5 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Stepmom
The decision to be part of someone's life on a long-term basis is a monumental one. If the person you love has children from a previous relationship or marriage, then making sure this decision is the right one for you and everyone else involved is imperative.
As a stepmom myself, I've compiled 5 essential questions you'll need to ask yourself before jumping into the often daunting journey of becoming a stepmom:
1. Can I Handle Failure?
This may sound harsh but it's really just about accepting reality.
Every mother out there feels like a failure sometimes. The same goes for being a stepmom.
In the beginning, when you're just starting to get to know your stepchild or stepchildren, you won't have any past experience to gauge their behavior with, so you may feel as if nothing is going your way.
Accepting the reality that there are going to be times when things don't go your way is a part of life and definitely part of step-parenting. It means that you're going to have to work with the fact that there will be occasions when you're just at a loss for a solution.
It's okay. All parents get through it somehow and you will too.
"In the beginning, when you're just starting to get to know your stepchild or stepchildren, you won't have any past experience to gauge their behavior with, so you may feel as if nothing is going your way."
The point of this question is to prepare yourself to let go of the desire for perfection, or anything remotely close. It's not going to happen, even if you're the most amazingly capable person in the world.
Realistically, you shouldn't set yourself up with any kind of expectation of what you think life as a stepmom is going to be. Whether you're potentially going to be a full-time stepmom or a part-time stepmom, be cautious with your expectations. Dynamics change often with children as they grow and you'll need to be uncomfortably flexible at times.
Your feelings about your identity as a stepmom may change from day to day, and your emotions will be caught off guard at inconvenient times. Every situation is different, of course, but the bottom line is to be prepared for just about anything.
2. What Are My Jealousy Triggers?
This is one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself. The journey of a stepmother, generally, is a journey of love.
Whether you become a stepmother to a child who is 3 or to a child who is 10, they're going to be a major part of your life.
Your stepchildren will ask a lot of you, take a lot from you, and you will get to know them pretty well over time.
You'll wash their underwear, feed them, and do all the things parents do for their children. But - you may not get that "parent credit".
You'll need to have some idea of what your "jealousy triggers" are. Being left out? Competition from another woman? Your partner's attention? These are all situations you'll be dealing with as a stepmom.
"A stepmom's greatest sacrifice is letting go of her ego. Caring for a stepchild even when you may get no credit for doing so, is the ultimate test of character. "
You may find yourself getting quite attached to your stepchildren after a time, falling in love with their smiles and personalities.
If your stepchildren don't return your love in a way that satisfies you or that's not up to your expectations (let go of those!) you may be easier prey to feelings of insecurity and jealousy.
A stepmom's greatest sacrifice is letting go of her ego.
Caring for a stepchild even when you may get no credit for doing so, is the ultimate test of character. Checking your ego at the stepmom door can take years of practice and experience but learning not to take everything so personally will become a phenomenal asset down the road.
Granted, there are stepmom/stepchild relationships that never quite take off, but for the most part, stepmoms and stepdads begin to see their stepchildren as an extension of themselves as the years go by.
Depending on how much time you spend with your stepchild or stepchildren, you may feel those pangs of jealousy creeping up on you. There may be times when you feel like your relationship with your stepchild couldn't get any better, and then mom shows up, and you feel like chopped liver.
It may also be hard to see your spouse with the biological mother at special events involving your stepchild or stepchildren, but this is a situation that's going to be about as permanent as they come. Ask yourself how well you deal with having to stand in the background at times because there will be times when that's necessary.
Get in tune with what sets you off the most emotion-wise, accept it, and find a way to live peacefully with those emotions so that you can function.
"If your stepchildren don't return your love in a way that satisfies you, you may be easier prey to feelings of insecurity and jealousy."
3. How Strong Is The Relationship With My Partner?
You and your partner are the reason all of this is happening. You fell in love, you want to be together, and your partner has a child or children.
If you think you need a strong partnership with a partner before you have children together, then get ready for the adventure of raising stepchildren.
Becoming a stepmother is a promise. A promise to love more than just the person you fell in love with. You'll be caring for the person or people whom your partner loves the most in the entire world.
Your stepchild or stepchildren will take time away from you, and time away from you and your partner together. It's pretty easy to fall into the trap of bickering, irritation, and miscommunication.
In other words, be ready for some "relationship trial by fire".
