Photo Cred:  Photography by Nataal

Over the past 5 years I feel like I've done alright in the stepmom department. 
In fact, I like to consider myself one of the good ones.

I like when the kids are with us
I treat them as if they are my own.
I’m empathetic and considerate of what it’s like to be a child of divorce and do whatever I can to make sure they know I am there for them no matter what...
Amongst all the chaos and extra stressors (and BS), I truly love our big blended family
But I’m far from the perfect stepmom.

Just like in parenting my daughter, I make mistakes and I make them often.

I have moments when I feel guilty
Sometimes I respond in ways I shouldn’t
Sometimes I take things too personally
Sometimes I sweat the small stuff
Sometimes I look back and wish I approached an issue in a different way
Whether it be with my stepkids or issues with their Mom, I have (many) moments that I wish I could take back.

But hey, I'm a human being. Perfection is unattainable.

I started this step-mom thing with zero experience in the parenting department. In fact, I rarely even babysat, so caring for kids was foreign to me. 

Growing up with a fairly dysfunctional childhood - a healthy family dynamic was also pretty foreign.
Needless to say there has been a definate learning curve. 

But straight up, as the years have passed, it has gotten easier. 
Not because my stepfamily stressors have changed. They are all basically the same. 

I'm just getting better at it. This year will be no exception. 

Like I always say, you live, you learn. When you know better, you do better! 

I'm someone who really tries to learn from my mistakes. I don't beat myself up over them, I just make a point of doing better next time. 

That's my plan for 2018.

Over the past few days I've taken some time to reflect back on my stepmom stressors of 2017, and evaluate "how I did" 

Whether it be co-parenting stuggles
Communicating with the ex
Transitioning the kids' belongings between " Mom's House" & "Dad's House"
Handling issues that require discipline and direction
Getting and staying on the same page as my husband about house rules, structure and routine
or navigating my way through step-parenting teenagers,  I've reflected back on my stepmom stressors of 2017 and really thought about how I handled the situations.

To be honest, for the most part, I feel pretty good about how things went down, (like I said, I've come a long way) but there is always room for improvement. 

I literally took a piece of paper, wrote out the stressors,  how I responded to the situation and evaluated whether my response could use a little tweak.

  • Should I have kept my mouth shut?

  • Should I have allowed my husband to handle it?

  • Should I have just taken a break and allowed myself some time to process before deciding my reaction.

  • Should I have really given it my time and energy to begin with?

  • Should I have approached it in a different way?

  • Did I dwell on it for too long?

  • Did my involvement change the outcome?

  • Was there a better, healthier way?

  • Is it just something I need to accept as being outside of my control?

  • Should I have just poured my glass of wine and moved on?

Chances are pretty good that the stressors I experienced in 2017 will repeat themselves again. Stepfamily stressors, from my experience, are fairly cyclical. They don't just happen once. There are patterns. Predictable ones at that. 

While this is pretty dang frustrating, it's also a chance for a do-over. To be better! 

You get the opportunity to decide to react better next time.  

So maybe instead of reacting to your step-teenagers attitude, you wait, let things calm down and approach the topic later when tensions have cooled.

Maybe instead of responding to the snide remark from your husband's ex-wife, you decide that silence is the best last word.

Maybe instead of getting frustrated about your stepchild forgetting their shoes at their Moms (AGAIN), you come up with a system that helps them become more responsible for their belongings.

Maybe instead of getting in an argument with your husband about his lax attitude on bedtime, you decide to not sweat the small stuff and try to understand that he's trying to get as much quality time with his kids as possible.  

Maybe you practice the 5/5/5 rule more... and constantly ask yourself "Will this matter in 5 minutes, will this matter in 5 days, will this matter in five years?"

At the end of the day, as stepmoms, a lot of the stressors we have to deal with in our lives are absolutely out of control.

The only thing that we can control is our reaction and how we run our home

... with the complications that come with stepfamily life, and the mixed messages from Stepfamily Experts about what a stepmoms role should look like, it can be challenging to figure out the best way to step-parent.

Even though (in my opinion) step-parenting is very different than "real" parenting (Relax, I am mocking the lingo not saying that step-parents aren't real parents) ... there are two major similarities.

Every family dynamic is different.
No one REALLY knows what they're doing - we're all just figuring it out as we go!  

So, here's to doing better in 2018....