Late one night, not long ago, I found myself in my bathtub. I was pouring my third glass of wine and turning into a wrinkly prune. My husband and his son (my stepson) were downstairs playing cards — an occasion I 100% wanted nothing to do with.
I was avoiding them.
While sipping on my giant glass of red, I was scavenging the internet for answers to my Stepmom Questions.
“How do I react when my Stepson acts like a complete butt?
“How do I make my husband realize he is being a Disneyland Dad?
“How do I stop feeling jealous about my husband’s ex?
“Does my husband still have feelings for his ex?”
The list goes on, but one thing was for sure: I wasn’t a happy camper.
If you went into my Google Search History — these are a few examples of what you’d see me type in while half (or fully) under the influence of a delicious Cab Sauv. If you’re anything like me, you and I probably have had similar search histories.
But when I searched for things like, “How can I learn to be a happy Stepmom?” or “What are the good things about being a Stepmom?” my search results often came up empty.
I so badly wanted to learn how to love being a Stepmom. I wanted to stop feeling insecure about being a second wife. Most of all, I just wanted to be happy. But, quite honestly, I felt stuck.
After seeking out some professional help, our family was able to make some changes so that we function a whole lot better than we used to. The changes were so drastic, in fact, that I became a Stepfamily Counselor myself. My proud mission is to increase the number of happy stepfamilies around the world — one stepmom at a time.
Now that I’m a much happier Stepmom, the fact I was unable to find resources to appeal to the positive side of Stepmommin’ is a little discouraging to me.
As tricky as it can be sometimes, being a Stepmom can absolutely be one of the best things you ever do in your entire life. If you’re saying to yourself, yeah right, then I encourage you to chat with a member of our team to find out how we can help you get there.
After I became a Stepfamily Counselor, I found that us Stepmoms have some very similar challenges. I also realized something absolutely crucial:
It’s easy to complain about being a Stepmom — but there are also a whole bunch of things about being a Stepmom and Second Wife that make it completely worth it.
Now, I want to be completely authentic with you. As I sat down to write this post, to list off the reasons that I love being a Stepmom, I found myself getting a little stuck. None of the words were coming out quite right. I felt a bit like a phony, like I was trying to convince others that being a Stepmom is totally awesome all the time.
Well, for me, it’s still not all fairy dust and sprinkles 24/7. I still have hard days. I still find myself wondering what it would be like if my husband didn’t have a son before he met me. I still find myself getting hung up on little insecurities about my husband’s ex-wife.
And you know what? That’s ok.
Stepfamily life doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth it.
Although I may have stumbled on my words a little bit, trying to get them right, I am speaking to you truthfully when I say that there are definitely some golden nuggets that have surfaced since becoming my husband’s second wife, and stepmom to his son.
I want to share some of those little golden nuggets with you.
1) My Husband is a Better Husband Because He Was Married Before
As much as you can let your mind run away with you to think that it’s a bad thing to be a second wife, I’m here to tell you differently. Being the second wife can be the absolute bomb if you allow yourself to see the upside of it. A few nights ago, my (super hot) husband and I were sitting around a campfire in our back yard — something we commonly do on our date-nights-in.
Point blank, I asked him what he learned from the failure of his first marriage. This is what we discovered.
Divorce is painful. Like, really painful. Not only is it devastating for children, it is financially and emotionally crippling for ex-partners. Going through a divorce is about more than just the breakup of a relationship; it is about grieving the loss of a life you have created with another person — both present and future.
As a general rule, someone who has been through divorce will do absolutely everything in their power to make sure they never have to go through it again. My husband is a great example of this, and our strong marriage is likely the result of the pain he experienced from his first marriage breaking down.
My husband values strong, truthful, effective communication — a pillar of a strong relationship. He understands the value of prioritizing our marriage above being parents, experiencing firsthand what happens when you allow your children to take priority over your partner. He has learned how important it is to appreciate your partner for the mundane tasks of life, such as washing the floors or taking out the trash. He believes in partnership, in contributing equally around the house. He makes an effort to be affectionate. And he has learned that you can never be too busy to take 5 seconds for a quick hug in the laundry room.
