Establishing Your Stepmom Role
“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.