My Dear Stepmothers: Please pass this post along to your best friends, sisters, mothers, cousins, or anyone else you go to for support.
How to Be a Stepmom’s Friend
When I first became a stepmother, my best friend listened to me talk about what it was like to becoming a stepmom. I dished to her all my fears and feelings. Yes. ALL. The stepmothers who are reading this before sending it along to friends are cringing right now. Because often when a stepmother tells the truth of what she’s feeling to someone who is not a stepmom, she hears responses such as the following:
How could you hate a kid?
What do you mean you don’t love your stepchildren?
You knew what you were getting into when you married him / moved in with him / decided to date a man with kids.
Why do you need alone time? Don’t you want to be with your family 24/7?
You sound like a wicked stepmother.
Shouldn’t you be at your stepchild’s soccer game?
Why would you go to your stepchild’s soccer game? You’re only her stepmom.
What a stepmother’s friends don’t typically know is that the hard feelings we have as we become stepmoms are a normal part of stepfamily development. But since this is not common knowledge, stepmothers are often made to feel like crazy, evil, heartless, and stupid women by the very people who love them most. And that makes the job of becoming a stepmother, more difficult.
If you’re friends with a stepmom, here are some tips to help you stay friends as she blossoms into stepmotherhood.
Have an open heart policy. Even if you’re a whiz at active listening, pay attention to how you offer your new stepmom friend a shoulder to cry on. Try to listen to her feelings with an open heart and mind. Even if she says she hates the six year old who knocks on her newlywed bedroom door every night, please don’t judge her. Instead merely say something like, “I’m sorry honey. That sounds like it’s really hard for you.”
Give her the benefit of the doubt. Assume your friend is still the generous, kind, loving woman she was before she became a stepmother. Becoming a stepmom can knock a woman to her knees, especially if she has challenging stepchildren who are openly hostile. Even when she voices things that you don’t understand or agree with, consider voicing this thought: “I don’t really understand what you’re going through because I’ve never been a stepmother, but I love you and support you no matter what.”
Remind her of who she is. No matter how long your friend has been a stepmother, she needs to be reminded of who she is outside of her stepmom role. Help her remember what she’s like when she’s happy and light-hearted. Take her out to do things that you both love that don’t involve husbands or kids or stepchildren.
Read a book about stepmotherhood. Consider this quote by a reader who reviewed my book, A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom. “I am not a stepmom or a stepdaughter but my best friend is both. There was no way for me to understand the kinds of issues she faced as they courted and got married and built their new family; this book makes it all so clear.” Whether you read my book or one by another author, you would do your friendship a great service if you learned about the normal phases of stepmother development.
Support her positivity. Don’t let your friend just vent to you about all the negative aspects of stepmotherhood without touching on the positive parts. A stepmother needs to be armed with optimism if she’s going to make it to the finish line. So help her remember the many reasons she loves her husband and what she feels she’s done well.
No one dreams of becoming a stepmother but now that your friend is one or is about to become one, she will need you more than ever. On behalf of your friend, I thank you for your willingness to love and support her. If I were in your presence right now I would give you a standing ovation!
And to my own dear friend. Thank you so much for listening to me with an open heart. You always make me feel supported and understood even when you disagreed with me. I love you!