I took on a role that I was never expecting in my life. When I was a little girl, I didn’t dream of growing up to be a stepmom. Stepmomming is HARD. It is a role that requires wisdom, flexibility, stamina, sacrifice, and so much grace. I am a divorced mom with two amazing kids. Two years ago, I married a divorced dad who had five children. Blended together we have seven kids, two dogs, and a lot of baggage we brought to our new chaotic life! There are 3 essential areas to stepmom life, that I wish I would have known before becoming a stepmom. If I knew then what I know now, it would have helped prepare me for this challenging and amazing role I took on.
“Living a Life That Isn’t Fully Yours”
As a stepmom, you are ruled by custody schedules and the enormous emotions that come with kids transitioning in and out of your home. I read somewhere that, “When you’re a stepmom, you’re living a life that isn’t fully yours.” So much of your life is feeling stuck in the middle. It’s hard to create a consistent life when kids are shuffling in and out of your home and going to another home with different rules and expectations. You have very little control over your family life when these kids have a mom and a dad to make the final decisions for them.
Most days I feel like my husband and I are in a rowboat in the ocean, trying to paddle together…while standing up. Both of us are trying to balance the boat and not tip over when the waves come. Unfortunately, the big waves come and all you can do is your best to simply survive. Occasionally, one (or both) of you falls down, and the other is left frantically paddling on their own while also trying to get the other back on board to help paddle alongside you. Finally, waves aren’t so close together and eventually at times, completely subside. There are moments, or even longer stretches when the sea is calm, and you can enjoy the light and scenery. You can reconnect with your spouse, regroup, and add supplies to your boat that you’ll need for the next storm.
Living a life that isn’t fully yours requires grace upon grace. You’re good enough until you aren’t. You will never be a perfect stepparent and sometimes the emotional turmoil is caused by the unrealistic expectations you put on yourself by trying to live up to an unattainable standard. Give yourself grace, momma! I’ve learned that I can’t control my stepchild’s behavior and I can’t control what their mom says or does at their home on her time. I can plan and organize my schedule and my home to remove some chaos, but I can’t always control how or when the traumas of the past are triggered in my step kids. It is imperative that I adjust and adapt accordingly. I can control how I choose to react. Grace for yourself, grace for your spouse, and extra sprinkles of grace layered in for the stepchildren goes a long way.
Constant Criticism –“ Like Water Off a Duck’s Back”
There are so many opinions about the role that a stepmom should or shouldn’t play in parenting. The aggravating thing is that most of the opinions come from people who have never experienced blended family or stepmom life first-hand. It reminds me of when I was pregnant, and everyone had advice and wanted to share their wisdom. Unfortunately, there is a big difference when you become a stepmom.
There are opinions and criticism with very little encouragement or excitement. When you express your frustration or are at a complete at a loss on how to handle something with your stepchild, you are constantly told, “Well, you knew what you were getting yourself into.”. Yes, I knew this role would be a challenge when I was dating my husband, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging. I can’t remember a time that I’ve known someone who told a mom of a colicky baby that she knew what she was getting into! Instead, people sympathize, offer to come over and hold the baby while mom showers or takes a nap. People show up and give support, they do not roll their eyes and walk away.
You typically don’t get a newborn baby when you are a stepmom. Instead, you usually inherit a moody pre-teen that is barely tolerating your existence in their new disrupted life. If you do too much, people comment on how you are overstepping and not staying in your lane. If you miss a game or performance for your stepchild, you’re told that you are not taking your role as a stepmom seriously. It’s a role that you constantly feel torn in like you should be doing more, but also, like are never doing enough.
To live a more peaceful blended family life, it is essential that criticism rolls off “like water off a duck’s back”. I simply need to do the best I can with the situation I’m in and not worry about all the critics. Don’t get me wrong, getting advice and having a support group is necessary! But make sure the words you allow to soak deep into your feathers, are the ones encouraging you to press on. Words by those in your corner, the ones that sit next to you, sympathize with you, and encourage you to keep going. Let the positive affirmations trickle in to remind you that this stepmom life is worth it.
Less Than Glamorous
Stepmoms typically get the less than glamourous aspects of parenting. We get to be the filler, the extra, the free labor. Unfortunately, it is easy to be taken advantage of and overlooked in this role. You do the homework daily, but you are overstepping if you go to a parent-teacher conference. You pack the lunches, but don’t get invited to Muffins with Mom on a school morning. You rush home because the school called, and your stepson has a fever. Mom and dad aren’t answering their phones, so you choose to cancel your afternoon meeting at the office and pick up the sick child until their parent can make it home or show up for their scheduled exchange time. Apparently sometimes there is a global pandemic and you get the joy of figuring out how to work from home, homeschool seven kids, and not only have your kids survive but thrive in such a crazy experience. There is rarely praise, acknowledgment, or appreciation for the hoops you jump through or the ways you dive to support where you can.
Even if I knew ahead of time that I would be getting little appreciation or recognition, I would still show up and step up. I will never regret pouring love into another child’s life, even if I’m not the “real” mom in some people’s eyes. This stepmom life is worth it, for me and for them. I might not be their “actual” or “real mom” as I am reminded on occasion by the critics, but I know I am an awesome bonus mom. I don’t need to be recognized to know that.
Challenging, but Beautiful
I have discovered that I have an amazing ability to embrace the chaos of blended family life. Stepfamily life is challenging but full of unique beauty. Each blended family is so different, so what works for me, may not work for the next person. I’ve been a stepmom for two years, and even now when a curveball comes flying at me, sometimes I’m not sure if I should hit it, catch it, or jump out of the way. I may forever be learning how be more flexible, have more grace, and practice responding vs reacting. And even though I’m not perfect and still learning to adapt in this role, being blessed to be five kids bonus mom, is so rewarding for me and for them.
So for all you Step Mama’s out there, Cheers to you. For doing the hard work. For showing up and stepping up. For having new grace for each day. For pouring love into little lives that aren’t fully yours. Cheers for embracing the beautiful chaos.