Dear New Stepmom,
I see you over there, in the snack aisle. You’re comparing three different boxes of fruit snacks, hoping to pick the right one for the little strangers that now live in your home. I see your cart filled with a mix and match of food, as you try and mix and match your old life with your new one. Wine and steak sits next to go-gurt and juiceboxes. I see you over there, trying to hold it all together and balance on the insane tightrope you now live on.
Is this the right path for me, you wonder. Did I make the right choice, you ask yourself. Will my husband make our marriage work, when history shows us he can’t, you worry. I see you in your hip work clothes, with your designer purse. What’s that sticking out of the pocket? Are those crayons from the restaurant last night? And what’s that on your hand, an Elmo tattoo? I see you, all of you. I see the limbo of life you’re living.
I see you full of hope for the future, and I can picture the dreams you have at night filled with peace and harmony for the kids. I’m familiar with the newness of stepparenting, and I’d like to share some wisdom with you as I round the corner and transition from new to somewhere in between new and not so new as I embark on my seventh year in this role. I still have a lot to learn, believe me. But I think there a few things I could teach you, new Stepmom.
Your new husband and his first wife may have a wonderful coparenting relationship. You may have been welcomed in with open arms as an additional person to love the kids. If this is the case, count your lucky stars everyday. For the rest of you, remember this...You can’t fix what you didn’t break. Those hopes you have for a peaceful and harmonious co-parenting relationship with the Ex? Don’t let that desire consume you. Your spouse and his Ex did not get along before you came into the picture, and chances are they still won’t now. Do not place your self-worth on the ability to get these two individuals to get along. You are not a bad person if you fail at swooping in and finally getting them to see eye to eye. It may never happen, and you’ll save yourself a lot of tears and energy if you accept their disconnect with each other.
Secondly, you’ll need to be stronger than you’ve ever been to survive this life, but the good news is you are worlds stronger than you think you are. Being a Stepmom comes with a blurry and always changing job description, difficult co-workers, and very little recognition. Learn what makes you feel valued and appreciated, and communicate that to your spouse. After one divorce, I’m sure he’s not looking for another. Spell out for him what makes you happy, and what doesn’t. Stepparenthood can be a scary and confusing ride, but as long as you have your biggest fan cheering you on with moral support, you can get through anything.
Lastly, this too shall pass. The kids won’t be little forever. Your mornings won’t always start with cartoons. The teenager living down the hall won’t always rebel against you. Child support won’t affect your family budget forever. Becoming a Stepmom can seem like a daunting task, and when you look at the big picture of it, it can scare the lights out of you. Take your new life one day at a time. Bad night? Tomorrow’s a fresh start. Your family is going to need a lot of ‘fresh starts’ when it comes to blending everyone together. They say on average it takes seven years for a family to successfully "blend." It’s okay to feel knocked down once in a while, as long as you always get back up.
So, I see you over there, new Stepmom. Comparing and worrying over which brand of fruit snacks to get. I see you trying to find your comfort level in this new world you live in. I see you give the boxes one more look over and confidently toss one in your cart. You’re doing a great job new Stepmom. You can do this, keep calm and Step on.