I have officially been a stepmom for about two and a half years now and, although it’s only been a few years since my wedding, I feel like I’ve learned a lot since those newlywed days. Stepmotherhood is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure, and you certainly learn a lot in those first few months (and years!) as a family unit. Even though I felt pretty prepared going into my role as a full-time stepmom to my stepdaughter, there are still some things I know now that I wish I knew then:
It Will Be Hard!
I’m starting here because it is perhaps one of the most difficult, but important, things to know going into stepfamily life – there are times when things will feel impossibly hard to manage. This is a guarantee, not a guess. There will be confusion and hurt feelings and frustration and scheduling conflicts and all manner of difficult things that will come your way, and it’s extremely important to be ready for it. These things don’t make you or your family a failure, they make you human. Expect some trials and tribulations so that, when they do come, you feel ready to process and move on from them and you don’t get stuck feeling like you’re the only one who finds this hard. I can promise you that you are not.
One of the most important things to do before you get married is set expectations with your partner for your stepfamily life. How are holidays going to work? How are school pick-ups and packed lunches and field trips going to work? What is the current parenting plan and will that change after the wedding? If so, how? Will it change if you and your partner decide to have children together? How much responsibility will you take on in the logistics of child-rearing for your stepkids? How will your finances be handled as a family? These are a lot of questions – and there are many more, I assure you! – but setting clear, universally understood expectations will be priceless to you as you begin to figure out your life as newlyweds AND as a brand new family. The more prepared both you and your partner are for how you’d like your family to function, the better it will be for everyone and the more smoothly the transition will go. Ask these questions now – your future self will thank you!
Most People Don’t “Get It”
As a stepmom you will undoubtedly face people, well-meaning or not, who will feel the need to give you advice on how to behave in your new role. But the reality is that it’s a really hard situation to understand from the outside, and unless they’ve been there they really won’t “get it.” Remember to grant your friends and family grace with their suggestions, but also understand that a lot of advice given to first families simply will not work for your family and that’s okay. Also be prepared for some less-than-tactful comments, especially at school functions or birthday parties – most people just don’t know what they’re saying and how they sound. Feel free to tastefully point out their misunderstanding of your family dynamic, if appropriate, and then let yourself move on.
Prioritize Your Marriage
This is essential for all families, but even moreso for stepfamilies in particular. This is not something you and your partner should compromise on. Celebrate marriage milestones, show affection towards each other, keep your communication open and consistent throughout the day as much as possible, etc. Stepfamily life is complicated and can take a lot out of everyone involved – always remind each other why you’re doing it in the first place. And if you’re feeling guilty, remember that it is nearly as important for the children to see a healthy relationship as it is for the adults to be in one.
Self-Care is Crucial
In addition to prioritizing your relationship, it is incredibly important to practice self-care as much as possible. Whether that means taking yourself out to dinner, taking a nice bubble bath, going out with friends on a Friday night, or even just taking five minutes in the car alone before you go into the house. Whatever you need to keep yourself in a good, healthy state of mind. Stepmothers can often go into total “martyr mode” and forget or ignore their own needs. This ends up being worse for all involved and it is not a good place to be in when you do go through those hard days. Keep taking care of yourself a priority and your whole family will be better for it!
Those are just a few of the things about being a stepmom I wish I knew as a newlywed. And I could probably make a list of twenty more! If you’re a stepmom, do you have anything to add?