I consider myself an extremely lucky woman. I have been a stepmom (or bonus mom) twice. In my first marriage, I had two beautiful step-kids, one girl and one boy. They are now 17 and 22, and have turned out to be such amazing young adults.
In my current marriage, I have two more sweet and beautiful step-kids, again one boy and one girl. I can't tell you in words how much I love all four kids. They have all brought me so much joy.
Whether you are a stepmom or stepdad, a girlfriend or boyfriend, this role is so important in a child's life. In both of my marriages and also in other relationships, I have dealt with many different ex-significant others. I have learned a lot and know I need to continue learning everyday.
With a lot of thought and advice, I have come up with 10 Steps to Being a Good Stepmom. Obviously, there is no one way to be a good stepmom or stepdad, but these are things that have guided me. I may not have been the best, but I did my best and don't regret how I loved and love my step-kids.
1. Love them patiently
From the first day I met all of my step-kids, I loved them. Now that doesn't mean they loved me at that moment, but that's not the point. I was raised in a loving home and I want to continue that with my family. I have always said that "a step parent is just another person who gets to love you and that's not a bad thing."
When I had my husband read over my 10 steps, he said that it is also important to be patient. He was right. Kids are kids. We need to be patient with them and realize that they have been through a lot in their short lives. Kids may not show that love for you back as quickly or maybe ever, but that shouldn't stop you from loving them. Be patient and the love will come one day, in their own way.
2. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all (especially around the kids)
As I have stated before, I have been married twice. I have dealt with two different moms with drastically different personalities, neither bad just different. But I have to say, I feel so blessed that my current step-kids biological mom is wonderful to work with. It has been mentioned that if we would have met under different circumstances, we could have been best of friends. And I agree to it, but I do consider us friends anyway.
Husbands and wives talk about everything and it is amazing how little ears seem to pop up during every type of conversation. My advice is be careful what those little ears hear. The only things that I think kids should hear from their step parent is wonderful things about their biological parent.
There is such a magical bond between a child and a biological parent, no matter what happens. In the long run, no one benefits from saying anything negative about their biological parent. Show respect for the children and the parents. We need to be an example in everything that we do.
3. Communicate with your spouse
No matter what my role in the house might be, my husband is my step-kids father. As their father, he gets to ultimately make the decisions regarding his kids. During our marriage, I have communicated with my husband around many topics regarding the kids: church, discipline, my role, money and many many other topics.
As a stay-at-home mom now, I am around the kids more than my husband. But, we have talked about all aspects of the kids. He trusts me and I am never worried that he will not support a decision I make with the kids. With communication good things happen.
4. Communicate with their mom (if she allows it)
As I stated earlier, I am lucky. I have always had the ability to communicate with my step-kid's biological moms. There may be ups and downs, but ultimately they knew I loved their kids and was there for them in any capacity that they allowed.
Not every stepmom is so lucky and I realize this. If communication is not allowed or wise, continue with Step 3 and communicate with your spouse. If you see something that you are concerned about, make sure that your spouse knows about it. Remember to show love to the kids in any way allowed and who knows, maybe one day things may change. I am eternally hopeful.
5. Don't try to take the mom's place
I think that statement says it all. Don't try to push out the biological mom. There is room for both of you. Just because the kids love their mom with all of their heart, doesn't mean that they can't have an amazing relationship with you too.
Make sure and let the kids know that you are not here to take her place. Emphasize the good things about their mom and show them that they are all one big happy family.
In my first marriage, my stepdaughter had a really hard time with this. She was young and had a difficult time realizing that she could love both her mom and stepmom. One day I brought it to a level that she finally understood.
We had a wonderful cat named Rocky that I had brought with me into the marriage. My stepdaughter absolutely loved him and Rocky obviously loved her too. He loved to cuddle with her and would always purr when she was around him. Besides me, she had the very closest relationship with Rocky than anybody else.
So one day, I compared Rocky to her. That piqued her interest. I then compared me to her biological mom and my stepdaughter to me (her stepmom).
