In the six years since becoming a blended family, I've learned some valuable lessons about what it takes to be a Second Wife and Stepmom. Living through my husband's bitter divorce, and now custody battle, have posed some of the greatest challenges I have ever known. Nothing could have prepared me for this life and I have to admit that accepting the reality of things and letting go of the fairytale has not been an easy task. Now since adding "Mommy" to my ever-growing list of titles, I know I still have a lot to learn, but here's some wisdom I have gathered along my journey:
- Be patient. As in my case, divorce and resulting custody battles can be time-consuming and downright ugly. Things may not always go as you want them to, but try to remember that your partner is trying to make the best decisions for everyone. Support your partner/spouse; criticism can be alienating. Don't be afraid to seek counseling for help getting through this.
- In the beginning, strive first to be a friend to your stepchild. They (as well as their bioMom, and maybe even your partner) may have a tough time figuring out and accepting your role in this child's life and may feel threatened. This is especially true if your interactions with bioMom are limited.
- Work with your partner to establish discipline guildelines, and let him handle most of this in the beginning. Otherwise, you are sure to become the Wicked Stepmother.
- Try to see the good qualities in your stepchild's bioMom. Never speak negatively about her in front of them. Whatever crap is going on between your partner and her, it does not and should not involve the child. Yes, even a cold-hearted, manipulative shrew like my husband's ex- has a few redeeming qualities. Do your best to find them, as I did, and focus on it. Remember, above all else, that that child loves his/her Mommy and you should not do anything to undermine that love.
- Never send messages to your partner's ex- through your stepchild.
- Never make your stepchild feel guilty for loving his/her Mom or you could be contributing to what's called Parental Alienation Syndrome.
- Develop your own family rituals and routines, not to replace old ones but to offer a sense of comfort and stability to your stepchild, and yourselves.
I will admit that, for me, being a Stepmom and Second Wife has downright sucked at times. I felt alienated in the beginning; like I was an outsider intruding on my husband's time with his daughter. I struggled to find my place in her life, and to find a place for her in mine. My husband and I made a lot of mistakes and I felt a lot of resentment towards her in the beginning. She represented this past life of his, and this other person who was wreaking havoc on our lives. But we've worked hard, together, to try to create a strong family unit in which my stepdaughter can thrive. and know that she is loved.