Home     Home and Family     Healthy Kids    

You're not my real mom!

Hudson Valley mom discusses step-parenting

Leaning close to me, the counselor whispered, “I know it’s difficult at times to be a step-mom, but you should consider it a privilege to have the opportunity.”

I expected wise counsel on how to cope with the constant struggles of step-mothering, and this was the absolute last thing I wanted to hear. I wanted to storm out of the office, slamming all the doors on the way out, but I quickly reminded myself I was here for my kids.

Parenting step-children can feel more like a burden than a privilege at points, despite our efforts. So, how do we learn to embrace our role as a step-parent? These tips will help step-parents thrive and gain the confidence needed for step-parenting success!

Tips for step-mother success

So, how do we learn to embrace our role as a step-mother or step-father? These simple steps will help step-parents thrive and gain confidence in their step-parenting abilities.

1. Be your own person. Don’t try to replace the biological parent. Don’t compete with her either. It’s okay to be different. When my step-daughter was young, she thought I was weird because I didn’t know how to French braid hair. Spending a lot of time styling hair wasn’t important to me, but she hurt my feelings with her comments. Her biological mom was a wonderful hairstylist and I felt inferior. I now recognize the importance of accepting my differences and being comfortable with who I am.

2. Be a friend. Particularly in the beginning, it’s important to be a friend rather than a disciplinarian. Developing a relationship with your step-child is the primary goal for a new step-parent. Find common ground that allows time together comfortably. Let the biological parent take the lead in disciplining during the relationship-building period.  Moving into a parental role too soon will only result in anger and resentment.

READ MORE: Is divorce the answer for you? 

3. Forgive yourself. You will mess up as a step-parent. Just remember to forgive yourself when you do. During our early years of marriage, I was easily irritated with the shortcomings of my step-children. I reacted in favor of my biological children during times of conflict and was frustrated with my lack of patience and fairness toward my step-children.

As soon as I began to forgive myself for my mistakes, I started to learn from my failures. I was able to pick myself up and begin again with positive strides in my step-parenting role.

4. Make marriage a priority. It’s easy to allow struggles with the kids to interfere with your marital relationship. It’s important to stay connected in tough times by taking intentional steps to work through conflict with your spouse and create a united front. Recognize the challenges of blending a family and seek professional help if you reach an impasse in your relationships.

READ MORE: 5 ways to maintain communication with your family

5. Let relationships develop. Strive continuously for love and acceptance of one another, but don’t expect harmony overnight. The average step-family takes seven years to fully integrate. Complex step-families, or families where both parents bring children to the marriage, take longer.

Although blending families is a constant journey, there are many rewards along the way. You’ll laugh, cry and even scream, but in the end, we learn to love and be loved by our step-children.

After more than 17 years as a step-mother, I experience far more rewards than burdens. I can now honestly say, “It’s been a privilege to take part in raising my step-children.”

I’m thankful for the healing that has occurred in our relationships and look forward to the years ahead as our family continues to grow, mature and embrace our role as a blended family.

Gayla Grace is a wife and mother to five children in her blended family.