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Stepmom concerns and cluelessness

Rebeca - posted on 10/14/2015 ( 5 moms have responded )

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I am with a man with an 8 month old daughter. We met because he moved to my area to be near his daughter after his ex-wife moved here. We get along very well, he lights up when he talks about his daughter. The problem? I know nothing about being a stepmom or a mom in general. I do not have kids and most of the people I know do not have children. I want to have a good relationship and be hopeful that I could be a good stepmom to his daughter but I have no idea how to do that and everything I read online makes being a stepmom sound like I will hate my life and we will end up divorced. Are there any happy stories? Any good advice on what not to do early on?

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MaryAnn - posted on 10/15/2015

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Of course theres a lot more that goes into it. My advice was simply a reflection of my own experiences as a step child and a stepmom of a very young child. I wasnt writing a guidebook of my own personal experiences that may or may not be relevant or even issues for her.
Im not going to say that my family is perfect. We all butt heads occasionally. But whats important is this: we have a three and a half year old whos needs are always met, who has three parents who all support eachother in building rock solid relationships not only with her, but with eachother. It took us a lot of turmoil and disagreeing and trying and forced smiles to get here.
The little one is just little. Unlikely to have much recolection of when mom and dad were a family, unlikely to have had a whole lot of time where dads house was for just "daddy and me." Youll likely be able to just be that woman who loves the dad, loves the kid, and knows a lot about doing stuff that 8 month olds dont.
Women, particularly young women, who become step parents, particularly to children who are needy (young or disabled) often become doormats who are taken advantage of. Through being friendly and helpful consistantly out of love are handed responsibilities they arent legally or morally obliged to, and have their rights (not to the child, but to their home, their finances, their time, their involvement in their own relationships) trampled on.
As a disclaimer, when i say relationships, i mean that inclusively. Not just their romantic relationships, but their relationships with their budding blended family, their family of origin, their friendships (which seriously change when building any family of any stripe), and relationships with the biomom.
Becoming a stepmom is not just about the relationship with the man or the children. A family is a family, and being a provider of one changes your relationship with the world. Caring for children and the home is the easy part. Even when its not easy. Someone who is incapable of this is someone who should not consider building (any kind of) family. Im not going to assume she is one of those people because thats just rude and offensive. There's a whole host of (often conflicting) resources available on the topic of appropriate ways to show you care as a step parent. The reality is that no two blended families work the same way on the same timeline.
By boundaries, I mean remembering that you are an individual person and a piece of a puzzle.
In my personal experience, the toughest part is remembering how to say no. No, biomom cant use my home as the roof underwhich she raises my step daughter. No, my mother in law may not undermine my authority. No, i can not take that extra shift- i have responsibilities at home that i do not need to justify to my boss. YES I can have reasonable expectations about how my home is treated. YES i can have reasonable expectations of adult time with my spouse. YES i can tell my step daughter I love her.
These things all take time, but the bottom line is that these are all things for which I have control- and should have the dignity to stand up for if disrespected. Its too easy to fall into the "I love him trap" as a young woman.

MaryAnn - posted on 10/14/2015

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As a stepmom who came in the picture very early, what I can tell you is this. The horror stories come from a place of mourning. You may get it from the bioparents. Both of them. They may mourn the family they never made. Its not necessarily love, or romance... It likely wont be. She may be jealous of your relationships, he may feel guilty about the lack of simplicity. Starting a blended family with such a youngster (assuming things dont involve drugs, child abuse or even milder spousal abuse) means that all adults (on their best behaviour) can define their own boundaries and relationships in a way that will be easier for the child.
My best advice... Boundaries. They will be tested. Hold strong. If you have any doubts... Dont dive in.

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