Tips From a Grateful Step-Mom

A few things I have learned about being a step mom

By M.S.

10 years ago I entered a relationship with a man who had 6 children. They ranged in age from 3 to 30. There were a few different ex-wives in the mix and all in all it was what some people would refer to as a “run for the hills” situation. But I love a good challenge…and more than that, I loved this man.

So, how on earth was a woman who had never been married nor ever had children going to successfully embrace such a non-pottery barn version of a family? Here are a few things I have learned from my experience in trying to make these 6 individuals love me.

1.    Don’t try to make them love you. They will spot it a mile away and not trust a word out of your mouth. In fact throw away all ideas that they will ever even like you. Basically, they are not there for you, YOU are there for THEM. Be ready to give you whole heart and soul with very little ROI…for a while.
2.    Give them the respect that they deserve. Whether they are 3 or 30, they did not ask for this situation. They do not owe it to anyone to be happy about this situation. Honor their feelings by not trying to change them. If you can hold the space for them to be pissed at your existence, without making it about you, that is the truest form of love you can bring.
3.    And more about it not being about you…You could be Mary Poppins, Carol Brady or Mother Theresa and you would still be the “evil step mom”. Jesus could come down and crown you God’s gift to these children and they would still rather dream of ‘The Parent Trap’. It is not about you. Once again, it is not about you (unless you are a bad person, then well, it is about you). You basically remind them that any chance of their parents re-uniting, and thus returning all things back into harmony is never going to happen.
4.    Do not ever, under any circumstances, ever, ever, ever speak ill of their mom. Not only is it like attacking Santa Clause, but for another reason. This woman, however heroic or lackluster of a parent she may be, created these little people (and big people). Even if you don’t love them right away, these kids may very well end up being the loves of your life. And if it weren’t for this woman, they would not be here. Sure, you can expect some major jealousy in the beginning. KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT until you can appreciate what she brought into the world.
5.    With the older kids, avoid jumping on the make-fun-of-dad-train too much. Basically, don’t ally. If you ally too much with their dad, they will feel excluded. If you over-ally with them, they will feel like you don’t love their dad enough. You cant win here. Switzerland-type of neutrality is key here to step parent involvement
6.    Then throw that all out the door and love your husband like you did your Duran Duran poster at age 12. THEN, love those kids as if they all came out of your womb. Do it simultaneously and don’t hold back. If you make it to the finals and actually sign on for the long haul, you are officially one part of the parenting equation. You are not a half-parent or a side parent. You are an equal governing member of the household and your love for them is just as important as their father’s or their mother’s.

I never birthed children of my own. And this was a very conscious decision. I’ve seen what a “new child” brings to existing step families. I’ve seen the tiny bit of extra love that is given to a “child of their own”. I’ve seen the rivalry, the slightest hurt and the teeniest wedge that was made by bringing in a “biological child” to the mix. I do not think I am immune to that. I’m sure there is a bond from creating a human in your belly for 9 months that I cannot even imagine. That’s ok. I love my step children with all my being and don’t want to know the difference. I have 6 amazing kids. Period.
It takes balls to be a step parent. It is not for the faint of heart. It took me a long time to develop the relationships that I have with my 6 kids. It was hard at times and I cried a lot. But in full disclosure, I have to tell you that I LOVE these people more than I could have ever expect. They taught me so much more than I could have ever taught them. They helped me grow up. They showed me how to love unconditionally. They helped me out of the bondage of self. I cannot imagine my life without them and they are truly the treasure that I did not expect from my marriage to their dad.