When I first met my husband, I had no clue what I was getting into, but I knew it was way more complicated than a relationship where kids were not involved.
Growing up, I was always resourceful and a go-getter. I was confident that with enough work and energy, I’d learn the ropes and be on my way to being the “perfect stepmom” in no time.
I’m sure you can imagine how that turned out for me.
I was determined to figure it all out on my own, not realizing that stepmomming isn’t an intuitive role. My gut reactions coupled with my knowledge of first families did not get me very far in a stepfamily.
Once I started seeking out resources to help me navigate stepmotherhood, I realized two things:
1. No one gets it like a fellow stepmom
2. There’s a lot of toxic advice out there masquerading as support.
I wish I’d had an advice filter to weed the good advice from the bad, but it didn’t exist in my early days. Luckily for you, today it does! Here are 10 toxic pieces of advice for stepmoms.
1. Put the kids first.
I’ll admit I’ve given this advice before, and I followed it for the longest time, before I knew better.
You are an equal member of your family, and your needs matter too.
2. You knew what you were signing up for.
I had absolutely no idea what I was signing up for. Even if I did, this would still be extremely unhelpful “advice” stepmoms receive all. the. time.
3. Exert your authority from Day 1 so your stepchildren respect you.
This is a really bad idea. Stepchildren will not respect you until they’ve bonded with you. You’ll be much more of an authority in their eyes if you practice “connection before correction.”
It’s so helpful to master this key to stepparent discipline before exerting authority.
4. If you don’t love your stepchildren like your own, you shouldn’t be a stepmom.
Holy cow, let’s talk about unrealistic expectations. Romantic love for a partner does not automatically translate to parental love for their child.
You can be a great stepmom without loving your stepchildren like your own. It’s that simple.
Always show respect, never show neglect, but expecting love is not realistic in all situations.
5. You need to be the mom of your home.
For some, this works best. Not for all. When a stepmom wants to be more hands-off and is told she needs to be the mom of her home, it can be very toxic advice to advocate for not trusting her intuition and filling the role in her home she knows is best.
As stepmoms, society is feeding us toxic advice constantly. Tune it out and stand strong in the confidence of the role you want to play. Those on the outside will always have an opinion, but it’s up to you to tune out that noise.
6. Document everything.
In some cases, it’s necessary to keep thorough documentation, but in most cases, documenting everything will only rob you of your peace and keep you hyper-focused on the ex instead of living your own life independent of your partner’s past.
7. Rules need to be the same for your kids from prior marriage and your partner’s kids.
Would that be great? Absolutely! Is it necessary? Nope!
8. Demand to be an equal with the ex.
When I first started dating my now-husband and becoming a stepmom, I thought I had to fill the same role his ex had filled in the family. Lack of popular examples of successful stepmoms had led me to believe that was the role I played, one equal to her.
Imagine you had taken a picture of my husband’s first family and cut his ex-wife out of the picture when they got divorced. Then, when I came onto the scene, I tried to cut my photo out and fit it in the Amanda-shaped hole that was left behind. And no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t work.
I couldn’t fit in that same shape in the photo, and I couldn’t play the same role she did in this family.
You are simply not an equal parent, and that’s okay. We need to rid the stigma that stepmoms are second-class citizens, because that stigma motivates us to prove ourselves and seek validation.
But that’s totally unnecessary! We aren’t competing with the mom; instead, we need to be focused on mastering the special role we get to play.
Find confidence and solace in that unique place instead.
9. You don’t like it? Suck it up.
Obviously this isn’t helpful. Feelings exist for a reason. Allow yourself to feel the depth of your emotions, but don’t camp out there too long.
Make it a point to recognize triggers, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and manage (instead of being managed by) your emotions.
10. Don’t go to bed angry.
I remember the first time I heard this piece of advice. I liked it so much, I wanted to find it on a sign to hang over our bed.
Today, I recognize that sometimes, the answer is to go to bed angry, wake up refreshed, and have a healthier conversation in the morning. I much prefer it to the alternative of arguing all evening until we’re sleep-deprived and unable to communicate effectively.
You don’t have to go it alone.
The good news is that you don’t have to separate the good advice from the toxic advice alone. You are not experiencing stepmomming in a bubble.
The Stepmomming community is here for you! I’m here for you.
If you think you might need more individualized advice to be sure you’re not letting toxic advice guide you in your stepparenting journey, consider signing up for a complimentary introduction session to find out if stepmom support coaching may be a good fit for you!
P.S. You’re not alone in your struggles. Read about Kalie’s Top 5 Biggest Stepmom Mistakes…