Wicked New Series: Step Mom Tips

Last week, I asked my readers to tell me more through a short survey. The results are in. I learned a lot about what you want to read (which isn’t always what I think … so thank you for telling me!).

I learned that some of my readers are step moms, like me. I don’t write a lot of step parenting posts, partly because I didn’t think many readers cared about this topic, and partly because I’m still learning so much about step parenting myself.

NOTE: If you don’t want to read about step parenting today, here’s a list of my favorite posts to read instead.

Well step moms, your survey responses really stood out. I felt an emotional connection to you, whoever you are.

Here’s a sample:

I like your perspectives on step mothering. Very few talk about it.

And

I’m a new step mom. You are the only person I have found with a positive outlook on being in this position. Everywhere else is just nagging, emotional, traumatic & drains my energy.

Thank you … I definitely don’t want to be those last things!

Let me share some of my personal realities with step parenting. I’m sure these are your realities, too.

  • I have made mistakes.
  • I’ve felt helpless.
  • I’ve felt like I’m doing something wrong.

Mr. Right assures me – all parents feel those things at times.

Through the good and the bad, I think being a step mom rocks. Not everyday. Not every hour. Not in a rosy, rainbow, unicorn way either.

Being a step mom rocks because we truly love each other. I am someone that is making a difference in my step kids’ lives.

That gives me a feeling of purpose like nothing else can.

Wicked new series on Peace & Projects.

I’ve scoured the internet for advice on step parenting in the past eight years. Some of it applied, some of it didn’t. Which is why I’m starting a wicked new series focusing on step moms. I hope my lessons learned will give you strength.

Here’s the first one:

Step Mom Tip #1: Don’t do it all.

I’ve shared about this before, here and here. Women of all backgrounds feel pressure to “do it all.” Being a step mom, the pressure is no different.

You and I both know, being a step mom is different.

Each family is unique. Each step mom is unique. Some steps deal with the remains of a horrible divorce.

Some don’t.

Some deal with really challenging step kids.

Some don’t. Wherever you are in life, being a step mom will change you.

This tip will help you change for the better.

Here are some areas I’ve decided not to do it all:

Discipline.

The kids do respect me, but I am conscious that it is easier for them to hate me than their biological parents.

That’s why I often turn to Mr. Right to help bring up a new system or set of house rules. If there is an ongoing behavior issue, I let him be the bad guy. (Like I said, being a step mom rocks.)

Visitation.

It’s in a woman’s nature to help, give and nurture.

On the other hand, some things are best left between bio parents, which in our case includes setting up visitation. I used to be involved, but now I let Mr. Right handle it.

I don’t know your step situation, but I’m just sharing this to tell you: It is okay to opt out. You don’t have to talk to the ex, or like her, or agree with her.

Sometimes, the best thing for your family will be to stay on the sidelines and put your energies to better use.

Time with the step kids.

It is so important for bio parents to be with their kids. I would say more important that step parents. Maybe your step daughter needs a new pair of shoes.

Let Daddy do it.

Sometimes.

Maybe your step kids need to get picked up from school.

Let Daddy do it.

Whenever he can.

Push for that time together. It really does wonders for the step kids’ behavior.

My first year of marriage, I thought I had to be everything to my kids and husband. I had to clean up, organize, cook, teach manners, discipline and make everything pretty.

Now I know how important it is to ask for help. Do it often.

Building a positive step relationship.

Recently, Little Girl said, “I wish you could have seen me when I was a baby.”

I said, “That would have been a little awkward.”

And we shared a laugh.

I know a blended family is not what little girls dream about. Neither is being a step mom.

I’ve missed time with my step kids. You’ve missed time with yours, too.

That doesn’t have to define your relationship. Setting boundaries within your blended family – like deciding not to do it all – is one of the ways to let love do the work. There are sweet moments ahead, I promise.

One last thing. A wise colleague shared this with me years ago:

The good days don’t last, but neither do the bad.

Repeat to self daily.

