It’s that time of year: a flurry of weddings, graduations, awards ceremonies and music performances. Special events and big milestones can be extra stressful for kids with two homes, and as stepmoms, we have the opportunity to take a step back and do our part to recognize triggers and be a buffer for conflict. Here’s a little fresh perspective as you prepare to celebrate alongside ex-spouses and extended family.
You are not the problem… You are simply a moving target. Emotions are high at milestone moments, and in blended families, the effort of “sharing” or “splitting” time can feel exaggerated. The bond between stepparent and stepchild is also on display (usually reserved for the other home), potentially creating discomfort. You may even feel unexpected resentment from your own husband, who wishes things were less complicated. It’s easy to blame the stepmom.
…but don’t become the problem. Whether conflict begins early over who’s “allowed” to attend, or snide comments are made the day-of, be the bigger person. I promise you: your stepkids will remember that their biological and step parents got along just as much as they will remember if you don’t. If you’re feeling nervous or stressed, check your intentions at the door. There is no comparison or competition: you do you. Be (and behave like!) the woman God created you to be.
Make room. Your stepkid cannot be loved by too many people! Even if both parents can attend and remain civil, don’t discount the importance of both homes getting one-on-one time. Give your stepson or stepdaughter the space to connect with the rest of their family; encourage a meal before or after the event, or even an extra overnight stay to celebrate.
Get comfortable. I have a stepmom friend who always looks fabulous for family events – she said that looking good makes her feel confident. Another stepmom gets quiet with God beforehand and pours her heart out “to the only One who truly knows how she’s feeling.” Still another always invites a close girlfriend to attend under the guise of taking pictures of the family, relieving her husband of having to be the moral support and allowing him to focus on her stepdaughter. No matter how you cope with the stress, I encourage you to be cognizant of how you’re feeling. Be intentional and be present on your stepkid’s special day. It is not your stepkid’s or your spouse’s responsibility to make you comfortable in your own skin, it’s yours.
Focus on what’s important: your stepkid. It’s his or her day – it’s not about you, or your relationship with the other parent. Be kind and gracious, and don’t engage in behavior that could distract from what you’re there to celebrate. As stepmoms, we can be easily offended that we don’t get a “starring role” on special occasions – but we forget that our stepkids know exactly who has been in the front row cheering the whole time.