I was wholly unprepared to be a step-mom. Completely and totally. I don’t think there’s a word that fully encompasses just how out of my depth I was. In the last few years I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve also learned a lot of lessons. For one, thanks to Disney step moms get a bad rap. We’re really not so bad. In fact, being a step mom can be pretty cool. If I was going to dole out any advice to a new step-mom-to-be, here’s my top six…because no matter what you think right now, it CAN get better!
Six Been There, Done That Tips To Surviving As A Step-Mom
6. Be ready to say “I’m sorry” a lot.
For some reason we have this idea that we have to do all things right out of the gate. We can’t mess up. And we can’t be wrong.
Hang that thinking at the door, because you’re going to screw up. Things are going to go wrong. You’ll do something you shouldn’t have. And that’s okay. Chances are your new kids are just as scared of this new relationship as you are. Living by example when you mess up is your greatest gift as a step-parent, and saying you’re sorry is an important life lesson. The children have their parents and biological family as built-in role models, but as a step parent you’re outside that “natural” order of things. You’re an anomaly. You’re the outside world. You’re a person who is choosing to love them, and show them that love by demonstrating real relationships. And sometimes those relationships need an, “I’m sorry.”
5. Not their mother, and it’s okay to not act like it.
In the beginning of our blended family life I over-stepped the boundaries big time. I thought moving in together, having the children, meant I was now…Mom.
I never will be.
And that was an important, painful lesson.
Our kids have a mother and me. I’m not a Bonus Mom, I’m not Mom, I’m me. And sometimes that means I’m the fun parent, and sometimes (okay, most of the time) I’m not.
Blended families are complicated, but two things are certain. Those kids have a mom and a dad, and I am neither of those. Yes, I love them. I care for them. My heart beats for them. But I am not mom, and knowing my place in the chain of command is important. There are times when you will have to back down and let Mom and Dad set the rules and make decisions you do not agree with. And that’s okay.
4. Protect your relationship with your significant other.
This is a hard one. But it’s a must. Raising children is hard, and it’s made still yet more difficult when you’re navigating a complicated web of custody and feelings. As the children get older, as relationships shift, there will be stressors on your relationship with your significant other. Figuring out how to protect that is key. Maybe you need a counselor or a safe place to vent. Whatever it is, protect that relationship.
3. You can’t fix what you didn’t break.
This is a hard one for me, but an important one. As you grow to love and care for your step-children there will be points where you and their mother disagree on. Be that punishment, rules, etc. Case in point, because one of my step-children is on the special needs spectrum, there’s a lot of allowances made for them. They don’t have to follow rules, they don’t have to behave in a normal way, and so forth.
What. A. Crock. Of. Bull.
I know, and my step-child knows, that these allowances are just that-excuses to do as they want.
I’ve seen it in action.
When their father or mother is in charge, they are able to misbehave. When it’s just me and them? They don’t pull that crap because I don’t stand for it. And as a result I’m resented and we have other problem behaviors. But you know what? I can’t fix them. And it’s not my place to. Yes I will continue to expect a certain level of behavior, but I can’t solve all their problems, fix their issues and make them be better human beings, and that’s okay.
2. Have friends to talk to.
This is so important. You need friends, in person or on-line, who you can talk to. Get advice from. Rant to. Someone who is not your family, is not your spouse and ideally doesn’t know the kid’s mother. People who are in your corner, because it’s going to be tough. Real tough. And you need a safe place to vent about everything that will just rub your significant other raw. It goes back to protecting that relationship. It’s important that you do that to the best of your ability.
1. Silence is golden.
In our social media connected world, sometimes it’s what you don’t say that matters.
My number one piece of advice is to never friend, follow or like the ex on social media. Chances are, there’s still some hurt feelings between the ex and your significant other. There is in my world. And the last thing you need to do is see rants the ex posts about you, or their children’s father. And likewise, you don’t need to air your frustrations on Facebook or Twitter for all the world to see. Keeping the lines of communication moderated and civil will go a long way to maintaining a healthy relationship.
Likewise, keep those venting moments private. You never know who is ready to sell out your true feelings for the sake of watching the world burn, and when it’s your world, that can hurt a heck of a lot.
In all things, cut yourself some slack. Being a step parent isn’t easy, and navigating a blended family is difficult in the best circunstances.