I asked her "Does Rocky love you?". She said "Of course". But then I said "But even though Rocky loves you, he still has a bond with me, as his mommy, that will never be broken. Right?" She said "Yes". I explained that I will always be Rocky's mommy, just like her biological mom will always be her mommy. No one will every or should ever take her place. But, as her stepmom, I still love her and am lucky to be in her life, kind of like she loved Rocky and got to be in his life.
All of sudden, she seemed to understand. My stepdaughter finally understood that it was okay to love me and I would never (or try to) take the place of their biological mom.
6. Be respectful
I always try to remember, even though it's hard to be a stepmom, it's also hard to be a biological mom. I can't imagine trusting a stranger to take care of my child, day in and day out. She has to entrust that her ex-husband has chosen a good person to co-parent their children. She has to hope and pray that her kids are being raised and encouraged by a loving person. I only now know how that must feel having my first biological child.
It is important to be respectful of the mother. It must be very difficult to allow another person to help raise your child. Respect her for her trust in you. Respect how she wishes for her kids to be raised. Respect her for the parent she is. Remember that you are one of their role models. Showing respect to their mother, shows respect to them.
7. Show the kids that you, dad and mom are a united front
One of my favorite jobs I had growing up was working at a childcare in Gold's Gym. I learned many things there, but one thing I learned is kids smell weakness.
I know that sounds funny, but I truly believe it's true. I am unable to count how many times a parent would come to pick up their kids, and then the kid would completely act up. Now this isn't a kid that had been causing problems the entire time, but a good kid who was playing well with others. It seemed like the kids could sense the awkwardness of the childcare attendant and mom interaction. Who should discipline them? Will I be judged if I discipline them in front of them? Am I doing something wrong? Kids know it and they take advantage of it.
The reason I bring this up is that kids truly sense their power when it comes to two households. I used to hear from any one of my four step-kids "well mom would let me do this" or "I left that at moms". But when I would talk to her, her and I were (and are) always on the same page. We both laugh about it now, but again we are lucky, we talk and agree on most things.
I truly feel as though the kid's mom, dad and me are on a united front. And guess what, the kids very rarely try working us against each other anymore. They know I have no problem texting her and solving the issue within seconds, and she can always do the same thing. Now don't get me wrong, the kids don't get in trouble for this, but they do have a little guilty smile when they are caught (it's hard for me not to laugh). And those habits are dying quickly. It's amazing how communicating with each other as parents and respecting each other, creates a united front and a happier family.
8. Treat kids equally
This really has to do with step-kids and biological kids living together. It is so important that treating kids equally in the home is a top priority. It shouldn't matter if kids are half-brother and sister or not, kids deserve to be loved and treated equally.
I had a wonderful example in my first marriage, which I hopefully am bringing into my existing family. My ex-mother-in-law is an example every stepmom should have. Without a doubt in my mind, she loved all three of her kids equally. I did not know until right before we got engaged that she was his stepmom. That word did not exist. But the word didn't matter to me, it was the way she treated all three of her kids with unconditional love.
She taught me that family is family and all kids should be loved equally. Most people only read about stepmoms like this, while I got to see it in person. I hope I am that good of a stepmom. I hope one day, all my step-kids will look at me, the way I know her kids look at her. She is mom.
9. Put your marriage first
I think for many of us, our marriage can take a backseat when we have kids, biological, step, adopted, grand, etc. Being a loving wife and husband, helps build a strong marriage. One day the kids are going to move away and I don't want to be a stranger to my husband. I know life gets in the way sometimes, but our marriage needs to come first. We need to set an example for our kids that being a good parent means being a good husband, wife, friend, sister, brother.
10. Give yourself a break
Being a stepmom is hard, but let's be honest, so is being any type of mom. Do your best and let the kids know you will always be there for them. Enjoy the wonderful adventure called step-parenthood. It has some wild moments, but worth every second of it.