Stepparenting is full of challenges. So is parenting.
Becoming a mom is full of challenges that you can’t even realize until you become one, no matter how long you have been a stepmom.
I was a stepmom for a couple of years before I had my first child, a little boy who is now 12 years old, but I remember it all like it was yesterday. My stepson was 13 years old and my stepdaughter was 12 years old at the time, and we were in for a very big change.
Preparing for Baby
As always, as a stepmom you can only control what you say and what you do. Consistency is always the key.
Here are some helpful, practical tips for how to include your stepchildren when you are preparing for an ours baby:
1. Explain to your stepchildren that this baby will either be their brother or their sister forever, and you will support them being as involved as they would like to be.
2. Reassure your stepchildren that while some things will change, what won’t change is the fact that you are all family and they will always be loved.
3. Ask them for their baby name suggestions. Naturally, you will get final say and you don’t need to feel pressured to seriously consider their suggestions, but sometimes their choices might be good, or even appropriate for a middle name.
4. If it is possible, take them along on a shopping excursion when you choose the crib, stroller, rocking chair, carseat or even some basic baby toys.
5. With younger stepchildren, you can make up a little diaper bag for them to “help change” the baby or to simply use on their dolls as you are doing the real thing!
6. When your stepchildren are at Dad’s house make sure that your whole life does not revolve solely around the new baby. You must maintain your interest in them and ask what they are up to at school and all of their other activities and interests.
Not as Easy as it Sounds
It all sounds straightforward now, doesn’t it?
But what you don’t realize is once you have given birth, your hormones may be all over the place, exhaustion will kick in and the enormity that you have created a little human being may overwhelm you for quite a while.
If you have had a caesarean, life will be a bit tricky for the next six weeks. Things you might have easily done before will suddenly be a real challenge. Doing no vacuuming, lifting, driving or exercising can make you feel lost and helpless. A caesarean is a big procedure and definitely not something to be trivialized.
Add disturbed sleep patterns, issues with milk and breastfeeding and just the general feeling that your whole world has now changed forever, and it can all make you feel overwhelmed.
Your stepchildren may be as lovely as anything, you may love them more than anything, but your whole being has now changed.
Your pre-birth thoughts that your stepchildren can help pick up baby or push the stroller may now not actually be what you want. And that’s okay.
Please realize that these mixed emotions are completely normal. You are now a mother.
When the Stepmom Becomes a Mom
Your stepchildren’s mother would have gone through the same feelings as you, like a protective lioness over her newborn cub. But there is one key difference. Chances are your stepchildren’s mom was not a stepmom herself at the time.
And that is a huge difference.
Why? Because suddenly as a stepmom, you might begin feeling very tearful and overwhelmed at what and how you are thinking instead of realizing that all this will pass.
My stepchildren came over for their alternate week visitation on the day I came home from the hospital with our son, and my stepdaughter had a full blown cold. Anyone who has been in my situation would be as shocked as I was, yet as a stepparent, I felt powerless.
I remember feeling very guilty and quite weird that I really didn’t want anyone around except my husband, their dad.
That is normal! And if this is how you are feeling in the moment, take a deep breath and relax. At any moment it can hit you when you suddenly realize the mammoth job of raising a child is ahead of you.
Juggling a newborn is difficult enough; juggling a newborn with stepchildren is even more difficult, regardless of how well you all get on.
My Best Advice
My biggest tip for you is speak up and tell your partner that you need them.
Maybe your partner can organize something like a swapping of visitation at that particular time.
It doesn’t mean that your stepchildren can’t come over and meet their new sibling, but the whole routine of a usual weekend visit or an alternate full week visit may need to be postponed or swapped for the time being.
In years to come, no one will likely even remember that a visit was changed around, but right at this time, it might just give you a chance to get on top of your new situation.
Importantly, you also need to be on alert for signs of postpartum depression, and so do your partner and close family. You may not even realize you are in the initial stages, so if you are not feeling right, you must tell someone.
You cannot be all things to all people. You are now a mom and a stepmom, but you can only do a good job in both roles if you are respected and given some breathing room. If you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
P.S. Remember, it’s okay to take up space.