If you have any step parenting questions, I don’t claim to be an expert. But I’ve been a step mom for almost eight years. So maybe I can help? Email me: melissa [at] peaceandprojects [dot] net. Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.

Please share this post with step moms you know. I hope it will encourage them. Thank you!

Photo by marie-ll

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.

{ 31 comments }

1 Morgan Moran January 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Hey, Melissa!

I shared this with my sister (another Melissa). She hasn’t been a step mom for quite as long, but has had her fair share of tribulations and triumphs. Maybe she’ll reach out to you!

Thanks for the post – MM

2 Melissa January 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Thank you, Morgan. I remember your sister’s story now from featuring her a couple years ago. Maybe she can give me some ideas for a future post in the series.
Miss you!
Melissa

3 Kristi January 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm

This from an almost 5-year stepmom….I’ve felt guilty letting Mr. Rad do all the visitation back-and-forth …. and doing the random pickup/drop offs. But really, after reading your post, it’s been better. Better for my mind and heart to come less in contact with the individual from HIS past life that plagues my thoughts in a bad way [sometimes]. Thanks for being honest! Looking forward to this series <3

4 Melissa January 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Hi Kristi,
Thanks for sharing your outlook here. I agree with you, it’s better for me too. Again, not what you probably dream of or hope it to be. Who cares about that. Life is good.
Wishing you peace and happiness!
Melissa

5 Katie January 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Melissa, such a warm post on parenting. I’m not a step mom, but I had one and I’m also a mom so I can relate to the struggles, the desire to control and the need to let go what you can’t change. Great advice for all parents. Thanks for the link love too. xo

6 Melissa January 18, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Thank you, Katie. Sometimes being a step mom can feel isolating, but then I meet others from or within blended families and it warms me.

Cheers!
Melissa

7 Marci January 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Melissa,

Great post for moms & step moms alike. I have seen and heard so many step moms/moms try to do it all, and just get resentful and exhausted. I call it “mom burnout” but in this case it may even become marriage burnout. What “liberating choices” you’ve made. Thanks for stepping out and defying supermoms with us 🙂 (It’s something I’m always working on too.)

Would love for you to do a guest post some time for my blog, as I have many step-mom clients that would benefit from this. Also, I recently read a blog called the “stepmom’s toolkit” – radio station/community/etc. – they are looking for collaborators…

8 Melissa January 18, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Hi Marci,
Thanks for this advice! I dropped you an email so we can chat some more about guest posting options.

9 Lisa January 19, 2011 at 9:58 am

Hi Melissa!
Thanks for the post! I’ve been a step mom to three girls for 15 years now (wow I can’t believe it’s been that long) and sometimes I’m still not sure where I fit into their lives. It was rough at first, especially dealing with a very angry, controlling ex-wife but we survived and now that the kids are in their early 20’s they still come to visit (some more than others) which I take as a good sign.

One thing I learned was that it was a lot easier, emotionally, to be a step mom once I stopped trying to be (and stopped expecting to be treated like) a mother figure. When I had my own daughter, five years ago, my relationship with my step-daughters improved 100%, I didn’t feel the need to try to be a parent to them anymore and we became more like good friends.

It would have been nice if there had been somewhere to go for advice in step parenting. I was 25 and still felt too young to be a step mother to three girls aged, 4, 7 and 8. I didn’t even know anyone who was a step parent. There’s a lot of us out here but as you say noone talks about it and they certainly don’t talk about how difficult it can be. It’s about time!

10 Melissa January 19, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Hi Lisa,
Nice to meet a step mom veteran. Your story reminds me again how different each situation is. For instance, I am a childless custodial step – which means the step kids are with us most of the time and we aren’t haven’t more children. I am definitely more of a mother figure than some step moms because that is what my kids need.

I can see how, in your situation, letting mom be mom and Lisa be Lisa was a good move.
Thanks for sharing your story here. Please keep in touch. My step daughter is about to turn 13. Any tips?
Melissa

11 Stephanie January 19, 2011 at 10:56 am

Melissa,

Thank you so much for writing this post. Your past posts about this subject are what brought me here in the first place and I can’t wait to read more of them. Although I have only been a stepmom for about a year, I have been comforted by your experiences and the truly unique and positive perspective you share with us.

