Thinking back, I don’t remember the exact verbiage, but I’ll never forget the way that text made me feel.
I experienced a mixture of shame, shock, and anger. I was personally offended but also rocked to my core because I had been put in my place… a place I’d never been before, and a place I wasn’t comfortable living.
The message stated something to the effect of, “I don’t need to explain myself to you, Kristen. I’m her mother, and I’ll pick her up tomorrow evening.”
And it was coming from my best friend… who was also my stepdaughter’s mom.
That Dreaded Summer Evening
You see, because we were such close friends, we had begun handling most of the communication about hand-offs. If we were already texting anyway about other things, it made sense I’d just add to my existing conversation whatever it was that needed to be communicated as co-parents.
The arrangement worked splendidly… until it didn’t. Until I stepped up and voiced my disagreement with something.
We were trying out a weird new summer schedule, and the way the timing worked out for the following evening, my stepdaughter would get picked up from our house and driven north 25 minutes to her mom’s house to arrive at bedtime. Then, early the next morning, she had Vacation Bible School 20 minutes south of us, very close to the building my husband and I both worked at.
I sent her mom a message that said we could keep her that evening and take her to VBS in the morning on our way to work, or that she could have a sleepover with her paternal grandmother, who was leading the VBS class, that evening.
It made sense that instead of her driving a half an hour to Mom’s at night and then an hour or more with traffic in the morning to VBS, that she just sleep at our home instead (she would get to mom’s at bedtime, after all).
Her mom politely declined the offer, and when I thought that surely she hadn’t realized the logistics involved and how logical my suggestion was, I probed. I pushed the issue and suggested it didn’t make sense for her to go to mom’s just to spend the evening.
And I still regret it to this day.
The Best Stepmom Advice You’re Not Taking
Looking back, I wish I would have stayed in my lane.
The conversation was not mine to have, and I overstepped. In fact, I far overstepped. I should have kept my opinions to myself, and I never should have pushed my agenda.
To be perfectly frank, this was a very tough pill to swallow for me. I was the organizer and the planner in my family, I kept up with the schedules (custody, work, travel, extracurricular, etc.), and I also felt like I was entitled to my opinion because I was the most inconvenienced of all involved since the stepmom was clearly the martyr here. (That’s another blog post for another day, y’all.)
But the reality is, I was wrong, and the gut-wrenching feeling I experienced after she responded to me should have been enough of a sign.
I tried to tune out the advice I saw others giving in online support groups to take a step back, I had a thousand excuses for why that wasn’t relevant for me or how my situation was different.
One day I stopped chasing the truth, and I knew it was time to admit to myself that I had overstepped and it was time to stop living in denial and course-correct. My husband took over communication, and I fell into a role that made everyone more comfortable, in my own lane.
Why You Need to Stay in Your Lane
If you find yourself ignoring the same advice and finding reasons why it’s not applicable for you or your situation, then here are my four best reasons why you’re wrong. I share this advice with love and empathy as someone who has been there.
It’s critical for your sanity, your marriage, and your co-parenting relationship that you stay in your lane, stepmom.
Because you’re just the stepmom.
Yep, the “just” word makes me cringe too, but like it or not, you are. You can help your husband define your family’s value system and priorities, but at the end of the day, he and his ex are the decision makers for their child.
Because she didn’t choose to co-parent with you.
Your husband chose you, and to an extent, your stepchildren had a say in that choice. But you know who had zero say? The ex. She chose to divorce and subsequently co-parent with her ex, not with you.
Because you don’t have the same lens as the biological parents.
To me, it was a “logical decision” to suggest K stay the night in our home, but to her mom, it looked like I was trying to keep her baby from her. There’s no “logical” reason to keep a child away from her parents, and just having your kiddo under your roof, changes the whole dynamic of the family.
My lens was entirely different from her mother’s.
Because it’s not worth the drama.
The biggest reason by far is that there are so many wonderful, beautiful things about stepmomming. Why invite unnecessary drama? There’s plenty going on to keep you busy and preoccupied; don’t go finding extra responsibilities for yourself.
Learn from my mistakes and stay in your lane. I promise it will improve your stepmom life and give you the freedom you’ve been seeking.
P.S. Unsure how to effectively take a step back if you haven’t stayed in your lane? Here‘s how I did it!