One thing that I want all stepmum's to know is that their struggles are normal. I promise you, it isn't just you who gets anxiety when your stepkids come over, struggles with jealousy issues or fantasises about a life without the pressure and stress of being a stepmum.
You may even regret meeting your partner and becoming a stepmum in the first place.
If this is you, you are very normal too. Stepmum life is HARD. The honest truth is that it isn't for everyone, and you are going to have to do a lot of work on yourself so you can be a happy stepmum.
This isn't a bad thing at all. In fact, it is a positive as all those not so nice parts of you that are being brought to the surface have been there all along. Your stepfamily life is just highlighting what you have always needed to heal. It really is a blessing in disguise if you choose to see it that way.
I am a big believer that the universe gives us only what we can handle, and so you, my stepmum friend CAN handle this. You are much stronger than you think, and regardless of what you have believed before, you really can be a happy stepmum, even if the ex won't look you in the eye or one of your stepchildren hate you.
Now I am not saying that that is the case in my situation....
My stepkids could be saying things behind my back, I really don't know. I don't think they are! But I wouldn't even blame them if they did find having a stepmum hard. Even though I do my best, I can't imagine what it must be like to not have your parents together or not have chosen to be a stepchild.
I always try and show empathy, am patient, keep my heart open and keep working on myself - which leads to my first stepmum regret.
1) NOT GETTING HELP SOONER
There is no shame in your struggles. Trust me, we have all been there. Those horrible emotions you are feeling, that make you feel like you are the world's worst stepmum? Yep, I have been there too. We all have!
I have had therapy, coaching and read all the books on stepparenting. I don't see that as a bad thing? I am a stepmum of 4, so of course I am going to need some advice and support. I haven't had my own kids yet, so I really didn't have a clue about children when I started out.
In any case, a mum and stepmum role are completely different. Even mums who have had kids before, struggle when they become a stepmum.
It took me a while to admit I needed help.
Mum's struggle (with no stepkids to worry about), so why can't stepmums? Where is it written down that we need to be perfect in life? There is no law that says a stepmum can't have a bad day! That is a pressure we are putting on ourselves.
It is one of the reasons I became a stepfamily coach. I knew how coaching (more so than therapy if I am honest) helped me. If I can be happy, you all can too. I am no different or special.
If you need help, please ask for it! Book in for a free call with me sometime, and I will assure you that you are not alone. There is a way through all your stepmum struggles. Everything can be figured out.
2) THAT TWO OF MY STEPCHILDREN DIDN'T ATTEND OUR WEDDING
I won't go into the details, but only two of my stepkids were at our wedding. This wasn't actually our choice and I still feel sad about it now. I feel if there were there they would have actually enjoyed it, but it is what it is and at the time, the situation just wouldn't have worked. It probably wouldn't be any different now if I am honest.
I know I am not the only stepmum, where because of the situation, their stepchildren weren't allowed to be at special occasions.
I had two of my stepchildren at my wedding, and actually it was only my stepson who made me cry! I remember crying that I was just so happy he liked me.
I really do think it is wired into us that stepmum's are evil people. We even hold that belief ourselves.
I know special occasions are always difficult in stepfamilies. I know that sometimes an ex finds it hard that their partner has moved on, and we have to respect that and how they are feeling.
It is sometimes such a fine balance in pushing for something to happen, but not causing a scene or distress for the kids. At the end of the day, you just want everyone to be happy.
Stepmum's know their role isn't always welcomed. We may blame ourselves for even existing. I know I often used to think that if I wasn't around, then maybe everyone's life would be easier.
But I also know that whoever was in my place, would also be treated the same as me. It isn't personal.
3) HOW I HANDLED THE SITUATION WHEN ONE OF MY STEPKIDS ASKED IF THEY SHOULD CALL ME MUM
I am not going to lie, I completely panicked! I think I muttered the words 'call me what you want, I am just happy if you like me', and then scurried off into another room.
It is something I wasn't prepared for at all. I thought I would have more of a battle of getting my stepkids to like, rather than one even considering me as something other than just Dad's wife.
I felt terrible for weeks after that I didn't handle it in the right way. Looking back I wish I had told my stepchild how much I loved and cared for them, and that I was never there to replace their mum, but was just an extra person in their life to love them.
I think society has conditioned us to believe that a stepparent is a bad thing, but the truth is in 99% of families, all the stepmum or stepdad wants to do is try and do the right thing, however challenging it may feel or however much they may struggle.
A stepmum or stepdad usually has NO idea what they are doing to begin with. We are always learning as we go along too. We really don't have a clue how to care for someone else's child. We are always worried about getting too involved, or not involved enough.
Are we being too nice? Or too strict? Are we trying too hard? Or not hard enough?
Are we putting ourselves first enough or are we sacrificing too much?
It really is not an easy task. A lot of it is trial and error, and looking back and learning from our mistakes.
4) OWNING MY ROLE AND BEING PROUD TO BE A STEPMUM
For a long time, I was actually ashamed to be a stepmum. Especially as I was a stepmum of 4 by 2 different women. I thought, what would people think of me? Would they judge me? What would they be saying behind my back?
I would not even tell people I met that I had 4 stepkids... It is awful to admit I know, but most people do not understand what being in a stepfamily means.
I was always the person who would NEVER date a man with kids.... and now I was married to a man with four!
I realise now it is actually an honour to be a stepmum. I am so proud of myself and how far I have come.
Being a stepmum is not something every woman can handle in all honesty. It really isn't for the faint of heart.
You really are going to be tested to the max, and every insecurity will be brought to the surface.
BUT it is going to open your heart in ways you couldn't have imagined (if you allow that to happen). I honestly didn't realise how closed my heart was until I became a stepmum.
If people want to judge you, that really is their problem. I really do think being a stepmum is a calling. Everything does happen for a reason in life.
If you are struggling now, feeling shame or lack of self worth, please do ask yourself - what can you learn here? What are the lessons that are coming up?
If you ever think about leaving your partner, remember, yes it may be easier not to be married to a man with kids, BUT, those inner wounds and lack of self-worth will still be there.
Those lessons that the universe is trying to teach you, are still going to come up in your next relationship.
Own every single part of you. Be proud to be a stepmum. You really are a truly amazing woman.