By: Jennifer Zelman, Nacho Mom
I have been a full-time stepmom for almost 4 years now to two kids ages 15 and 17. Overall, I consider myself very lucky because they are good kids that actually like and appreciate me (well, most of the time). However, we all know that nobody has a perfect situation and I am not ashamed to admit that I am no exception. Yes, my teenage stepkids and I are at a good place right now, but we have definitely had our share of struggles. In general, having stepkids is hard, but having teenage stepkids is even more complicated!
For me, stepping (pun intended!) into a family with older kids has had its pros and cons. I’ll first talk about the cons so we can conclude with the pros because who doesn’t like a happy ending? Like I mentioned, I am truly grateful for my situation and I often remind myself that it can be so much worse! But with that said, my journey through stepmotherhood has had some major lows. I think it was hardest in the beginning when I first became a stepmom because everything was so new and unfamiliar, but thankfully I’ve found that it has gotten easier as time has gone by.
Before I became a stepmom, my husband had full custody of his two kids. They were essentially the three musketeers. All decisions from what to have for dinner to where to visit for vacation was a three-way decision that they always made together. Then I came along. I came from the mindset that parents made the decisions and children went along with it. In my new family, not so much. I felt constantly outnumbered and overruled. This led me to feel trapped and stifled and resultingly super anxious and uneasy – all the time! I even started to go to therapy which actually helped tremendously. I have learned to voice my opinions within the family and realize that even though my stepkids are older and sometimes intimidating, I am a parent and need to start acting like one, even if I am met with resistance.
Sometimes I would fantasize about being a stepmom to very young kids so I didn’t have to deal with teenage drama. But in reality, there are also lots of positives to having older stepkids! Firstly, both of my teenage stepkids are so incredibly helpful with my two year old daughter I have with my husband. Not only is it so sweet to see them caring for her, but they are also built in babysitters! My stepdaughter and I are also at the point now where we can share clothes! And somehow I remember enough math and science from high school that I can help my stepson with homework which is actually quite fun (yes, I am a secret nerd). Did I mention my teenage stepkids are also hilarious and help keep me cool? I would have no clue how to work social media if it weren’t for them.
My list of pros may sound superficial, but these are the silly little details that really matter in our day to day interactions. My relationship with my teenage stepkids is definitely a work in progress and I continue to struggle as I find my voice within our unique family structure. Of course there are also the joyful hormones that come with teenagerhood that don’t make it any easier for us stepparents. Mood swings, body changes and acne are no walk in the park but I so clearly remember what it was like being a teenager dealing with these issues and I truly feel for them and try not to take things too personally. Whatever your personal struggle with your older stepkids may be, just know that there are lots of fellow stepmoms dealing with the same thing and that you are not alone! Sometimes just knowing that helps me get through it. Therapy doesn’t hurt either!
Jennifer Zelman Bio:
Jennifer Zelman is a stepmom/mom to three children and a stepchild herself. She is the creator of www.NachoMom.club, a video blog that discusses the challenges and joys of stepmotherhood in an informative and upbeat way. She is passionate about creating a supportive community of stepmoms to make our journey more manageable, and fun!