It is a role that one cannot understand until she is placed in that role herself. It’s hard, and it is stressful. But, it is also worth it. 

It feels crazy in the beginning, and it is not easy. However, it does get easier with time, and it is extremely rewarding.

The kids won’t always like you. Be patient, and love them anyway

You will often feel like the third wheel or an outsider. 

Stepkid hugs will rip your heart wide open, and sometimes they can actually give pretty great advice. 

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a requirement. This does not mean you’re being submissive or weak. It means being your authentic self, and it takes immense courage to open up and expose yourself emotionally. Being vulnerable is how you connect with others and build the strongest relationships.

A compliment from them feels like the best thing in the whole world. Likewise, when they insult you, it stings like a bee. 

You’ll clandestinely wish they were yours. 

Depending on their age, the kids may blame you for the fact that their parents are no longer together.

Your relationship with your partner must come first. This is important. One of the biggest mistakes step-couples make is putting the needs of their relationship last. A stepfamily can’t survive without a strong, connected couple steering the ship. Prioritizing your relationship isn’t done at the expense of the kids; it’s done for them.”-Brenda Ockun

You will truly appreciate the alone time you have with your partner. Always cherish that time, and never take it for granted.

If you fight, fight with affection and solve each issue while displaying respect for your partner. Demonstrate a better way to work through the tough times, without screaming and/or verbal mishandling. 

Show the children what true happiness and love should look like. Write notes and slip them into their book bags. You can surprise them by eating lunch with them at school or a random trip to the zoo. 

There will always be times when you feel like you’re competing with “the ex”. You can’t let it get to you. Don’t compare, don’t compete. You cannot control how they act, but you can control your reaction. Take the high road, and lead by example. “His ex-wife is his ex-wife for a reason. Don’t allow her to rent space in your head for free.” -Peggy Nolan

You can’t fix what you didn’t break. Though it can be extremely difficult, you have to fight the urge to attempt to solve conflicts between your partner and his ex. 

Having two sets of house rules is extremely stressful. For both you, your partner, and the children. The best thing you can do is be consistent, which provides stability. 

You will get angry sometimes. This is a given. They key is to once again, remember the kind of example you want to set for the children. 

Leave your ego at the door. You’ll do all the things that parents do for their children, but you won’t get the same credit. Feed them, bathe them, wash their clothes . . . but you still aren’t their biological parent. Even if you’re smarter. Even if you do it better. Even if you work harder and do more for the kids. You will always be number two.

You won’t get many “firsts”. This is one of the hardest things to shoulder, especially if you don’t have children of your own yet. Chances are, your partner has been married before and he obviously has children already. So, you won’t be experiencing marriage or childbirth for the first time together. You may not get to experience becoming a homeowner for the first time together. This can be pretty tough to deal with emotionally. Nevertheless, you will have your own first. The first person he is truly happy with. You’ll be providing the first example of what a genuinely happy, healthy, and strong relationship looks like. And that is tremendously extraordinary

It’s normal to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. Over time, you will learn to accept and embrace failure. Take it one day at a time.

Sometimes, you will need a break. Don’t forget to love yourself and take time for yourself. Parenting is exhausting, and you’re giving up a lot to be a stepparent. So, it’s OK to take time to pamper yourself. 

There is absolutely no way that you can possibly prepare yourself for becoming a stepparent. It’s hard. It’s stressful. It’s scary, and a book of guidelines does not exist. You simply figure it out as you go. There will be times when you wonder if the kids are going to hate you forever. I despised my stepdad growing up. I was so caught up in his rules that I didn’t recognize or value the sacrifices he made for my sister and me. But now . . . words are incapable of expressing my gratitude for him being in my life. Being a stepparent means you will overcome numerous challenges before you ever even marry your partner.

In the end, it is all worth it. 

You may also like: 

What I’ve Learned From Being a Stepmom

5 Hard Truths About Being a Stepmom

3 Tools For The Stepparent’s Tool Belt

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Lorin Hawks

I am always searching and frequently confused. I seek to find the good inside of every person I encounter. Endlessly in deep thought, collecting stories, and trying to figure people out. Step-mom to two beautiful girls, and mommy to one precious baby boy.