It is that time of year again, all of the stores are moving summer items to clearance, and back to school is in full swing. For the next week or so we will see the cute and seemingly obligatory “first day of school” photo that our friends and family members will post on social media. For blended families the first day of school can be exciting (depending on your situation), uncomfortable, a source of tension, or, like ripping off a bandaid you just want it done and over with! If any of this sounds relatable to your situation, just know that you are not alone! I have felt all of the above at some point during my journey of stepmotherhood.
I always think back to those first few years of being a stepmom, or as I like to describe them, the most intense and emotional time in adjusting to blended family life. The reason the first day of school always got to me was because (1) I felt that me being such a hands on stepmom meant that I deserved to be able to drop off my stepson on the first day of school, and (2) I constantly worried about what the other parents and teachers thought of me. I thought, if they didn’t see me enough, they wouldn’t take me seriously as a parent. I attribute most of these internal feelings to my experience attending a religious school in the 90s, and being made aware that I was the only child with a stepmom and divorced parents!
By the time my stepson was ready to go to kindergarten 2 (in New England some schools have two years of kindergarten), my husband’s ex wife had moved into a new town 35 minutes away. It had been decided, per the parenting agreement, that he was to attend school in the town where she lived. This also began the trend of her having him for the first day of school every year. This bothered me even more because my husband and I do not live in the same school district, naturally causing me to feel even more like an outsider.
How Did I Get Over it?
Over time I realized that my insecurities are just that ... insecurities, and the reality is that it does not matter which parent drops him off for his first day of school. It also does not matter what the school thinks of our blended family, nor the parents. It only matters how my stepson feels, because this is about him starting a new year of school, not about me or anyone else. It has been several years and I have since become friends with a few of the other parents and they have been extremely warm and welcoming towards me. For the past two years, I contacted the teacher and explained that my stepson lives in two houses with two sets of parents who love him. I plan to do the same each year!
Also, for me to drive 35 minutes to school just so I can take him for the first day is not going to be as much fun for him as it is to walk to school with his friends, some of which he has not seen all summer. I also thought to myself, one day if my husband and I are fortunate enough to have more children, those first day of school memories will be made with them. Until then, I will spend the first day of the school year on myself by going to the beach or the pool, enjoying the end of summer, which is more than okay with me!
"As children, we are limited in our ability to comprehend what it means for our parents to separate..."
I speak so frequently about being a stepmom that I rarely go into detail about my personal experiences as a stepdaughter. The truth is that I have learned more about being a stepmom from my childhood than my more recent years of having my own blended family. As I sit here and write this, I reflect on my feelings from back then and how they affect me to this day. The first feeling that comes to mind is just how lonely it all felt. As children, we are limited in our ability to comprehend what it means for our parents to separate. We do better with consistency and stability in our lives. We are also more focused on the day to day, and as a result are more affected by sudden changes, causing increased anxiety, stress, and sometimes depression. For me it was the feeling of loneliness that affected me most as a child.
The Lonely Factor
The loneliness began setting in when I found myself in the center my parents separation. At age seven my parents, having had a tumultuous relationship, had a bitter and ugly divorce. My mother had begun drinking heavily, and my father began seeing another woman who would become my first stepmom. My mother was what we call the “high conflict birth mom.” She would speak negatively about my father to my brother and I, and how his new wife was not someone we were allowed to love. Truly our mother was hurting, and my father was doing the best he could, but what they did not realize is how impactful their actions were on us emotionally. Despite my mother resenting our stepmom, I still loved her because she was kind, consistent, and provided us with a stable family environment. Unfortunately she was not happy, and her and my father split soon after they were married.
It was not until 7 years later that my father remarried again, and we would welcome another stepmom into our life. At this point I was 15 years old, my mother was barely in my life at all, and my father had full custody of us. I had no contact with my mom or my former stepmom, the last thing I wanted was another mother figure in my life. I remember when my father had told me he was going to remarry, my reply was “you promised you would never get married again.” At age 15, hormones are raging, changes are occuring in your personal life, from your body, friends, boys, and school expectation, all of which cause stress. Nonetheless, my second stepmom moved into our house with her three children. I went from a quiet family setting, to living with four additional people that were strangers to me. My new stepmom was trying to deal with balancing her life between her children and stepchildren. I viewed her as very cold towards me, she blamed me for everything in the house, if lights were left on, if things were left out around the house, if food was eaten in the fridge that she bought, she came to me or scolded me for it. What I received from her was frustration, resentment, and coldness. My father was trying to hold it all together emotionally, but I felt completely alone, as if no one was on my side. By the time I went into my senior year and it was time to apply to colleges, I had my heart set on art school. I went to look at a few of them and thought that this would be my chance to escape and find myself.
Unfortunately, I was not supported by my father and stepmom. My stepmom’s response to attending art school was, “your artwork is not good enough to get you into art school,” my father sided with her on this issue. Despite my feelings of dislike for my stepmom, I was deeply affected by this statement. I dismissed my art teachers who told me my work was good enough, I quit my art portfolio project, and I fell into a deep depression and as a result, never finished applying to art school. One might wonder how this parent I seemingly disliked so much could have such an impact on me mentally. The answer is simple. Children look for validation from their parents and stepparents regardless of their feelings towards them and sometimes one negative comment can have the greatest impact.
