To the Veteran Stepmom

I wrote a post to the new stepmoms, with suggestions for getting their stepmom journey started off on the right foot.  If you’ve survived the first few years, or are transitioning to the next “season” of stepfamily life, today’s post is for you.

  1. It doesn’t get easier, it just gets different.  If I had a dollar for every stepmom who’s asked, “Does it get easier?”  I hate to let you down so early in this post, but…easier would not be the word I would choose.  Each season as a stepmom brings its own set of challenges, and joys.  That being said, I believe the hard seasons stretch us and teach us, preparing us to handle the next one with more wisdom, and (hopefully) more grace!
  2. Don’t count down to their 18th birthday(s).  Ever heard that it’s about the journey, not the destination?  This is one of those times.  Stop thinking about the end of child support and dealing with your husband’s ex.  That may sound harsh, but friend, you have so much to offer!  God has given you the authority and the platform to make an impact in your stepkids’ lives.  Instead of counting down the days, make each day count.
  3. Teenage stepkids are still teenagers.  I was complaining to a mom friend of mine about the obnoxious groan my stepson makes when you ask him to do, well, anything these days.  She laughed at me and said, “Yeah…that’s pretty normal for a 17-year-old boy.”  Getting your stepkid to clean his/her room, take less than an hour in the shower, or mow the yard may feel like an epic stepmom battle, but in reality, it’s parenting a teenager.
  4. Be prepared for weirdness. As your stepkids get older, there will be the inevitable life events (proms, graduations & weddings, to name a few) that will require you to be closer than the same zip code with their mom.  I don’t care if the relationship is high-conflict or you co-parent amicably: it’s going to be weird.  Case in point: my husband and I communicate really well with my stepson’s mom these days, and she was recently in town for a major doctor’s appointment.  The four of us were getting along marvelously, but then the Nurse Practitioner had to go and make it awkward by asking my stepson to explain who everyone was.  (Sigh.)  The best way to handle the weirdness?  Embrace it!  I make a point to be more upbeat and positive than usual, and use laughter to put strangers (and my stepkids!) at ease.
  5. The CO becomes more of a suggestion. I’m all about following the visitation schedule to the T, but as stepkids get older, extracurriculars, friends and even jobs can interfere with weekends at their dad’s.  It’s a tough pill to swallow if your time with them is already limited, but I encourage you to invest your energy in the times you do get to see them – rather than fighting or dwelling over the time you don’t.
  6. Refocus on your marriage. I figure it’s a pretty good bet you didn’t get much of a honeymoon period.  Now that you’ve survived the initial roller coaster, cast vision for the next year, or five.  My husband and I realized just this year that we’ve become a little too independent – so we’re being intentional about spending time “getting to know each other” again.  Whether it’s date days, weekend retreats, or simply cooking together in the evenings, invest in your marriage.
  7. Be the change you want to see in your stepfamily. Referring back to #1, your stepfamily journey may not change – but you do.  I am a very different woman than the one who married my husband and stepkids nine years ago.  I have learned that my actions speak louder than my words (and I’m a pretty mouthy chick).  Instead of expecting my family to change, I’ve turned the mirror on myself…and asked God to change my heart.  And you know what?  He has…and taught me that kindness, patience, and grace start with me.

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