This is part one of a two part series in honor of National Stepfamily Day. Catch part two tomorrow!
National Stepfamily Day is celebrated annually on September 16 and was founded by stepparent Christy Tusing-Borgeld in 1997.
Have you heard of it before?
Have you celebrated it?
Have you ever celebrated your role as a stepmom?
My stepmom journey began in 2003 when I began dating and moved in with my then-boyfriend (now husband) Craig and became “dad’s girlfriend” to his five kids from his first marriage.
I had NO CLUE what I was doing, but right from the start, I absolutely loved these five little monkeys with my whole heart. In a few months, I quickly became full-time mom to all of the kids, ages 4,6,8,9, and 11. My whole life changed instantly when we got a call from bio mom in the middle of the night letting us know that we needed to come get the kids and they needed to stay with us. I was 27, and together, all of us were living in a one-bedroom apartment.
I’ll spare you the crazy details, but a lot has happened in the almost 20 years we’ve been a family. It leads me to write this letter to you now in the hopes that you will learn from my mistakes and 100% be a step ahead in your role as stepmom this National Stepfamily Day and every other one moving forward.
My best advice for leading yourself well as a stepmom:
Fill up your cup first.
I know, I know- we all come to live out this step-life a thousand different ways, but no matter how you got here, you need to do your best every single day to give yourself what you need to stay centered, calm, balanced, and filled up. YOU set the tone for your household. If you aren’t happy, nobody is going to be happy … and that’s just not helpful to anyone under your roof.
Self-care is important for all moms, but if you ask me, it’s even more important for stepmoms. Extra stress, muddy relationships, uncertainty with when to step up and when to step back, the fact that an outside person (the ex) can affect your life at any moment in time can be super draining.
When you continue to do things that fill your cup, you’re naturally in a better mental state. You need to be mentally strong to thrive amongst the extra stress that comes with being a stepmom.
Lead with empathy … Always.
It can be so easy to get caught up in your own struggles and experiences, BUT the ability to see the world from their other people’s lens will not only do wonders for your relationships but will help you navigate your way through the really tough stuff.
As a stepmom, you feel often feel:
- Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
- Good enough until you’re not.
- Like you’re not viewed as a “real parent.”
- A lack of control over the day-to-day happenings in your family.
Am I right?!?!?
It’s so important that you ALSO consider the experiences of your step kids, your husband’s ex-wife, your kids, and your husband!
Your step-kids might be …
- struggling with loyalty issues to their mom.
- feeling like they are never settled, always going back and forth between two houses.
- confused with two sets of rules and expectations between houses.
- feeling like their Dad is moving on and starting a new life without them.
- feeling like a new woman has come into their lives and completely taken over.
Your husband’s ex-wife may …
- find it hard to see her ex start a new life with another woman.
- be grieving the life that she thought she would/should have had.
- struggle seeing another woman have a motherly role in her kids’ lives.
- be unhappy with how her life is post-divorce
- feel insecure, jealous, lost, etc.
Your spouse may:
- feel torn between keeping you appeased, his ex content, and the kids happy.
- be stressed about financial responsibilities that come with divorce
- struggle with having less time with his kids
- worry about whether kids feel like they are on the outside looking in on the “new family dynamic”
- worry about how the divorce affects the kids in the long run
- experience major parent guilt
- not advocate for “what’s right” solely to keep the peace with the ex
(FULL DISCLOSURE: these stressors came right from my husband)
Considering everyone else’s point of view can make a huge difference in your stepfamily life. You don’t need to agree with their perspective, but simply empathizing it can help everyone move forward … well.
Have acceptance, and remember
that you can only control how you respond.
Oh friend, I so hope this helps! I have a few more tips coming at you in a follow-up blog post … stay tuned and tell me below in a comment which one of these tips was most helpful for you to hear.