Just hearing the word stepfamily, or worse, stepmother can cause people to immediately respond by saying: “I’m sorry, that must be so hard for you.” Without much thought, there is judgement already happening before knowing too much about your family.
In my experience, this is generally from someone who has never had any intimate connection in the stepfamily dynamic. It’s not a biological union so why on Earth would life be easy or work out. Isn’t it supposed to be difficult and riddled with challenges?
Unfortunately, most people have been exposed to stepfamily life through the sensational way the media portrays life with the all familiar “evil stepmother”. The stepmother is a self-absorbed, evil temptress who just wants the children to be rid of, so she can focus on delighting her partner. She’s young, mean, and angling to make everyone miserable that sets foot on her path. Talk about needing to rewrite that characterization! Thankfully this stereotype is being re-written as more and more blended families has become the norm. You are entering a role where respect, sensitivity, patience, and empathy are required from you.
You are entering a role where respect, sensitivity, patience, and empathy are required from you.
Obviously, it’s a big commitment to undertake loving a man and his children, but every stepfamily is unique and my experience may be vastly different than yours. Like raising children, there is no manual for blended family relationships or any set way of operating within one.
There are so many factors, emotions, and histories to blend together in becoming a stepfamily. Most of us enter the relationship thinking the acceptance and flow of life of all parties involved will happen quickly. I mean we love our partner and his kids so what else could be a problem. If you are new to this dynamic keep in mind you are making a large commitment and with that needs to come patience, especially for yourself. The bonds and relationships won’t happen overnight or, sorry to say, not even in the first year. It is a process that will require a minimum of two to three years to achieve a desired flow and balance. Even after this time, you’ll still be striving to keep a balance and flow to your life because, the truth is, you share your life with another household and little people who are shuttled back and forth between. It is important to remember a family unit was created before you arrived and it unraveled. In that unraveling, healing is needed, especially for the children. You are entering a role where respect, sensitivity, patience, and empathy are required from you.
The biological mom may or may not approve of you, the children may not approve of you, the former in-laws may disregard you, the other step-parent may ignore you, but don’t let that decide your worth in the family. Those relationships need time to evolve and they may or may not ever reach a place of harmony. But always (pay close attention here) always take the high road and be willing to be flexible. Don’t take it personally as everyone has their path, their role, and lessons to be learned.
Being a stepmom is a role where you have to be willing to go unseen at times. But know that you are not. That your presence is felt and that you matter. You have brought your unique perspective and life experience into this family unit that is being recreated. What you bring to the family is important and so are you. You’ve got this, girl.
Chrysta is a Certified Stepfamily Coach, a stepmother of two and a mother of one infant. Her approach is holistic, supported by certifications as a health and Ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She enjoys music, writing, hiking, healthy food, wine, and travel. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. Connect with Chrysta at instantblendedfamily.com.