3 Takeaways to Be a Happy Stepmother
**This mother prefers to remain anonymous
1) Find a friend you can trust to talk to
Having someone safe to talk to is important. We all need an outlet and someone to talk to about our unique circumstances. When we need to vent about a stepchild it’s best not to do it to our spouses who deal with guilt and loyalty issues. I find it most helpful if this person knows and understands each party is not a horrible person. Another stepmom, a family member or even a friend that is in a stepfamily– either as a stepmother or as an ex-wife. I’ve had so many wonderful women help me become a better happy stepmother by listening and understanding without judging the other people in my family harshly. Stepfamilies are different and come with different struggles, and it’s helpful to talk to someone that understands that and will remind you of that when you’re frustrated.
2) Focus on what you can control and what is your responsibility and let go of the rest
I used to get so frustrated because we would make progress with something (potty training, TV time limits, behavior, etc) and when my stepson came back from his mom’s we’d have to start all over. Or he would say or do things that were hurtful or took me by surprise. I started writing down what happened, what my response was and what I should do next time to respond better. I also used to devote too much time to worrying or trying to help my stepson and neglected my other kids. I now remind myself that it’s not my job to worry or make a plan. It’s my job to love and to offer my help to my husband if he wants me to help with a problem, but then step back and let his two parents decide how to parent. After all, I married my husband knowing he was a great dad. My stepson needs his dad to parent and already has a mom. Dads parent differently and kids need that too.
3) Put effort into learning to love in a new way
Soon after we got married, my mother-in-law saw a picture of me with my stepson and commented that because I was so nice and loving he already loved me back and saw me as a mom. This created a lot of unnecessary stress for me. I wasn’t his mom and while I cared for him I didn’t automatically have motherly love for him, and he didn’t have it for me either. I have realized as time goes on that loving someone takes work. I purposely do acts of kindness for him and serve him with the intent of growing more love. With my own kids I realized I loved them in part because I spent the first year or two doing everything for them. Those acts of service drew me closer to them. I can choose to show my stepson love through service, providing some time for he and his dad and doing kind gestures. This has helped to grow love and trust and create a family bond that isn’t the same as a child/parent bond, but unique and fulfilling.