Becoming a stepparent actually doesn’t happen in one day or the day you say, “I do.” It takes time.
Stepparenting 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 stepparents and now I am one. I see it from both perspectives.
I grew up with stepparents, and I wasn’t the easiest stepdaughter. 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 stepmom than me. I didn’t want someone else, who I really didn’t know or respect, 100 percent 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) stepdaughter when she was seven 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 third 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 stepmom until she felt that way. I never wanted to push myself and the relationship on her. For several years, I was just “Richelle.”
1. Respect their other parent. Never, ever talk badly about them.
2. Be an open door. Let them feel safe talking to you without judgment, 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 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.
7. If it’s possible, have a cordial relationship with the other parent. It makes communicating for holidays, weekends, school events, and parties so much easier for everyone.
8. 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 stepdaughter now calls me her stepmom, but that was on her own. Her dad and I have four 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 stepdaughter 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 stepparent takes time, patience, respect, and understanding. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s a special blessing and a bond you just can’t explain until you are in it.
Last little note: Respect goes both ways and I am thankful for the relationship we have with my stepdaughter’s mom. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of her world.