The choice to become a stepparent was easy, kids are cute and easy to love. Right? Right??!! Well, it’s harder than I thought!
Even though I’ve never had the desire to be a stepmom I knew that Matt’s children were supposed to be in my life. I felt drawn to them and looked forward to becoming the mother they needed.
I wasn’t worried about adding 5 children to my daily routine (for a total of 8 kids!), because I already worked and taught at a school with LOTS of children so what’s a few more kids?! That would be easy I thought. The struggles (for me) would come in waves as the months would pass.
So what have been my biggest struggles? Here are the top three.
Number one: adjusting to new personalities.
When you give birth, you adjust to your child slowly, day by day, and help shape who they are. Any annoying mannerisms or quirks they may have you quickly fix or help them to change. You feel comfortable telling your child to stop doing something. But… When you take on a stepchild this process has been done by someone else and you are expected to adapt. It is not comfortable, nor do you feel it’s your place, to tell this new child in your life to stop doing something that is getting under your skin. I have caught myself getting upset that my stepchildren were doing something but then my child did the same thing and it didn’t bother me. In fact, the first year of marriage I literally had to mentally tell myself to not favor any child over another. It takes practice, but it can be done. You just have to learn to welcome the new quirks and personalities as part of your life.
Number two: MY child versus YOUR child arguments
When arguments arise in the home about the children this is where any stepparent has to be really careful. Because of the bond you have with your biological child you may tend to believe them over this new child in your life. I cannot count the times that Matt and I have experienced this over and over again. “Your child did this” would be followed by “oh yeah, well YOUR child did THIS!!”. This is just ugly and goes back and forth. In the end, Matt and I have to stop and say “these are OUR children and what can we do to make this behavior stop?”. Pinning your children against one another brings out your defensiveness and just escalates any disagreement.
Number three: accepting that your relationship may always be different with your stepchildren than your biological children.
I don’t care if you are a stepparent by divorce or death (as I am) your step child’s loyalty will always side with their birth parent. It is this loyalty that can be a beautiful thing or something destructive when trying to start a relationship with a stepchild. It’s the preprogrammed way of living that your stepchildren have been taught that you cannot unteach. They will hold on tight out of love for their biological parent and this may be one of the hardest trials of your life. Let me give some examples.
For instance, as I am trying to bond with one stepchild she will not join in on the fun of an outing to McDonalds or getting treats at the market because she was taught it’s “unhealthy food”. Meal planning becomes contentious at times because this child has to point out all of the unhealthy ingredients (from each label) to the food I buy and dishes I make. Then, feels the need to tell all of the children in the house what they should be eating instead or what items in the pantry are not the best choices. Her mother was a dietician and raised her to think and eat a certain way so she is trying to keep that loyalty alive. It’s very, very frustrating.
For Matt, he has tried to bond with one of my sons by planning fun outdoor outings and each time, my son scoffs. Why does he do this?! Because that’s what his biological dad would say and do regarding such outings. Time and time again Matt has tried and my son just rolls his eyes, goes on our family outings with an attitude, and isn’t fun to be around. Even if I (as the biological parent) try to encourage my son to enjoy these bonding moments, he resists. He is holding on to the behavior past down to him from his father. This is also very, very frustrating.
After reaching points of “I can’t do this” I have come to learn that I need to accept whatever relationship I get. I cannot force a child to be a certain way or act a certain way for me to love them. I have to love them for how they are, as hard as that may be, and move on. They also have to accept me for me. I have to try to be the best step parent I can and know that I can’t look for perfection.
Raising someone else’s children is a daunting task. It requires a lot of patience and a mind that can look towards the future, not just the present. Because the present is HARD.
I have to think long term and pray that as parents of a blended family Matt and I will be alright. That we can look past all of the struggles that occur while raising each other’s children and focus on the love that brought us together.
What are your biggest struggles as a step parent?
*All images from google search