If I could go back and chat with 22-year-old me, I would have a list of advice for myself that circled the globe. Twice. Wouldn’t we all? I know this is not something we get to do, but let’s just pretend for a second that I could.
Twelve years ago I would likely find myself sitting in that awful phonics class for Elementary Education (that I hated). I would have been daydreaming about my upcoming wedding. The dress, the cake, something blue, the list went on. I may have been asking myself if I was sure I wanted to get married, and then quickly pushing that thought aside. I may have been listening to J Timberlake and Nelly Furtado on my iPod shuffle. Remember those?
What I wasn’t doing was paying attention in class because to this day I still can’t tell you what a diphthong is. I also wasn’t the least bit aware of the life change that I was about to take on. I wasn’t thinking about if I had what it took to be a stepmom. My maturity just wasn’t there.
To be honest, I could write a book on the things I would go back and tell myself. One being, do yourself a favor and lay off the fake tanning because this orange glow is not pleasing to the eye. But more importantly, I would enlighten myself on the perspective of a mom who is about to send her child with the new stepmom. I would say this:
You’re getting ready to step into a role that is light years beyond your maturity level. You’re going to hold the title of wife and stepmom. You will have an instant family and an abundance of responsibility. Stepmom. Just one step removed from mommy to this sweet little 4-year-old boy you hardly know. These are a few things I need you to know about stepmomming.
1. This boy’s mother has no other choice than to leave her most precious possession in your care. She’s not ready. A mom is never ready for that. She will possibly let you know with one look exactly what she thinks of you and this whole situation. You will understand one day. Give her grace.
2. The big moments and little moments will be equally as hard on her, at least at first. Doing something as simple as playing LEGO with her boy will weigh just as heavy on her emotions as you being the one to pick him up when he falls and gets hurt. The years of childhood when a boy needs his mommy are so short. Every moment with you will feel like a moment lost for her. Show empathy.
3. Take the time to build a relationship with her on her timeline. She wants him to feel special and be taken care of. She wants him to be tucked in at night and not feel lonely. She will come around sooner or later because she wants only the best for her child even if occasionally it’s you instead of her. Be patient.
4. Lastly, your new stepson is feeling some of these same emotions. When push comes to shove in the big moments he will want his mom over you no matter how great of a relationship you have. That’s normal and this is the best time for you to tell him so. Tell him that you miss your own mom sometimes too. Ask him what his favorite thing about her is? Offer to let him call. He will feel relieved to know that he can love her even right in front of you. In fact, it’s expected. Be reassuring.
Something I would not tell myself is how this part of my story ended in divorce because I would risk changing the way my life fell so beautifully into place. Although those years were hard in a lot of ways, I fully believe they made me a better wife, mom, and stepmom now. Those years brought me, my biological son. They let me know and love my first stepson. And in case you’re wondering, his mom and I did end up with a great relationship. We came a long way from the day she wanted to beat the ever-loving you-know-what out of me with a pair of shin guards, and the infinite eye rolls I gave in response to her “attitude”. I didn’t know at the time, but that attitude was just a mother’s protective love. It took time, but I think it would have been easier if I had known to look at it from her perspective.
Eight years later when it was my turn to send my own son off with his new stepmom, I’d like to say that I had all the confidence and understanding because I had been there, but I’d be lying to you. I needed all the grace, empathy, patience and reassurance that I mentioned above. It was hard to give up the moments. Really hard. Too hard, but a great reminder of the emotions my present stepsons’ mom feels.
Although, my relationship with her has grown by leaps and bounds from the beginning to today, writing this has reminded me to slow down, find my patience, show the respect she has earned as their mother, and keep being the best stepmom to her boys that I can be. We will continue to take our relationship one day at a time. In the end, we all want the same thing for our children. The best. And that is something worth working for.
Rachael is a 34-year-old wife, mom, and step-mom. Her blog Our Blended Abode ourblendedabode.com is written with a focus on the blended family. It is meant to be a reference for parents from any walk of life to become the best version of themselves.