I met Ticki when I was nearly 4 years old. I remember it well and whenever her and I talk about that moment our eyes well up with tears. It was precious. And, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty flippin’ adorable. I’ve seen the pictures. 😉
My dad opened the door to their house and Ticki was standing in the kitchen (from what I remember, preparing our first dinner together). I happily greeted her with “Hi Ticki!” She says nobody had ever called her that before. I can just picture myself: my cold, round, little cheeks, red from the winter wind, my pink or purple snow pants + puffy jacket + mittens + a chunky knitted hat made by my grandma, walking into her house with my tiny voice and huge personality. She welcomed me graciously and I’ve never ever felt unwanted in her home.
When I think of the kind of stepmom I want to be, I look to Ticki. I don’t remember my life without her in it and I am who I am in mega part because of her. She’s my friend, someone I can look up to and go to for advice. She helped me decide to save my marriage + understands when I need “mommy time”. She’s always there for my kids. She is Nini to them and there is nobody else like her on this earth.
I honestly don’t remember the moment Tyler and I met. He was 2 1/2 years old and I was 19. I remember him being extremely shy and quiet – which was unusual for me, because Emmah, who was barely a year old “talked” non-stop and openly accepted anyone who greeted her with a smile. What I didn’t realize at the time is that Tyler wasn’t necessarily shy, but observant. He was a watcher and a listener. He was cautious – something that used to irk me to no end, but now I’m grateful for this trait as he’s entering his teen years.
Please, Tyler, remain that cautious watcher and listener!
Being a step-mother has been one of the most challenging things I’ve had to endure in my life so far, and it’s helped me grow the most, after marriage. I feel that I have a huge advantage because I was a stepchild first. I can see very clearly both sides of the spectrum. It helps me as a mother, a wife, a friend, a Christian, and a passerby. Below I’ve listed a few things I’ve learned about being a better stepmother.
Communication is key + you must communicate + make sure you’re communicating!
Sorry! I wanted to get the point across that communication is key to successfully stepmothering. Communicating on all sides, not just through your husband, is important!
- Ask questions: ask your stepchild questions, even if you’re one of the few lucky ones that has a husband that tells you things about their kiddo, ask the child anyway! It’s good to hear things from their perspective + it opens the line of communication with them and it’ll get the two of you talking to each other + they’ll appreciate (most likely not until they’re adults) that you care enough to ask.
- If you’re amicable with your husbands ex, first, praise God, because it’s not common. Second, talk to her. Find some common ground besides her son/daughter. You don’t have to be friends, but you should at least get along with her. Third, if you get to know her a little better then it’ll help you understand your stepchild better – a huge part of who they are is from her. Especially if your stepson or daughter lives with her most of the time.
- Set boundaries with your husbands ex. For example, I don’t expect Tyler’s mother to call us up on the phone and dictate to us what rules we ought to have or not have. The same goes for us – we’re not calling her up telling her how to be a mother. Set your house rule with the hubs and stick to them.
- Playing off of the above statement: set some common goals/rules with your husbands ex together! You’re going to have different rules and morals and probably even a totally different way of living than her. A great idea is to sit down together and decide what works best for the child. Make suggestions + take some of her suggestions. You’ll probably need to do this several times throughout the years as kids change, so rules + freedoms with the child will change, too.
Just be you – don’t try to act like their mother.
God made us each different for a very good reason. Embrace that! Don’t get bogged down with what your stepsons/daughters mother does or doesn’t do – especially if it’s way out of your character.
Example: We’re a Christian household. We read our bibles + talk openly and often about Jesus, God and Holy Spirit + we attend church, bible study and Sunday school regularly + listen to K-Love and sing along to the songs really loudly (well, I sing along loudly 😉 ) This behavior isn’t reflected at Tyler’s mother’s house – and that’s okay! She is who she is, and I am who I am. I found this really cool blog post about praying for your husbands ex-wife that I found to be an interesting perspective + a free printable prayer card.
Spend time alone with your stepchild.
This used to feel so awkward for me, and truthfully, sometimes it still does feel awkward to be alone with Tyler. But the only times I feel weird is because I’m trying too hard (and, well he’s a boy.) I’m trying to be the coolest stepmom and win brownie points. Blah… I’ve found the best moments Tyler and I have together are the ones where we’re both just being us. No filters, no masks and me showing him unconditional love. Just like I need to be me, I need to let Tyler be Tyler and embrace him, because he’s a pretty awesome kid. 99% of the time that we spend time together, we just end up laughing our heads off at each other. This kid has a great sense of humor.
Include your stepchild in as many family activities as you can.
This might sound weird, but we had to make Tyler go on vacation to Florida with us a few years ago. He was worried about missing school. Silly goose. Obviously, he was so happy that he went and we are so happy that we made him go with us. We were able to make lifelong memories with all five of us. Tyler was included. I can imagine how he would’ve felt when we got back and told him how awesome it was and how much fun we had – left out. I don’t ever want him to feel left out of our family adventures because he IS a part of this family, and honestly, when he’s not with us, we feel incomplete.
Above all, show your stepchild the SAME love that you show your own kiddos, if you have any. Even as teenager I can still see Tyler’s innocence – all children need to be shown unconditional love. They are God’s gifts to us and all the best stuff I’ve learned in my life, the worthy stuff, have come from each one of my three children.