball games, school functions, etc. It was incredibly uncomfortable for me for a long time, but as the years have passed, I realize a civil, friendly relationship is not only great for our shared kid, but helpful to me as a stepmom! I'll occasionally turn to her for advice on how to best deal with a hard stepparenting situation, and having her support has been instrumental in improving the rocky road I've been on for the past few years with my stepson. It's not always easy, but finding a way to be a communicative, open blended family is best for everyone involved.

  2. You'll love your stepchild no matter what. I don't get hugs, I don't get kisses, I don't get told I love you. But what I do get is a kid who is excited to share his successes with me, one who craves my attention, one who enjoys joking around with me. I am proud of the growth I've seen in my stepson, especially these past few months. And now that the really challenging phase is getting smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror, I can clearly see that I will love him no matter what. Does that mean I'll tolerate being treated poorly in my own home? Absolutely not. But when you love someone, you stick in there through the bad times to (hopefully) get back to the good.

  3. You might not have full parental authority, but you do have influence. I used to get discouraged when I wasn't involved in parent/teacher conferences or decisions about what baseball league he'll join. But I have to remind myself that he has two bio parents who love him more than life. As much as I might want to be his fulltime parent, that's not reality. I'm a bonus mom and my role in his life is different. I'm here to support him, love him and help teach him right from wrong. If I disagree with a decision his bio parents have made, I simply plead my case with my husband who listens and takes action on my behalf (if he agrees). Having a supportive partner is key.

  4. You have no control of what happens at your stepchild's other home. As much as the bio parents can be on the same page about shared rules and responsibilities for the child, they are bound to be different at each home. I occasionally get frustrated at the differences between households, which leads to undesirable behaviors when our stepson is transitioning from one home to the other. (Just think of how frustrating that must be for the kid too!) My husband has taught me to let go of that. We do not control what happens at my stepson's mom's house just like she does not control what happens in our home. There are so many things in life that cause stress, don't let this be one of them.

  5. There will be highs and lows. Everything is temporary! Something I wish I had known when struggling in my role as a stepmom. You will have amazing days when you look at your stepchild with emoji heart eyes. And then there will be the days when you wonder why you signed up for this role at all. But isn't that parenting in general?

  6. Setting boundaries doesn't make you a bad stepparent. Stepmoms' emotional and mental health are important too and shouldn't be sacrificed for the sake of keeping the peace or trying to be the "perfect" stepparent. I've learned the hard way how much power my stepson has over my heart. In an effort to prioritize my emotional wellbeing, I put up healthy boundaries. Does that mean I make my stepson feel like a second-class citizen? Absolutely not. In fact, I doubt he even realizes I put boundaries in place. It's more to protect my heart and sanity, and it's taken me a long time to be okay with that.

Being a stepparent takes work. I've been a stepmom for 5 years now and I'm still trying to figure it out. Just soak in the great moments and try to focus on those during the not-so-great moments. You might not get thanked for everything you do, but try to remind yourself that all the love, time and effort you give really does matter and makes a difference.


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