We have a good relationship with my stepson’s girlfriend; she is a priority to him, which makes her a priority to us. Truth be told, though, I struggle with female friendships – and being a stepmomma bear probably doesn’t help. A few days ago, she was in the kitchen when I came home with groceries, and I handed over a few special requests she had put in: Dr Pepper and mac ‘n’ cheese. Without skipping a beat, she said, “Thanks, mom!” – catching me completely off guard. You see, both of my stepkids have always called me Brandi. My husband and I don’t plan on having any kids of our own at this point, so besides being the mama to our gaggle of critters, I had no anticipation of anyone ever calling me “mom.” I was delighted, and humbled at the same time: to this young woman, I was simply a mom, no step or bonus needed.
Like most aspects of stepfamily life, developing a relationship with the significant others of our stepkids has the potential to get complicated. I don’t know about you, but the dating years are as much of a test run for the parents as the kids! If you’re already muddling your way through this season, I’m muddling with you…and furiously scribbling notes along the way.
- Give them space to develop a relationship with the other home. It’s not a competition, and certainly not a bash session: keep your dirty laundry in the hamper! Your difficulties with your husband’s ex don’t have to be theirs…extend the same respect to your stepkid’s significant other as you do to your stepkid. Our prayer should be that they are able to develop a good relationship with both sets of parents.
- Ask for your own space. What happens in your home should stay in your home. It’s not unreasonable to expect that just like your stepkid, the significant other shouldn’t be sharing your personal business or “spying” for the other parent. Communicate that what happens at the other home should stay there, too…don’t be afraid to say that you don’t need a readout of every family dinner or holiday. Your stepkid’s mom would thank you.
- Don’t take it personally if they don’t like you. The ugly truth is that stepmoms have a bad reputation from the time that kids start watching Disney movies. The significant other’s previous experience with a stepparent (or complete lack of experience!) may not work in your favor. Here’s my advice: you do you. Be gracious and as one my stepmom friends always says, kill ’em with kindness! Your stepkid will appreciate the effort.
- You should be good at sharing by now. The older your stepkids get, the more their time will be fractured between family, friends, school, work – and dating. With the right perspective, I think parents in blended families have it easier the it comes to sharing the kids with other people that care about them! Instead of seeing it as “losing” parenting time, find ways to include the significant other in family time. My husband and I really enjoyed having both of our kids’ significant others join us for Mother’s and Father’s Day dinners this year.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6
When the relationship with your stepkids has gotten off to a rocky start, it’s natural to get nervous about adding someone new to your personal blender. Focus on how you can make the significant other feel welcome and find his or her place in your blended family. As stepmoms, we know how easy it is to feel left out or like a third wheel! Embrace the opportunity to be a positive influence in this young man or woman’s life. It’s never too late to start praying for your stepson or stepdaughter’s future spouse – or the boyfriends and girlfriends along the way.