Becoming a step-parent actually doesn’t happen in 1 day or the day you say “I do”. It takes time.
Step-parenting can be a very challenging thing to navigate. It teaches us new boundaries, to see things from another perspective and a whole lot of respect. I am no expert but I grew up with step-parents and now I am one. I see it from both perspectives.
I grew up with step-parents and I wasn’t the easiest step-daughter. I did not like sharing my mom when we were used to all her attention. I thought my dad would prefer to spend more time with my step-mom than me. I didn’t want someone else I really didn’t know or respect 100% telling me what to do. It was such a confusing time. Big emotions and no idea how to understand them. Thankfully counseling and growing up helped me understand those emotions, and now I respect them dearly.
I remember meeting my (future) step-daughter when she was 7 years old. She had the most adorable glasses, cute little bangs and was so quiet and sweet. I loved hanging out with her, doing all the girly things like painting nails, getting matching pajamas, baking cookies and watching girly movies. However, at the end of the day or a long weekend, she would go home to her mom. Honestly, my heart hurt a little because I loved having her around. I had to take my feelings out of it. She HAS a loving mom, she has a loving dad and at that point, I was just a 3rd party (and sometimes, that hurt). I was so careful to respect the boundaries and just be a positive presence when she was around. Her dad and I got married when she was 11. I never really considered myself her “step-mom” until SHE felt that way. I never wanted to push myself and the relationship on her. For several years, I was just “Richelle”.
Things I Have Learned Being a Step-Mom:
1. Respect their other parent. Never EVER talk bad about them.
2. Be an open door. Let them feel safe in talking to you without judgement, criticism or making them feel bad.
3. Don’t force your relationship on them.
4. Always include them in everything (family photos, family trips, family decisions etc) even if you they can’t be there, they still have a voice and a place.
5. They must respect you. This can be tricky, but it’s so important. Your spouse may have to help work through that one if the respect is not there. They don’t have to like you but they have to respect you.
6. If its possible, have a cordial relationship with the other parent. It makes communicating for holidays, weekends, school events and parties so much easier for everyone.
7. Remember your spouse and their other parent are the parents. Sometimes we have to step back and let them work through decisions.
Fast forward 18 years, and my step-daughter now calls me her step-mom, but that was on her own. Her dad and I have 4 little boys together and they adore their sissy as she does them. There was a time I mourned not having a little girl, but then I saw the bigger picture – God already gave me the best step-daughter and there’s no beating that. I love when she comes home to visit, and I love that her mom’s family and ours can all get along without feeling weird.
Being a step-parent takes time, patience, respect and understanding. There’s no right or wrong way to it. It’s a special blessing and a bond that you just can’t explain until you are in it.