I've been a stepmom for the past six years. There were a lot of things I thought I "knew" marrying a man with kids from a previous marriage. I "knew" I wouldn't always come first, or even second at times. I "knew" I would have to be careful about what I say around the kids (impressionable minds). I "knew" I would have ex-wife issues to deal with and I "knew" I would have more responsibilities now that two little kids would be in my life for half of the week. I thought that was the gist of it and everything else would just work out, but then things would get tough and emotionally draining. That's when I would hear, "You knew what you were signing up for when you married a man with kids."
But did I really know? Does any stepmom really know what they are signing up for? Would anyone ever say that to a first time biological mom? Of course they knew what they were getting into when they got pregnant, but not every baby and not every step family is the same. Sometimes things happen later on that you never saw coming.
I never thought I would be playing a role in co-parenting with my husband's ex-wife. That is my husband's job, right? But it actually takes all the parents to help raise children in blended families. It's a tricky minefield to navigate around and I never realized how many toes there were that I could be stepping on. This is also a role that I have taken on that I never thought I would. It doesn't only make me feel like I have a say about what goes on, but the kids see all of us working together and in return I receive their respect at a young age.
Ignorance from Others
The things that come out of people's mouths about what they think a stepmom is, is astonishing. "Oh, so you aren't their REAL mom?" Every step family is different. We split our time with their mom every week so it is pretty close to 50/50. I make their lunches, I pick them up from school and I got to every sporting/dance event. How does that not make me a real mom? I never knew it would be this hard to explain to people that just because I didn't give birth to them, didn't make me any less of a mother figure. I learned quickly that these are scenarios that I will endure most likely for the rest of my life, even in front of the kids at times. It's all on how I respond to it in front of them that matters.
Loving My Step Kids Too Much
I knew I would have a relationship with my step kids, but I never thought it would be to this extent. Is it possible to love my step kids too much? The answer is, absolutely not. I found out that it is impossible and there is nothing wrong with loving them as much as I do. I would do anything for them and they would do anything for me. I never knew my heart could love like this until I formed my relationship with both of the munchkins. No one can have too much love.
Taking the High Road
I'm a strong, independent woman who speaks her mind. I never thought I would be able to keep my mouth shut if my husband's ex and I ever got into an argument. Being a stepmom I realized being the neutral person will not only save my sanity, but the kids will see that I do not engage in that kind of behavior. Kids see and notice everything we do, even when we think they aren't watching. I never knew that how I reacted would even affect the kids, but it does and it sets a better example for them when I take the high road.
Yes, the green ugly monster has reared its head a time or two over the years. There were times where I felt left out or not acknowledged because I'm not their "biological" mom. Such as the Mother/Son dances at school. It makes my heart happy that my step son's mom wants to take him and he gets to spend that special time with her, but it also stings my heart knowing that it is just something I won't get to experience with him. I never thought that I would be jealous over things like that. I fully understand he has a mother who is loving and supportive, but I'm one of his moms too. Being supportive of my step son's relationship with his mom is important, just like she tells both of them that their relationship with me is important, even if that means I miss out on certain events. But that doesn't make me any less important.
Finding My Voice
The biological parents already split time and say over the kids. Try being a new parent trying to have a say about what's going on when they are under your roof. I would share or help with half of the responsibilities, so what about my say of what is goes on in our household? Over the years I have found my voice and spoke up about how I want things to run too - but just in our house. We cannot control what goes on at their mom's house and that's also a hard pill to swallow when you might not agree on things. I realized over time that we can only hold the kids accountable for what goes on at our house with our rules and their mom does the same at her house.
Where did all of my time go? Over the years, little by little, I have adjusted the way I have lived my life for the benefit of my family. There are instances where I want to go do something, but it just won't fit in the schedule with everyone else and that's OK. I never thought that my days off from work would revolve around both of my step kids but I wouldn't change it for the world. Yes there are times I miss out on things, but my priorities are to my family and what is best for them.
There is no perfect way to learn how to become a stepmom. There isn't a template or "How-To" book with all of the answers. Figuring out everything you need to know before you become a stepmom is impossible. Every step family dynamic is different. It takes time, but like me, you will eventually find a way that works best for your family.