We came to the conclusion while sitting around our little backyard campfire that he would never be the most amazing, wicked, thoughtful husband (who holds your hair when you’re puking) unless he was married before. That the efforts he puts into our relationships stem from the shortcomings of his first marriage. Simply put, he learned (the really hard way) what not to do if you want a marriage to succeed. And now he does the opposite. Yay for me!
And so, while I used to suffer dreadfully from Second Wife Syndrome, I have since changed my perspective. Being second wife does not mean that you are second best. The First Wife is not a benchmark to compare your relationship against, but she has likely offered your husband opportunities to grow and become a better partner. Instead of focusing on the fact that you met your husband later than you’d have liked, try to be grateful for all the hard lessons that he had to learn before you came around.
2) Holidays Have Become Magical Again
Ok, so there are some logistics that obviously surround splitting up the holidays between households. Thankfully, we have a pretty solid arrangement within our stepfamily. My stepson spends Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning with his mom, and then comes to our house for Christmas Brunch and Christmas Supper. We do birthdays all together. And occasions such as Halloween and Easter, my stepson will spend a bit of time at each house, so he gets 2 celebrations on those days — one with each of his parents.
The cool part about being a Stepmom during the holidays comes from my inner kid. I admit, I haven’t always loved the holidays. Growing up, my single mother didn’t have a lot of time or money to spend on celebrations. I often envied my classmates whose parents would go to great lengths to celebrate everything from Valentine’s Day to Thanksgiving. As a young adult, I found myself shying away from any kind of holiday. I said just didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. But secretly, I dreaded those days because I missed out as a kid.
After I became a Stepmom, I was blessed with a second chance at finding the magic in those occasions. Decorations, dressing up, throwing parties — my stepson taught me how important it is to create your own magic. I began to get excited when he’d babble on about Santa. I couldn’t wait for the night that we’d decorate our Christmas tree as a family. I started to look forward to baking holiday treats with him, and to building holiday crafts with him.
Now, I’m all about doing things like Elf on the Shelf. I love Easter Egg Hunts. I love perusing cool Halloween costumes on Etsy. I love spending all day in the kitchen to cook a big Tofurkey Dinner. (If you’re wondering what a Tofurkey is, it’s a Tofu Turkey hehe.)
I can’t say I would have had this same transformation if I’d never met my husband and his son. While I used to focus on the negatives surrounding the holidays, a young boy and his father have taught me so many lessons. For that, my inner child and I are so grateful.
3) I Have Grown SO MUCH as a Person
The amount of personal growth I’ve achieved in the last 4 years has been completely mind blowing. I’m not exaggerating when I say there’s no way I’d have my sh*t together if it wasn’t for my husband and his son.
I was definitely not ready to be a parent when my stepson came into my life. But if I was going to be with my husband — and I was going to be with him 100% — then I was going to have to grow up in a big hurry.
Becoming an overnight parent was a massive adjustment for me, as it is for anyone. Not only that, but I had to reevaluate what was important in my life, and how I was going to go about living it.
While I fiercely valued my independence and my capability to pack a suitcase and hop on a plane on a whim, after becoming a stepmother, I learned that you can have (almost) as much fun during a backyard camp out with your family.
While I used to be highly insecure in my relationship, I have since learned how to hold my head high and embrace my role as second wife.
While I tended to find myself stressing out about having every situation go my way, I have since discovered how much of a relief it is to let go of all things that are not mine to control. This skill has taken a lot of practice, but it has been one of the most freeing realizations of my life. For real.
Becoming a second wife and stepmother has taught me that my husband and his son are people with feelings and needs who just want to be loved. It has taught me compassion. It has taught me unconditional love. It has taught me patience. (Lord, so much patience.)
Becoming a second wife and stepmother has taught me the importance of honest, thoughtful, gentle communication. It has taught me that perfection is unattainable — and that it’s perfectly ok not to be perfect.
