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There are two kinds of moms; a biological mom and a step mom. Or as some people like to call it bonus mom. No matter what you call it or how you look at it, its about being a mom and there are special dynamics to consider.
Since Brian and I have only been married 9 months, that makes me very new to this whole stepmom thing, that being said, I have been a mother for 12 years now. I am always reading and learning ways to be better at both. I am so grateful that there is a growing resource specifically for stepmoms. As stepmoms we have a special responsibility to stick together and help encourage each other, lift each other up and keep each other focused on the end game.
Here are a couple of things I have learned this first year of being a stepmom.
1.) It is freaking hard!
If you don’t already know that I am sorry to bust your bubble. Why is it hard? So many different reasons. And I think its different for each family. Every family has their own array of problems and issues. For example with us, we have three ex-s we have to work with. Most people only have 1 or 2. Like my daddy always told me, if you are going to do something, do it big!
2.) Know your place.
When it comes to being a stepmom rather than the biological mom, I try to know my place. The best way I know to do that is by putting myself in her shoes. I ask myself, “how would I feel if my ex-husband’s new partner was doing/saying/acting this way?” Most of the time that immediately puts me in the right frame of mind. If it stings, and you know what I mean by that…then I re-evaluate the situation. A simple example: I don’t wear shirts that say “Sara’s Mom” but I will say that I think the “Sara’s Step-Mom” is totally lame. So on my shirt it says “Mama Little”.
But this is also important when it comes to things like discipline. Its hard enough to discipline your children but when you have ex-s and steps involved its even more complicated. We treat all of our children equally, meaning I don’t solely discipline my two and he does his four. We handle it the same with all six. And I think that is so important. Not only does it eliminate possible divide and conquer manipulation that all kids have; it shows them that we do not hold one group favored over the other.
3.) Don’t force the relationship but allow them to relate to you naturally.
My stepdaughters have a step dad they are forced to call “dad”. It has long been a sore subject with my husband. So we made it very clear before the wedding that we would not force any of the kids to call us anything that wasn’t natural to them. My two kids refer to my husband as Brian and his daughters call me Melissa. However, the moment we said “I Do” our youngest immediately started calling me mom. I mean immediately, like at the reception. *Que the AWE – Yes, he’s the cheeseball in the picture at the top of the page!
Now, he was only six at the time, but somehow he knew us being married meant that I was now “mom”. This made me nervous for him; I didn’t want it to be an issue for him and his Mom. After praying about it, I decided to just let him be him. Now, I have no idea if the other kids will ever call either one of us mom or dad and that is 100% ok. It doesn’t hurt my feelings because guess what, it is not about my feelings!
4.) Communicate with the “Others”.
I know what you are thinking…Melissa you don’t understand my other is the worst in the world to deal with. Trust me, they aren’t. There is ALWAYS someone out there who has a worse ex-spouse or other parent than you. Sometimes it is not always easy to remember that but it is true. I learned at a very young age going trough the trauma of my childhood and living my teenage years in a 12step support program that it is really easy to sit at your pity party and have a nice big glass of “poor me” but don’t. Trust me! It doesn’t help anyone especially your children.
What does help them is seeing that even though you may not like their other parent you will work together for the best interest of them. It supports them, it gives them the confidence of knowing BOTH or ALL of their parents are behind them.
It also minimizes the opportunity of manipulation. Trust me, your kids are or will manipulate you. All kids do the mom said/dad said thing even when their parents are married, even more so when they are not, and even more so when they know their is animosity between households. However, if they know that their parents talk to each other, it lowers that opportunity and ability to position households against each other.
Just My Opinion:
The above statements are just my opinion based off my personal experience and two different moms. I am not trained as a counselor or advisor in any way. And since I mentioned the 12-step program I was involved with as a teenager it reminded me of something we said at the end of our meetings. “Take what you like, leave the rest, keep coming back it works if you work it.” I want to encourage all of that, even the coming back part.