When I knew I was becoming a stepmom, I thought I had it all figured out.
It didn’t take me long to realize that even though I was a child of divorced parents, and both of them had remarried, I had no idea what I was doing. Few things about my upbringing truly prepared me for the role I was taking on.
When I first met my husband and he told me he had a daughter, I was actually excited. I knew I had met a great guy, and I was ready for marriage and family of my own.
Before I knew it, I had started helping my then-boyfriend do the typical parenting tasks for his daughter: bath time, dressing her, and getting her to bed, even though we weren’t living in the same house yet. Once we were married, I didn’t miss a beat.
It wasn’t long after we were married that I started feeling unsettled. I looked at my life and somehow felt more insecure in my role as a stepmom than I had before.
I found myself needing an outlet when I knew my struggles were affecting my marriage. One night when discussing something my stepdaughter’s mom did, I spewed off my feelings and my husband said to me, “What do you want me to do about it? I don’t know how to make you happy and keep the peace with her.”
I was not being the supportive partner my husband needed and instead was making the situation more difficult. I realized I was doing this all wrong but had no idea where to start.
I started to feel like a horrible person. I felt like a failure.
After coming up short searching for stepmom support groups near me, I finally realized I should broaden my search. I don’t know why the thought had never occurred to me before! We live in a virtual world these days. Surely there was a group somewhere on the internet.
How my Stepmom Support Group improved my Stepmom Life
I had finally found my stepmom support group… And what a relief!
I could finally tell my side of the story, share all the things that my stepdaughter’s mom was doing (or not doing) with women who understood my perspective. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I felt validated for all the feelings I was experiencing.
I thought I needed validation from my partner, but that validation only made me feel temporarily better. I needed a change and that change came when I was able to vent my frustrations and find comfort in the common struggles.
Learning to Change my Mindset
It wasn’t long before I realized by reading articles (like this one!) and reading advice shared by others online wasn’t enough, that real change would come with a change to my mindset.
My stepdaughter’s mom is a different person. She is a different mother than I am. She is who she is because of her own life experiences, which are different than mine.
We may never see eye to eye or be able to co-parent effectively with her and that’s okay. It’s a waste of my time to harbor negative feelings toward her because I cannot do a thing to change her.
You know the serenity prayer? “God, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I had to apply that to my stepmom life.
The list of things we can’t control far exceeds the list of things we can. If you’re like me—a major control freak—that was a difficult thing for me to face.
Getting personalized advice specific to my little blended family helped me change the things that were in my control. And talking with other women who were in my shoes in some form or fashion, helped me accept all the things I couldn’t change.
Learning to Let Go of “How It’s Supposed to Be”
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the way I was growing up wasn’t how it’s “supposed” to be.
As a child of divorced parents, I vowed at a young age I would never get a divorce myself, and I would never put my children through a life of custody exchanges. So when I met my husband, I had to grieve the idea of what my life was going to look like and what my family was going to look like.
I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I love my family, and I’m proud to call them mine… but I was honestly shocked to learn how many women were out there feeling the same way I was.
I learned in my stepmom support group that grief is okay. You truly have no idea what you are signing up for and the simplicity of a “traditional” family goes out the door. That can be a hard reality to swallow, and it is okay to grieve the loss.
I learned that I am not alone. When you are in the midst of the daily grind of life, it can be very lonely being a stepmom. You feel like you must be the ONLY woman out there dealing with the same struggles and insecurities.
Reading post after post, day after day, I finally felt the camaraderie I was missing. It was so comforting being able to say, “Hey! I feel the EXACT SAME WAY!”
My Stepmom Support Group: Finding my Stepmom Tribe
I have family members who are stepmothers, including my mother. But when I needed support and help, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. The last thing I felt comfortable doing was sharing my feelings because I felt like I was the only one who had them.
I felt like the worst woman in the world. I just knew if I told anyone in my personal life they would think the same way, “Brittany… what is wrong with you?!” As the eternal people pleaser I am, I just couldn’t face the potential judgment.
I found my stepmom tribe in my virtual stepmom support group. My tribe consists of women from all over the world! We all face similarities and differences, but we can bond over the fact that stepmom life is challenging to navigate.
What I learned (too late) since becoming a stepmom is that you can’t navigate stepmom life alone.
You need people who will listen attentively, without judgment, to your experiences and feelings. You need people who will give you clear insight to help you navigate your feelings. You also need people who will tell you the truth in a loving and constructive way when you need to hear it.
P.S. Let’s be clear… you really had no idea what you were signing up for…