Thank you again!

12 Melissa January 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Thank you, Stephanie! Even with all the stigmas associated to step parenting, in the end, these children are a precious gift. I’ve worked on simply enjoying my kids more, which makes all the difference. Let parenting be fun.
I think that’s a good lead in to another step mom post.
I’m glad you stopped by. Stay in touch!
Melissa

13 Suzita @ playfightrepeat January 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Lovely post. I’m not a stepmom, but I had a stepmom and stepdad growing up. My stepdad recently died which led me to think some more about what he brought to my life as a kid. Because he was “one step removed” as a parent, he was able to do things for me that weren’t as easy for my bio parents to do. For example, when he saw some Type A tendencies arising in me, he set up a system of paying me for what he called “good failures” in my life (things I’d worked hard for but failed to get). I just wrote a blog piece on what his Failure Payment system did for me in my life. I am now finding ways to use this idea with my kids.

14 Melissa January 25, 2011 at 10:05 am

I’m so glad you had a positive step relationship with him. I’ll have to check out that post. It sounds like an interesting idea. Thanks for stopping by!

15 Cara January 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I just wanted to add one other person out there in Internetland with a positive view on being a step parent. Wil Wheaton often talks about his stepsons and how they built a family together on his blog, wil wheaton in exile.

16 Melissa January 25, 2011 at 10:05 am

I’ll definitely check it out. Thank you Cara. Great to know there are other positive step parents spreading the love.

17 Living the Balanced Life January 20, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Melissa,
So nice to see a positive spin on step-parenting. I am not a step parent, but know so many who are. I will be glad to share this post and series as you come out with them.
Thanks for encouraging others!
Bernice
Assess your life for stress

18 Melissa January 25, 2011 at 10:06 am

Awesome, Bernice! Your support means so much. Thank you.

19 Neal January 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Hey Melissa, headed over here after Leo checked out your site.

I think that you should go for writing posts that help people, no need to apologize at the beginning!

I liked reading this post, you said some good things.
-Neal

20 Melissa January 25, 2011 at 10:06 am

Hey Neal, welcome! I’ll keep that tip in mind – you’re right. Much peace.

21 Julia January 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Interesting post – I’ve been a stepmother for ten years but for the last two years have not seen the children (18 and 16) as their hostility and vitriol (from day one, although I played no part in their parents’ divorce) were driving me over the edge. With hindsight this was the right move – they got to spend time with their dad without me there, he got to see them and do the parenting the way he believed was right (without boundaries), and I got to heal myself a little from the damage the situation had caused to me. I’ve re-established contact with the 18 year old to arrange a surprise for their dad’s 50th birthday in April, and hope to build up from the beginning again. I don’t know if it will work, but I’m stronger now, and more able to deal with it all again.

22 Melissa February 3, 2011 at 9:30 am

Hi Julia,
That’s the sometimes sad news about being a step parent – the kids may drift in and out of loving you more so than with a bio parent. I try not to take it personally. I think all parents – bio or step – deal with hard times during the teenage years. Focus on the positive! I’m glad to hear the relationship has taken a step in the right direction. Much peace to you and your family …
Melissa

23 Wendy February 27, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I’ve been a step mom for over 13 years (3 kids- now aged 21, 18 and 16) and it definitely seems to get harder the older they get. And then it gets better. And in hindsight, you’re so right, it is much easier for them to be mad at us than at their biological parents. When they were little, I spoke to them exactly the same way their mom did and enforced the same standards as she did (in a weird way, I was trying to help them adjust to the change by keeping things consistent) but ya, I think that hurt our relationship in the long run. Since then, I’ve been aiming for “loving aunt” status, which seems to be working for all of us. And overall, I get much much more grief from my biological child than from the others. Maybe I should try being her auntie too. 😉