How to Approach Your Relationship with Your Stepchild
If you find yourself struggling to have a relationship with your stepchild because they are rejecting you, do not give up and do your best to try not to distance yourself. My advice is to take things slow. Remember that while this is all very challenging for you, you are the adult and have a better understanding of the situation. Your stepchild may act like an adult, but he or she is most likely hurting inside and bottling it up. The last thing they want is a stepparent acting like a disciplinarian. I advise you leave the disciplining to your spouse, and be the fun more nurturing one. If you feel that discipline is not being given enough at the other bio-parent’s house and you have to over compensate, don’t. Let it go. It won’t work and it will only hurt your relationship with your stepchild. Instead, take an interest in something that they are passionate about and find a way to have some fun with them. This is not something that will be easy and it may take time. They may reject you at first but if you are kind and take an interest in them, they will eventually come around. This will not only benefit your stepchild but will also help your relationship with your spouse.
If you have questions, want to post to the discussion on Instagram, or need to talk about your current situation, as always PM me on Instagram or e-mail me: email@example.com
“Who am I in all of this?” “Am I a mom, the dad’s girlfriend, the dad’s wife, a friend or a woman accused of trying to replace the biological mom?”
One of the hardest aspects of becoming a stepmom is figuring out where you fit into the role. You may find yourself wondering, “Who am I in all of this?” “Am I a mom, the dad’s girlfriend, the dad’s wife, a friend or a woman accused of trying to replace the biological mom?” The answer is that your role is determined by you and your stepchild. You are not here to replace the bio-mom, you are another important parental figure in your stepchild’s life, just as it is important to be the Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle etc., Stepmom or Stepdad is another important parental role. Unfortunately it is not as well defined as those listed above, so you must discover who you are in this role yourself. From my experience as a young stepmom, I fought internally with this issue in my head.
The Beginning Was Hard for Me...
When my husband and I got together, my stepson was 2 and a half years old. When he was with us, he needed diaper changes, undivided attention, to be driven to swim lessons, daycare, etc. All the while my husband’s ex wife was hesitant and unsure of how I would be as a parental figure to her young son (understandably so, remember she barely knew me at that point). I found myself taking on more of a motherly role than I had anticipated. This was hard, because at the same time, I felt that I was living in the shadows of his real mom, receiving no credit for the amount of work I felt I was putting in, putting myself aside for the sake of my stepson, dealing with him missing his mom when he was with us, me missing him when he was with her, and unsure of how to address myself to other people who asked “Are you the mother?”
It Took Time, Effort, Love & Attention...
The answer to these questionable moments came with time. The cliche, “time heals everything” is somewhat true in my case, because I learned so much. Time taught me that “credit” comes much later, it comes after effort, love, and attention is put forth, when my stepson and I developed a close enough bond, where he started to see me as an important parental figure in his life, something that must be earned. Aside from my husband, that is where the credit comes in and is the only credit that should matter. As for putting myself aside, I realized that I could still do all the same things, especially when he went back to his mom. What exactly was I worried about missing out on? I still was able to go out with my friends, have dates with my husband, go away on vacation together, do everything we loved and more!
I stress a lot that being a stepmom is an emotional journey. In the beginning when my stepson would ask for his mom after a long rough week, I felt like I wanted to cry, or that I wasn’t doing a good enough job. Then I would miss him terribly once he left, driving myself crazy as a result. My stepson wanting his mom had nothing to do with me personally. It is normal that he missed his mom! This is the same in traditional relationships when a child will gravitate towards one parent more than the other, or miss one parent while they are away. How I handled this was to call his mom and let her speak with him, tell him when he would see her next, write it on a calendar for him etc., anything that would be soothing and comforting to him. Again, this had nothing to do with me, it was about him. Remember that stepchildren do not always fully understand what it means for their parents to be separated, and to split the time through a parenting schedule.
As time progressed, I came to understand a few important things, first, being a stepmom is incredibly emotional at times, and that is something that must be accepted as a part of the role. It is okay to feel upset, and to have irrational thoughts, or to feel frustrated. It is all normal as long as you are putting in the effort to love and care for your stepchildren, everything else will work itself out. Those irrational thoughts will eventually subside, and you will get to a place in your life where you finally accept that you are doing a great job.
If you have questions, want to post to the discussion on Instagram, or need to talk about your current situation, as always PM me on Instagram or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the hardest aspects of being a stepmom is having to co-parent with your spouse's ex, regardless of whether or not the two of you get along. This means being the bigger person, making sacrifices, and also letting things go. None of which are always easy, but, it does not mean that you can’t do it. Remember that your role as a stepmom is important, and your decisions affect not only you, but your husband, stepchildren, and possibly your own bio-children. Many of you have recently expressed your concerns over parenting schedules being changed or birth moms being unreasonable. Therefore, I am going to dedicate this post to those of you who are struggling with a high conflict birthmom. Grab your glass of wine (or maybe Kombucha), here are some tips that I have found to be the most helpful:
#1- Be on The Same Page as Your Spouse
My husband and his ex-wife work out the parenting schedule each month. Before my husband agrees to it, he sends it to me so I am aware of the schedule, and to make sure it works for both of us. If there is a conflict whether it be the parenting schedule or something else, we discuss it to determine our position before contacting his ex-wife. This ensures not only that you are in the loop, but that you feel comfortable and aware of what is being relayed to the ex.
