Life as a Stepmum
Step families come in all different shapes and sizes; sometimes both partners have children from a previous relationship; sometimes just one has children; some couples then have their own children together as well; sometimes there are teenagers, and sometimes there are tiny people.
Small Steps spoke to blogger and Stepmum Chloe, who has two children of her own and three stepchildren. Chloe’s family is bowling along pretty happily with a sound level of understanding and mutual respect amongst the seven of them! The road to get there was pretty bumpy at times and the challenges are far from over, but right now it’s good!
Does your step family include children of your partners and now you are about to have a baby together? Here are some of Chloe’s tips to help:
The feelings of your partner’s children about the birth of their half siblings will most probably vary depending on their ages and other factors such as how much time they spend with you and how you discuss things with them so that they feel involved. Keep the communication lines open; with any luck there will at least be an element of excitement from the children (and quite possibly loads, it just depends). Be there to listen if you’re needed and ensure your step children know you’re there if they want you, and that that will not be changing, even with the arrival of your new baby. Yes it’s hard to communicate with ease at times, but it is also effective and in the long run, rewarding. Don’t forget that it’s very easy for the children involved to feel vulnerable, worried and concerned for reasons they won’t necessarily fully understand.
When coaching Stepmums in this position there are a myriad of feelings going on for them personally as well. There’s excitement about the arrival of their own child, sometimes a feeling that they should keep that excitement in check in case it makes the stepchildren uneasy, and sometimes even feelings of guilt because they feel their husband has expectations and needs over her feelings for his children. It is ok to accept and acknowledge that your feelings for your stepchildren might not be the same as those you will have for your own child. Every Stepmum is different in this way and will achieve a different level of bond/caring/love for their stepchildren. We need to let go of any guilt around this in order to be as present as possible in the relationships and continue to enhance them and appreciate them for their own individual merits.
It may sound cliché and touchy feely, but from my own experience I can tell you that a positive mind and approach to the issues that arise is your biggest power when it comes to getting through the toughest times. If there are any negative emotions being expressed and you approach a problematic situation by focusing on what is wrong, why it is bad and upsetting to you, then you will most probably get more of the same. By adopting a positive attitude and focusing instead on how you WANT it to be, you are much more likely to get closer to what you want. You do have the power to influence the overall mood and work with those who are feeling less excited in drawing that out of them and helping them to work it through in a more positive way.
Remember! Your relationship is key
So many second marriages or partnerships that involve children crumble under the pressure. Be kind to each other, support each other (especially when it comes to parenting and step parenting roles), make time to listen and just be together and use any free time to reconnect and do something you both love. If you are strong as a couple it gives your step family the best possible chance of being strong together as well.
Everyone has boundaries and we need to respect each other’s boundaries. Boundaries within a step family are so important, and a brilliantly easy way to resolve some difficult issues that may arise. Get everyone involved – what does each person need in your step family to feel respected and heard? The more everyone has a say, the more likely they are to understand each other and to be on board. You can weave into this any expectations you might have with the new baby – a respect over any structure of napping or meal times, help with washing or meal preparations, quiet time when needed etc.
These cornerstones can help you to put in place the foundations of a healthy, functioning step family with trust and respect. It can be a long journey, but you can do it, and you can be happy.
You can read more about Chloe’s life as a stepmum and further step family information over on Chloe’s blog