I get a lot of incredible, sweet, heartfelt emails from you guys and, of those, the majority are people who find themselves in a situation similar to the one I found myself in ten-plus years ago. Your situations are a variation on mine: with an older man, with a man who has children, with a widower, or a divorcee, navigating being a step parent, navigating being with a man who was married to another woman, and usually figuring out all of this with friends and parents who don’t understand, so on and so forth.
Then, about a month ago, I asked for post ideas on IG stories and had a lot of people asking me to write about being a step parent.
Thing is, I am not an expert. I mean I am not an expert. I hardly know if I’m doing it right 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time, I’m 50% unsure. So, what does that leave us with? 10% assurance?
Nevertheless, if it’s a place you find yourself, it’s awful lonely. I knew virtually nobody in my situation. I still don’t. At first, it was hard. Especially when my friends were still doing the post-college single thing and I was an immediate mom of four at 22. Now, I’m much more confident in my role, in the life I chose, and I’m accustomed to knowing that most people won’t get it, but that’s ok. They can still listen and empathize and give advice the best way they know how.
So here’s a bit of advice from me to you about being a step parent. Perhaps there’ll be more to come, because there’s no way one post will cut it.
01. Find a great counselor. This might be the most important piece of advice. Much like our physical health, I think our emotional health is just as important. A counseling session is like a great dose of vitamins for your brain, and you’ll need them to be able to do your job well. A counselor, even if the appointments are on an as needed basis, is a necessity. There’s simply no way your husband can be your sounding board for all that you’re going through. (He’s going through a lot, too.) This has taken me years to recognize, and even still, I’m learning. You will find yourself frustrated with parenting, like any parent is, but because it is step parenting and you are the step parent, it’s extra tricky to be venting to your husband–their father–about it all the time. Of course, you’ll do it. And that’s okay. It’s inevitable. But, because you are not their birth mother, it might be harder for your husband to hear than it would be otherwise. It’s different than if you were their birth mother. He’ll wonder if you think you’ve made a mistake. He’ll hear it completely differently from your mouth than he would have from hers, even if you’re saying the exact same thing. Steve has, of course, been my sounding board thousands of times at this point, but I am especially aware (and more with time and maturity) of how difficult it can be to hear–even when it’s just, as it most often is, normal parenting woes. More often than not, I don’t put myself in his shoes, but when I do I realize how tough this situation can be for both of us, not for me alone. So now it is often coupled with, “I do not regret my decision. I love our life and our children. I would choose this again.” (It is not always coupled with this, however, because sometimes I am straight up mad. We’re human after all.) It wouldn’t be fair to expect you to keep it all in just because you’re a step parent, but do recognize his sensitivity, and be sure to secure a really great counselor who can truly be your sounding board. They are worth their weight in gold. I’ve seen the same one, off and on, for our entire marriage. Simply knowing that she’s available to me is a comfort. For me and for Steve. We’ve seen her together, I’ve seen her alone. She’s fabulous.
I’ll do another post on this soon, as there’s way too much to say for one post. Thanks for reading, as always, especially those of you who’ve been here since the very beginning!