By Lindsay of Suburban Turmoil
It may have looked easy on The Brady Bunch, but the truth is that successfully blending a family is hard work. I’ve been a stepmother now for nearly eight years and a mother for four, and have learned a few things along the way that might help you out, whether you’ve already blended your family or you’re thinking about doing so.
1. If you don’t love, really love your boyfriend’s kids, DON’T MARRY HIM.
This is my biggest piece of advice to friends who are dating divorced dads. If I hadn’t loved my girls when I married my husband and felt like I was called to be their stepmother, I can’t imagine how our marriage would have survived. If you know in your heart of hearts that you can’t love his children, you don’t have to tell anyone, but please move on. The children will sense your feelings, and they don’t deserve that. They’ve been through enough already.
2. Don’t talk bad about the ex. Ever.
I say this both as a stepmom and a stepdaughter. It may be hard to resist sometimes, but do not say anything negative about your husband’s ex. Even if he’s saying bad things about her. Even if your stepkids are saying bad things about her. Even if she’s saying bad things about you. Just. Don’t. Create a peaceful, neutral ground in your home for your stepchildren and they will love you for it. Or at least, they should. Unless you caused the divorce. In that case, all bets are off.
3. Don’t beat yourself up trying to be the perfect stepmom.
When my stepdaughters moved in with us full-time several years ago, I knew I’d make myself miserable if I set standards of perfection for myself as their stand-in “mom.” So I resolved simply to be the best “me” I could be every single day. Even now, if I get to the end of the day and I know I did and was all I could be for them, I feel I’m successful.
4. There will be trauma.
Nearly every stepmother out there has stepchildren who, on some level, have been traumatized. They are either dealing with divorce or the death of a parent and they have issues. Issues you almost certainly can’t fix on your own. Issues you may be unfairly blamed for. The sooner you can come to terms with this and learn to deal, the better.
5. Do special things with and for your stepkids.
Attend as many of your stepchildren’s special events as you can, and do things with your stepchildren by themselves. One year, my younger stepdaughter and I went to Starbucks every Thursday night. Now, my stepdaughters and I go to movies together and watch episodes of Gilmore Girls and Grey’s Anatomy. My husband and I also hire a babysitter every month or so and take the older girls out alone, either to a nice restaurant or on an excursion, like river rafting or a play. And a couple of years ago, we left my daughter with her grandmother and went on a ski vacation. These kinds of things let your stepchildren know they’re every bit as important to you as they would be if they were your biological children.
I’ve found that there aren’t many online outlets for stepmoms that haven’t turned into bitchfests about surly stepkids and egregious exes. So if you have a question about being a stepparent or you’d like to add a positive tip of your own in the comments, please do so and I’d be happy to respond.
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