There is nothing quite like falling in love. It's a complete and total bonus when your relationship includes little ones you can fall in love with, too!
But being a stepmom is not for the faint-hearted. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say being a stepmom is one of the most under-appreciated and stressful situations a woman can find herself in.
Before I was a single mom, I was a stepmom. When I met my first husband, he was almost divorced with three children. After a short time, I met his three kids, who were eight, five, and two at the time. They were sweet, funny, and loving. But it wasn't all sunshine and roses. Their parents were acrimonious in their dealings with one another, which was not lost on the kids. I could write chapter and verse about what I learned about co-parenting from watching them in action, but this blog is about what I learned about being the best stepmom ever.
Here are some gems for you:
- You are not the kid's "new" mom, but you can be a part of the kid's support system while you befriend their real mom. I made sure to reach out and let my husband's ex know she could call me anytime. If you can't become friends, at the very least become friendly.*
- Say great things about their mom and mean them. Said another way, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it. Said another way, don't ever, no matter how evil, vile or vindictive your husband's ex is, say anything bad about their mother. If you must say something to someone about her, say it to your best friend while the kids are at school, you're at the grocery store alone (because you need a bottle of wine), or in your therapist's office. I mean it.
- Be available but not overbearing. Let the kids dictate how much they want to share and how close they want to get to you. They will most likely eventually warm up to you, especially if you give them enough time and you're cool. My husband endured two years of torture as a stepdad before my daughter came around.
- You will do many, many things for the kids and your man as a stepmom that will be overlooked and unappreciated. That's the way the cookie crumbles. Karma is at work here, and someday you'll reap the rewards of your awesome-sauce-ness, probably in the form of adult kids who love and respect you. I still occasionally talk to my stepkids, even though their dad and I have been divorced for a decade.
- Never lecture or "give a talk" (like about sex) to the kids. Not your job, unless those are the dynamics of your family.
- What the mom says, goes. My ex's now ex-girlfriend demanded my daughter do certain things when she knew I wanted the opposite to happen. It did not build goodwill between us. It's best to be on bio mom's good side; it will help the kids like and appreciate you, too.
- Know the kids are going to call you by your first name. You could change your name to Queen or Your Majesty to make it fun, but under no circumstances should you make or ask them to call you mom. If that's what they want, then go with that. Again, let the children dictate the relationship.
- Be nice! You don't want to be the 21st century version of the wicked stepmother do you? Of course not! It's hard to tolerate back talk and sass and bad behavior from our own children, so know that I understand how hard it is to tolerate it from a kid you didn't give birth to. But this is the life you've chosen, so woman up and deal with it. Bite your tongue, turn the other cheek, and know you're doing what's best for everyone (including yourself).
Being a stepmom can be pretty great, and it can be really tough. But handled the right way, you can indeed be the Best Stepmom Ever! Or, at least a pretty good one.
*Exceptions: You are their mom if their mom is dead or in prison for life. Then, and only then, can you try to fill some very big shoes, and only if that's what the kids want.