Today is my step-son’s 22nd birthday. Twenty-Two! That is just crazy. I feel honored to have spent the last 14 years watching him grow into a wonderful young man.
When I think about the last 14 years I get overwhelmed. Being a step-mom is not easy. I have sacrificed so much of myself, questioned my self-worth, and bit my tongue more times than I can count. The relationship I have with my step-son today makes it all worth it.
I purposely stayed away from talking about the ins and outs of being a blended family. Even in the best of circumstances, there are challenging times. From the very beginning, I decided to put him first and for me that includes not writing about that part of our life.
However, today I would like to share with you five guidelines on being a step-parent. Keep in mind these are all based on my own personal experience and may not apply to all blended families.
1.) Never Talk Negatively About Their Parent: I wish this would be a no-brainer but sadly it is not. I can not tell you how many times I have encountered blended families who openly trash talk their step-child’s parent. Not only did I not talk negatively about my son’s mom, but I never talked negatively about her to anyone else (except Mr. C and my bestest friend who often times gave me perspective as a single mom). So, other than that, I just didn’t do it. I didn’t want my family or friends to meet her and treat her based on my own convoluted feelings. She deserved respect for the simple fact she is my son’s mom.
2.) You’re NOT Their Mom/Dad but You Are Their Parent: I made it very clear from the beginning that I understood I was not his mom. He has a mom and I respected that. However, he lived with us more than half of the time and that meant I was caring for him. Therefore, I treated him like my own son and I expected a level of respect as his parent.
3.) Celebrate The Other Parent: I went out of my way on Mother’s Day, Christmas, and her birthday to help our son celebrate her. I took him shopping for gifts and even made scrapbooks, etc. of pictures of him taken while with us (of just him, obviously). It was important to me that he knew it was okay to celebrate and express love for his mom while he was around us. More important he knew that we expected for him to respect and honor her.
4.) Respect the Other Parent’s Rules/Create Rules For Your Own Home: Our son knew that if he was in trouble with his mom, he was in trouble with us. Period. On the other hand, know that you can’t control how the other parent runs their household and if they will extend the same courtesy to you. Do it anyway. I found myself saying, “I know that your mom allows that in her home but in our house…” It was tricky because I didn’t want him to think I thought his mom was wrong but at the same time, we had our own set of values.
5.) Be a Family: After we started to have kids of our own, I wanted to make sure he always felt like he was part of our family. For us that meant never taking a family picture without him, going on a family vacation without him, or celebrating holidays without him. This was a scheduling nightmare because I had to work around what worked best for his mom. I always included him in the number of kids we have when asked. He was never referred to as a half-brother, just brother, and was raised with my nieces and nephews as their cousin. We also had joint birthday parties and sat together during all of his extra curricular and school related activities.
I have plenty more words about the world of being a blended family but these five rules were a great foundation for us. It wasn’t easy but I knew that my end result was raising a little boy as I would my own. A boy who didn’t choose this lifestyle. When things were particularly rough I reminded myself that I chose this life and in the end he comes first.
Trust me I was not always the ideal step-mom. I made so many mistakes but I learned from them. In retrospect I would have communicated my feelings of unworthiness to Mr. C sooner, acknowledged my own jealousy because it is normal, and set certain boundaries that would have prevented me being taken advantage of. However, I would do it all over again in heart beat because raising a step-son who grows up and calls you a kick-ass step-mom is worth every sacrifice I have ever made.
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