Marrying someone who has a child, you don’t think much about the stepparenting situation other than that you are in love with this person, who already has a child.
When I first met my husband, he was a single dad. He was never married before, but had a young little girl. Seeing what a great father he was to his daughter, I didn’t think there would be much to learn as a stepmom. Boy, was I wrong.
I look back now and wish someone had told me about both the challenges and rewards of being a stepmom. Here are 15 things I wished someone had told me, before I became a stepparent:
1. Your self-esteem will be put to test.
You are coming into this marriage thinking that you’ve “got” this stepparent life. But there will be times the stress you will experience relating to stepparenting will have you feeling as though you are walking on eggshells. In fact, the majority of your life decisions will now be made in partnership with not just your spouse, but sometimes the other parent of the child as well.
2. Being both involved and uninvolved.
You are this child’s teacher, mentor, role model, friend and stepparent. You do matter to this person. However, you must step aside and let the bio-parents make the major decisions in their life.
This takes time and patience. Sometimes you don’t know you are overstepping a parenting boundary until you already overstepped. A parent’s boundaries and a stepparent’s boundaries can be two different things. Being a stepparent can sometimes feel like you are blindfolded and headed down a river on a boat. You don’t know how you will ever make it to the end. But trust me, you will!
4. It may take time to develop a relationship bond with the stepchild.
I met my stepdaughter while she was an infant, so she knows only me with her dad. She and I have had the opportunity to create, and still have, a special bond that other people have noticed. But being a stepparent may take time and patience. Remember you cannot force a relationship. Give it time.
5. The rollercoaster of emotions.
One day you will want to scream into your pillow. The next day you will be patting yourself on the back. The following day, you will want to run and hide. Your stepparenting days will never be the same… but that’s parenting, it isn’t easy!
6. Feeling protective.
You help raise this child and will develop a strong bond. You will love them and a protective instinct may start to kick in. It can be such a wonderful thing for this child to have additional adults who love and protect them!
7. Including your stepchild.
When you marry someone with a child, include them. This child needs to also feel as though they are a part of this new, wonderful family you are forming with their parent.
8. Feeling like an outsider.
Many may not know your family story. So when there are events for parents, or when parents get recognized for your stepchild and you are not included, you may have to take the back seat. Same goes with extended family too. They may not view you as their parent.
In those moments remember you may not be their bio-parent, however you are their stepparent and still very important. Take that parenting role with high honors.
9. Stepdads are often viewed as a hero. Stepmoms are often viewed as a villain.
Society often views stepdads as a hero who step up to help raise a child who isn’t technically theirs. Stepmoms who step up to help raise their stepchild can sometimes be viewed as the evil stepmother. It’s an unfortunately traditional narrative – think of all the movies that also dictate this. But you have the opportunity to change this narrative and simply be a loving and encouraging parental figure in this child’s life.
10. Your calendar will be constantly changing.
Every year may look different depending on the custody days, vacation days, holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals… just all of it, that happens in life. Ideally, the custody schedule time is equal for both parents, so the child has the opportunity to experience as much as they can with both families. As the stepparent, it helps to be flexible and excited for the time you do get with your stepchild.
11. High conflict situations.
High conflict situations between both parents may arise from time to time. Stepparents, you may need to stay out of it.
12. The previous partner will become a major part of your life.
When you marry someone with children, the previous partner will always be in the picture. Whether or not you get along with them, put those feelings aside. You may have not chosen who your spouse had a child with, however you can choose how to parent with them.
13. Communication is key.
Being a stepparent means that you have to learn how to communicate; with your spouse and with their previous partner. Some stepparents are able to communicate with the previous partner in a positive manner, but this is not always the case. Work towards clear communication with the entire family – from your spouse, to their previous partner and the children involved.
14. You are not alone.
There are many stepparents in the world. You are not going through this all alone, even in the moments you may feel you are the only one out there. In fact, many stepparents have similar stories.
Try reaching out to some positive stepparenting groups, or contact a certified stepparent coach who can show and teach you some positive techniques and strategies. Become educated on being the best stepparent that you can be. It’s worth the effort!
15. You are stronger than you are giving yourself credit for.
You do matter. You do make a difference in the lives of your stepchild and spouse. You are stronger than you might be giving yourself credit for.
Always keep in mind why you are a stepparent in the first place: You became a stepparent because of the partner you fell in love with and married. You will make many beautiful, lasting memories with your new family. Take it all in and live your wonderful life.
Stepparents, putting in the effort is always worth it! You will thank yourself later.