Being a stepmother can be a tough and lonely job. She’s got essentially the same level of responsibility as biological parents, but isn’t always perceived -or treated- like a parent.
And even her closest friends and family may not understand the challenges. Or that just a few supportive words would make a huge difference for her.
So for those of you with stepmoms in your life, here are 7 things that every stepmom needs to hear once in a while:
You’re doing a great job.
Husbands, listen up. Your wife is trying so hard to balance everything, to belong, to not step on toes, and to be the very best wife and stepmom she can be. And she constantly wonders if she’s doing it right.
Even if it’s just once in a while, tell her she’s doing a great job.
Friends and family of stepmothers, this one is also for you. She probably doesn’t let on how hard the struggle can be. Next time you’re talking with her about her kids or family life, just tell her you recognize all she’s doing.
She doesn’t need praise every day. But every stepmom needs to hear a little bit. She really does want to be seen.
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You are loved.
The stepmother in your life may not always feel super loved. She probably knows her husband loves her. But she also gets pulled in a bunch of directions trying to balance kids, home, work, and et cetera.
And when stepchildren act out with anger towards her, it isn’t always as easy for the stepmother to let it roll off her back. She doesn’t have the same biological connection to the kids as her husband. So she can feel insecure or unsure about whether her love for her stepchildren is returned.
So even if you know that she knows you love her, tell her. Every stepmom needs to hear it.
What can I do to help?
This is a two-fer. If you see that she needs help with the kids, the house, or anything else, just ask how you can pitch in. She’ll probably tell you she’s good. And she may be. But she’ll appreciate the offer.
Also, chances are, the stepmom in your life is not putting herself first. But you can help her do that. If she won’t admit she needs help (speaking from experience here, people), think of some way that you can help her take care of herself.
Surprise her with a pedicure (when spas reopen, of course). Offer to give her an afternoon on her own. Run a bath for her. Just let her know that you’re partners. And you want to lift her up and support her.
You are a real mom.
Of all the things that stepmoms need to hear, please remember this one. When I first got married and gained my instant family, I became an instant parent. But I felt like a total fraud. It felt weird to pick up the kids from school and to stay home with them when they were sick.
And it felt super weird to talk about them. Like I somehow didn’t have the right to.
I remember being at a work meeting talking with some colleagues about morning routines and mentioned how early one of my stepchildren has to get up for school. My colleague responded with something along the lines of, “you only have to worry about it 50 percent of the time.”
I immediately felt like I’d been put in my place. Of course I didn’t deserve to talk about kids as if I was a real parent. I was only a stepparent. And only 50 percent of the time.
No!! That is not the right response. Stepmoms, you ARE a parent – whether your stepchildren are with you 5, 10, 50, or 100% of the time.
And if you have a stepmom in your life, please reinforce this with her.
I know it’s hard for you.
Sometimes stepmoms just need some empathy. There’s no way that our husbands or family can completely understand all the complex feelings that go along with stepparenting.
But if they can understand that it’s not always rainbows and unicorns, and express that to us? That’s really all we need them to get. And when they do, it really does make us feel better.
Husbands, this is for you. Thank your sweet wives for all they do for you and your children.
Have I mentioned how tough stepmomming can be? Right. So a simple “thank you” once in a while will go really far.
I know this from personal experience. Every so often, my husband Craig will just look at me and say those two magical words. It’s usually out of the blue, and I usually ask him “for what?” And he’ll respond with “for all that you do.”
It makes me feel warm every single time.
This is a big one. And it’s both a “show” and “tell” thing. Stepmoms can feel very insecure about their place in the family. Depending on her relationship with the kids, she might feel out of place. Are you always talking about things that happened before she was on the scene? Do you include her in important decisions? Do you support her decisions?
Not only does it help her to hear once in a while that you’re grateful for the role she plays in the family, but you can also show her she belongs with small gestures of inclusion.
Reminisce with the kids about times the family has had with her. A fun outing or trip. If the kids are talking to you about an important ask, make sure she’s there with you to consider it.
Ask for her input on other decisions you’re making that involve the kids.
And please celebrate her on Mother’s Day (I know this should be a no-brainer, but just saying). If you need help finding special gifts for her, you can check out some ideas here.
Every stepparenting situation is different. But these are some common threads. I guarantee if you can start expressing some of these sentiments to the stepmom in your life, you’ll help her.
Are you a stepmom that has things you’d like to hear? Comment below! (and join our private Facebook group to chat with other likeminded stepmoms!)