# 2 Boundaries-
Many of you have expressed a lack of boundaries, maybe she calls too often for a personal chat with your spouse, wants to be involved in the ongoings at your house, or maybe stops by unannounced? From my experience, boundaries are a necessity. First, have a conversation with your spouse and let them know how you feel. If the ex wants to maintain a personal relationship and it makes you uncomfortable, then speak up. The personal relationship ended with the marriage. Being friends is important for your stepchildren no question, but anything more can be disruptive to your relationship. One way to deal with this without causing conflict is for your spouse to ignore the calls or text messages (when not about the children) and just say he is too busy to talk, after a while the ex will likely get the hint.
#3 - Parenting Agreement
If your spouse and birth mom are divorced, it’s likely that they have already agreed on a parenting schedule and other legal responsibilities as part of the divorce. If they were never married than it’s extremely important that your spouse and birth mom have a clear parenting agreement, even if everyone gets along. The parenting agreement will provide a foundation and guideline for the responsibilities of each parent. It will ensure that you and your spouse have custody and/or visitation on a consistent basis. You can hire a lawyer to draft this and help work out the details. If a lawyer is not in your budget there are legal services organizations that may be able to help you. You can check out https://www.lawhelp.org/
#4 - Pick Your Battles -
Getting involved in every dispute is not going to stop the conflict. Being a stepmom means sometimes you have to be the bigger person. While dealing with high conflict BM may be difficult for you, it is likely harder for your stepkids. When BM starts a dispute, discuss it with your spouse first and let him respond rather than contacting her yourself. If she is disrespectful towards you, do not engage with her, and stick with the parenting agreement.
#5 - Social Media-
If your spouse’s ex is high conflict, do not be friends on social media, unfriend or block her! It will change your life for the better. If she is nice but nosy, just pick and choose what you want her to see by changing your status to “friends only with exception [insert name].” Instagram also allows you to block individuals.
#6 - Focus on What is Best for Stepkids -.
Although having a blended family can be a rough journey for a stepmom, it can be even more difficult for a child. To be the best stepmom you can, you should think about what is best for them before making decisions. For example, I had always envisioned my husband and I taking my stepson to his first concert, so when BM told us she was taking him first, I was initially upset. Then after a day or so I thought to myself, why am I upset? His mom is taking him to his first concert, she is his mom, she deserves to take him, and why should I make that about me? It should only be about him! Sometimes, it is best to take a step back, breathe, and think about what is best for your stepchild.
#7 - Focus on Yourself-
If the conflict is getting you down, it is time to take a step back and refocus on yourself! All of what I call my “irrational feelings” began to decrease when I started to focus on something that was about me. After graduating college, I threw myself into wedding planning and joined a new gym. The things that use to bother me, from BM wanting to change the schedule constantly, to other parents judging me, to feeling less appreciated as a stepmom, no longer did. I remember thinking “I am too busy to care” and it really felt good.
If you have questions or need to talk about your current situation, as always PM me on Instagram or e-mail me: email@example.com
Welcome to Millennial Stepmom. If you follow MS on instagram, you already know what this is all about. For those who are unfamiliar; I am a stepmom, and yes a millennial. I created this after years of feeling like I had no one to talk to about the emotional roller coaster that is stepmotherhood. Occasionally I would confide in family and friends, but none of them could really understand what it means to be a stepmom. I found various articles telling me what to do and how to feel. While at times they were helpful, I felt that majority of what I was reading described a life of pure misery, and insinuated that I should walk away. What I really wanted was advice and knowledge on how to work through issues, and maybe make a few friends who are also stepmoms!
After recently finishing school and wedding planning, I started thinking that maybe I could use my personal knowledge and experience as a step parent and step daughter to help others. I wanted to create a forum where I could share how I parent and co-parent with my husband, his ex-wife, and even her husband. I also wanted a place to encourage others to share their experiences and insight into specific parenting issues that we deal with everyday. My goal for Millennial Stepmom is to establish a community where we (stepmoms) can come together and create a support system for one another, while also sharing tips, advice, and maybe building new friendships.
More about me
As a child my parents had a tumultuous relationship which ultimately led to their divorce. My father remarried twice after my mother, once when I was 7 years old and again when I was 16, and thus over the course of my life I had two different stepmothers. From this experience I learned a lot about what it means to be a child of divorce. I also learned the affects of what it means to be a good vs bad step-parent.
Currently, I live in New England, just outside of Boston with my husband, awesome stepson and our two dogs. I recently got married, and graduated a year ago with a Bachelors of Science degree in Behavioral Psychology from Suffolk University.