I feel like most of what I read or listen to about being a stepparent is how tough it is. That can definitely be true. This is why people talk about it so darn much and why having support like a coach or therapist can be super helpful.
In movies and fairy tales the stepmom is always mean and evil which is a whole other topic I can write about.
I think there can be benefits to being a stepmom and I’ll share those here today. These are based on my life and my experience. Each stepmom’s situation and every family is different. This is based on my unique situation.
When you date a person with kids and then you marry them you go from single to family in one single move.
In my case, I skipped the whole baby phase and had 2 super fun kids when we were together. The kids were 4 and 8 when I started dating their dad so they didn’t nap or wear diapers. We went to amusement parks and on fun adventures as a group. This is a big change from being single for sure but we can also look at it like skipping the line straight to the front.
When I was dating my future husband I didn’t even meet his kids for a long time. Even after I met them I wasn’t around ALL the time.
I remember that when my mom found out that he had kids she said, “That seems like a lot. Are you sure you want to take that on?”
I will be honest and admit I didn’t really understand the seriousness or the permanence of the relationships with the kids at the time. It felt to me like what my mom was saying was kind of insensitive (and it was … but also every other adult in my life was thinking a version of this and just not saying it out loud). It is a good thing to think about before you make this a more permanent commitment.
For me mostly the instant family was a pretty fun adventure. It took a little while before I experienced struggling with this transition.
As a stepmom I was part-time.
Every step-parent relationship is different. In my case I didn’t have kids that I brought to the relationship. My step-kids had two very involved, loving and able parents.
I mentioned above that I was introduced slowly. Even once we lived together, I was part of the instant family for short periods of time.
A night here and then a weekend over there and an occasional short vacation together. When we were first dating if he had the kids I would be on my own with friends for the weekend or whatever. Then even after I had been introduced it was a long time before I would be a part of a full weekend together. Then once we lived together and were married the kids would be with us only part-time. Every other weekend kind of thing.
Which was a lot of fun for me. Kind of the best of both worlds really.
I think this is very different for the bio parent who might wish the kids were there all the time but as a stepparent I thought it was a great thing that there was some time off.
As a stepparent I was an outside voice.
A lot of step-parents struggle with this but I often found this to be an advantage. I had a non-parent perspective that was occasionally helpful.
Now 99.95 percent of the time this really isn’t desired or wanted by the biological parent. That’s okay. Seriously, this is the way it works. Sometimes it is helpful because you aren’t the parent and you can see things from a slightly different and less attached view.
Here’s a story before I knew anything about parenting when I just happened to notice something that turned out to help.
For example, my stepson seemed to me that he was always sick with a cold / sinus infection.
His parents had lived this for years and were very used to it. However, I thought it was unusual and after being quiet about it for a long time I finally said, Hey… I think this kid maybe should see a different doctor or something because he never gets better.
This was a touchy thing to do because it wasn’t really my job as the stepmom to point this out. I knew this.
My boyfriend / husband DID totally brush me off when I brought this up because I wasn’t a mom and what did I know about kids and colds.
He was correct.
The reason I brought it up at all was because I hoped that the kid could feel better. He was snoring and there was never ending green snot.
No ego from me. Even though my boyfriend/husband (I don’t remember where we were in our relationship when this happened) brushed me off he did go ahead and mention it to his ex-wife who said that the person she was dating noticed the same thing.
Long story short they talked it through and realized that because of the parent rotation different parents were taking him to the doctor each during their own times and not fully realizing how often this little guy was going to the doctor. I think if I remember correctly, the parents went together to the pediatrician who sent them to an ENT who took out his tonsils and adenoids which were both super inflamed and the kid felt a bunch better.
No more snoring. He grew a lot the next year. This was a good thing.
Yay for the stepparents. Win for the kid even more!
As a stepmom I am NOT a parent.
I know that this is a struggle for a lot of step-parents who want to feel like a parent. I love my stepkids and would hurl myself in front of moving traffic for them. I am not their parent. Sometimes this is a big difference.
It’s worth noting that in many cases stepparents will step in to fill a full-time parenting role. I did not have to do that. In my case, I was an adult married to my stepkids’ dad. I love my step-kids like crazy but I have a little bit of distance and sometimes that really is great. Sometimes it’s even helpful for the whole big blended family.
