four little things that have helped me find my stepmum groove
There’s no doubt about it, being a stepmum to three kids under 12 is one of the toughest gigs I’ve ever had – and I’ve had cancer. So I guess that’s saying something. Having said that, all of the angst that goes along with these sometimes insurmountable challenges becomes immediately worth it when Miss Four’s little arms are thrown around your neck and tiny kisses are rained all over your face to the accompanying chorus of “I will kiw you”. Sounds like ‘kill’ but is actually ‘kiss’ and makes me laugh every time.
I’m so fresh off the boat to the whole parenting thing that I literally don’t have any answers, but here are four small things that I have personally found to make a difference – not only to my mental health, but to our family dynamic.
1. Learn from other people’s experience.
I read as much stuff as I can online about parenting in general, mainly because I quite literally have no idea what I’m doing and I didn’t bring any kids of my own to this particular brady bunch so I feel like increasing my knowledge a little at least evens the playing field somewhat. There are so many amazing parenting blogs out there it makes my head spin and if I read them all I would literally get nothing else done, so I tend to pick and choose what resonates with me and what I think will work in our little family. The flip side is that some are just downright ridiculous so my advice would be, don’t read those ones if you can help it.
2. Never ever ever badmouth the kid’s mum to them. Ever.
Actually, this isn’t a little thing – this is a big thing. It’s easy for me though because I genuinely like and get along with Jake’s ex so I don’t even have to think twice but I have seen what happens when someone is quick to bitch about their stepkid’s other parent. I think the main reason why this is such a no-no is that you then put these little people in an impossible position because you make them feel like they can’t love or talk about their mum anymore. The mum who they desperately love and can’t quite understand why she doesn’t live with dad anymore. From the very beginning of our blended family I was conscious to never make the kids feel like it wasn’t ok for them to talk about their mum with me, or express how much they missed her when they were with us. And I always spoke very positively about my interactions with her, whether they were listening or not, so that if they did happen to be eavesdropping (which lets face it, kids are awesome at) they knew that we were friends and they were never going to be in a position where they had to choose or feel bad because they had fun doing something with me. The reason why this is on my list of things that helped me find my stepmum groove is that it changed the way the kids saw me – I wasn’t the enemy on a mission to keep them from their mum, they relaxed a bit and then I could too. I absolutely get it that I’m extremely lucky with Jake’s ex, I know that some stepmums have challenging exes to deal with and it’s natural to need to vent – just make sure you do it when you can be absolutely certain that no little ears will hear and take to heart whatever grown up stuff you’ve got going on with her because that shouldn’t be something that they even know about.
3. Be truly ok in your heart of hearts with your position in the family.
Everyone feels better when they know how they fit into their own little universe. I guess my official title is stepmum, but I’m not their mum, and the reality is that I don’t really want to be their mum – they already have a perfectly lovely mum in their lives, who they adore. All I want and need to be is an extra person in their lives that loves them. More love has to equal more happy, right?
4. Cut yourself some slack.
Being a stepmum is such a massive learning curve – particularly if you’re not a biological mum to anyone either – everything is new and finding your stepmum groove takes time. I sometimes feel like I second guess myself constantly because I don’t want to make mistakes with these precious little people, but I have come to accept that I will continue to make mistakes and I need to be able to learn from them and move on without beating myself up. Easier said than done, I know. So now I just do my best every day, start fresh the next day and be gentle with myself. And pour myself a big old glass of wine.
What do you do to keep your sanity intact? All tips and tricks gratefully received, please leave a comment with any wisdom you wish to share.