24 Melissa February 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Hi Wendy,
I feel like it IS getting harder in ways because they are truly developing their own thoughts and styles, and I don’t always agree with what they decide. 🙂
On the other hand, I feel like our relationship is deepening … true love, not just someone they like that takes care of them. If we have a fight, we always talk it out. From what I hear, I’m just now getting to the really difficult stage of raising kids (mine are almost 13 and 11).
I am a custodial step, so the kids are with us most of the time. Every family is so different. Glad to hear your relationship is better now! Raising kids is never easy … but you know that all too well. 🙂
Thanks for connecting with me,
Melissa

25 Erin Moore March 7, 2011 at 9:16 am

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on step-parenting – I’ve been a step-mommy for a little over three years now, and I feel so blessed to be a part of their lives. I met the kiddos when they were 3 and 4, and I’m thankful that our transition into a family was very smooth (by God’s grace!!!) But I do continue to struggle with the emotional challenge of having them with us only half-time, loving them as though they were my own but having to recognize that I will never be their mommy. And I’ve also had to learn how to let go, when their mom does things with which I don’t see eye to eye. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world – they have so enriched my life. We’re now hoping to adopt a baby to expand our family, and it’s so fun to see their excitement about having a new brother or sister.

26 Melissa March 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Hi Erin
That’s so exciting to hear about your pending adoption. Step parenting can be a challenge, but in the end kids just want to belong and be loved. All parents – bio and step – can help with that.
Enjoy this time,
Melissa

27 Lisa Pedersen April 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I am so proud of you for being one of the positive step mums! My heart really does go out to women who beat themselves up about things they can’t control and they don’t allow themselves to enjoy the little things. I have been a step mum for 8 years as well as being the product of a step mum since I was 12 yrs old. Now that I am a mom myself…i have such a different view than before. I bask in the joy of being called MOM…but i treasure my “first son” in ways that don’t compare to my bio-son. They both teach me things about myself….the way any child would. Keep the posts coming….i love it!

28 Liz May 2, 2011 at 10:09 am

Needed to see all of this today. Have been a step-mom for 21 years and sometimes I still have hard days. Rewards are great, but the hard days are hard. Trying to figure out my identity, tired of being identified as the “Step-mom” after all these years.

Thanks!

29 Melissa May 2, 2011 at 10:14 am

Hi Liz,
I know what you mean about your identity. It is a hard title. I think that’s because there are a lot of negative connotations in the media. Plus, not every mom is a great mom, and not every step mom is a great step mom. There are good and bad stories on both sides.
The hard days are definitely hard. I wish you the best in not only surviving them, but thriving! I needed a boost today, and this comment is just the thing to help me gain perspective.
Peace to you,
Melissa

30 cj May 6, 2011 at 11:02 am

I’m a 24 yr step mom veteran. I came in when they where in high school and now they are young mothers and I have wonderful grandkids. I dread mother’s day. Not being able to have children….and them not ever making a effort to invite me for lunch during the week prior or even a call or cool card. Trying to get that connection was always so hard since so close in age. I just yearned for a step-mom acknowledgement…thanks for being in our life or we look up to you or just something. Instead I get a card from the grandkids…it’s not Grandparents day! My mom is gone and miss how close we were. I just would never treat someone like they are…hard to keep my mouth shut but makes things worse. Another hard part of being a step-parent…can’t say what you want like their mother would. Just ready for the next holiday!!

31 Melissa May 9, 2011 at 9:58 am

Hi CJ,
I can sense your frustration and can relate to wanting acknowledgement. As step moms, we do take 2nd place mom. That’s just a fact of the role. It doesn’t make the reality any easier, though. One thing I’ve noticed is that it helps if I encourage Mr. Right to foster thoughtfulness with the kids. He can help them remember me and think of me.

Also, when it isn’t Mother’s Day, I will work on fostering that with them for other holidays. It doesn’t always come naturally as an adult, so for kids it is something they have to learn, like anything else.

Happy Mother’s Day! I hope it was special for you. Your role is important.
Melissa

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