Stepparents, Your Struggle Is Real (But Worth It)

I was 7 years old when I met my would-be stepmom. She was blonde, beautiful and had these huge teeth that formed a smile when she caught me sneaking peeks of her. She seemed very kind. We saw her more and more in the weeks following. Eventually, the smallest, simplest, most seemingly insignificant things – how she helped me cut my sandwich or tie my shoe or put a dress on my doll – made me really love her.

My stepmom was the best stepmom a kid could hope for: patient and understanding, never speaking critically of my mom in front of us kids (despite a pretty rough divorce) and an unwavering source of support as I became a teenager at constant war with my dad. I depended on my stepmom for so many things, and I hope she believes our relationship was worth the struggle.

Because there was a ton of struggle.

For me, it was definitely worth it. Now, as a mom to two young kids myself, I have an even better understanding of the unique challenges a stepparent faces. It’s a big undertaking to parent children simply because you fell in love with someone who had them. But plenty of kids and parents build loving stepfamilies. It’s not easy (because, hello, you aren’t my mom!), but it’s so worth it.

Some kids put up walls; they come into the relationship with cautionary ambivalence (like I did). Despite how hard a stepparent tries, warmth and affection is refused. But don’t give up. Remember, they’re still just kids. In their minds, their family just fell apart. When they finally reciprocate your love, you’ll quickly forget how frustrating it was getting to that point.

And if you’re anything like my stepmom, you’ll keep working at it, because family’s worth it. When you make a commitment to your partner, their kids are part of the deal. But don’t forget that you can lean on your partner when it gets tough – they made a commitment to you, too, and your relationship with them is the foundation for your relationship with their kids. Make it a strong foundation.

To my stepmom and other stepparents out there doing their best in a modern-day family, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re awesome.

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