I've been married for almost three years and I always tell my husband that being a "Stepdad" is far easier than being a "stepmom." Our blended family life has been far from easy. I've had to adjust and learn how to navigate through the tension and drama that stems from he and his ex wife inability to coparent. I've read countless of articles on the do's and don't's as a stepmom. But with stories like Cinderella, and the evil portrayal of stepmothers; I find myself always fighting to have a place in my bonus daughter's life.
This was her first summer with us in Hawaii. She has not been able to visit us at our home in over two years. And with her being a teenager now, I knew respecting her space and boundaries would be key in our ability to bond. A lot of step parents will complain and express their frustration about their bonus children. Not realizing that divorce and separation is hard on children as well. It's a transition that everyone involved needs time to adjust to. You have adults who have yet to heal and control their emotions years after a divorce. So why expect children to do what adults have trouble doing themselves? It’s so important to to give your stepchildren TIME but more importantly, grace. Grace and showing empathy is key to having a successful relationship with your bonus children.
And I would like to say, I didn't always have that way of thinking. I was selfish and expected my stepdaughter to just fall in line like a robot. I expected her to be over her parents divorce because it had been a few years since their divorce was finalized. I thought I was in the clear but I was completely wrong.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a bonus Mom is to focus strictly on the relationship that I have with my bonus daughter, everything outside of that, is none of my business. Seeing it as a competition between households only creates more conflict. I learned to pick and choose my battles with all of our children. But especially with my bonus daughter. She’s a teenager now so I wanted to set realistic expectations for us both. In the past, I went about our relationship completely wrong. I went from the cool girlfriend to a disciplinarian after her father and I started cohabiting. There was no balance. I expected her to jump right in and fit into my house rules. I say, "my" because my husband and I did not set boundaries and expectations together for our blended family. This caused problems for our children who still had to get to know each other. It's important to let the lead parent LEAD! It's important to remember that as a stepparent, you cannot force a child who is not being raised in your house to automatically adjust to your household rules, mannerism and other social norms.
This summer was all about reestabilishing boundaries. She has grown into a lil lady and I did not personally want to waste time being critical over things that are out of my control. So for the first time in the six years that I have been with her father, my husband, I truly felt like we bonded. She would go on walks with me at night. She'd share personal middle drama stories. She was a huge help with her sisters! She would willingly give baths daily. I enjoyed watching her be in big sister mode. I enjoyed Kehlani begging to stay home with her every day. It was the little things like that, that made our family feel complete. Nique and Darius hardly every argued. Now I'll admit, there were times where Darius fulfilled his "annoying little brother" title. But they modeled conflict resolution so well!
Watching her leave Hawaii, was such a bittersweet moment. There's so much that I can't say in one blog post but I am so thankful for the memories we made this summer. If I could give any stepmom advice, I'd say, be patient! It takes time to build a relationship with a child that is not yours. Do not expect an overnight miracle. Build an authentic relationship with your stepchildren, meaning, going the extra mile with gifts does not guarantee a relationship. I use to believe that if I did more, she'd love me more. I was wrong again. And this belief will only lead to resentment for you as a stepparent. Your relationship will develop overtime based on small moments and gestures. Not through monetary gifts and activities that are centered around you spending money all the time. I came into my stepdaughter's life when she was eight years old. And for every step forward we take, there's a step backwards because of the barriers that exist. I'll be nice and say barriers but we all know what those barriers include.