I feel like I have just given birth.
Being a stepmother is like being in labor over time, and in my case, I’ve inherited my stepchildren already fully grown. But, they are still maturing and finding their paths in life. Over the last weeks, I’ve poured a tremendous amount of time and energy into helping them resume college.
Recently people have made comments to me that I don’t behave the way they expect a stepmother to behave. It apparently seems odd to people that I care about them, support them in their dreams and goals, help them to be successful, and assist them financially.
In making my choices for how to interact with my stepchildren, my watchword is always family unity. What connects members of the family together? I am also always assessing, what is best for them? And what is best for our marriage?
What is best for our marriage is having the children be functioning independently and also happy about spending time with us at reasonable intervals. It helps us when we are happy about their achievements, not stressed about their challenges, and have the mental and emotional focus to do our own life work.
Stepfamilies are very common these days. Thankfully, there are plentiful resources to help blended families, especially those with young children (see some below). This is my second time being a stepparent for young adults. One of the first lessons they taught me…and which I still trip across…is don’t try quite so hard. Let the relationships build naturally instead of trying to force them. They didn’t grow up with me, and they have their own emotional connections to their birth parents. It takes time to connect as adults with a step-parental slant.
Another lesson has been encouraging and giving space for their Dad to have a better relationship with them. Sometimes that happens when I help out as a parent. Sometimes that happens when I step out of the space and let them manage their relationship in their own way. Without criticizing!
Putting someone new like me into the water that a family is already floating in causes ripples and splashes. We are all swimming together though, so the waters calm down over time. Sending my stepchildren off to swim in other waters will cause more changes, but they are likely to splash back down in our pond again!
Need help making decisions as a family? Help is on the way with “Deciding in Unity: A Practical Process for Married Couples to Agree on Practically Everything”. https://marriagetransformation.com/shop/deciding-in-unity-books/
Helpful Stepfamily Resources