Stepmom Survival Guide
That title is a big promise, isn’t it?
After much research, reading, coaching, discussion, and six years (so far) as a stepmom myself, I’ve put together my top 5 tips for stepmoms. These tips have helped me, and I hope they can help you too.
1. YOU define your role, and no one else. A lot of women find themselves pulled into a parenting role for their stepchildren. Perhaps their partner wants them to “act like a Mom”, or they feel the societal pressure to mother, simply by virtue of being a woman. If you choose to be very active in your stepchildren’s lives and that mothering work, that’s great. But if it doesn’t feel right for you, be clear that you would prefer to support your partner as the parent, and focus on your relationship.
2. Own yourself and your space. This tip covers a few things, but basically means to live with integrity. Hold your head up high and be unapologetically you in all aspects of your stepfamily life. Your partner chose you and you’re amazing. At the same time, live with integrity and do not get pulled into conflict. If the ex is trying to bait you with texts, phone calls, bad behaviour… don’t bite. Don’t retaliate. Block and walk away. 3. Build relationships with patience and authenticity. A bond with your stepchildren takes time. Be yourself, engage in side-by-side activities, do things as a family, and take the kids’ lead. Don’t jump right in as another Mom – go for friendship first. Connection before correction. As you form these relationships, it’s also important to ensure the kids get quality time alone with their parent. And you’ll need that time to do things that fill your bucket! See your girlfriends, go for a walk, hideout in your room and binge on your favourite show. If you want to extend the olive branch and potentially build a connection with the ex, start slow. Talk to your partner first and come up with a plan together. Above all, give it time. This is one relationship you may never be able to grow, and that’s fine. It’s most important that you live with integrity (see #2!). 4. Find your tribe. Join online groups, go to local meet-ups… do whatever you have to do to meet other stepmoms. Truly, no one understands this life unless they’re going through it themselves. Meeting other stepmoms, many of who became dear friends as well, changed everything for me. Being able to commiserate over common challenges, and celebrate the wins unique to stepmothering was key to my happiness. 5. Focus on your relationship. You are a stepmom for one reason, and one reason only. Your partner. You chose them, and the kids came along as part of the deal. When you’re struggling with your role, your identity, the drama, the custody, the finances, the ex, the drama… step way back and remember who you are, and what brought you to this place. Focus on your relationship, support them as a parent, and engage in meaningful self-care.
I hope these tips help you to navigate steplife with a little more clarity. While things don’t always get easier with time, you can get better at handling the challenges. According to the research, stepfamilies take between four and seven years to find their groove. Well, six years in, I’d say that’s pretty accurate. So be patient, be empowered, and be yourself.