Sometimes I think the only reason I’m not thriving as a stepmom is that I don’t want to be one. I mean, aside from the fact that no one actually “thrives” as a stepparent. Or wants to be one. You know what I’m saying.

I have it pretty good. My stepson is decent, as kids go, and our relationship is not conflictual. My husband is one of those rare ones who defy all the divorced and remarried father stereotypes. The mom has her moments, but in general stays out of our life and doesn’t, to my knowledge, try to undermine me or our family to my stepson. I have my own child, I’m a stay-at-home mom. I’m happy. I am surrounded by love.

I mean, it could be a whole lot worse. A lot, lot worse. The worst. Life is not perfect, but it is overwhelmingly good. So I often wonder whether I’m just being petulant when I talk about how hard being a stepmom can be.

Wednesday Martin says (“Wednesday Martin says” – look, I’m in a phase. I’m new to this. I’ll move on soon.) it can take something like 5-12 years for a stepfamily to feel “right” or “normal.”* That is surprising/not surprising, and really helpful for calibrating expectations. It’s also really helpful to hear that, even in the best of circumstances, a stepfamily almost never feels “normal” right away, and may never, and that is what is normal.

*Sidebar: I feel like someone on steptalk saying this, but doesn’t that 5-12 years figure pretty strongly correlate with the time it takes most stepkids to move out and/or go to college? Anyone else notice this? Does she discuss this later in the book? I’m halfway through.

I experience a lot of anxiety when my stepson is here, for reasons I could (and have) elaborated on, and I think that causes most of my general angst about being a stepmom. That combined with the flare-ups from the mom, of course. But despite the feeling that it is constant, it really isn’t constant. The stressful experiences come and go.

We’ve had a good run lately and I am in a good place, in a good mood, and optimistic. I’m in one of those rare pockets of time where I’m like, wait, what was the problem again? Sometimes I stop myself and realize that I am experiencing these feelings of wrongness and anxiety only because they’re what I have been experiencing. They’re left over. I don’t have to feel them.

We’re traveling this week. I’m writing this in advance. Hello future, this is the past speaking. We are currently out of the country. All four of us. Let’s hope the positivity and optimism holds. Either way, I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it when we return.


Also, Gottman was in The Atlantic, which you know is my favorite publication and one of my favorite dudes. This was a great reminder and I am trying to actively keep all of this in mind.


Image credit: Yoshitomo Nara of course


2 thoughts on “thriving

  1. Being a stepparent is really hard. In my experience, you can just say what YOU need (“Please don’t leave porn (discs) out on the computer table; I don’t want to see it!) and can’t make any policy decisions. You can consult privately with your partner, or plan with stepchild (“Any ideas about how the towels can get hung up? I know you hate for me to bitch about it.”), but can’t get involved between the two of them or “parent” separately.

    If it helps, my 29 year old step son actually likes and appreciates me. It took a while, maybe a decade.:)


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