I am the queen of Pinterest recipes. I love finding a good recipe. I feel like as long as the recipe is straight forward then I can pretty much make anything. This week I made a blackberry cobbler for the first time, and it was pretty dang delicious! As long as I have my list of ingredients and a step-by-step guide then I am not scared to tackle even some pretty off the wall recipes. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always come with a checklist or recipe laid out for you to make sure you are doing it right. (But that would be pretty sweet though!) I’m not here to give you this allusive recipe for being a perfect stepmom, but I will give you some key mental ingredients that I have found successful in making me a better stepmom and giving us a happier blended family. Because, it’s a tough gig and I know personally I’ll take all the help I can get!
This one is so important! As a stepmom you are going to need lots and lots of strength. Strength to keep going even when you feel like your efforts are going unseen. Strength to tuck those precious babies into bed even after they told you that your dinner wasn’t as good as their mom’s. Strength to show up even when you don’t know exactly how to. Strength to continue trying your best even when it feels like you are failing. Because the truth is that everyone feels that way. Even the parents that look like they have it all together. You know, the ones with the homemade organic snacks, the ones with the energy to take their kids to every single extra-curricular, or the ones who manage to still have time to look put together while getting their kids looking sharp too. They all struggle. They all feel like failures sometimes. Parenthood is hard, but step-parenthood is a whole different level. You are trying to find your spot in this premade family, and that takes strength.
A successful stepmama needs tough skin. You need to be able to hear things without letting it affect how you see yourself. There are so many people on the outside ready to share their insight about your blended family dynamic, but the truth is that no-one really knows your family unless they are in it. No-one really knows the reality of the role you play in your family, not even those people in your family. You have to have tough skin to let the comments bounce off. You have to realize that typically these comments are either coming from a place of trying to help or a place of serious misunderstanding. The comments like “you’ll understand when you have your own kids,” “well you’re not a REAL mom,” “have the kids said they hate you yet?” or anything of the sort can hurt. These things can cut deep, but as a stepmom you begin to expect words like this. You figure out that they aren’t typically coming from a place of hate or negativity, however, they are most likely simply coming from people that have no idea the complexity of your stepmom role. So make sure you have some tough skin when the comments come, because despite what the comments make you feel like, you have to know in your heart that you are being the best stepmom you can.
Being a stepmom is sometimes like being Dwight from The Office – “Assistant to the Regional Manager.” You basically have this important title with no authority. You have this parenting title. You are supposed to be the queen of your castle. You have this new family that you are in charge of, but at the same time you have little to no say or control in the big scheme of things. You are bound by court papers and custody schedules. You don’t get to make the parenting decisions that you would in a first family. You sit on the sidelines as these little ones are molded and shaped by big decisions that aren’t yours to make. You love them and you treat them like your own, but you have to have the humility to be able to take a backseat sometimes. Humility is so key to being a successful and happy stepmom.
Humility : a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.
Your role as a stepmom is so important in your blended family dynamic. You do have a big part in raising these tiny humans, your say is important, your hugs are meaningful, and your maternal position in your family is vital. However, it is just as important to be able to humbly take a step back when needed.
I could talk about patience all day, and how important it is in your blended family. Actually, I have another blog post talking about How a Hand Towel Taught Me Patience in My Blended Family, and I share some patience strategies I use to keep my cool. Patience is such a crucial ingredient in being a happy stepmama, and in turn creating a happy blended family dynamic. You need patience with yourself first and foremost. Patience to allow yourself not to be perfect, because I guarantee that it takes practice. You will probably get things wrong a few times before you get it right, and that is OKAY! Patience with your SO when he doesn’t realize how hard this step-parenting gig is. Patience with your stepbabes, especially during transitions. Patience with others that are quick to judge, because they don’t truly understand your blended family dynamic.
For me, this is the most important characteristic of a happy and successful stepmama. Empathy is so important in understanding those around you and why they act the way they do.
Empathy : the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
In order to be able to guide your stepbabes you need to be able to have empathy for their situation. They may be acting out because they miss their other house, they may be forgetting certain rules because those aren’t a priority at their other house, or they may take some time to adjust back to normal because it is hard to be transplanted to a completely different environment. You have to have empathy in order to co-parent and communicate with your stepkids mom. You need to have empathy for her situation. She didn’t plan to have to share her kids with another woman. Be understanding when she doesn’t act the way you think she should. Have empathy for her when you think she doesn’t deserve your kindness. This family that she built dissolved, and you are a constant reminder of that. Be empathetic towards your SO. This blended family situation wasn’t his dream either. He didn’t dream of getting divorced or missing his kids tee-ball games. Show empathy towards him, because most guys won’t tell you when they are broken.
So, stepmama, if you want to be successful and happy in your blended family these are some important traits that I would work on developing. Making sure that I keep these 5 things in mind has helped me tremendously in my stepmother role. I’m not saying that it’ll be easier or that it’ll be all rainbows and butterflies from here on, but I am saying that focusing on these characteristics when stuff starts to get rocky will help you remember what it’s all about. It is all about that man you fell in love with, those sweet babies you welcomed into your heart, and building a happy family and life despite the stressors. (Side note : I may have forgotten the most important thing you need as a stepmama = wine.)
Love your family, love yourself, and live your happiest life.