Becoming a stepparent. For some, it may be the last thing in the world they thought would ever happen. At least, that’s the case for my best friend Michelle. She fell in love with, and eventually married, a man with three kids. One boy (who’s now a 22-year-old man) and twin girls (who, also, aren’t little girls anymore – they’re 18.). Michelle says she wasn’t sure she even wanted children of her own, so living with someone else’s kids certainly wasn’t on her radar. When I asked if she had any reservations at the time:
“I had all the reservations!”
Even so, I can tell you something as a friend who’s known Michelle since she was 14: for someone voted “funniest” in the senior class yearbook, she’s handled becoming a stepparent seriously and in a way to be admired.
The role of a stepparent
This is really the most important question, right? Okay, I’m a stepparent now, but what do I do? What is my role? Do I even have a role?
In Michelle’s case, her stepkids’ mother is very much in their lives. So, she calls herself an “extra parent”, saying she would never step on their mother’s toes, but she always speaks her mind. They’re free to take whatever advice she gives and can discard the rest if they choose.
“I treat them like they are my family, but since I’m not their real mom, I think it allowed them to be comfortable with me on a different level. It’s hard to open up to a parent, but an “extra parent” seems easier.”
Having a partner who’s got the “inside scoop” on your kid seems like a pretty good asset to me!
And speaking of partners, I asked Michelle if she speaks up with her husband when it comes to the kids. To me, that could seem like an awkward situation.
“Oh, I advise all the time. You have to make sure you have a partner that is OK with that. Maybe early on my husband would bristle a little, but he respected me and saw that I was only looking out for them, and he goes along with my judgement, as any parent should to the other parent. It wouldn’t have worked out as well if it had gone any other way.”
And, it is working out. Michelle is part of one of my favorite marriages. Second only to John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, since no one’s topping that adorableness.
Michelle also has a great relationship with her stepkids, but it has been 15 years. It’s been a long road.
Guys – it’s not going to be like The Brady Bunch. There are going to be challenges when being a stepparent. Michelle says the biggest one may be that your partner may have a hard time seeing things objectively because they are, in fact, their children… while you may be able to see things from a more unbiased standpoint because they’re not biologically yours. Here are some other challenges Michelle’s faced:
- Learning to share partner/relationship time with the children
- Finances – knowing how much money partner spends on children (side note from me: I get this – if you haven’t been a parent, the money thing can come as a surprise. You may not be able to buy and do things like you did pre-kids. For instance, I want every Coach purse I see… but instead I buy buttpaste.)
“But once you get over those hurdles and actually open your heart to (the) kids, you mind all of that less. You accept that’s the way it is and you want the best for them.”
Okay, let’s get to it: advice for those becoming a stepparent.
Michelle says her stepkids took to her right away. Even still, it’s going to be work, but you have to let yourself be open.
“Remain chill and let them know you are an adult in their life who they can turn to without the fear that goes into opening up to a parent. I feel I’m a friend and confidant first, and a parent second.”
Tips for becoming a stepparent
Everyone loves tips. Except for Michelle who groaned after I asked her one million questions and then also asked for tips. And she’ll groan even more after she sees I shortened her tips because not everyone loves long articles, including myself. Even so, these are good! So, take note:
- Remember you’re not there to take over, you’re there to be another caring person in their life.
- Don’t be afraid! If you don’t put yourself in their life, you’re going to miss out. Go to them. Ask them what they like. This will help find some connections between you both.
- It’s OK if you don’t feel the way you thought you would. Be genuine in your feelings and watch relationships grow!
- Accept that you will get frustrated with the way their mother handles things, but don’t talk badly about their mom. Handle things your own way and hope for a happy middle.
- Don’t be afraid to discipline as you see fit. Kids like structure and order – no matter what they say.
- Learn to love their quirks, idiosyncrasies and flaws and you’ll find yourself lucky to have fallen into a premade family!