Congrats! You’ve fallen in love with an amazing guy who swept you right off your feet, asked you to spend forever by his side, and live happily ever after! The catch? He is a daddy to a little boy who is not yours. However, this is not a catch at all, it is simply a bonus, the cherry on top, and better than any BOGO sale you could ever find in the mall.

The fact of the matter is this child is the rock-solid foundation your relationship is built on, whether you realize it or not.

Everything your husband ever was changed the second he laid eyes on that sweet, innocent baby boy. Your husband loves harder but softer all at the same time because of him.

Your spouse chose you because he trusted you, he knew YOU could handle it. He watched how his whole world looked at you the first time you met and how your relationship has grown each day since. He watched how a forced acquaintance turned into an overwhelming and unconditional bond.

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Quick round of applause if you have made it this far. Stepmom life is not for the faint of heart. This means you’ve overcome the initial dating stage where people say, “Wow. He has a kid?” and explaining that his son’s not a deal-breaker for you. You’ve made it through telling your family you’re not just bringing your new boyfriend home for Christmas, but his son, too, “So mom, you might want to buy a few extra presents.” You’ve lasted long enough after being in public as a family and hearing, “Your son is so cute!” and the sting of him saying, “She’s not my mom.” And lastly, you have conquered the many, many tears and accepted you will never be more to him than his stepmom.

Your first duty as a stepmom is to love your stepchild’s mom.

That’s right, you read that correctly. She is part of that child and is the reason he is with you today. She is not your competition. You have different roles you are each to play in his life. You are teammates. While you may disagree and she might not even be your favorite person in the world, you have the same goal. Your goal is to love that boy to no end, to give him safe homes and a bright future.

The key is respect. Respect her and respect boundaries. Remember you signed up for thisyou’re not just married to your husband but to his ex and her new family, too. Be kind and get to know each other—you might have more in common than you think. This will not go unnoticed in the eyes of your shared son, he will adore the fact that all of his favorite people in the whole world can stand being in the same room as each other, and maybe even enjoy it.

Your second duty is to love like you have never loved before.

Remember he is a child. He may act out and you may hear “Well at my mom’s house we . . . ” Don’t ever take things personally, and remember he is going through changes, too. You are in this together. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, he needs you even if it is just because his DAD needs you.

I know you’ve been thrown into this mom thing with no time to prepare or learn from experience, but you will. You will learn his quirks, his favorite Pokemon, and the breakfast cereal he wants on hand at all times. You will learn you have to smell his breath in the morning because he didn’t actually brush his teeth when you asked and that he shares his daddy’s eyes (yes, the ones you fell deeply in love with). You don’t have to be the evil stepmom from Cinderella so don’t be. Take the time to enjoy the new blessings life has given you.

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And don’t forget in the same way you can’t replace his mom, no one can replace you either. You are loved. You are important. You are needed.

Originally published on The Odyssey Online

Jocelyn Rice

My name is Jocelyn Rice, and I am a fiercely loving stepmom, mom, and wife from North Dakota.