And perhaps the most important lesson it has taught me is to honour myself and my own needs. To value and cherish and care for myself above all else. To say Yes only when I want to, and to say No every time I don’t. To not give a rip what other people think of me, because their opinions of me don’t define who I am as a person.
Those moments I found myself feeling bitter, resentful, and burned out, I’ve come to realize were completely my own doing. And when I realized that, I was able to break the cycles that put me in those positions in the first place.
They say that if something is worth it, it isn’t going to be easy. Well, it hasn’t been easy to become this woman. But I can honestly say, if it wasn’t for my role as a second wife and stepmom, I wouldn’t be so damn proud of the woman that I’ve become.
4) My Stepson Gets to be Raised in a 2-Parent Home (half the time)
Initially, I was going to title this segment “My Stepson Gets Another Parent to Love Him,” but I think that’s a little too cliché. And quite honestly, it took me a while before I grew to love him. So me saying that I love being a Stepmom because of this reason wouldn’t be all that accurate. (It’s also not a requirement of a stepparent to love their stepchildren. Love can happen, but if it doesn’t, that’s perfectly okay too.)
As someone who was raised the majority of her childhood in a 1-Parent Home, I really and truly believe kids do a lot better when they are raised by 2 parents. I have a lot of respect for single parents. Parenting is really, really hard. Not to have a counterpart to help you out is even harder.
Thankfully, my stepson’s mom is a really good mom. She and my husband coparent very well together. I’d never, ever try to replace her. But I do believe there is a huge amount of value for my stepson to see what a healthy marriage looks like, even if it is between his dad and I.
When he is at our house, he gets to experience what role the Man of the House plays, and what role the Woman of the House plays. He gets to see how we make decisions as a couple. He gets to experience how we prioritize our marriage. He anticipates and understands when his dad and I leave the house to go on dates. He gets to be raised in a home where his Dad and I regularly show affection to each other, and treat each other with respect.
Although a Stepfamily is formed out of a loss, and my stepson has had to grieve the loss of his biological family being together, the next best thing for him is to be able to see what a good marriage looks like. I hope when he is a grown man, he models his relationship after my and his Dad’s marriage. I hope too, when he is a grown man, that he understands that we all did the best we could for him. His parents did they best they could to stay together. When it didn’t work out, they did the best they could to raise him cooperatively. And when his dad and I got married, we have done and continue to do the best we can to show him that love really is possible. That marriages really can work.
My stepson will probably always wish his parents were still together. That’s okay. My husband will probably always feel guilty that his first marriage failed. That’s okay too. And I will probably always have at least a small part of me that wonders what life would be like if my husband didn’t have a child from a past relationship. That’s also okay.
We, as a stepfamily, have all been given an opportunity to make the best with what we’ve been given. Every day we make a choice to treat each other with kindness and respect. Every day we make a choice to grow together as a family.
Stepfamilies in our society are becoming the norm. Although this comes with its fair share of challenges, that also means that so many kids are being given the opportunity to still be raised in a home with 2 parents. It means that every choice we make as stepmoms can provide these kids with a second chance at seeing what a marriage should look like.
And for me, the fact that I am taking part in demonstrating to one special young man how truly amazing and fulfilling a marriage can be — that’s something that I’m proud of. That is absolutely something that I love about being a stepmom.
Although this may not have been the life I would have chosen for myself, the fact of the matter is this: I have chosen this life. I have chosen to be a Stepmom. I have chosen to be a second wife. I have the privilege of teaching a little boy who does not belong to me some really important life lessons. And all I have to do is love his Dad. (Easy peasy!)
I may not have chosen this life for myself. But I wouldn’t trade my family for the world.
What are some of your top reasons that you love being a Stepmom? Do you agree or disagree with the reasons above? As Stepqueens, we are committed to ending negative Stepmother associations. How have you recently risen above the Stepmonster label? If you’re not quite there yet, click here to find out how we can help