Sometimes it’s the timing in life that can make all the difference. Being a Stepmom is a challenging role in itself, add in young age and lack of parenting experience and it takes the word ‘difficult’ to a whole new level. I recently sat down with one such Stepmom, and the lessons she had learned over the years were priceless.
After a couple relationships that involved children, Kayti finally understood why her friends had warned her about taking on a stepparent role.
“At first, I thought it was great to play house every other weekend. These little boys were adorable, how hard could it be?”, she told me.
“Little did I know playing house was the easy part. The hard part wasn't cleaning up after screaming toddlers, it wasn't putting them to bed or story time. The hard part was not losing yourself, when trying so hard to be someone else. With two biological mothers in the picture, that meant I had two women to impress, to show I wasn't trying to steal their son's away. Two women that would not so secretly judge my every move. It was exhausting.
On top of that, my relationship with my new fiance required attention, I did not want it to fall through the cracks as second priority. So I did what so many more before me did. I adapted. I had to be better, I had to try harder. I had to be supermom, even if only on the weekend. I exhausted myself between work and playtime.
I had to be the best parent and the best spouse. Anything less wasn’t good enough.
So I pushed and pushed, and before I knew it, I had pushed myself right out of my own head. I put everything and everyone before myself. I lost who I was…I was drowning.
So how are we supposed to balance our new role? How are we supposed to keep our relationship healthy, keep the biological parent happy, keep the kids calm, and make sure we ourselves aren’t miserable?
The answer is very simple. You are not supposed to.
You’re supposed to fall down once in a while. You’re supposed to throw your hands in the air and surrender to help. You’re supposed to have disagreements, and challenges. First families, second families, blended families, adopted families…they all have their challenges. It’s how you persevere that makes you a family.
Married or not, parents of all kinds are going to disagree on raising children. Stepparents have a blurry role that’s often filled with really high highs, and really low lows. It's not meant to be easy, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun. For me, in the beginning, I was more comfortable to act like the fun aunt. I’d take them to the park, and the zoo, and be a source of happiness for them. More importantly, I let them get to know me, while learning it's ok to like me. I remember when I was little and going to meet my stepmom for the first time, I asked my mom if she wanted me to hate her. I couldn't imagine anyone being on the same level as my mom. Your stepkids may have experienced similar feelings. You both need time to learn to love each other and respect each other.
So enjoy this moment. You have the rest of their lives to be a Stepmom, but the window to make a good impression, to be someone they love, trust, and look up to is much smaller.
While you’re earning their love, ask the BioMom for advice. She may not be an expert on all children, but on hers, she’s the best. There's an undeniable bond between a mother and her kids. If you can gain the trust of her too, I guarantee your life will be far easier. For some that will be a breeze, for others it may never happen. But at least you know you tried.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is don’t believe everything you hear about stepparenting. It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s also not the worst. Don’t expect perfection over night, but don't let the horror stories scare you away. Having a child love you is the greatest gift God gives. And I wish all of you just starting on this path peace, hope, and happiness!”