I have two stories about this.
First, my stepdaughter asked to do a religion class. Her dad is not religious. I have no idea what their plan was when they were married. My impression is that her mom is a little more so. Mom signed her up. Dad was peeved and this became a little fight between the parents. I was not involved. The kid felt strongly about it and spoke up and I was still not involved.
Until I got a call one night from the kid. Highly unusual. Turns out that the kid had decided that she did NOT want to do the rest of the religion class and wasn’t sure how to tell her parents. As this youngster told me … the classes were boring. This was also my experience with religion classes so I was sympathetic.
The only reason this kid could call me was specifically because I wasn’t a parent and I wasn’t all wrapped up in the parent drama of the situation. As you might imagine I basically told her she needed to talk to her parents. Still sometimes it’s helpful to have another adult around who will support you but isn’t your mom or dad.
Second story. A little more serious.
I hope that nobody reading this ever goes through a serious health issue or mental health crisis as a parent or stepparent. One of my stepkids struggled with depression and went through a period of self-harm. This was insanely tough for the entire family. Every adult was on full alert to do whatever we could to support this young person. Nobody was under the same stress as the mom and dad. The level of stress on the mom and dad was insane.
It was an advantage to all of us in the family that the step-parents had a little bit of distance and we were able to be a little calmer during the high stress crises moments. Pick up some of the slack in other family issues during that tough time to allow the mom and dad full focus on the child who needed help.
As a stepparent I could see that I was not as stressed as the mom and dad and I was thankful at the time. Also when all hands are needed it can be helpful to have stepparents to pitch in.
As a stepparent I can say no, thank you.
I was a stepmom before I was a mom.
Over the last 18 years of being a mom I have learned how much when you are the bio parent the commitment is more extreme. 24 hours a day for 18+ years. Every bedtime, every meal, every parent teacher conference every sporting event, every doctor visit, every runny nose and skinned knee, every email from school. All of it. Triple if you are a single parent. I know that math doesn’t make sense but being a single parent is exponentially more work.
As a step-mom I do not have this level of required obligation even if I live with the bio parent.
When you get the call — can you pick up little SuzieQ from middle school → you can say, no. I was asked once to do middle school pick up as a step-mom and afterwards I told my husband … never again, do it yourself or call the kid a cab. School pick up is super complicated.
Do you want to go to the world’s longest summer camp recital → maybe you’d rather go to a movie.
Do you want to host a huge sleepover —> you don’t actually have to.
Can you chaperone the school dance trip –> you can say no.
Do you want to enforce the discipline rules for the step kids –> you can say no.
Now, I have talked to many step-parents who feel like they should or must do these things as the stepmom. Maybe you want to and that’s okay if you truly enjoy it. Pro-tip don’t expect the step kid or parents to thank you for what you do. Make sure that you do it for yourself.
I will say from experience you can actually say, no.
In fact, many stepparents have specific things they don’t ever do.
Sometimes your step-kids will care a lot if you go to their events but lots of other times they may not. Even though I’ve been in my step-kids’ lives for 22 years they mostly care that their mom and dad are at the important events.
Extra bonus on this topic. If you need to travel for work it’s not your job to arrange adjustments to the custody shuffle. You just go. That’s a really, really, really big benefit to being a step-mom or a step-parent.
You get to witness how the person you are in a relationship parents their kids and whether it matches your possible parenting style.
Being a grown up with kids can be stressful.
When you are in a relationship with a person with kids you can watch how they interact with the kids. Do they play with them. Do they avoid discipline? Do they yell a lot? Do they clean up after the kids?
This in my experience is true and a good idea but also hit or miss for me because I honestly did not know what my parenting style would be.
I think it’s helpful and I’ll also say that it’s not a perfect thing. As I mentioned, I didn’t really know what kind of parent I would be when I was watching my husband with his kids. More important we weren’t parenting together at that point and with our kids we make decisions together and that’s a different dynamic.
I hope that you found these benefits interesting.
I am going to do a separate list of challenges with being a stepmom. Watch for that.
Let me know if you think of any others that you’ve experienced that I missed.
I am a coach. I love to work with stepparents. If what you read here resonates with you. Here is where you can find out how to work with me.