The other day during a coaching call with a new stepmom, I literally felt like I was talking to myself 5 years ago. It was actually the craziest thing.
We had the same stressors, the same insecurities, the same worries.
We both struggled with being the "second wife", and finding our place in a new family.
We both struggled with the fact that so much of our life had been decided before us, and felt like so much of our life was outside of our control.
We both struggled with moving into the house where our husband's lived during their first marriage
We both had random receipts from romantic getaways in junk drawers trigger even more insecurity.
We both found ourselves sitting on the bathroom floor, bawling our eyes out thinking about what would happen if we got in our car, drove far far away and didn't leave a note.
Literally we were the same person, just five years apart on our step-parenting journey!
My conversation with her made me think about all the things that I wish I would have known when I first said "I do" and naively entered into the trenches of step-parenthood and blended family life.
(I know that makes it sound like it's been a negative experience. That's not the case. I really do love being a stepmom. But truth is, for a while there, navigating my way into stepfamily life really did feel like the trenches - it took hard work, was emotionally exhausting, and it sometimes felt like I had to fight for the life that I wanted for myself and my family.)
During the our session, I told her what I wish I would have known when I first became a stepmom. I told her the things I wish that someone would have told me. And since I'm pretty sure they will resonate, I'm going to share them with you too!
1. PERFECTION IS BULLSHIT
It's impossible and unattainable.
It's okay not to have all the answers. As stepmoms (especially childless ones) we often feel insecure and like we have no idea how to parent. So we overcompensate and try our hardest to pretend like we have it all together. We pretend like we KNEW what we were signing up for.
It's an act. For both stepmoms and moms, it's a complete act.
No one has it all together.
No one knows what they're doing.
Everyone is just figuring things out as they go.
Mistakes are inevitable. Just do the best you can and when you know better, do better!
When you let go of trying to be the perfect parent, you'll instantly become a better one! As someone who pretended like I had it all together for the first year of my marriage, I can vouch for that!
2. FOLLOW YOUR FIRST INSTINCT
In all areas of life, just follow your gut. There's something pretty phenomenal about a woman's intuition - follow it. Don't question it.
3. THE WAY SOMEONE TREATS YOU IS MORE ABOUT THEM THAN IT IS ABOUT YOU
I say this all the time - but it's true!
Try not to take anything too personally. If someone is treating you like garbage, it's more about their insecurities than it is about you.
4. TRYING TO TAKE OVER AND “HELP” OUT YOUR HUSBAND BY DOING ALL THE "MOTHERLY JOBS" WILL BACKFIRE IN A BIG WAY!
Take baby steps. Ease your way in. You can only keep this up for so long... and then all of a sudden you'll feel tired, unappreciated, overwhelmed and most over all, resentful.
Your husband is a capable man - he managed just fine before he came into the picture.
Help, be a support, but don't try to take over. You don't need to prove anything to anyone. Until you've really defined the role that you're going to play in your new family, take baby steps, ease your way in.
It will ultimately improve your relationship with your stepchildren, your husband and even his ex-wife.
5. BE PATIENT WITH HIS FRIENDS & FAMILY
So often stepmoms feel insecure when they meet their partner's friends and family. They feel insulted and hurt when their relationship with them doesn't take off right away, especially when they have maintained the relationship with the ex.
It's awkward. It really is. But let time do it's thing, and remember that friends and family are also affected by the divorce - they are mourning the loss of a couple who was a huge part of their lives. They may feel loyalty to the ex... and rightfully so.
It may take them time to get used to the situation and embrace you - be patient, be friendly and try not to take it personally. Just let time do it's thing, show them how great you are and they will come around (and if they don't... well screw them! It's their loss anyways)
6. YOUR HUSBAND WILL NEVER GET USED TO NOT SEEING HIS KIDS ALL THE TIME
So be patient with him.
When you have the kids, and he wants to overcompensate, don't be too hard on him.
When he wants to let them stay up past bedtime and cuddle on the couch... don't sweat it. Yes routine is important but so are those special moments.
When he seems "off" after the kids go back to their Moms, don't take it personally and wonder why he's not excited for one-on-one time with you. Be patient with him, and ask him what you can do to support him through it.
7. THERE'S NO SHAME IN BEING THE SECOND
Often stepmoms feel insecure about being the second wife. Like they were "second choice" They often wonder if they measure up to what marriage was like the first time around or they feel sad because they didn't get to experience the firsts with their partner.
I get it. I've been there. It's a strange and sometimes devastating feeling.
But remember this, that marriage shaped your husband into the man that he is today. I like to think I got the better version of my husband. HIs mistakes, lessons, and life experiences in those years before me, shaped him into the man that I fell in love with. Without those experiences, he wouldn't be the man he is today.
8. JUST LET TIME DO IT'S THING!
One day, you'll wake up and realize all the things you felt insecure about before don't phase you anymore. You'll all of a sudden feel confident and secure.
The house that you hated because it was "theirs" will feel like yours
The kid's "remember when" stories don't make you feel like an outsider, they excite you because you're curious about stories that happened before you met.
You don't overthink, or overanalyze, or question your place.
You'll be come confident as a wife, a stepmom, a mom... as the head of a modern day family!
9. YOU WON'T ALWAYS FEEL LIKE THE SECOND WIFE
For the longest time I couldn't stop thinking about being the second wife, or the new wife, however I chose to word it on that particular day.
I felt like the newbie.
His "new young wife"
I thought about it a lot - until one day I just didn't anymore.
Now I'm just his wife. (Not just, but you get what I mean)
As time has passed, we've made our own memories and created our own traditions - now the past that I remember, is the past I have with him.
It's another situation where you just have to let time do it's thing!
10. MARRIAGE WILL GET EASIER
When we got married I thought those first years were going to be our honeymoon years - I was so excited for that honeymoon stage full of marital bliss.
Ya... not so much the case when it comes to blended families.
That first year I had straight up culture shock. Not only we were adjusting to life together, I was adjusting to life with kids, and access schedule and an ex-wife (his not mine)
We needed to figure out how we were going to blend our family and run our life... and there were some SERIOUS growing pains!
But year after year, our marriage gets better!
11. YOU NEED TO DO THE WORK
If you want to be the best wife, mom and stepmom you can be, you need to be prepared to do the work. You need to be honest with yourself, you need to check yourself, you need to be committed to improving yourself and doing better after you make mistakes (because you will make mistakes... a lot of them!)
Having a healthy marriage - it's hard work.
You have to work on it... every damn day!
Every day my husband and I work hard at being BETTER at being married. We take it very seriously.
Step-parenting will sometimes feel like it's sucking the life out of you! You'll feel good enough until you're not. You'll feel damned if you do, damned if you don't and you'll feel confused about when you should step up and when you should step back.
Embrace the process, be kind to yourself and continue to check in with yourself to make sure that you're okay!
Being a good parent involves learning, growing, being flexible, admitting when you screwed up and learning to pivot when life throws you curve balls.
None of it is easy. But all if it is worth it!
Looking for more tips, strategies and mindset shifts that will improve your stepfamily life?
I have 101 of them!