Few people think about being a step mom before they begin relationship with someone who already has children. Even fewer can anticipate the true requirements of this weighty, oft-maligned role. I love my step daughters! I am grateful that my own girlie gets to experience a sort of sisterhood and she adores being lumped in with "The girls."
1. Notice the opportunities and and let go of the expectations. I was looking forward to a relaxing afternoon, puttering around my garden and home but my step daughter surprisingly asked me to go shopping for a prom dress. You bet I took that chance and we had fun with extravagant gowns and lunch together. It's these moments to grab onto. Later, when she didn't want to do something together, I remembered it's not always true that she would rather be alone.
3. Grow Thicker Skin. You are going to be taken for granted and taken advantage of. Your opinion will be minimized or disregarded. Your influence is limited and your control handcuffed. All this will happen in your own home. At times, you will feel like an outsider within the walls where you sought comfort. You have great influence, but most likely very limited authority. Let your husband take the lead in setting rules, household behavior and expectations. Give him the security of your devotion to him, even when he sides with his children over one of your wishes. This is wear you earn your battle scars, friends. This is when you need a comrade in arms, look for support outside your family unit.
It's not all going to go smoothly. Sometimes you will feel snarky or selfish or jealous or whatever. Sometimes your step children will push you away because they feel confused or conflicted or moody or just too busy to bother. Don't let that be the rule of the day. Stay engaged and keep supporting them. Ask them to come along to the store, to get a manicure, to walk the neighborhood, to go for a hike. Get on their Instagram, SnapChat, Vine accounts. Watch their shows on Netflix. Find ways to connect, not everyday but at least often enough to be aware of their world (this may be true for all teens).
5. Encourage your step children to spend one-on-one time with their dad. Remind him to ask his girls out for a date (or to the game, if he has boys), give him cues as to when they may need an extra dose of attention or when one has had a rough week. Don't expect all his attention and affection, let him love on his children. Never put your husband in the place of having to choose between his children and you...no one wins.
BONUS: Be gentle with yourself. Don't expect perfection. There is a learning curve to becoming a step mom and you must be gentle with yourself as you navigate this territory. If my step daughters know that I'm on their side, that I love and support them and that I will do what I can to help when needed, then I believe we have been successful. Take care of you along the journey so that you can offer your best self to your family.
As a step mother, we have unique and challenging roles. There is great sacrifice, but also great joy. I encourage all step moms to join the Sisterhood of Stepmoms where there is laughter, understanding and support. At times, it feels like you are facing hard things alone, but you are not. You are on the front lines and are leading a winning force! Are you a step mom? Did you have a step mom?