"As the stepmother of your partner's children, you'll have to compromise both with your partner's ideas of how things should work, as well as the biological mother and her side of the family."
Not only do you have to deal with the mother of your stepchildren and the potential tension that brings, but you and your spouse will both need to be on relatively the same page as far as boundaries, discipline, and scheduling.
Every day brings with it more complexities, changes, and emotions that can disrupt whatever routine you potentially set in place.
It's already a struggle many times for parents to agree on how they both want to raise their children. As the stepmother of your partner's children, you'll have to compromise both with your partner's ideas of how things should work, as well as the biological mother and her side of the family.
There's always going to be someone left out of a decision-making process somewhere along the line. Perhaps not intentionally, but it happens.
This is where the old faithful solution of communication comes into play. If there's no productive communication, then there's bound to be more resentment and misunderstandings on the horizon.
Bottom line: You're either in this with your partner, or you're not. Being only half-in when dealing with children is not a great ground to start on. It's best to be sure of your decision - for better or for worse - period.
4. Do I Have A Life Besides Being A Stepmom?
It sounds odd, but this is an essential question to ask.
Every woman, mother, and stepmother need to have something in her life that makes it her own. This must be something that has nothing to do with the children or a relationship.
This could be a hobby, exercise, career, friends, or simply anything that no one else can touch. In other words - an escape that makes you feel satisfied.
If you don't have your own life - your own purpose - outside of your family life, you will soon be eaten alive by all of the day-to-day chores and frustrations of parenting stepchildren.
"While a mother knows her child's expressions, habits, and moods like the back of her hand, a stepmother has to learn these things. It may take many years to do so."
Having something to fall back on those days where you feel completely drained and frustrated, is really the best kind of therapy.
More importantly, keeping your sense of identity will come into use later on in situations where your stepchild or stepchildren gravitate towards their biological parents more than they do to you.
In this way, you'll always have something to lean on to distract you from any feelings of resentment that may come up.
In the realm of a stepmother, whether you're doing some, half, or the majority of the care-taking, resentment will be a frequent visitor. This doesn't mean you're going to be miserable and unhappy, it just means that you'll need to make sure you have other elements in your life that give you solace and relief from tough times.
One of the main differences between a biological mother and a stepmother is familiarity. While a mother knows her child's expressions, habits, and moods like the back of her hand, a stepmother has to learn these things. It may take many years to do so.
Being a stepmom is a very exhausting process in its own right. Having a way to relieve stress for yourself is a must.
The healthier the stepmom, the better the entire family is. Like the old saying about "mama" being happy - "If step-mama ain't happy, no one is happy".
"If you don't have your own life - your own purpose - outside of your family life, you will soon be eaten alive by all of the day-to-day chores and frustrations of parenting stepchildren."
5. Am I Ready For Negative Comments Or Intrusive Questions?
As with anything you do in life, becoming a stepmother is riddled with complexities, decisions, and other people's opinions.
You're going to need to be ready for the comments and questions other people make in your presence whether you like it or not. Some comments will be negative and some will be supportive, depending on a person's experiences or personal agenda.
People are curious creatures, some more tactful than others. People will ask you if you're the "real mom," who has custody, who makes child support payments, or how you and the biological mother get along.
Most people will assume that you and the biological mother don't get along. But contrary to popular belief, many stepmoms and moms get along just fine.
Of course, there's no guarantee that you will have good relations with the biological mother of your stepchildren, but it's not impossible. It takes communication, patience, and empathy to build a functioning relationship with a biological parent - from both sides.
"Some comments will be negative and some will be supportive, depending on a person's experiences or personal agenda."
There are Facebook pages, online magazines, and a mass of quotes all over the internet devoted to stepmoms and moms who don't get along. The idea of raising someone else's children seems to play out well in the arena of internet negativity.
Try not to get sucked into that negativity, because when you have a bad day, you're going to be tempted to reach out to any kind of comfort you can - including unnecessary drama.
Try subscribing to a more productive, positive support systems such as close friends, books, or an encouraging, uplifting internet group.
People will always have something to say about your life. The best you can do is be sure of your decisions, confident in your abilities, and firm with your boundaries. Becoming a stepmom is not just something to try on for size.
Being a stepmom is a lifelong journey that affects many people besides yourself. The role of being a stepmom will change you forever, and it will change the life your stepchild or stepchildren - hopefully for the better.
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© 2016 Michelle Zunter