“If I knew then what I know now”…those words sound familiar? I often find myself thinking those words when people ask me what it’s like being a stepmother.
My story is a bit unique. My husband was my first kiss, my first handholder, my first everything — at age 29.
For my husband, this was his second marriage. And when I married him, I knew he was giving me two beautiful wedding presents: two girls, ages eight and twelve. But all the events which have transpired since our wedding make me frequently say those words, “If I had only known…”
Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly would still have married my husband and welcomed my daughters into my heart. But I do wish someone would have told me about the heartache associated with being a stepmom: fights with and comparisons to his ex-wife, tears over who wants to live with whom, different parenting styles, different expectations on chores… and the list goes on.
My marriage is one of the greatest sources of joy in my life; however, I have also experienced much pain and sorrow from being a stepmom. All of the lessons learned within my past five years of marriage can mainly be boiled down to the following four tips for being a stepmom:
1. Say Less.
You may laugh, but it’s true. Less complaining. Less crying and asking, “Why?” Less angry outbursts. Less retaliation. Less biting words. Less badmouthing. I wish I would have said less and lived more. As I was told in college, we have two ears and one mouth because we were made to listen twice as much as we talk. I believe that. After talking negatively far too much, I now say less.
We have two ears and one mouth because we were made to listen twice as much as we talk.
2. Pray More.
I wished I would have prayed more – much more. I wish I would have prayed more for my husband’s strength, for my peace and wisdom, and for my girls’ hearts. I wish I would have eagerly sought out mentors to pray with me too: to have a sense of community so that I wasn’t alone in my journey as a new stepmom. Prayer always has a way of changing me much more than it ever changes anyone else I pray for. I now pray more.
3. Understand More.
This kind of builds upon the previous two points. As I say less and pray more, I understand more. I understand now that my husband was always on my side. I had no reason to compare myself to his first wife. I understand now how joy comes the morning after holding my weeping husband in my arms — after saying “goodbye” to the girls at the end of a visit. I understand my husband and my girls more.
4. Don’t Put it in Writing.
Funny story. One day, I was really upset at my husband’s former spouse. Instead of cooling off, taking a walk or just leaving it alone, I sent off a heated email. Bad idea! The result? A returned email, equally as heated, which caused me months of weeping and nursing deep wounds. Since then, when I am mad, I let myself be angry, but I don’t respond in print – not even to my husband.
Being a stepmom is a tough job. There are some very murky territories within the role, but the rewards of hugs, laughs, and snuggles are worth it. My daughters truly were (and still are) the best wedding present I could have ever received.