Along my step-parenting journey, I have learned some intense lessons that have become my tested tools for life.
Some of these tools were already in my repertoire, but since I became a stepmom they have been completely transformed into the life lessons I will carry with me forever.
I have written this from the viewpoint of a stepmom because that’s what I know. I’m aware there are plenty of stepdads out there who also go through this journey, and I hope they can appreciate this read as well.
Here are 6 life lessons I’ve learned from my experience so far:
Diplomacy. The art of interacting with people in both a sensitive, yet effective manner.
This is probably one of the most challenging hurdles for stepmoms.
Many of us have never been in a situation as potentially contentious as step-parenting.
I say “potentially” because although the threat of total chaos is often lurking around the corner for a stepmom, it can be avoided, at times, with some diplomacy.
It could be as simple as using the words “please” or “thank you” in every conversation. It could be addressing a touchy situation in a calm and positive manner that is non-accusing. It takes practice. Lots of it.
It helps to listen – even when you don’t want to – to get a better gauge on the emotions of the person you are dealing with, whether it be a biological parent or your stepchild.
Whether you are more of a full-time stepmom or an every-other-weekend stepmom, learning to be diplomatic is a key tool for your step-parenting journey.
I have learned that many times the less said, the better. The quality of what is said matters more than just talking to be heard. Choosing the right words to use and the right time to say them is important.
Sound exhausting? Yes, it is. Being a stepparent is like having another job besides all your other jobs in life. I’ve learned diplomacy and it’s helped me. Sometimes we have lots of information we want people to hear about how we feel, but it’s not always necessary or useful.
Learning to be diplomatic, though often times cumbersome, will make your blended family life smoother in the long-term.
Humility is the ability to realize that you may not be that important, even when it seems the world is revolving around you in your own mind. Being stepmom takes courage and determination. Sometimes it can seem like there is an emotional drama every day.
That said, it can seem like the whole world is on your shoulders at times, and the temptation to wallow in self-pity over your challenges will often pop up.
Learning humility is a key element to becoming a healthy stepmom. It’s not all about you. Yes, you’re tired, yes things may be unfair but having some perspective as to the bigger picture can boost your morale immensely.
Why is being a stepmom so tiring? Because you are working extraordinarily hard to make your family life work well. It’s okay to laugh at yourself sometimes when you mess up. Even “real” moms mess up all the time, as many of us already know.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. No matter what your relationship with your stepchild, or their biological parents, feeling sorry for yourself won’t help anyone. Learn to laugh at yourself and realize you’re not perfect and never will be.
I have learned there is indeed a path of grace and class in stepmom-hood. Acting with grace in certain situations in order to do what is best for your stepchild is an invaluable tool. To step aside amidst circumstances that you wish you could control is difficult, but if you can do it with love and sincerity, it makes a big difference.
There are going to be many times in your step-parenting life when you have to relinquish decisions and control to the biological parents, and if you are a full-time stepmom who is used to being more involved, this can be a tricky maneuver.
To master the art of being a stepparent who steps in at the opportune time and then steps away when the biological parents must take the lead is a challenge, but knowing when you can solve a problem and when to leave it to others is the real lesson.
Learning grace also includes acknowledging that not everyone is going to do things the way you think they should be done. Stepmoms who have children going back and forth to and from mom’s house know this. Mom probably does things differently than you and vice versa. You can have the grace to accept this and let it go. It’s not going to change.
The point is, when you realize you have to step away or accept something you can’t change, do it with grace and not anger or bitterness. Remember, you’ve done all you can, and there’s no doubt you did it to the best of your ability.
Read part 2 here: 6 Life Lessons I’ve Learned Being a Stepmom – Part 2
Michelle Zunter is a Canadian-turned-American living, loving, & writing in California. You can read Michelle’s lifestyle blogs about love, sex, relationships, marriage, divorce, parenting, step-parenting & much more at The Pondering Nook. You can also listen to Michelle co-hosting at The Broad’s Way Podcast discussing similar topics.