Nothing can prepare you for life as a new stepmom — except maybe women who’ve weathered the initial storms themselves.
Below, stepmothers who blog for HuffPost share their best advice on getting through the early challenges of life in a blended family.
1. Always put your marriage first.
“People often look at me funny when I say that my relationship with my husband is my number one priority! They ask, ‘Umm, don’t you guys have four kids to worry about?’ Yes, yes we do! But my husband is the reason I am a stepmom in the first place. When our relationship is solid, we are better equipped to handle our stepfamily stressors. Not to mention, we are way more attentive, patient and united as parents.” — Jamie Scrimgeour, founder of The Kick-Ass Stepmom Project
2. You’ll sometimes feel like you’re competing with your partner’s ex.
“Don’t compare households, don’t compete with the other household and don’t criticize the other household. Take the high road, always.” — Kelly Chaplin, travel writer at Think Language
3. You may not love your stepkids initially.
“While you may feel pressured to be warm, all-accepting and loving with your stepchildren from the very beginning, it’s OK to start out with a little distance. Give yourself permission to gradually discover their authentic, vulnerable selves and fall in love. And by all means, don’t try to change or ‘save’ them. If you love their dad, chances are, his kids will be awesome, too, but let love develop on its own timetable.” — Jennifer Newcomb Marine, co-author of Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict
4. Wasting your time and energy disliking his ex is pointless.
“His ex-wife is his ex-wife for a reason. Don’t allow her to rent space in your head for free.” — Peggy Nolan, author of Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Choosing Happiness
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
“There will be tough times. There will be setbacks. Mothers tend to be so hard on themselves and sometimes I think that’s even more true of stepmothers. Apologize if you need to, set ground rules if it helps, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself in a tough spot as a stepparent. Remember, this isn’t easy.” — Christine Nestrick, blogger at Tired, Happy Mama
6. At best, your stepkids are going to be ambivalent about you and your marriage.
“Even though you’re excited about being newly married, your new beginning often feels like a loss to the kids. So just be aware that they may not be as excited as you are and don’t take it personally; it’s not that they don’t like you, they’re just trying to deal with their own pain and change in family dynamics.” —Jenna Kort, certified stepfamily coach and co-author of Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict
7. Child support is going to cut into your monthly expenses.
“Depending on the divorce settlement, new stepmoms need to understand the financial health of their new husband. Child support is his responsibility. And it’s going to be an expense.” — Peggy Nolan
8. Ignore the gossip.
“Being a stepmom can make you a target for gossip. If you feel yourself being dragged down or worried about the talk, remind yourself that the only thing that matters is your relationship with your family. What people were saying had no effect on me and my family.” — Kelly Chaplin
9. No one can fix your partner’s co-parenting relationship but your partner and his ex.
“Women are natural caregivers. We are fixers. So naturally, stepmoms approach conflict with their husband and his ex-wife with rose-colored glasses, thinking they may be able to fix the co-parenting problems. It’s important to realize that you’re probably not going to solve their problems, because despite appearing simple, they are deep-rooted and complex. Trying to fix what you didn’t break often results in hurt feelings, disappointment, resentment and burnout.” — Jamie Scrimgeour
10. You’re going to need some fellow stepmoms in your corner.
“Join or start your own support group and don’t let it turn into merely a ‘mom bashing’ session. No positive outcome comes from that.” — Laura Petherbridge, author of 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom
11. Stepparenting is hard as hell. Remind yourself of that daily.
“Becoming a stepmom is the hardest role any woman will undertake. Your first priority is yourself (self-care is super important) and your marriage. When you and your new husband put yourselves first, everyone benefits and your marriage thrives.” — Peggy Nolan
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