When I first started dating a single dad, I was an appropriate mix of excited and scared. I hadn’t wanted an instant family, but I was great with kids, and he was such a good man, it actually seemed kind of appealing. Skip the years between and jump straight to the loving family I knew I wanted in the future.
Super simple and romantic in theory. Wild, complicated, and a little messier in practice.
After a lot of trial and error (I definitely made some mistakes along the way), I feel like I’ve got a firm footing in this whole stepmomming thing, and I’m here to share 3 myths that young, naïve Kristen believed before she got through the thick of it.
3 Myths of Stepmomming Shattered
Stepmomming Myth #1: You have to be best friends with the ex.
Boy oh boy, was I wrong about this one!
You tend to see the pictures that circulate social media—you know the ones, where the whole family is on the sidelines of the soccer field, and they have the coordinating shirts that say Mom, Dad, Bonus Mom, Bonus Dad, etc. and one happy kiddo in the middle—and it makes you feel like a failure if that’s not your reality.
I’m here to tell you today that, for many, that’s not reality. And that’s okay! You can be a perfectly good co-parent, stepparent, and wife if you aren’t best friends with the ex.
Fact: Your relationship with your stepchild’s other parent(s) is not an indicator of your success as a stepparent. Read that again.
There are so many ways to be a happy and successful stepmom, with a special nod at setting boundaries. If you have set the boundary that you do not want a relationship with your stepchild’s other parent, that’s okay! It will not damage your stepchild or your partner’s relationship with your stepchild, or anything worse you could imagine. You can have a perfectly healthy blended family unit without being friends with the ex.
Further, if the ex has set that boundary, that’s okay, too. She did not choose to co-parent with you. She chose to co-parent with your partner. You can be the most incredible stepparent despite having zero contact with the child’s other parent.
Several of the greatest, most caring, and involved stepparents I know have no relationship with the other co-parent. Myth busted!
Stepmomming Myth #2: The kids will automatically love you.
It makes sense, right? Their parent loves you. You’re great with kids. Easy-peasy!
But sometimes it’s simply not that easy. Whether it’s loyalty binds, clashing personalities, different parenting styles between you and your partner, or any other number of reasons, the kids may not love you, or you may find you don’t love your stepchild.
Fact: Stepparenting is an unnatural phenomenon, and you can’t expect easy, natural feelings right out of the gate.
We are stepping into an intimate family that was created before us, and we have this expectation that it will feel easy and natural. But how can it be that easy and natural when it’s truly unnatural at its core?
That’s not to say that successful stepparenting (and loving your stepchildren and having them love you in return!) is impossible. This blog wouldn’t exist if it was.
But I do bring it up to drive home my point that being a happy and successful stepparent isn’t reliant on an instant love connection with your stepchildren.
If you’ve felt like a failure or maybe like you aren’t cut out for this role because you bought into that unrealistic expectation like so many of us have, I encourage you to hang in there because it’s entirely possible to be an incredible (and fulfilled!) stepmom and stepfamily without an instant love connection with your stepchildren.
In fact, one of the greatest stepmoms with the biggest hearts and happiest stepfamilies I know, wrote a blog post, So, You Don’t Love Your Stepkids. Now What?!, to share her experience battling the societal expectation that you should have that instant love connection. Myth busted!
Stepmomming Myth #3: It’s the same thing as being a mom.
Did anyone else come into this role thinking it would be simple because you love kids and they love you? You knew you could rock running a household and providing for those kiddos while being an insanely great wife.
Being a stepmom does have some overlap with the mom role. You’re a warm cuddle on a sick day, a cheerleader on the sidelines, a tutor for challenging homework, and a confidante, but there are also very profound differences.
Fact: The mom and stepmom roles, despite sharing some of the same tasks, are entirely separate.
When I first came into my stepdaughter’s life, I truly believed my role in her life was the same as her mom’s. I was meant to protect, love, and provide for her, just like her mom does.
But I was naïve and didn’t understand that our roles are actually entirely separate but complementary. In fact, believing the myth that being a stepmom is the same as being the mom led me down a path of constant comparison and competition.
Was I living up to her standard? Was I doing as well as she was? I questioned everything down to the tastiness of the dinners I cooked, how cute I dressed my stepdaughter, and if she liked her room decor at our home as much as she liked the decor at her mom’s home.
It wasn’t until I began to really understand the separate roles (thanks to this metaphor!) and how they individually influence my stepdaughter that I gained confidence and clarity in who I am as a partner to a divorced dad and who I am as a stepmom.
Once I stopped trying to be another mom and learned how to be a stepmom, the effects were far reaching. I was more fulfilled than ever with my role in my stepdaughter’s life, my stepdaughter’s needs were better met, and my husband had a partner focused on being his wife instead of being a substitute for his ex-wife.
After I discovered that being a stepmom is not the same as being a mom, everything fell into place in my stepfamily. Myth busted!
Seeing Through the Stigmas
I hope this article has helped you discover these truths with much more ease and far less time and mistakes than it took me.
All we know about this role before we’re in it is what we’ve heard or seen in society. We are confident we won’t act like Cinderella’s stepmother, but there’s no real how-to guide for how to get it right… or what “right” even looks like.
So, we work diligently to get our blended families to look and function like nuclear families, since that’s all we know, but no matter how hard we try, square pegs are never going to fit inside round holes.
That’s why this entire blog exists. To help guide you through the questions, trials, and the days you want to throw in the towel. At Stepmomming, we want you to LOVE being a stepmom and have a place to turn when you’re not sure how to.
If you think you could benefit from individualized support, sign up for a stepmom support coaching complimentary intro call to find out if coaching would be a good fit for you!
P.S. Perhaps you’ve found yourself wondering why stepparenting is so challenging… I’ve broken it all down for you!