I often reflect on the irony of my life. I’ve been intentional about not letting stepmomming consume my entire identity, about remaining true to the woman I was before I became a stepmom. And yet, I’m a professional stepmom. I spend countless hours each week talking about my stepmom experiences and advice and coaching others.
But I also still spend girls night out with my sister. I schedule appointments at the nail salon and indulge in a great book. I laugh with friends and kick ass at my job. I’m still me.
The transition from stepmom to stepmomming wasn’t easy or natural. When you become a parent without giving birth, it’s all-consuming. You’re cooking for more than 1, giving baths, reading stories, and helping with homework. It takes a lot of time, attention, and intention in the beginning. But as you learn the ropes and get more comfortable in your skin as a stepmom, you can transition to stepmomming. It’s something else you do in addition to your other interests.
It’s entirely possible not to give up your own interests and personal identity because you became a man with children.
Tips to Avoid Losing Yourself When You Become a Stepmom
Every parent needs self-care; even stepparents. Maybe even especially stepparents. At the beginning of the process of becoming a stepmom, you may have to deal with children who are nursing hurt feelings from a recent divorce. They may blame you for the divorce, or resent your presence. Transference is common; they are mad at their dad, but you get all the anger. Needing some time for self-care is okay. Go to the gym, stay involved in a hobby, or take a girl’s night with your bestie.
Participate Where You Are Needed, but Step Back When You Are Not
As a co-parent, you may suddenly become involved with school pick-ups, sporting events, and even therapy. If your co-parents ask you to help, and you can, then be involved. However, if you are not needed, it is okay not to volunteer to help. By letting mom and dad handle what they can, you can be the stepmom instead of the second mom. While this line is not necessary for some parenting relationships, many times mom appreciates it when she can be confident that you are not trying to step into her shoes.
Do Not Change Your Personality
While you may need to dial back your use of the F-bomb, you should not change your core personality because you became a stepmom. If you are a loud sideline yeller, then be that. If you prefer to remain in the background, then do so. If you begin changing who you are to fit some idealistic picture of the perfect stepmom, you will start to resent your role. Instead, act appropriately for a parent without giving up who you really are.
Meet In The Middle
If your children have outgrown the Duplo stage and your husband’s kids are in preschool, then you may have some adjustments to make as a stepmom; even more so if you have no experience as a mom. Prepare to spend some time doing what the kids like, but find ways to integrate things you are passionate about into their lives, too. Sit down and drink that lukewarm water during the tea party, and then pack kiddo into a jogging stroller and go for a run. The kids will be exposed to a broader worldview, and you will still get to do things you enjoy.
Learn to Live with Mom
This may be difficult. Your new husband may resent his ex-wife due to a nasty divorce. Mom may not be happy that dad is dating again. There are plenty of ways in which you can be made to feel like a third wheel. Hopefully, this will ease in time. In the meantime, you can be friendly and sociable with mom without being a doormat. Being polite, offering to help, and showing that you genuinely care for the children will go a long way to building a stable co-parenting relationship. If a time comes when you need to stand up to her, be respectful and firm. Disagreement is bound to happen. How you handle those differences will set the course for the rest of your lives together. When you show mom that you are who you are and that you love the children no matter what, you will hold on to yourself while building a bridge.
As a stepmom, you have committed to co-parenting your husband’s children for a lifetime. A solidly built relationship with the children will reward both you and them for many years to come. However, it is essential to maintain your identity as an individual. These tips will help you build the new relationships in your life while giving you the opportunity to be who you truly are.
Stepmomming is what you do, it’s not who you are.
PS: Still struggling with your identity as second wife? I totally get. Here is how I learned to embrace my role as second wife.