I definitely didn’t know what I was signing up for when I married Mr. Right.
I thought I was more than ready to become step mom to his two children. I already liked them, and they liked me back. The idea seemed easy enough.
* * *
Five years later, I know being a parent is the hardest job in the world, one you don’t fully experience as the girlfriend. When a reader asked me to share some advice for step-mom-to-bes, I wondered, “Why didn’t I do that?” Kudos to her for asking!
If you are marrying a man with kids, here are some things to consider:
Seek expert counsel. Make a list of people who are in your support network and turn to them when problems arise. I’ve told Mr. Right’s mom our marriage wouldn’t be possible without her, and I mean it. The role of mother can be shared between you, grandparents, aunts, etc.
Be aware that your step children may need counseling down the road to deal with issues of divorce or losing a parent. Don’t wait. I’ve found therapy is helpful for the whole family.
Make your marriage a priority. Schedule a weekly date night, even if that means time together at home after the kids go to bed. Connect with each other everyday. Talk alone for fifteen minutes. Keep it simple.
Take care of yourself. Workout, eat right and get enough sleep. Parenting is a tremendous challenge. You’ll want to be healthy for it.
Tell your stepchildren they are important to you. Ignore the pressure you may feel to love them as your own children, because that may not be possible. Focus on the fact that they are important to you. Their Dad is one of the most important people in your life, and his children are important to him. Reaffirm their importance verbally and tell them they have a valued place in your life.
Recognize your step kids’ strengths. Compliment them on the things they are good at and focus on what’s special about them. Don’t always dwell on the negative.
Keep your husband in the loop with how you are feeling. Don’t let resentment or exhaustion come between your commitment to each other and your family. If you need extra help around the house, speak up. If you need a break, speak up. He will be able to help make these things happen.
Don’t feel bad for expecting your spouse to parent his children. Your step children need their father more than they need you. Encourage his role in their life, especially in the areas of discipline and dealing with tough issues.
Promote one-on-one time. Make it possible for your spouse to spend one-on-one time with his children. Sometimes Dads need help thinking of ideas, or he may need you to babysit the other children. As they grow up, your step children might feel they are competing with you for their Dad’s attention. Be aware of these feelings and help him put their fears to rest.
Remember: Your role matters. Maybe the kids will never call you Mom or confide in you or respect what you have done for them until they are older. Those things aren’t important, but your role is. I believe that if you are trying to be a good parent, you are doing a good job. (People don’t say that enough!)
Five years. That’s how long it takes the average blended family takes to acclimate to one another.
Now. The moment you are in today. You won’t be perfect. Your step children will act out and say horrible things and make mistakes. You will, too. The road ahead will be both joyful and sad, but there is now, this moment as a new bride and step mom, and it’s worth savoring.
What advice would you add for new step moms?
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